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How I went from skiing rookie to alpine racer in one lesson – almost – Euronews

I was meant to go skiing.

My flight to Lyon was booked for 14 March 2020. From there, I would take a combination of trains and buses to reach Chamonix, in the French Alps. I would then spend the next two weeks with a group of friends, bombing down the slopes in style.

I had never been skiing, but I somehow knew I would love it. The thought of speeding across the Alps’ cascading white slopes appealed so much to the outdoorsy adrenaline junky in me.

Sadly, it wasn’t to be. As I was leaving my flat in London on the 13th to go buy some suitable winter-wear, I received the fateful WhatsApp. “It’s not happening Jonny, we’re cancelling our tickets”.

On the 14th, France would officially close all its ski resorts in an attempt to curb the spread of COVID-19.

I would have to wait over a year-and-a-half for my first opportunity to don a set of skis.

Meeting my instructor

The chance finally came with a 1:1 lesson with Maison Sport instructor Aaron Tipping at The Snow Centre in Hemel Hempstead.

Maison Sport is an online booking service that lets skiers and snowboarders find the right instructor for their holiday and book personalised lessons, often for more affordable prices than a resort’s group ski lessons.

Although I had never even touched a ski before, I knew I was in safe hands with my instructor Aaron. In his youth he was an athlete with the British Ski team, before going on to coach the first ever Olympic skier from Zimbabwe.

Given the shortage of snow-capped mountains in Zimbabwe, it was safe to say Aaron knew what he was doing.

Kitted up in my waterproof salopettes and with my first pair of skis, Aaron and I hit the indoor slope in The Snow Centre. The complex is kept at an impressive -2°C with real snow spread thickly across the incline.

Baby steps

Before we could tackle any great heights, Aaron taught me how to attach my skis.

The sensation of what is essentially an extended rudder on your foot was odd, but he quickly had me sliding along the flat snow at the bottom of the slope.

Next up, I had to learn to strafe up the side of a hill, incrementally digging my skis in perpendicularly to the slope. It was here that I learned the first of the counter-intuitive rules that would keep my face out of the snow.

While climbing up the artificial mountain to my right, Aaron showed me how to strafe by putting pressure on my left leg.

It took some mental gymnastics to trust myself to lean on the leg pointing where I didn’t want to fall – but placing my faith in Aaron paid off.

I leaned on my left leg and was so rooted to the mountainside, I even had the confidence to lift my right foot off the ground. 15 minutes ago I couldn’t even put a ski on without help and there I was, standing on one leg at a 35° incline.

I then learned how to do a snowplow, or as it’s affectionately called, ‘the pizza slice’. For the uninitiated, this is essentially how you brake while skiing, so it’s a pretty crucial thing to learn.

This was the moment the benefits of one-to-one tuition became crystal clear.

With Aaron focused on me, he could adjust my position and posture to ensure I was making the perfect snowplow. Throughout the lesson, Aaron would continue to give me detailed advice on how to position my knees and torso to control the skis best.

The value of having an instructor’s laser-eyed focus solely on me meant I could start building good skiing habits from day one, paving the way for my journey to skiing stardom.

The personalisation of the lesson also meant that now that I’d learned how to climb and to brake, Aaron could get me started on some hills straight away.

Learning how to get off a ski lift

We climbed up the hill via the snow-lift (a fancy outdoor escalator), and I quickly got brought down to size with my haphazard attempt to get off. Handily, Aaron was there to catch me but nevertheless, my initial confidence took a slight knock.

If Icarus had chosen skis instead of those flimsy wings, he would have felt like I did as I stared down the side of the slope, only staying upright thanks to Aaron.

But it wasn’t long until Aaron built my confidence back up. We entered our snowplow positions and perilously stood still with nothing but our skis stopping us from sliding down the slope.

Slowly, we built up the skills to start sliding down at increasingly high speeds and from increasingly higher starting points.

There was a moment when I finally managed to get myself off the ski lift without any assistance and the combination of shock and delight on my face put Aaron into such hysterics, I worried he’d be the one to tumble down the slope.

With confidence at a high, we finished the two-hour lesson with a few runs, barrelling down the slope and slaloming through a set of cones.

It was exhilarating to have gone from barely being able to move in skis, to expertly weaving down a hill in just a couple of hours. After a few high-fives, we took off our ski gear and headed to the upstairs cafe for a well-deserved coffee.

The start of a new hobby?

A lifelong skier, Aaron told me over drinks about how he loves to train people to appreciate the mountains as he does. Having co-founded Maison Sport with two friends, he wanted to create a platform for like-minded teachers, keen to give the best skiing lessons possible.

After over a year away from the slopes, booking a Maison Sport instructor is a great way to learn some new skiing or snowboarding skills, so you’re well prepared for your long-deserved winter holiday.

Through its booking system, you can find the perfect instructor for your needs across Europe, whether you’re an absolute beginner like me, or a mountain maestro who’s feeling a little rusty.

I started the day with only one hope – that I wouldn’t fall flat on my face too many times. Amazingly, I didn’t even fall once.

Although I’m pretty sure that’s due to Aaron’s excellent instruction, I’m going to take to heart his comment that I’m “a natural”. And while the pandemic may have kept me from skiing a year ago, I’m now raring to go again.

It turns out, I was meant to ski after all.

Watch the video above to see Jonny hit the slopes.

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Trevor Noah roasts Texas governor for claims South Africans are crossing US border – The Zimbabwe Mail

Trevor Noah

When you consider Texas is 14 636km and an ocean away from South Africa, it’s hard to comprehend how one man thought South African’s were crossing into the US state illegally via its southern border.

However, this is exactly what Texas governor Greg Abbott thinks. One South African was not having it.

This week, comedian and host of “The Daily Show”, Trevor Noah, roasted Greg for his false claims that South Africans were crossing into the US illegally during that country’s travel ban.

Greg came under fire after blaming US President Joe Biden for “doing nothing to stop immigrants from SA entering [America] illegally”.

“Biden banned travel from SA because of the new Covid variant. Immigrants have recently been apprehended crossing our border illegally from SA. Biden is doing nothing to stop immigrants from SA entering illegally. Pure politics and hypocrisy,” he wrote in a tweet.

Mocking the Republican governor, Trevor said his claim might not be too far-fetched because every day millions of South African walk through the Atlantic Ocean to cross the border.

“I mean, why did I book a flight? I could have hitched a ride,” joked Trevor.

“This is the biggest load of bulls**t ever.”

Trevor then jokingly gave the governor points for being able to turn any story into a complaint about the US border

“Everyone is watching Red Notice on Netflix when what they should be doing is watching the southern border,” he said.

Weighing in on the travel ban on SA and several nearby countries, Trevor said it was “total bulls**t”.

“Omicron has already been found in more than a dozen countries around the world. We don’t know where it started. We don’t know how long it’s been around. It’s everywhere — from Hong Kong, to Israel to Spain,” said Trevor.

“So why aren’t you banning travel from all of those countries too? Huh? Only the African countries? I don’t get the logic. You think Omicron is going to get to Europe and then decide to stay there?”

Take it from a South African: the Omicron travel ban is bulls**t

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UK tightens travel testing rules amid omicron concerns – The Zimbabwe Mail

LONDON (AP) — Britain’s government tightened travel restrictions Saturday amid concerns about the spread of the omicron coronavirus variant, saying all travelers arriving in England will need to take a COVID-19 test before they board their flight.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the new rules will apply from 4 a.m. London time Tuesday.

“In light of the most recent data, we are taking further action to slow the incursion of the omicron variant,” he said in a tweet.

Javid also added Nigeria to the U.K.’s travel “red list,” which means that arrivals from there will be banned except for U.K. and Irish residents, and those travellers must isolate in designated quarantine facilities. He said there was a “significant number” of omicron cases linked to travel with Nigeria, with 27 cases recorded in England.

Karen Dee, the chief executive of the Airport Operators Association, said the new measures will be a “major deterrent” to travel, just as airports and the travel industry were hoping for a small uplift over the festive season.

“This is a devastating blow for aviation and tourism,” she said

Authorities recorded another 42,848 confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.K. as of Saturday, with 127 more deaths. With over 145,000 COVID-19 deaths in the pandemic, Britain has the second-highest virus death toll in Europe after Russia.


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Australians are stranded in Zimbabwe and stuck in quarantine after Omicron travel ban on southern Africa – ABC News

Australians stranded overseas after the government’s snap ban on flights from countries in southern Africa are calling for repatriation flights to be arranged to bring them home.

On Saturday last week, Sydney lawyer Debbie Anderson travelled to Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second largest city, to bring her elderly mother home to Australia.

While her plane was mid-air, Australia closed its borders to travellers from eight countries in southern Africa, including Zimbabwe, and her return flights were cancelled.

“My brother died recently in Zimbabwe, and so my mum is on her own,” Ms Anderson said.

“It’s just quite an emotional time because of that, and then the overlay of uncertainty is awful.

Her mother Sheila Lazarus is 85 and has Australian residency. Ms Anderson had hoped to spend two weeks there to scatter her brother’s ashes and help pack up her mother’s life in Zimbabwe.

Her husband and daughters in Sydney are worried she won’t be home for Christmas, after Ms Anderson had flights repeatedly cancelled.

“It’s all very well for the government to say that Australians and residents can come back, but there is no way for us to get back. We’ve tried everything,” she said.

“Nobody wants to get sick or spread disease, but you do want to be able to get home.”

A picture of a woman with blonde hair and sunglasses standing next to her mother with grey hair.,A picture of a woman with blonde hair and sunglasses standing next to her mother with grey hair.,
Sydney lawyer Debbie Anderson and her mother, Sheila Lazarus, are stuck in Zimbabwe, with no flights home.(Supplied)

Ms Anderson added that countries in Africa tend to be lumped into one basket, but pointed out her mother’s city in Zimbabwe was leading the country in vaccine take-up and said Zimbabwe had also imposed border controls due to Omicron.

The Australian government has said the border security measures were based on medical advice and as a precaution to protect Australians from the Omicron variant.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said a government facilitated flight arrived in Howard Springs from Johannesburg on November 25 with 20 passengers onboard. 

“We continue to monitor demand for government facilitated commercial flights.” 

The ABC understands government facilitated flights are scheduled to depart from Singapore and Islamabad in December.

A nurse speaks with three women in masks.A nurse speaks with three women in masks.
Zimbabwe authorities have urged people to get vaccinated amid fears of the Omicron variant.(AP: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

“I just think that the government should think about the repercussions of what they’ve done, and not just leave people stranded,” Ms Anderson said.

Grieving Australians stuck in hotel quarantine

Several Australians now stuck in mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine had travelled to South Africa for compelling family reasons, including saying final goodbyes to loved ones who they have been separated from for almost two years.

A couple stand with backs to camera looking at flight signs in an airport.A couple stand with backs to camera looking at flight signs in an airport.
Flight bans have had an impact on travel worldwide.(AP: Joan Mateu Parra)

One man, who asked not to be named, told the ABC he flew to South Africa to visit his dying mother.

When he saw the United Kingdom was shutting its border, he scrambled to get a flight out of South Africa on November 26.

His mother passed away the next day. He was unable to be there for her final moments.

He said he wanted an explanation from the NSW government, as he had travelled on the assurances from Premier Dominic Perrottet that hotel quarantine would be a “thing of the past” for fully vaccinated travellers. 

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Play Video. Duration: 2 minutes 44 secondsPlay Video. Duration: 2 minutes 44 seconds

The NSW Premier said hotel quarantine would be a ‘thing of the past’ in NSW from November 1, but the Omicron variant has changed that.

He said he was frustrated by the “knee jerk reaction” from countries shutting borders when there was still so little information about the new variant.

He added that health experts have pointed out vaccines may not stop people catching the virus, but are designed to prevent severe illness and avoid overburdening the health system.

One woman, Vee, flew to South Africa after her mother suffered an aneurysm in August. Her mother remains in a coma.

Vee said she travelled to help her father, who has early-onset dementia, and to arrange for her mother’s palliative care.

A woman with glasses and a mask with curly hair. A woman with glasses and a mask with curly hair.
Vee, whose mother has been in a coma since August, had to rush back to Australia from South Africa.(Supplied)

“I couldn’t go earlier, due to the requirements of quarantine and the cost involved, and not being able to afford that as a single mother,” she said.

“My dad’s really struggling … I was in the process of trying to get him to accept that my mum’s not going to wake up again.”

While in South Africa, she woke up to find 53 messages on her phone from family and friends — the UK had shut its borders, and other countries were following suit.

She rushed home to Australia, where her three children live, and is now dealing with the isolation of hotel quarantine. 

But, she added, she was grateful to the staff who were “putting their lives on the line” in doing tests on potential COVID-19 patients.

“It’s really having an effect on my mental health,” she said, describing quarantine as “not only a physical but a mental jail too”.

Vee said she and other travellers from South Africa were isolated from other passengers at Singapore airport, but her flight to Australia was packed and she sat next to travellers from Europe and Asia, who were not required to quarantine as she was.

Travellers caught off guard by rule change won’t be charged for quarantine

Vee said a major concern was a lack of clarity about whether they would be charged for the mandatory hotel quarantine.

Authorities in NSW and Victoria have said people caught off-guard by the sudden changes will not have to pay for quarantine.

A woman getting vaccinated. A woman getting vaccinated.
South Africa sounded the alarm on the new variant, triggering travel bans. But Omicron was detected in the Netherlands a week prior. (AP: Shiraaz Mohamed)

“People who were in transit when the new Public Health Orders were introduced and didn’t know about quarantine requirements will not be charged,” a spokesperson for the Department of NSW Premier and Cabinet told the ABC.

“Arrangements for future arrivals are being considered and will be communicated to travellers.”

In Victoria, international travellers from an “extreme risk” country who enter hotel quarantine between 11:59pm on Saturday November 27 and 11:59pm on Saturday December 4 will not be charged a fee.

Cecil Bass, a registered migration agent in Sydney, said many of his clients were stranded and desperate.

They included a British family who were passing through South Africa on their journey to move to Australia permanently and are now stuck there.

His nephew, an Australian permanent resident, was due to leave South Africa on Wednesday, but his flight was cancelled.

He said he was not critical of the government, but felt South Africa had been treated unfairly after the emergence of the Omicron variant. 

“It’s disrupted peoples’ lives,” Mr Bass said.

“There’s a lot of sadness among South Africans, especially at this time of year when they should be together.”

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