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A leap of faith during a school ski trip

What happens when you're a teacher-volunteer for a ski trip, and you can't actually ski...?


What happens when you're a teacher-volunteer for a ski trip, and you can't actually ski...?

The fog clears and here we are...

In the words of Withnail, I have gone on holiday by mistake. I have agreed to be the entertainments manager on a school ski trip to France. I am a freaky combination of Ted Bovis and Eddie the Eagle and, on reading the runes, nothing is looking good. It wasn’t my sharpest decision to come along, but I really like the music teacher who is also here, so what can you do?

I’ve found myself being the unfortunate adult surrounded by kids who are better skiers than he is. I disguise myself, hide in plain sight, by chaperoning the ‘new skiers’ group, of which I am definitely a member. The closest thing I have ever got to skiing is watching Roger Moore fly the flag during the opening of The Spy Who Loved Me. Oh, and the sequence in Where Eagles Dare. That’s it.

It turns out that by day three, everyone agrees that skiing is not for me. Including me. And it’s really getting me down. I’m counting the minutes each day so that I can be settled in behind the twin deck cassette player knocking out D:Ream and Fugees, whilst sipping a surreptitious lager. There’s something wrong with the CD aspect of the hotel sound system and Wannabe keeps sticking. We’re back onto cassettes, and my good Year 8 pal Lucas Lofthouse has brought everything he and his Dad own. It makes for an interesting evening of contemporary classics, mixed in with The Eagles, Wings, and ABBA. And everyone loves ABBA, no matter what the format. The other teachers look jolly while I dread another day on the piste. They’ll do their aerials whilst I try to look upright, not uptight.

The music teacher comes to help me with what has now been christened 'the special group'. I am part of this group rather than helping it, but I’m saying nothing. I act like I’m helping, but I’m uselessness personified. We are like the bunch of recruits from that film Police Academy. We are all on holiday by mistake, and their parents have been paying for eighteen months to get us here. And all we can do is fall over. I could have done that for much less money on a night out in Wakefield. But we are where we are.

And then we all find ourselves on a precipice.

Right high up.


Looking down.

Nice view.

A genuine knee-trembler.

We in the special group look out to the horizon. In my head, there’s dramatic music stirring underneath our tableau. We look across the Alps and hold our collective breaths at its beauty. The sun is bouncing off our goggles and there is no way back.

The music teacher stands with me and I want to touch her glove, but I’m scared of heights. I ask her: “Where’s the bar?”

She turns to me and replies: “Forget that, it’s down at the bottom of this beginner slope. We’ve got to get this lot down”.

At the bottom of the slope is a bar. I just want to be there. The kids will be better off with her. I am surplus. I am surplus.

I turn to her and whisper: “Remember me, I am surplus.”

I launch.

I can hear the surprised whoops of the kids. I am offski. I am away. I speed down the slope, defying all wisdom and teaching, keeping my skis straight, accelerating into a blur of courage and romanticism.

And then I hit a bump.

It’s all done so quickly.

My face hits the ice and my goggles crack. I think I’ve lost my teeth.

Dazed, my broken eyes adjust. A figure stands over me.

“Nobhead,” she whispers, helps me up, and I feel glad to be alive.

That night, me and the special group regale each other with tales of getting down that slope. I’m not a good skier, but I’m here. We are survivors and we are buzzing. Lucas Lofthouse whips out his Dad’s ELO tape and I get dancing. The night just gets better and better.

And the fog descends.

That was my favourite professional face plant.

Hywel Roberts is a travelling teacher and curriculum imaginer. He tweets as @hywel_roberts. Read his back catalogue

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