A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about snow

The Piste Novice

La Molina

snow -3 °C

A swirling gust grazes my ice-kissed cheeks and provokes an unnerving wobble and sway as I dangle from above. Beneath my bizarre-feeling over-sized feet lays a sugary quilt stretching far and high, and trimmed with snow-dusted conifers. Slowly but surely the distance between myself and the picture perfect flurry below becomes troublingly greater and I grasp my poles tighter, for dropping one now would be disastrous. As beautiful as the views from my seat are, the realization hits that I will soon have to attempt a smooth exit from my current position, and horror sets in as I realise I have now idea how to go about it. I begin to ask myself why on earth learning to ski seemed like such a good idea.

I approach the unloading station and try to position myself correctly with my equipment in the right places. But confusion and panic takes over and the confounding challenge of getting off the ski lift in one piece becomes overwhelming, and ultimately impossible. I tumble into a frosty heap and my jacket fills with snow. Brilliant. Scrambling around like a new born foal I try to stand up again, but it is frustratingly difficult when your hands and feet suddenly have two-meter-long attachments! Eventually I am gallantly helped to my feet by a monitor. He sees people like me coming a mile off, and deep down is no-doubt thinking to himself, ‘idiot’.

As I take a glance at the blizzard-blasted surroundings, the reality of my situation dawns on me. ‘I’m at the top of a mountain’. ‘There’s only one way down.’ ‘And I don’t even know how to start… let alone stop’. I shuffle and drag myself to the threshold of the piste and my stomach knots as I gaze downward. Oh God. Save me now. I slowly push off and try to remember what the instructor told me. Pizza-pizza-pizza-pizza! That’s the shape I need to make with my skis isn’t it?! That’s how you’re meant to control your speed isn’t it!? I can’t slow down! Why isn’t it working!? Bang.

‘Maybe this is what the face of a snowman feels like’, I think to myself as I lay amidst the snow. ‘Frosty. Drippy. Blurry.’ Great. I check all my limbs are intact and notice that I am now only wearing one ski. Weird. I could have sworn I was wearing two…? Suddenly I notice one a few meters further up the piste. Shit. That’s mine. One - how the hell am I going to get to it? And two – how am I going to stick it back on to my boot? I look around me, in the hope that some form of a solution will jump and out rescue me. And luckily it does. One of the pros sees me in my snowy heap and takes pity on me, smoothly picking up my ski and handing it to me without a falter, and then coolly swooshes on down like a slalom racer.

I try to push myself back up onto my feet, a seemingly impossible challenge whilst stranded on an icy slope. My knees begin to shudder and a tremble takes over my arms with the pressure of trying to lift myself from such a strange position. I eventually force myself up and my joints unleash a throb from the effort of such a physical feat. I lay out my abandoned ski in front of me, itself tricky thanks to my position on a slippery slant, and it nearly escapes and takes a long slide down to the bottom of the piste. I rescue it just in time.

I try everything to get my ski back on… pushing, forcing, crouching, shimmying. Why won’t it work? I get frustrated and impatiently slam my foot down. Click. I’m in. Success. But the glory is short lived as I look out at the long slope ahead. Slowly, cautiously, and no doubt with a ridiculous posture I attempt my descent once again. I’m trembling with fear and have no doubt forgotten to breathe. Meanwhile, a group of five-year-olds whiz past me, elegantly turning and curving without a care in the world. Embarrassing. How come they know what to do? How come they don’t fall? How come none of them will ever make a complete knob out of themselves? I’m picking up speed and attempt to turn myself into some kind of snow plough. Nothing seems to work. I can’t stop! It seems the only option is to just go with it, try to keep upright and hope for the best.

The wind howls as it crashes past my face and giant snow flakes bounce off my goggles fogging my vision. But there’s no time to worry about being able to see. I have to focus on staying alive! I’m accelerating no end and my joints rattle as the clattering contact between skis and slope sends ripples through my body. I feel like a kind of George of the Jungle meets Yeti character, propelling though the snow without a hint of grace. ‘Don’t fall! Don’t fall! Don’t fall!’ I say to myself, maybe even out loud.

Suddenly, and finally, the end is in sight. I can see the bottom of the piste. And the slope seems to be evening out. Yes, it’s getting flatter! And I’m slowing down! I pizza, I snow plough, I do whatever my legs are willing to and attempt to bring myself to a halt. And eventually, I stop. With incredulity I look around me. I glance back up at from whence I came. I did it! I actually made it down! I’m still quivering from the stress, but I feel like a legend. I! Me! I skied! I am officially cool! And surely if I did it once, I can do it again. Surely I can only get better!

And just like that the overwhelming fear of taking on the piste disappears, and I can’t wait to try it all over again!

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Posted by lauracerys 05:36 Archived in Spain Tagged mountains snow skiing ski catalonia piste la_molina Comments (0)

Mürren – Like a real life festive film!

snow 0 °C

Arriving in Mürren was so exciting! It was my first snowy holiday and I was eager to see the for myself those scenes that adorn the glossy pages of countless travel books – infinitely deep valleys, perfectly triangular soaring peaks, and cute wooden houses with roofs and doorsteps seemingly heaped with twinkling sugar. I was not to be disappointed…

A fresh lining of dusty snow besprinkled the streets of Bern as we headed towards the hauptbahnhof that morning, and a low mist and biting chill whispered promises of crisp-white backdrops ahead. As the train set off for destination blizzard I fixed my gaze out of the window, keen not to miss even a millimetre of the immense scenery approaching. Everywhere I looked it was as if the train were zooming past life-sized Christmas cards. Beautiful stills of frozen, fluffy blankets and icing-dipped, gigantic trees flickered by, along with the perfectly picturesque alpine villages dotting the lakes of Interlaken.

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Gradually the mountains grew in a triumphant crescendo, dominating the skyline, their jagged tops glinting in the light. And the valleys became tighter, and icier as the sun struggled to creep over the dramatic summits. I soon arrived at Lauterbrunnen where I had to board a snazzy panoramic cable car which basically acted as a deluxe lift. The views during the ascent were utterly spectacular. Perfectly shaped trees stretched for miles up and down the valley, giant and elaborate snowflakes, like those made by primary school children, gracefully bounced against the windows, and straight ahead the Eiger majestically and emphatically held my gaze. Our frosty great glass elevator eventually stopped at an old fashioned railway station where I boarded the small train that continued on to the village of Mürren.

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Niveous dunes could be seen for afar and an icy breeze composed a wintry waltz in the air. Piles of snow slumped against tree trunks and swamped the little log cabins that bespeckled the train line. We chugged along in slow motion, and eventually came to shuddering halt signalling our arrival in Mürren. The chilly stroll, or better said, epic trudge to the village was simply beautiful. A delightfully quaint miniature church stood enclosed in glittering diamond snow, its spire peeking out from the top. Perfect wooden houses lay engulfed in drifts with sharp, glistening icicles dangling from the roofs like decorative borders. And never far away were truly spectacular vistas of the Bernese Oberland.

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Swiss residents and tourists wandered, or ever better, skied the streets in their chic winter wear, never failing to look anything other than cool. How was it possible that they could pull off those giant goggles? How could a thermal onesie look so awesome? They took fashionable and enviable pauses from their pro piste adventures in the warming village restaurants, sipping on sweet hot chocolate or a beer or two, whilst gazing out at the mountain top views and discussing the quality of the snow that day. How I wished I could take on the peaks as they did and swiftly zoom down the hair-raising slopes. ‘One day...’ I thought to myself. But I would have to wait, as my snow expedition had only just begun…

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Posted by lauracerys 07:20 Archived in Switzerland Tagged snow skiing ski swiss mürren swizerland Comments (0)

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