1. Skiing is – like all of Switzerland – amazing, beautiful, expensive and elitist. And I have complicated feelings about that. At any rate it’s something that I never cease to be amazed by: I get to do this? Here? Wow. My inner child, the part of me that grew up in apartheid South Africa, cut off from the wider world on multiple levels and never ever even seeing snow, is awed and very very thankful.
2. The rest of me is thankful but also largely terrified. Sliding down a slippery mountain with two huge planks of wood tied to my feet is Not Natural, and certainly not easy. When it’s going well, the movement feels just fantastic, but most of the time I’m thinking “shit shit i have to turn again like NOW ohhh okay that sort of worked but NOW HERE NOW TURN shit oh gods what am i even doing”. I’m usually doing this while Armin is yelling at me about my shoulder position and telling me to relax and go into my knees more and turn faster. Dude. I would if I could.
3. But skiing is also always a powerful reminder that I’m not looking after myself well enough. I need a lot more strength, to help me flip that ski around quickly as I turn (and to pick myself up when I inevitably fall) – and a lot more energy. This past week was all about waking up early to get the kids to ski school, and lumbering about Davos in those awful awful ski boots, and then somehow getting kids + skis back up the hill to our flat, and basically I spent the whole time completely shattered. I also got sick, because this is what I do in Davos, and it really pisses me off. It’s way beyond coincidence by now. Does the place bring out my inner Victorian consumptive, with all that history of convalescence on the Magic Mountain? Am I allergic to sunshine on snow? Or is it, as Twitter friend @herne_kzn suggested, the miasma of unrestrained capitalism?*
4. Fortunately there are always other things to enjoy, when you’re not up for actual skiing. Like ice skating. Or taking a horse-drawn carriage ride around Davos. Which we did on Friday, taking us into the gorgeous Dischmatal, where the riverbank snow was disturbed only by animal tracks. Seeing cross-country skiiers zooming along in this peaceful landscape was enough to convince me it would be worth trying that variation of planks-on-feet, although I’m convinced it must be very hard work. Sure, I see plenty of grannies doing it, but they’re fit, wiry Swiss grannies who grew up skiing and running and biking constantly – they’re a different breed and mere humans cannot be compared to suck.
5. My own kids are of course growing up Swiss. I can’t say we’re taking them running and biking constantly (oops) but they are still going to have certain advantages. Starting with early ski training. They each got three days of ski school last week, taking them from super-grumpy monsters who really REALLY weren’t interested in Daddy’s efforts to teach them, to enthusiastic little mini skiers. Little Dude never quite mastered the snowplough position (or “pizza” as they’re calling it now!); a veteran teacher told me kids under 3 usually just can’t, it’s too early, and evidently even at 3 plus 2 months, he’s not quite there yet. Elf, however. Wow. By day 3 she was going up on the T-bar lift and zooming down the practice piste most professionally (the same height of piste that is still as much as I’m really ready for).** And then, drama! On the last go, she fell off the lift (as you do) and was supposed to meet her teacher at the top, after Daddy helped her up. But she couldn’t find him. So she came down all by herself (taking the shorter, steeper route because she didn’t know any better). This wasn’t exactly a happy experience; she had tears in her eyes when we met her at the bottom, but it wasn’t the solo skiing that scared her. It was the insecurity of not knowing what she should be doing – and feeling bad for inconveniencing the other teacher who saw her by herself, and invited her to follow her bigger kids for the last bit. My daughter. At the same time, so tough, and so fragile.
* Poor Armin was offended by that, as he is often bizarrely offended by any criticism of Switzerland. Davos, he insisted, is really totally down to earth! Not like that St Moritz, or even Klosters! Which is true, as far as it goes, but… well, a Swiss ski resort is a pretty darn rarefied earth to be down to, that’s all I’m saying. Plus there’s always the lingering wealth and power fumes from WEF. It’s a fairly powerful miasma, all in all.
** I did, on my last ski holiday eight years ago, ski (badly) ALL the way down from the very top of the Jakobshorn to the valley. I haven’t always been stuck on the baby slope. But just about.