February, 2011


24
Feb 11

Hooked

This Winter season I decided I was finally going to learn to ski.

My relationship with snow had gotten off to a rocky start 6 years ago. My first-ever day skiing (incidentally in West Virginia with Jeff the first time I went to visit him), ultimately ended in surgery to repair a ligament in my knee. This was followed by a long rehab and years of knee pain due to post-op complications. I decided skiing was not for me. However I was lured back, at least partially, by many magical days in the winter wonderland of White Grass, West Virginia, cross-country skiing with dear friends through the wooded hills. Those were some special trips with special people.

So, when we decided to move to the Alps, and Jeff became an excited expectant child, ready for the winter when it was still 30° C  and sunny outside, I knew a challenge lay ahead for me.

We figured that maybe I could learn how to teleski, where the heel is not attached to the ski, instead of using the usual alpine ski where the heel is attached (and I feel like a disaster waiting to happen.) teleskiing by all accounts is much more tiring for the legs, because you lunge every time you turn the skis, but by many accounts (mostly biased) it is more fun and beautiful, and almost feels like a dance down the snow slope. Other than a lovely couple of afternoons with Jeff and his dad, skiing in the Gardner grandparents back yard and the golf course behind, this November was the beginning for me.

I made various pacts with the mountains and its snow along the way.

“If I stay on this easy slope, until it’s verging on boring, and promise not to get cocky and try to follow the big kids, will you let me through the day??”…

“Now, how about I try this slope here and maybe just go a wee bit faster…is that ok with you??”

And gradually we have worked out some of the kinks in our previously tense relationship, with Jeff acting as a mediator along the way. Now I feel we are timidly starting a friendship of sorts. I hope I don’t mess it up…

Like with most relationships, we have already had a few ups and downs. Funnily enough some of the most striking of these occured on the same day. One which springs to mind was during one of my first off piste ski tours a few weeks ago with Jeff and Mike Pfund, who was over to visit from America. We skinned up from Passo della Spluga to the top of Pizzo Tamborello. (For those who don’t know the lingo that means we skied uphill using “skins” attached to the bottom of our skies to make them grip when going up.) It was a beautiful blue-skied day, with spectacular ever-changing views in all directions as we made our ascent. I felt so happy, strong and alive, pushing our way uphill with chatter and banter. A nice picnic-with-a-view at the top, and then we were ready for the descent. Except I wasn’t apparently. The snow was pretty bad on our descent route, with a crust that made it very difficult to ski, and lets just say I have never before fallen so many times consecutively. From my high mood at the top of the mountain, I crashed into frustration, the mood getting lower the further down we skied and the more tired I got of hauling myself up out of the snow, shaking off and getting ready to fall again. It was quite a spectacularly bad performance…

On the other hand, this past Friday was a particularly good point in our relationship. There was nearly a half a metre of fresh snow covering the mountain, much awaited after a long sunny dry period. It was my first real experience of skiing powder, so I started the day by falling at every second turn with the snow grabbing at my skies as I struggled against it. Then I started listening to what it was trying to tell me, and all of a sudden I was learning to float instead of fall. Such a magical feeling. Jeff and I spent the rest of the day making beautiful sweeping tracks down the side of the mountain.

I have been dreaming of it ever since. 🙂

So I would like to offer a toast to the beautiful mountains in which we find ourselves. That we may continue to develop this friendship of ours, in all the seasons it has to offer. That we never forget to respect them and the powerful and sometimes dangerous forces of nature that surround them. That we have the fortune of sharing the wonder of these mountains with the people we hold dear, both family and friends for years to come. And hopefully one day bring our own kids with us to explore the magic, like we did with our parents… Thanks for that   🙂

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