The ski school back in Basye, Virginia has seriously failed me. That became very clear to me as soon as we arrived in the Alps. In over 20 years of “skiing,” I’ve never actually needed to wear a helmet down the mountain. I’ve also never been to a resort where you really and truly need a map to navigate the slopes to make sure you don’t take the wrong one down. Obviously the latter is more crucial for beginners like myself (yes, I’ve been skiing for 20 years, but I am definitely a beginner round these parts). For the advanced skiers the map isn’t so dire, but for me it was essential. If we had gotten off a lift where the only option was to take a more advanced slope down, I would have been, well…screwed. OH WAIT. That happened.
I know what you’re thinking, “It was in your head. You knew it was a more difficult slope, so you were apprehensive.” Well, that’s not correct. I didn’t know. I was under the assumption that it was a blue slope (the easiest). I went down the first few parts just fine. Sarah, my cousin, was surprised. I told her I would have trouble on this mountain, considering that I typically ski on hills in comparison (and I use the term hills generously). But then came the hard part. It was a pretty steep slope, and there were small hills covering the slope. My family back home calls them jumps because when you hit them, you fly up into the air for a split second. The group of friends (and family) I was with in the Alps would never give them that term. THIS is a jump in their eyes:
For them, this tiny slope was child’s play. For me? It was my worst nightmare. There were no smooth spots on the slope that would allow me to navigate around the little “jumps.” At the bottom of the slope, there was probably about 60 feet of space before you came to the next run. I knew that if I would have let go and just gone down that I wouldn’t have been able to stop before the next run. No one knew what the next bend would hold. It was their first time at this resort, too.
So I inched down, breaking the entire time. My legs were killing me. Oh! Let’s back up quickly- I decided to workout my legs the day prior, completely ignoring that I would be skiing down an 8,400-foot mountain the following day. New year, new you, right? I did lunges, squats; you name it. I could barely walk before we even went up the lift, so skiing down this colossal mountain was no cakewalk.
I eventually made it down, and for the most part after that it was smooth skiing. After a few runs, we took the lift up to the second highest point on the mountain. We were at 8,432 feet. I wish I could tell you the view was incredible. It was breathtaking, don’t get me wrong; Breathtaking in the sense that I was scared out of my mind and therefore held my breath in fear. Like you’ve seen from my Instagram photos, the weather in the Swiss Alps is unpredictable. It was sunny and gorgeous heading to the top, but as the lift got closer it started hailing.
I could barely see through the thick, white blanket of snow against the backdrop of fog. Add a little bit of hail into the mix, and it was nearly impossible to see where you were going. I stayed as close as I could to the flags marking the inner side of the mountain to my left. To my right was the edge of the mountain, though I couldn’t quite see where it started through the haze. The slope was about 7 feet wide, if I had to guess, so it was narrow.
We eventually stopped for lunch. We were all soaked and cold from the hail. I don’t know if I’ve ever been so thankful for heat and a warm meal. After lunch we made it down to the next slope, where the view was incredible. I’ve never been that big on skiing. I’ll typically ski for one day, while the rest of my family skies for three or four. I’d much rather sit in the lodge, eat a club sandwich, drink a beer, and laugh at the weirdoes dressed in onesies and strange hats skiing down the mountain. But views like this make skiing a tad bit more appealing…
Other than the few difficult slopes we went down, I enjoyed the rest of our day and was able to actually ski and take in the stunning view. We probably skied for about 8 hours before heading down. So after hours of killing my legs and not knowing whether to laugh or cry at certain points through the pain and fear, I finally made it down this massive mountain. And I am oh so glad that I did. It was scary and wonderful and beautiful. This time, the beer I had at the bottom of the mountain was actually well deserved.