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A drop of the dry stuff

Not being able to ski in my family is a bit like being a von Trapp and not being able to sing.

It's unheard of. My parents even met on a skiing holiday. Fortunately I was accepted without the merest hint of skiing or snowboarding expertise, but the skills of my parents and brother was always lurking, especially every winter when they would sashay down the slopes and I would lie in a heap at the bottom following a few failed attempts.

So I stopped trying to learn 10 years ago. I decided sport was not my thing and mixing it with freezing wet conditions was my idea of hell. But the Winter Olympics caused me to reconsider. Like many other armchair viewers I've cheered on Chemmy Alcott and Jenny Jones.

With more Scots lining up to learn to ski and snowboard - and my brother working at the Glenshee Ski Centre and my mum on the slopes in the Alps - I thought I should give skiing another try.

I decided the real hills were a bit far away so I booked a lesson at the Glasgow Ski and Snowboard Centre in Bellahouston Park. I arrived feeling dubious and a bit intimidated by the slope ... until I noticed the baby one. My instructor, Eddy Murphy (yes, really) was extremely patient as I wobbled my way out to the slope, ignoring my protestations that I was about to fall over.

Having grown up near Glen Shee, the dry slope was an odd sight. Completely different to real snow, it looks a bit like a giant doormat. Just not as welcoming.

I struggled into my hired boots, clicked them into the skis, pulled on my thick Arctic-issue woolly gloves and hat and headed out, hoping for the best. Then I shuffled through some cones at the bottom of the slope. I was pleased that I had managed to keep my balance and move forward at the same time - something of a first in my long and not entirely satisfactory relationship with skiing.

With the baby slope in sight, we moved further forward until Eddy stopped. Right in front of the larger slope, big and very scary looking. Before the words "are you joking" had left my mouth he was teaching me how to walk up the slope in my skis. I liked his insistence on pressing ahead with things before the fear could set in. I forgot my feelings of panic and seized the day, making it about a fifth of the way up the hill. Then I realised I had to get down again.

Luckily Eddy teaches a lot of children, so he was used to my level of skill and coordination. He also helpfully held on to my skis as I made a "big triangle" until I was pointing down the way again. He let go as he told me exactly what to do and to my surprise, I made it the 10 metres to the bottom unscathed. I had enjoyed it, and according to Eddy, hadn't done too badly. After a couple of tries and a braking lesson, we moved further up the hill then on to the tow to get to the top of the slope. This I was not so happy about.

I was also regretting the decision to wear a ski jacket, hat and thermal gloves. I should have realised that Glasgow is more rain town than snowy mountain. This became even more obvious as I repeatedly walked up a hill with skis on. For someone with my low sportiness levels, this was a work out in itself. When I tried to discard my gloves Eddy informed me that health and safety rules dictated that I had to keep them on, regardless of the heat building up inside.

By the time I made it on to the tow and reached the top, I was feeling quite confident. At the plateau, it was much easier to turn round but also much more frightening. With Eddy's words of encouragement (and under his watchful eye) I made it down the slope without a problem. I even managed to go back up, do it again and change directions this time.

I was feeling like a pro but had to admit to breathing a sigh of relief when the lesson ended. No point in chancing my luck. A last minute fall would have crushed my spirit and my new dream of being a skiing champion.

As I made my way back to the centre, even the manager came out to congratulate me. I would definitely go back, and thoroughly recommend trying out the dry ski slope before hitting the real ones. The staff are great and make it very fun. I have been converted and may even be a von Trapp yet.

Private lessons cost £35 for 45 minutes and group lessons cost £80. For more information see www.ski-glasgow.co.uk or call 0141 427 4991

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