On Boxing-Day, the grey and dismal skies of Rouen precipitated us to ditch camp in search of new adventures; and so it was that we made a last minute decision to go skiing. ‘Husband à l’etranger’ may be experienced, but for the rest of us this was our first time on the slopes.
We set off for Les Diablerets in Switzerland in the early afternoon after lengthy attempts to reduce luggage to a minimum and squeeze all six of us in the car. Early into the journey it was blatently obvious that we wouldn’t make our ETA of 6pm and the closure of the Swiss post office who were holding the key for the chalet apartment. Like all small villages though, a general spirit of ‘can do’ meant that the person behind the voice on the phone was happy to drop off the key at the restaurant next door to the post office, and when we finally arrived late in the evening we were more than happy not to be sleeping ‘knees under chin’ in the car!
The following morning after a quick fit-out of skis, we took ourselves to the nursery slopes for our first lesson.
WELL! It didn’t take long to see who had had the ice-skating lessons, and who was the ‘old dog’…
On day one I mastered the teleski without ripping my arm out of its socket. I quite liked being referred to as ‘La dame en Blanche’ (The woman in White) by the teleski attendant. It had a nice sound to it. However, I began to wonder if the name referred to the Wilkie Collins character and might have been more reference to my slightly psycotic attempts to mow down, on several occasions, my ski instructor. Didn’t the Collins’s ‘Woman in White’ come from a mental asylum?
On days three and four, I ‘took out’ my ski-instructor, and it wasn’t for a drink! Paralysed by fear at the top of a spectacularly steep slope, our instructor told us the story of the day he fell, lost his ski, and hurtled down a stope backwards, before wrapping himself around a fence at the bottom. It took him three seconds to realise he was paralysed, he said. It wasn’t an encouraging story for an ‘old dog’ that hadn’t mastered turning, let alone stopping, even when facing forwards. Apparently, after three years in a wheel chair, he taught himself to walk again, and then to ski. Perhaps the moral of the story is that there is hope when you have carreered into the only obstacle on the horizon, rather than – ‘this is what can happen if you don’t learn to stop!’ Nevertheless my skis did appear to have taken on the mantle of target seeking missiles.
The end of day four saw me finally getting my skis under control. I finally mastered a slalom descent of about twelve turns, culminating in a controled stop right beside the teleski. Sadly the teleski attendant had gone off for a coffee and missed my great achievement.
So having gone very rapidly downhill several times after christmas, I left the mountain in an upbeat mood, ready to book for next time.
Did I tell you about the euphoria of ‘l’aprés ski’? Mulled wine on a snowy mountain top, and cheese fondu in front of a roaring log fire and warm glowing faces……
That’s for another day!