A collection of useful information for the skieur or skieuse wishing to spend a few days in the Swiss alps.
- Don’t eat the yellow snow.
- When taking the egg lift down to Le Châble, be sure to raise the window to avoid snowballs in your face, launched from the hooligans on the balconies below. At least until you get into the trees.
- Taking a tumble in the powder is the perfect time to sneak a snow angel.
- When ordering the plat du jour from a resto on the mountain or in the valley, ask your waiter for a “petit supplément” to get a small refill of your pasta bolognaise or poulet émincé. And use all of the parmesan cheese on your pasta; after all, it’s free calories.
Just days before I arrived, a bumper snowfall in Verbier ensured a solid base of vast, glittering alpine slopes for many sunshiny days to come. Compared to the years before, the skiing here has been incredible. So much so, in fact, that I can only wonder that more people aren’t out here to enjoy it.
The air is cold, much colder than last year, but no one seems to mind, not least the brave Scotsman who faced the slopes in a kilt, exposing the curly hairs on his bare legs to the elements (and let’s not wonder what else besides).
My skiing, I am happy to report, has improved considerably this year. From those first tremulous plough turns, to skidding sideways across the slope before stopping to make a grand turn, and shooting back the other way, reaching the lift below some forty minutes later, I now fly down the slope with skis straight (as opposed to the plough formation), making turns when I intend to make them, and even managing to get on edge once in a while. I can even keep up with my party for once (when I’m not stopping every few meters to take pictures), even if I am still the last one down. And I am getting better every day.
And as I continue to hone my skills, I often watch other skiers and notice their form. Interestingly, modes in skiing exist just as much as in fashion. I used to think that the best skiers were those who sped gracefully down the mountain, standing straight atop skis held closely together, turning with the hips and using the back ends of their skis as breaks when needed. Gentleman skiers, I call ’em. Apparently, this is the old-school, 70’s style of skiing, back when women wore purple and lime green snowsuits and men wore blue spandex jumpers, and all had thinner, longer skis. These days, modern-day skiers use their full body, bending their knees to make harder turns and getting on edge with their skis, carving the slope of the mountain as they go down.
I think the hardest thing to learn about skiing is that, the steeper the slope, the more you have to lean downwards towards it. This is like telling someone at the top of a high building that the best way to get down is to jump. It’s a good thing I wear a helmet.