My plan, after my Mum passed was to get out of town and out of London and away from condolences. The earliest time I could leave, the better.
As it happens, as it always happens, my boyfriend was conveniently going to Italy two weeks later.
You know, like how he was conveniently going to Italy two weeks after we met, and I was also conveniently going to Italy two weeks after we met.
I do always enjoy a venture to Italy and that is primarily because of this bastion of all great European things.
Anyway, his bi-annual trip home was to include skiing. Great for him, but I’m Caribbean. We do beaches and dancehall. We don’t typically throw ourselves down snow capped mountains.
“Have you seen Cool Runnings?” I asked him. In all earnestness, he replied no. I didn’t have the energy to explain that reference.
So there I found myself, atop the Italian branch of the Matterhorn or one of his cousin Valtournenche mountains.
It was an alright view.
This, however, was not.
For people who don’t ski – perhaps your ancestors are from hot countries too – ski attire feels like NASA space mission attire. Those boots are harder to walk in than McQueen heels. They hurt, there is no fashion in the cut of the ski gear and the layers are too hot.
That’s right. Too hot. What they don’t tell you is it’s HOT on the slopes. Plummeting into twenty inch deep snow is a relief. That was my excuse anyway.
My boyfriend has been skiing since he was a zygote. He was in the ovary when he was first taking on black pistes (not a euphemism) so going back to basics with me was not easy.
“Eh, you just push yourself DOWN the slope”
“What if I go too fast.”
“What’s to stop me skiing all the way down and ending up in Austria?”
“You won’t. The way you brake and stop is like this *weird leg movement*.”
And this is where I struggle. When I am bad at something, I am really bad. If I catch a ball, it’s a surprise for everyone involved. Whatever leg movement he did to show me how to brake was an absolute MYTH.
There is only one way to stop when you are hurtling down a mountain attached to two planks of wood. Falling. Chuck yourself down.
I was on the skinniest, tiniest ant hill of a slope, it wasn’t even a training slope, it was the bit of snow to get to the training slope and I was whizzing down the side of the alps at 95 miles an hour. I could see death ahead of me. At one point I actually could see why people enjoy this. I saw my future as an olympic skiier flash before my eyes. Then, I was heading off the mini slope and further down this mountain. Suddenly it wasn’t my future but my entire life flashing before my eyes.
Implement Operation: Emergency Brakes! Falling into the snow. For a meter at least, my fallen body was STILL skidding and I was sure I’d skid until I fell off the mountain entirely. It was, absolutely, time to stop.
My boyfriend and his very lovely and patient childhood friend Carla went off on the black pistes and I headed to get a tan.
I took off the SHOCKING boots and propped myself up at the chalet. I believe they call it aprés-ski in the biz. But that assumes you’ve actually done some skiing.
Apparently up in the North they eat a lot of deers. Since the Italian lady at the chalet responded in English to my “una bottiglia di acqua, per favore” I figured I’d stick to things I can order confidently. Like this plate of pasta al pesto
Valtournenche ski slopes probably doesn’t have the best aprés-ski scene in the biz since I’ve definitely eaten better but the hours of relaxation was excellent. I had such a good sunbathing sesh that I was really disappointed when the skiiers told me time was up.
My disappointment was rapidly replaced by HORROR when they told me the only way back down the mountain (which we had taken a ski lift up) was on ski. Absolutely fucking not.
Eventually, we managed to beg and seduce the operator to let us back down the lifts for free. I think he took one look at me and took pity.
Once we were back in his Lombardia home, his skiing family and friends, entirely made up of skiiers, all found my failings HILARIOUS. They reassured me I’d improve but they assume I will ever torture myself like that again.
Valtournenche, however, and Val d’Aosta is very beautiful. It has a French or Swiss vibe, especially with the dual names, but I understand the language which is a bonus and a half. Despite being honest to god the only brown person on the slopes, no one really stared which endears me to any place. And just look at that winter sky! That’s how, despite my ski horror, Valtournenche in Val d’Aosta made my Best of 2016 travel