A weekend of skiing in Valais, the second time in my life, has made me an instant cripple. Thankfully I did manage to get a full two days of skiing in before I injured myself, and I was just starting to get the hang of doing bends when I took my fall. If you want to know the gory details of my incapacitation, I’m afraid my memory is rather blurred…
I have never, from the start, been afraid of falling (it was my only method of braking the very first time I skied one month ago), and maybe that was my problem. I was going way too fast, when the next thing I knew I was on my arse, and both my skis were lying a short distance away. I have no idea how they managed to detach themselves from my boots, but there you have it. Nothing worse than a sprained ankle, thankfully, but enough to have me hobbling inelegantly for the next few days.
Yet despite this, or maybe because of it, I love skiing more than ever. If I were a boy I’d describe it as an impetuous shrew I am determined to tame; the more it eludes me the more I want to master it. Skiing is such effort. You’ve got to get yourself up to a mountain just to do it for one thing. You’ve got to take a whole load of equipment, and if you’re renting it you’ve got to get it all fitted and adjusted to your size and weight. You’ve got to have warm waterproofs, ideally a helmet and sunglasses or goggles, and definitely insurance. Then you ascend slowly on a skilift just to whiz back down at double the speed it took to get up there.
It’s so worth it, though. I think skiing is my favourite sport, minus the minor fact that I can’t actually do it (yet!). Firstly, the beautiful natural setting. You can’t help feeling refreshed and at peace when you look around at the snow-covered mountains and trees and charming wooden chalets, whilst breathing the unpolluted Alpine air. Sure, that peace and calm vanishes when you’re careering down a slope with zero control over your speed and a steep drop to near-certain death looming to your right, but you get the idea.
Then there’s the anonymity. With every inch of everyone covered in bulky layers and hidden behind sunglasses, skiing is a fairly incognito sport, and that suits me just fine. Especially when I’m biting the snow. The last thing you need to worry about is what you look like, because in reality there’s no such thing as stylish ski clothes, and everyone looks like an idiot, especially when trying to walk in ski boots on concrete, always a stupid sight. Yet there’s nothing cooler than gliding lithely down a moutainside on skis or snowboard, creating pretty tracks in the snow.
Then there’s the physicality of it. Skiing takes a lot of energy and exertion, and you can feel it in every inch of your body at the end of the day. Guaranteed good night’s sleep. Then there’s the danger factor. As I already mentioned, sliding at high speed down a mountain be freaking scary, but it’s also, if you’re in control of it, FUN. Finally there’s the inexorable nature of the sport. Once you’re up there on the mountain, there’s really no way but down, and there’s no backing out early, you’ve got to go all the way. Either that, or you stay there, because there’s no other exit or means of transport. Unless you get airlifted, but that’s generally for if you’ve broken something. It doesn’t matter if you’re scared, you are more or less obliged to see it to the end, which is character-building (or destroying, depending on your experience…)
It’s basically just epic, in every sense of the word. And if you can’t ski, as I wasn’t able to after twisting my ankle, at least try sledding. It’s incredible fun, and much easier to control than skiiing or snowboarding. Though there were some alarmingly steep death drops on the sledding trail, which gave me and my sledding partner pause. I recall interrogating a man in a saucer sled whom we met on the slope, to check if the path was REALLY meant to be used for sledders; it seemed ridiculously dangerous. He was all casual, “oui, oui!” and we watched him hurtle off into the distance, then proceed to fall off his sled, several times. Not reassuring.
All in all a great weekend. It was nice to escape to the mountains for a bit, and I certainly see the appeal of this highly popular sport in Switzerland. Possibly most surprising of all was the fact that I didn’t have access to a computer, the Internet, nor Facebook the entire time. And I didn’t even notice.