I recently went skiing with a close school friend Simon, both myself and Simon were lucky enough to participate in a school ski trip at age 11 – doing the math, my love of this sport began 43 years ago! I sometimes think it’s easier to ski than walk – wishful thinking maybe!
However, since our recent ski trip, the recuperation has been a lot harder, it’s felt like I’ve been hit by a train. To cope with these aches and pains, I have re-joined a Hot Yoga class to get some elasticity back into my body. It’s incredible what a toll a week of hard skiing does to you. The warmth of yoga if nothing else helps.
It’s good to reflect and remember our holiday time and the moments when perhaps we felt like we had more space to breathe. Clarity and consciousness is somehow easier to find when we have a break from our busy routine. Adventure is an integral part of being alive and finding our purpose and clearing our mindset. Adventure leads to inspiration and inspiration, action, so let’s go back to the beginning with my adventure in the French Alps…
Our trip began with a drive from West London to Chamonix – pretty non-eventful in a little red VW Golf. Once we arrived in Chamonix we met another old school friend, who had travelled up from Provence, a quick freshen up was on the cards and then straight to the local bar. It was as if we had been let out of jail and never seen a pint of beer before. Food was even low in our priorities, but the cool refreshing French beer went down well until the early hours. Why is it that every first night away always goes the same way? I still haven’t learnt even at the age of 54! Oh what joy though to be on the slopes again!
Early the next morning (that same morning in fact!), with jaded heads, we hit the slopes and skied as if we were 17 all over again – apart from the fact that Mark now has 2 new hips, I wear the 2 biggest knee supports known to man, and Simon is currently in all working order! We had a good first day on the mountain, except I managed to take a fall which further hurt my knees and took the aggression out of my skiing. Although sometimes experiencing something minor can keep us from something major.
We skied on…. our energy for ski and adventure, not dampened.
On Day 2 we thought we would attempt to take a run over to Italy by going up to the Aguille du Midi, sadly we were wrong as the lift that connects the resort was closed. Instead, we witnessed loads of people skiing the Valley Blanche. What a sight! Everyone was roped up, with crampons on at the top, from what we could see we quickly realised that it was advisable to have a guide if we were going to do this and survive!
We decided to turn around and head back down, regretful to make a detour, but what happened next was truly unbelievable. Sometimes in life detours are gifts. As we walked past the information centre to get to the bus, Simon, whose not a big fan of off piste skiing, suddenly signed us up for a guide to ski the Valley Blanche the very next day. What I should tell you about Simon is, firstly he doesn’t normally go off piste as he’s usually the sensible one and secondly he’s also afraid of heights – both elements being key ingredients to the Valley Blanche! His decisive action was rapid and his credit card was thrusted across the counter in record speed. Impulsivity has its place when we are stepping out and prepared to experience new limits.
Day 3, we took it easy the night before you’ll be glad to hear, with a mammoth day and challenge at the forefront of our minds. We met our guide Paolo and stepped out where we had seen everyone else do the day before, yet this time we were both roped on to him. He was about 60kg to our combined force of 155kg! Not something we wanted to ponder on! We stepped down a path for a good 35 minutes, would you believe it, even in treacherous mountain paths there is still a problem with queueing! People in such a rush, you wonder if they actually got to experience it or missed it in the tussle. The path, which was a ridge at the top of the mountain, with both sides sloping down very steeply, was Simon’s worst fear, I was so busy hanging onto the guard rope, so I didn’t catapult us all over the edge, that the fear didn’t grip me quite so palpably.
Once down the challenging path, we skied off-piste down the glacier and valley which was worth the wait and truly breath-taking. There were some very large crevices along the way that Paolo guided us safely past, each was 20/30m deep. You could quite easily have lost yourself in one and ended up with a serious injury. There are good reasons for guides, and in beautiful but treacherous landscape, these wise guides are essential - this carries over to many areas of life if we just remember and seek out those mentors in everyday life.
We successfully avoided the big holes and skied further down to a plateau area to have a picnic. The lunch was basic but the view was spectacular, like a prairie, it was peaceful surrounded on every side by the glacier. There are few times in life when we experience such overwhelming beauty and see the creative life force at full force.
After lunch, we skied down the valley to where the original Chamonix Hotel was built in the 1800’s, connecting it to the town by a funicular railway. The only obstacle in visiting this beautiful historic site was a very long walk back up the stairs with skis on your back and boots on your feet! It felt like it went up 75 meters high – as if we needed more of a work out! The walk back up gave us time to reflect and what we saw was saddening. The hotel once stood on le Mer de Glace - the Sea of Ice, where you stepped out from the hotel’s iconic entrance in the 1930’s straight onto the beautiful glacier. Now, the sight was less remarkable – to see the glacier we had to look down as it is hurriedly melting away. We went past a plaque telling us where the glacier had been in 2001 and already we were some way from that. For the first time, I saw with my own two eyes, the reality of global warming and it’s harsh effect on this beautiful glacier. To see something melt before your eyes is a wake-up call to the urgency and reality of our precious planet and it’s harmonious balance. In any heart this can strike mission for change.
Once we completed the stair challenge to the top, we caught the train back into town looking forward to a hot bath and some celebratory beers in the sun! The simple pleasures do so much for our complex bodies.
This was a truly memorable and precious adventure, we skied every day and got into a routine of challenging skiing, après-ski beers, dinner and après-dinner drinks followed by bed and rising the next day and pressing the repeat button. If there are any repeats that you would love to do again, this would definitely be one of them for me.
As I sit at my desk in suburbia again looking out on British snow (in March!), I feel grateful, I feel inspired and I feel missional.
It was great trying a new ski adventure.
Simon at the time remarked, “I never do anything adventurous”
Have you tried anything new lately that pushes you out of your comfort zone?
Skiing is adventure and a great stress reliever, especially when the out of office says “I am in the mountains skiing – see you next week”
Travelling, daily holiday drinking and skiing for a week left me with a week-long hangover, add in the all over body pain and aches, and no wonder it takes a long time to recover! Be kind to yourself. It’s important to tone your body to the exercise and work up a good fitness before hitting the slopes.
The adage, “use it or lose it” has never been more pertinent than when it comes to exercise. Aches and pains are a fact of exercising, a positive reminder to when you were good to go for a month on 1 week’s exercise, where now 1 months excise expires in less than a week.. That certainly holds true for me.
This ski trip was brilliant but having not skied for two years reminded me how fit you need to be for both the skiing and the après-skiing! I meant to get on the bike trainer 2 months before the trip to start building my leg muscles up, next time I’ll start conditioning myself sooner in preparation for a full on, but fun week.