piste du diable

Sunday, March 25, 2007, 23:45

Taking advantage of the big sales going on, and inspired by the late winter, I bought meself ski equipment on Saturday. Skis and boots and everything. Doing that (plus a haircut) took a while, coz the cheapest skis were sinfully ugly, not even cool-ugly, just plain ugly, not pleasant to look at, very unfortunate color combination, so I hesitated a lot before spending a bit more to get something that I at least like to look at.. thought that it’s worth it since I’m not going to change them too soon if nothing unexpected happens… or shd I say rather expected? We’ll see… so anyway, it ended up being late, but I still went up to baptise them. Arrived at a closeby slope, but it was very small. Yet a mountain train (petite, on chains, very cool) was going up. There was a guy waiting in the minusculous station. He said ski lifts are already closed (was 4pm), but what I could do is go up with the train and come down till this station. Ok, cool, I thought, like verbier, you can come down nicely through the forest. After a pretty long wait (it is an anomaly in this country, but that train NEVER comes on time), we go up.. on the way he asks me – you’ve skied in deep snow, right? Nnnnot really, I said. Oh, he said, there’s a LOT of snow… oops.. ok.. lets see.. don’t worry, he said, there are plenty of people going down that way.. just keep left and you wont get lost. Ok… we arrived, he went off on a different route, down the mountain.. I was supposed to follow a path to reach the slope.. at the beginning of the path, I found this:











“Piste du Diable, Piste Noire difficile, non dammee, forte pente. Danger des avalanches.”

Diable doesn’t mean it is possible to dial, it means devil. i.e. it’s possible to …die. “Devils slope, black, very difficult, not flattened, steep slope. Avalanche danger.”

You gotta be kidding me, I thought. This can NOT be the way I’m supposed to go.

It was.

The path leading to it was ok… reached the slope.. stop. Close to the egde.. couldn’t see it going down. Went closer to the edge.. still nothin. Went TO the edge.. aha. THAT steep. GREAT. By this time I was alone, could only see two snowboarders far down in the distance, disappearing between trees. My parents’ voice in the back of my head, panicked with big eyes as always, told me to go back. And I tended to agree, whatta hell, its only normal to go back. Then I remembered there was a family with a kid, age 7-8, who seemed to be coming the same way.. I thought ok, I’ll wait a little; if they come this way, I MAY go with them. If that kid can make it, I can make it. they came. Mom, dad, little girl. They stopped, asking me for whazzup. ‘Err.. is it difficult?’ I asked. ‘Only this small bit till down in the valley, then it gets better’. ‘Aha. Hmm… donno..’ ‘why don’t you come with us, we’re not going too fast’. ‘Hmm.. ok, lets try’. Small prayer, off we go.

i learned skiing late, was already aged 20. Had always a fear of falling, from the beginning, given history of broken bones n stuff, and it aggravated after a nasty fall that srewed up my knee, which will probably hurt for ever. so I always skied very carefully, and as a result I could count my falls on the fingers of a single hand, and not count them all.

I fell on Saturday much more than in my entire skiing career. A ski got stuck in the snow. I fell further. About 5 metres. After all, it was damn steep. Had to work my way up back to the ski, which was a pain with legs sinking COMPLETELY into the snow. Then, trying to put the skis back on, one of them took off, downhill. Luckily it stopped in a tree, a few centimeters left from what would have meant its disappearing down into the woods. My NEW ski, I thought, that would have been a rather short relationship. An unexpected thing to force me change skis and get the ugly ones after all… or none at all. Shiver. So maybe that was a warning from above, that one shouldn’t care too much about image or beauty, it doesn’t last for ever ;). Eventually I managed to put them on, under the trees, where snow wasn’t so deep. That man waited ages for me, he was amazing. At one point he asked me how come i got on this slope ;P. i told him… he said that guy who told me is crazy… this is one of the most difficult slopes in the region… GREAT, I thought.. Cool, I also thought, if i make it. And off we went again. And down I went again.

But you know what. It is true that to get over the fear of falling, one has to… fall. Safely, if possible… which was the case here, because snow was so deep, it was almost a pleasure to roll down the hill. No kidding, there was no pain whatsoever, just the exteme sensation of… rolling down a hill full of snow. If I wasn’t stressed about losing skis and breaking stuff, and if knees wouldn’t have started to hurt after a while, the rest was actually fun. With one condition: arriving down in one piece. Thanks to that patient man, who waited up for me and showed me the way (it was foggy and I had no idea of the way, “keeping left” was a very vague concept given MANY WRONG alternatives to keep left..), I eventually reached the station where the car was… wet from the snow, but happy. This is a cool part of having your own gear, you don’t depend on ski lifts or rentals, and you can have… well, experiences like this, for whoever fancies sheer fear and adrenaline. I don’t so much :P, but its fun to talk about it once its over.

It appears I lost some of the fear of falling on that black slope.. slope of hope.

The name of the man is Fischer, like my ski brand. How life puts them together :).. they invited me for a raclette at their place in the evening, I went, was a nice time. Had some friends over, a couple with (another) 2 very energetic kids, even after a tiring skiing day (amazing!). was nice. Talking all night in french was almost as tiring as skiing ;), but I very much liked the opportunity to exercise “first-hand” french conversation.

Sunday I met them again, this time on “tamer” slopes. Very nice scenery, great slopes, following heavy snow on Friday. I was tempted to go back to the black one, with newly gained courage and confidence, but was wary of annoying Authorities Above, so I listened to the Panicked Parents Voice and refrained. For now.

Was nice… its over.. back to work.

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