Sometime in early 2001….
Welcome to Chamonix.
I had a day off work in our rota and was happily dozing away early in the morning when the phone rang. It was one of the ski crew pals. Uh-oh! “Hey Karoline! We have free flights to Geneva! We were thinking we could go skiing! Fancy it?”
“Erm…..no.” “Thank you, have a nice day”
I put the phone down and was dozing back off. The shrill of the phone! What now? Everyone knew we worked ridiculous hours, we socialised and we slept…alot.
“Hi Kaz!” (another of the ski crew) “Why not come? It’s a flight, ski, come home, one day trip, no staying over, you can hit the shops!”
“Give me 5 minutes” ….. “Ok, I’ll come”
We met at 2am the next morning in a bar, took a coach then a flight and landed in Geneva. Bonus was, I have now been to Switzerland!
The coach carried us across the boarder into France and through the pretty mountain villages to Chamonix and the great Mountain range my friends were eager to throw themselves from ……
“No thank you, I won’t be needing a pass on this trip” I explained to the ticket seller on the coach.
I watched them all leave for the slopes like children in a ball of glitter dust and off I went to the right. I took a good look around, the shops were very pretty but I had secretly come to have a little unterrupted ski, my way… this is not Scotland nor Canada and I’ve made it clear I will not be found and to meet at the coach this evening. No more being conned up mountains unprepared.
After hiring some skis and boots (I had prepared the rest in my rucksack) I found this…. a tiny slope with a magic carpet and joined in the queue of small people. Blissful skiing awaited me.
Easy Peezy Lemon Squeezy! So I ventured to the button lift. This was something new and the slope looked fairly harmless and quiet. Perfect!
As I got off the button at the summit, some 200 metres uphill, I knew the only was down was to ski. Ok, it may have been further but it wasn’t 3000 so it was ooooooooookay.
I headed off, practicing my technique which I have clumsily been training for around 10 years and failing and was quite happy ski slaloming myself down the mountain (a little more than a mound I suppose….If I’m truly honest) And this image shows how I was feeling, all free, finally at peace with the skis.
I stopped for some reason and looked back, probably to gloat to myself how well I had done, how far I had come independently with no friends to scare me, no teacher to scare me, just lil ole me and my skis.
There they were! Hundreds of them! Hundreds of helmets aiming towards me like a whirlwind of cannon balls! They couldn’t have been more than a metre tall! They were terrifying!!
I learned to move and move fast, sweating beads of fear I got to the bottom, skated to the ski shop, turned in the skis and boots, retrieved my own footwear, locked the ski clothes in a locker and went to see Chamonix.
The town is famous for it’s cuckoo clocks, the shop windows adorned with them, i was thrilled but couldn’t choose one, well…..ok, they are veeeeeeeeerrrrrrrry expensive but beautiful all the same.
I went for French coffee and croissants and chocolate and lots of other niceties. I walked around the town and a little into the hills and had it not been so cold, I might have pretended I was Heidi.
Back at the coach, my friends had arrived back, undressed to their thermals it was so hot skiing apparantly, 3000 feet leg dangling lifts into the clouds. I was glad to have stayed at the bottom, being me. Some of the others one by one had given up and come back down and were lost. I was not lost, I had proved to myself that I could actually ski, that as long as it is almost flat and no one else is around then I’m perfect at skiing.
2 best friends had been lost and the coach left without them. The boys arrived at the airport in time. One had a cast on his arm. I asked what happened? One was fallen on the slope and the second had skied through his arm!! Airlifted to surgery and patched up as best as could be done in a hurry and shipped off to the airport, they were still the best of friends, I know because I often bumped into them in the departure lounge after that, never skiing again mind you (for either of us). So I was right to be terrified in Canada when my friend had played that stupid joke on me. Aaaahh…. to follow the crowd.
I won’t be skiing again but I have found some beautiful places in the world whilst I was trying.