Last week I went skiing with work. How lucky am I? Well, given I’m not the sort of person who would necessary like skiing—an extrovert’s sport, with potential for showing off and excessive consumption, both of which I grumpily frown on—then the jury would be out. But I loved it.
Obviously the fact that it was a luxury holiday—with some of the carbon footprint wiped off it by not flying—had something to do with how much I enjoyed it. In the place I work with and the perks they provide I am tremendously lucky, whatever I might think of skiing. An enormous chalet full of friendly, well-adjusted geeks, going skiing, drinking, eating fine food, taking saunas and socializing with each other: that in itself would be fun. But it’d have been pretty miserable if I’d had to spend the day doing something I didn’t like.
Rather worryingly, the first couple of days were a real effort, but it turned out that was because I had slightly too large boots on. As with ice-skates, ski boots need to be tight enough to seriously cramp certain parts of the feet; if you don’t have a sort of headachy feeling in either your toes or your arches by the end of the day then the boots are effectively too slack to let you control yourself properly, and compared to the required tightness are basically rattling around. That means you’re having to expend more effort keeping your skis pointing in the right direction than should be necessary, with hysteresis in your movements at every turn causing strain on your muscles and especially on your tendons. The ones on either side of my knees had rapidly bruised over the two days to a fine pear-yellow.
But when I finally got tight boots and some of my confidence back, it was lovely. Not particularly fast, but fast enough. There’s something inherently elegant in all but the most ungainly fellow travelling downhill on skis. We were all elegant. A simple cable-car ride up a mountainside turned each of us into something lovely and exciting, a hymn to motion, a study of dynamics. For me, with my knees and quadricepes worn out after two days of misuse and trembling with agony, it was still so much fun that all I wanted to do was to rest up every five minutes so I could take a few more gradually improving swishes downhill.
It was lovely. The magic pixie-dust of snow forming in the air around us over Val d’Isere; the broad bowl-like sweep of the valleys over Tignes; the dense, green forests clinging darkly to Sainte-Foy; the broad, welcoming, friendly sweeps of La Rosiere. It was beautiful, and breathtaking, and while the lifestyle is a bit wasteful to spend all your life living it, as an occasional experience it was not to be missed. And just as soon as my bruises have all finally faded I’ll want to go back.