Thursday, 11 March 2010
So, you thought it was time to put all the skis away, huh? Snow slowly melting? PAH! Don’t make me laugh.
I thought I might sort out the ski cupboard, in preparation for any downhill we might fit in before the season finishes. There may be slush on the doorstep, but there’s plenty of snow in the Norwegian mountains. Even in Scotland, the ski season is still going strong, with Scottish ski resorts having enjoyed one of their most successful winters ever. We need to keep this up.
As I inspect my downhill ski boots, a sensation of pain races from foot up to shin and beyond. It’s the opposite of a panacea. The very sight of a ski boot acts as a spur to the painful memory of squeezing the wretched things on, feeling depressed at the discomfort I am about to face. It’s a love/hate thing, a dread that lies at the very heart of a day’s skiing, and I do believe every skier recognises it. But men have never been known to admit it.
Seriously, why on earth do we go downhill skiing? What’s it for? Sliding down a mountain on two planks is not sensible. I am invariably plagued by this thought at the start of a day’s skiing....the pain, the inconvenience, the maddening search for all the right stuff, the idiotic expense, the stupidity of getting up in the dark to force my poor tootsies into these horrible boots and then hobble around like a drunk in a fat-suit before piling outside into a freezing blizzard. It's stupid.
Then we have to go and sit on a chairlift, way up high in the sky, where the temperature, supplemented by the wind-chill factor, reaches a bitter minus 28 degrees. Then the chair stops, as though someone down below wants us to be properly tortured. The thing swings in the howling wind while ice particles are fired into any exposed flesh like mini arrows. This is astonishingly sore. Talk about exfoliation...it’s more like sandblasting.
We swing and creak 40 feet above the ‘sastrugi’. This is a Russian word which refers of the windblown icy peaks I see beneath me, ridges of hard-packed crystals like a giant slab of frozen meringue sweeping across the mountain-side, a film-set made of Baked-Alaska. What am I doing here, in mid-air, cowering from the cold beside my chair-lift partner, a complete stranger?
I watch my iced-up, anonymous companion, his frozen nostril-hair stiff as pine needles in the blast. I’d quite like to snuggle up close, but I suppose he’d be shocked. He’s bound to be Norwegian, judging by the manner in which he stoically sits there, unmoved by the ice piercing his leathery face, defiant against the aching cold. He’s becoming whiter by the moment, a sculptural, silent, solid mass....in fact, is he dead? Perhaps he froze to the seat, and he’s been there all night.
I sit there, trying to persuade myself this is fun. Norwegian skiing, like Scottish skiing, is not for sissies. Sure, we can all go to an Alp and pose around in glorious sunshine in our designer-ski suits, enjoying the gluhwein, topping up our suntans, hearty chalet girls with home-made cakes all over the place, glam ladies in fur coats tripping by with dinky pug dogs trotting along behind them...these are Alpine treats any old softie can enjoy. But proper Scottish skiers and their hardy Norwegian cousins have no need for the winter-chic lip-gloss and butt-hugging salopettes enjoyed by those on a more southerly slope. We’re here to tackle a piste with proper pride and perfect parallels whatever the weather.
Eventually, we reach the top, attack the piste with gusto, and it all makes complete sense once again. I belt down a vertical ‘black’ run (they’re the hardest, for those not acquainted with the piste-rating system....just thought I’d point that out). I'm flying, chugga, chugga, chugga, my skis are rattling, my thigh muscles expanding and contracting as the moguls demand, the throbbing thrill of dealing with this mountain acting like a drug. There is nothing to compare.
And that’s the addiction of skiing.
Posted by Returning Scot at 09:49