Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Learning to ski in the Alps: Part I

Here is a list of things I didn't know how to do upon my arrival in Switzerland:

1. Walk in ski boots.
2. Look cool while carrying skis and walking (see above).
3. Put on skis.
4. Get on ski lifts.
5. Get off ski lifts.
6. Ski.
7. Turn while skiing.
8. Stop while skiing.

Here is a list of things I did know how to do:
1. Fall

So as you can imagine, learning to ski -much like being mauled by a grizzly bear--was a lot of fun.

My amazing Dynafit skis. Love. 


It was last January and I had just moved to Geneva. British guy and I had planned to spend a few days staying at the Hotel Gletscherblick in Hasliberg where he would teach me how to ski.

Hotel Gletscherblick.  An awesome place to stay. 


To say I was nervous about skiing doesn't even begin to cover it. I'm from coastal California. As far as I could tell, skiing included strapping really slippery boards to your feet and trying to negotiate your way down a wall of ice. It just didn't seem like a good idea.

I prayed for bad weather so that I could have an excuse to bail on skiing and sit in the hotel drinking hot chocolate. This way at least I would retain some of my dignity for a few more days. But one after another, the days dawned bright and clear.

Damn you, Zeus. Damn you.

On one particularly fine morning, British guy decided that it would be fun to hike up to the top of one of the runs and then ski down.

I don't like his idea of fun.

 It usually results in me being: A. terrified; B. exhausted; and C. looking like an idiot. Because I am still somewhat delusional about these things, I always agree, hoping that I will finally impress British guy with my athletic ability and fearlessness. This has yet to happen. We put our skins* on our skis and began skinning (hiking with skis on) up the mountain. I was panting and slipping and sliding and every time I had to do a turn I would get stuck. British guy was humming to himself.

This is how NOT to turn while hiking up.


We had a nice lunch at the top, and then got ready to ski down.

Lunch should always include beer. 


British guy went ahead and I scraped slowly and clumsily along after him until we got to the top of the run.

I drew you a diagram of how I perceived his suggested route down the mountain.

I froze. 

British guy stopped and looked up at me. I stuttered out a response. 

"I...I can't go down that." 

"Yes, you can. It's easy."

"It's vertical."

"Hardly." 

"Isn't there another way down this mountain?"

"Just follow me."

And then he executed a series of perfect, tight turns down the slope. 

Ha. No chance in hell. 

A Swiss man came up alongside me and, noticing the look of petrified fear on my face, pointed me toward a slightly less vertical run and suggested that perhaps I would feel better about going down that way. 

British guy acquiesced and I cautiously followed him down the bunny slope the Swiss man had suggested. 

I spent the next few months scraping, skidding and falling down snow-covered slopes. I longed to imitate the beautiful, perfect turns that British guy effortlessly executed, but I usually found myself on the ground, twisted in an awkward position and cursing the idiots who invented skiing. 

As the snow begins to fall on the alps marking the start of this year's ski adventures, I find myself looking forward to more runs down the bunny slopes. I think I'm finally ready to keep up with a few of the 2-year olds. Maybe. Though I know I'll be spending most of the time pretending that I'm sprawled out on the ground halfway down the slope on purpose because I wanted to make a snow angel. 

Hasliberg, Switzerland



*Skins are the things you strap onto your skis so that you can hike up to the top of a mountain with your skis on. They grip the snow and prevent you from slipping. Well. If you know how to use them. I've slipped plenty of times with skins on. 

9 comments:

  1. What a nice blog :) I'm admiring you for not giving up.

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  2. You are hillarious. Felt like I was there !!

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  3. I love that picture of the alps. It's the background on my phone. I totes stole it from you!

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  4. You are so brave. I think I would be so scared it would take all Alp enjoyment away. I'm glad I could live vicariously.

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  5. Thanks for the comment, Laraine :) I'm not sure if it's bravery or stupidity, but...continuing to learn how to ski has definitely increased my love for the Alps. Although it's a love/hate relationship. ;)

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  6. haha hillarious :)
    Good luck with the skying!
    fantastic blog btw.

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  7. As purveyors of trips to the Swiss Alps, skiing the Haute Route (Zermatt to Chamnonix), our office found your story just charming and funny! Hope future skiers get some courage from you humor :)

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  8. i cannot think of something less enjoyable than hiking UP a mountain with skis on! UGH! and I looove skiing!

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