Wednesday, January 03, 2007

First ski outing 2007

Martin and I talked late into the night - music, philosophy, where the decline of the church leaves both musicians and clergy. It was a good way to unwind, and get our working lives in some sort of perspective. I was awakened at 8h30 by the sounds of three teenagers jumping into action. Martin and Laura's daughter Camilla had two of her school mates from the Lycée Internationale at Ferney Voltaire outside Geneva for some skiing. By the time I descended for breakfast, they'd already set off to hire skis and spend the morning skating at the patinoire in the village.

I spent several frustrating hours trying to top up my mobile phone through the Orange website, which wouldn't register my debit card details. I switched to trying the register the card by phone and even this took two attempts to get right. The operatives at the Indian call centre were very good humoured about it. First time around I was told to report the non registration problem to their help line, when I attempted to call, my call was rejected according to the texts I received, because I only had 8p credit on my account and the helpline call cost 60p! For once, instead of getting angry, I just laughed helpessly, and made another attempt to top up, which was successful. Thank goodness I'm on holiday, and there's no urgent call I need to make.

At a more leisurely hour, took me down to the hire store to hire cross country skis, and after a spot of lunch, we drove up into the mountains south of St Imier to Les Savagnières for a 10km trek, the first of the season for both of us. It's always a special moment, donning skis for the first time in a season and wondering if your body will remember how to move and stay in control. Once a gentle start is made, relaxation comes and enjoyment begins, surveying the scene, resembling a black and white picture, especially when, like today, the sky is mostly white with grey streaks. With everything snow covered, all is utterly silent, apart from the very occasional solitary bird calling. Meditation on the move comes easy, but so does fatigue when you've not hard much regular exercise for six months.

The snow conditons were quite good, as the piste engine had been out and flattened a course through the forests during the morning. Here and there the surface created wasn't really firm enough, after a first pass by the piste engine. I suspect the ground had not been cooled below freezing by autumnal and winter frosts as usual. The packed down snow at ground level would melt and chill the ground to freezing, leaving a void with packed snow above. Here and there on the piste, firm snow would give way, and create 10cm ruts when skis passed over it. After a dozen or so skiers, the surface was roughed up, unstable and difficult to ski. This made the steeper slopes in the last downhill stretch very tricky to negotiate, so I played safe took off my skis, and walked down them. In a few days, when they've been re-flattened several times, these gradients will be more manageable. Nevertheless, a good first outing, followed by a splendid meal, with three tired teenagers, and conversations going across the table in Italian, French and English, all of which are naturally and regularly used in this household. And so to be, tired but very contented.

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