Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A season of skiing, Swiss style

Group photo of one of the groups I had. The one with the "pointed finger" over his face was a handful.

It was dark but light from the star-filled sky flowed over the Swiss Alps. We stayed a little too long at the local ski lodge feasting on fondue, toasting with rosé one too many times. We set out, skiing under the influence. A group of my friends and fellow ski instructors were given torches, yes, flames on a stick, by the owner of the chalet. Picture a dozen hooligans each carrying a large flame down a ski hill.

This unusually long Après-ski ended at the village watering hole called Amadeus. It seemed only logical to ski the long set of wooden stairs into the basement bar. My best friend Stella and I still talk about that night as one of the greatest we've ever lived.

Mornings always arrived a little too soon. No matter how rough I felt I would hit the alarm and start to gather my ski attire. Sure, my socks could have used a wash, but I'd do it later. The priority in the morning was to round up an international group of little hellions.

Children from the ages of 7 to 17 were shipped up from a swanky international school in Geneva Switzerland to a Swiss village called Cran-Montana. It is widely accepted as fact that getting a group of older kids meant the more skiing and the less "cat-herding" one does.

It was my luck that I drew the short straw. I was given the young kids around the age of 7. My group consisted of Jang from Japan, John also from Japan, Marta from Poland, Elias from Finland, Loic from Texas, and Cancaan from Switzerland.

Skiing is a great sport but it requires a lot of accessories which, for little kids (and hungover adults) can be hard to keep track of. My wonderful day on the mountain would begin with my name being called out in the chaos of a 100 kids looking for their skis (preferably matching).

"Brad I can't find my other glove."
"Brad I lost my goggles."
"Brad do I have to ski today?"

The first victory comes when I do a head-count and realize all my kids are on the correct bus. Picture sea of small helmets climbing, fighting, bobbing, onto a bus with poles and skies. Confusion does not even begin to describe this scene. Once on the bus it begins again:

"Brad I cant find my skis."
"Brad I don't have my ski pass."
"Brad I forgot my goggles."

The second victory comes when I can be somewhat certain that all my kids did in fact get on a gondola. Switzerland uses the gondola to transport skiers to and from the mountain, which although is a fun cultural experience, can make for some additional stress when transporting six kids, some of whom barely speak/understand english.

You also have to appreciate that competing in the "race" to the top of the mountain is a throng of Europeans with unusual determination to reach the top before women and children. To add to the mayhem, the gondolas or "tele-cabins" as the Swiss call them, are in constant motion which only increases the confusion:

I yell out "Jang...............Jang...............JANG come on, hurry up and get in this one." As I stiff arm an Austrian.

Jang gets pushed aside by a large adult, then manages to fall into the mass of hungry skiers, thus failing to make it on the tele-cabin.

Then I remember I'm one short. "Jang, where's John!?"

Just then John appears next to Jang. With the rest of my little ones already on a gondola John, Jang and I manage to get on the same tele-cabin. Once safely inside I complete the accomplishment with a compliment.

"Good job Jang!"
"Good job John!"

The fight to the top has reached the final phase but the incessant, repetitive questioning continues inside the tiny tele-cabin:

"Brad where are we going?"
"Brad when is lunch?"
"Brad when is the bus coming to pick us up?"

Finally, once at the top, the sky opens up. We are surrounded by the Alps. I collect my kids and we set out across the mountain in search of fun. It was -16 C that morning. I remember these kids battling the elements to learn a rather demanding sport. I remember the days were filled with pile-ups, crashes, near misses, head-ons, and rear-endings. NASCAR has nothing on kids equipped with skis and no comprehension of speed control.

The fun I had during those few winters has no measure.
Here's to a great ski season!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Brad, Good ski story with great sunris picture.
Regards, TopDog

Search This Blog