I am Australian.
I love alpine skiing. Like really really love, to the point of obsession.
These two things together are problematic, because in Australia we really only have a small area where you can ski. And when you live in a tropical state as I do, you can’t ski unless you travel vast distances. The first time I ever saw snow was on a school trip when I was eleven, then not again until I was twenty-four. I didn’t try any snow sport until I was twenty-six, which was never-you-mind-how-many years ago.
Starting a new sport when you’re an adult is tricky, because by the time you reach adulthood not only does your body know how it likes to do things, but you have an understanding that falling down = ouch. I started with snowboarding (boarders look so cool, right?) and failed spectacularly, and my wife still swears she broke her tailbone that first day on the nursery slope. After two days of misery we gave up the board, and switched to skiing.
My first experience of skiing was waiting for our instructor, and suddenly spotting a child racing down the beginner slope towards the car park below, while his instructor screamed, “ANDRÉ! MAKE YOUR SKIS INTO A PIZZA SLICE!” (Both car and kid were fine, by the way.)
All I could think was, “If the kid can’t do it then what hope do I have?” But from my first trip down the nursery slope where I was able to go from top to bottom without falling on my ass—I’m looking at you, snowboarding—I was hooked.
I have this annoying writing habit that makes me give my characters occupations I know very little about, and also makes me set my books in other countries. When I first wrote Gold, I had it set completely in Colorado, until I had a brainwave during a road trip to Thredbo (ski resort in New South Wales, Australia for those who’ve never heard of it). Why not shift part of Gold to Australia? Then I could not only give people a taste of what Australian ski fields are like— not very many of them, small-ish and with a whole lot of manufactured snow—but for the first time I would have been places that my characters had been. Knowing I’d skied at Thredbo, walked the paths around the village and been to certain bars to drink copious amounts of Kosciuszko Pale Ale, just like my characters, was thrilling.
I’m still working on convincing my wife that every holiday we take should include skiing in some form. Can you ski at Everest Base Camp? On an Alaskan cruise? An island on the Great Barrier Reef? No… Then I don’t want to go. Because she won’t indulge my hobby as much as I want, I’d like to offer myself up for adoption to anyone who lives near good ski areas. Fair warning: I come with a wife, six horses, a super needy cat, and a gaming addiction. But I make great guacamole, epic chicken and corn soup, killer arancini and I’m very skilled at sitting around, drinking your wine and chatting.
I can also make a pizza, and far better than poor little André did.