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journal

To be idle is a short road to death and to be diligent is a way of life; foolish people are idle, wise people are diligent.
Siddhartha Gautama Buddha

Tue Mar 05, 2002

Cervinia

The ski resort of Cervinia was built they say by Mussolini to help keep his countrymen healthy. It is a large open resort of long pistes mainly in the easier grades, a nightmare for a snowboarder who cant glide. He has to be congratulated however for the Matterhorn which was a touch of shear genius.

I was there for the first time with the telemarker Julien and some of his French acquaintances. We had elected to stay high in the Plateau Rossa rifugio to make the most of our two days.

I spent most of the first day walking as far as I boarded, what a frustrating sport this was proving to be. Fortunately the majestic Matterhorn standing proudly over these healthy Italians provided a suitable distraction when things reached desperation point. What a mountain, seen so many times in print, but here it was and it was real.

Our stay in the rifugio was the highlight of the weekend. Being the only people staying we got the full attention of its keepers, an Argentinean and Albanian who seemingly spoke neither French nor Italian. Despite this I communicate in my finest Italian that I was vegetarian, which was greeted with nodding smiles.

Our meal arrived in front of us, it was meat product! I don't just say that because I was a disgusted veggie, but because it really was a strange beast, a kind of exploded sausage of various meaty components covered in a thick brown sauce. This provided entertainment for my companions, but I didn't envy them in this case, and after resorting to gestations I was awarded a cheese omelette, not much for a bruised snow boarder. Our 'meal' was washed down with a variety of vegetarian drinks.

The next morning hungover, and feeling the effects of altitude a storm raged outside. However when it parted at midday we realized our rewards, fantastic pristine slopes stretched out below plastered in powder snow. Fantastic, but I think we had truly earned this little treat.

Tue Mar 12, 2002

St Moritz

Dear Journal, we thought we would move up market this weekend and give St Moritz a try. Leaving the cold early morning mists of Milan with the telemarker it took 2 and a half hours to arrive. The drive was a treat in itself, the frozen lakes prior to St Moritz were looking spectacular, and a mass of ice spilling over a dam seemed to promise fine ice climbing.

We couldn't be anywhere else but Switzerland. Since crossing the frontier the roads had become curiously nice to drive on. Road signs appeared before junctions, horns were silent, there was order and St Moritz was found exactly as it was supposed to be.

The weather could not have been better. Clear blue sky, no wind and the piste looked unreal. In fact it was, little snowfall had meant that the cover was hard packed, icy and rutted by the grooming machines. It felt artificial and lacking character. Quite obviously the resort has much to offer with a fresh cover of snow with many off piste runs but today it wasn't going to be. The runs were far to quick for a wobbly snowboarder, and my ski pass also bought me one or two bruises courtesy of St Moritz.

Mon Mar 18, 2002

Button lifts

Still feeling the effects slightly of last weekend in St Moritz, so back to Mussolini's Cervinia. Unfortunately the main ski lift was out of action so I was forced into using the dreaded button lift. What a pressure, with 200 people cueing behind, it was the only way up the mountain. I couldn't fall I had to get it right.

With brute strength and determination I gripped that button with everything I had, and then it hit, my weight came on to the tow and I was catapulted up the mountain. I was still standing, despite feeling I had been kicked in the butt by a mule I was moving. The skiers in front of me cheekily darted from side to side, but I held my line and kept my focus.

By now my grip was wilting, but I couldn't fall off now, I was half way, would I ski back down, or walk humiliated upwards? The tow started to level out I sighed and relaxed my grip, and then, downhill. Downhill! On a button lift, on a slippery board with one foot out of its binding what sort of cruel joke was being played on me?. Not knowing how to control my speed I started to make ground on the skier in front me who was quite oblivious to my slight problem, but of which he would shortly surely become aware. But I was saved, up we went again, and the finishing post was within sight. I had made it, now only another 4 to go.

Mon Mar 25, 2002

Varese

Dear Journal, somehow persuaded by Richard, Julien and myself found ourselves on bikes, following his distant outline up a steep road on a hill side near Varese.

I had done a bit of mtn biking previously, but I was a bit out of sorts and this came as something of a shock to my finely balanced body. We had parked by a small church and thereby avoiding the long stretch of steep road up from the valley. But still the road went up and up until finally it didn't go up anymore. A strange sensation of blood in my throat told me that it was good time to take a short break before continuing.

But now the fun could begin, we descended the dirt path into the woods. Julien was uncomfortable on a foreign bike so was left trailing as Richard and myself took full advantage of the downhills. Unfortunately we thought we had missed our turning, so re-ascended, realized that in fact we were right first time, and once again took delight from our mistake by re-living the downhill.

After a traverse and a small ascent we soon arrived at our high point. We stopped for some lunch, regarding jealously Richards mighty fine sandwich before descending the road section back to the car. Unfortunately this time we really did take a wrong turn and ended in the valley floor, this meant we had another 45 minutes of ascent, the section we had cheated, to return to the car. I arrived somewhat later than my two somewhat fiter companions.


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