Alison Westwood blogs from Switzerland

Posted by Alison Westwood on 7 February 2010

Morning from Switzerland!

It’s a beautiful snowy Sunday in Les Diablerets and I’m feeling very lucky to be alive and in one piece. Yesterday was a rather hardcore day, even for me.

Arriving in Zurich after two flights, I had to catch two trains and a tram to get here, arriving almost 24 hours after I set off. Lack of sleep, combined with the gain in altitude (it’s 1800 metres here), and constant motion had left me feeling queasy and dizzy. I could barely keep my balance on solid ground.

So, obviously, the first thing I did once I’d checked into the hotel was not to sit down, eat some lunch and sensibly get some sleep. Nope. I put on my skiing gear and headed for the slopes. On my own. Having last skied well over 10 years ago. Ray had given me an awesome pair of ski googles called ‘Wisdoms’, but I’m afraid that’s the only wisdom I had on me yesterday.

As I sat in the little cable car, floating up the snowy mountain, I watched the other skiers coming down below and tried to remember the basics. Then I got distracted by the view. Gorgeous chalets, pines frosted with thick icings of snow and mountains covered in freshly laundered duvets – pick a Christmas card, any Christmas card.

At the top, they let me out and I tried to ask someone (in French) which was the easiest slope to go down. Poor fellow didn’t understand a word I was saying. To my relief, this was because he was English. He pointed me down the route with a sign ‘Caution, icy slopes’. I queried this. ‘Oh, that’s been there the whole time,’ he said. ‘It’s just unpisted, so there’s lots of powder snow.’ ‘Well, that’s okay,’ I said, snapping myself into the bindings in what I hoped was a confident and not too wobbly manner. By this time, I could barely stand on two feet, let alone one. Tra lalalala, I pushed off down the slope.

Englishman had it part right. It was unpisted, powdery AND icy. Not ideal conditions, even on a blue run. ‘Snowplow,’ I told myself sternly, trying to avoid the snappy little jump turns I was sure I could remember if I tried. Proudly, I realised that I was doing this. I reached a junction, watched people whizz past, then whizzed down myself – WHOOOF! PLOFF! 1.3 seconds later, I was cartwheeling on my head at high speed. People turned to stare. Amazingly, the only bits that had come off were my skis. I felt like I’d been involved in a head-on collision with a truck, as most of the impact had gone into my neck. I waved gaily at the spectators (I’m fine, really) and trudged up the slope to fetch my skis.

It took a while to get them on again, but I’m a stubborn old goat, and I was eventually gliding away like a three-legged giraffe. I managed four runs without further incident (they were long runs) and was almost tempted to go for a fifth just before the cable car closed, except that I remembered Leigh’s story about her injury when she carried on ski-ing when she was tired and, finally, my goggles were not the only wisdom I had left.

I walked back through downy snow-flakes (yeah, just to top off the whole effect, it was snowing gently) past patisseries and apres-skis and toppled into the hotel ski-room, easing boots off bruised shins. I went for a swim in the heated pool, had a shower (and realised for the first time that I’d slightly sprained my wrist), informed the restaurant I wouldn’t be having dinner, then slept for 13 hours.

Today I’m going up Glacier 3000 – as in 3000 metres above sea level. Hurray. More altitude. More headaches and nausea. But I’m looking forward to it 🙂

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