Saturday, March 10, 2007

from Cervinia, Italy

I wake up at night and I spin, countless thoughts, tripping over each other. My crazy work schedule this semester, the bid for a new condo, I’ll be moving, everyone’s moving, I’m in Cervinia but the Law School is just emails away. I need to write more, I need to moonlight, I need to sleep.

I pull back the curtain and stare at the dark mountains, waiting for them to be light again.

And eventually, they oblige.

italy march 07 054

Oh-oh. Looks sort of partly cloudy up there. Sill, there are patches of blue...

I ask at the desk -- What time do the lifts open?
The lifts? They are all closed today.
What? I have crossed oceans and continents to be here! I want to ski. Why? Why is everything closed? A strike? (I’m in Italy after all)

It’s the wind. Very strong. 90 kilometers an hour. It’s not safe.
Wont they open just a wee little lift so that I can try my bright yellow rented skis maybe just once? I only have these two days to ski!

I get the Italian shrug.

I hover by the hotel desk and give my very best rendition of being very anxious.
Might conditions improve?

The shrug.

I consider my options. I have no options. I pace.

And, I am rewarded:
Signora, they are opening three lifts! The bottom half of the mountain, you can ski there. But it will be windy.

The understatement of the year. An hour later I exit the little gondola and I look ahead of me. Snow, clouds, drifting, blowing. A few hardy types assess the run down. I will follow them!

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the bold

I can’t follow them. I have to find my skiing groove again. My groove is suffering from disuse. I hit an ice patch and I lose control. Down I go. Wrist hurts. I get up and continue.

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blowing, drifting

I make it down once. Dizzy from the speed, the challenge. I get back on the gondola, more confident now. Wind? Pffft! What’s the big deal?

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But at the end of the second run I am tired. I should have had the eggs and the oatmeal and the cakes and the cheeses for breakfast… I did not think I would be skiing. I did not think to store the nutrients.

I do one more run and then I stop. It is 12:30 and I am spent. I walk back to the hotel and make plans to sit in front of the fireplace for the rest of my life.

No, wait. Food first.

Cervinia isn’t a happenin’ town. There is no nightlife, no glamour. European royalty do not flock here. But Cervinia is Italian to the core and there is great food to be had up and down its one skinny street.

My lunch is richly nourishing. Reviving. Invigorating. Steaming hot.

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hot and honest

I am satiated. I want to go back to the slopes. At the base, I see green lights flashing on several more open lifts. We are permitted almost to the top of the mountain! I ride the gondolas, finding a spot in cabins filled with jovial Italians. I have to ask this: how is it that an entire nation is so good at having fun?

The views mesmerize me. Moreover, I have found my groove, so that I can actually imitate a person who knows how to ski. I’m not on the top of the mountain, but I feel like I am.

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nearing the summits

The run is long and I am tempted to call it a day, joining those who choose to enjoy other aspects of skiing here.

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sun and laughter

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...and a cigarette

But I go at it again. For the sheer torture. The challenge. The speed.

Afterwards, I can hardly walk. Thank you, hotel of mine, for having a sauna. Few have ever enjoyed a dry hot room as much as I did this late afternoon.


  1. That looks so exciting. Yay for you!

  2. Nina, a writer and photographer from National Geographic (or Travel & Leisure) couldn't hold a candle your delightful posts today and yesterday from Cervinia. Thanks for your fantastic words and pictures.

  3. Cool post about a mountain. I'm sending an avalanche.

  4. Sounds like you've got a serious skiing jones there, girl. The rush you get from yor runs down the mountain show through in your writing.

    And great pictures, too!

  5. Skied there last winter and I highly recommend skiing over to the Zermatt side. You will get to see Monte Cervino/Matterhorn from a different perspective. It is an all day excursion so an early start is imperative. As soon as you get to the bottom of the Zermatt side, hop on a shuttle to the funicular and ride all the way to the top. The view is spectacular! Have lunch at the top and then ski to the bottom and board the tram that takes you to the Italian side. Be sure to get in first so you can ride up front; it is one utterly jaw-dropping ride! Particularly when the tram nudges up to that bare rocky peak. Cool pictures btw, your photo of Monte Cervino peeking through the clouds is first rate. Good to see the snowcover. I'll be at La Thuile in two weeks, so the photos made me feel better.

  6. That third picture -- "blowing, drifting" -- is just spectacular.

  7. Anon: I did in fact ski down to Zermatt the next day -- I am less thrilled with that side of the mountain, but it could be that the weather there just didn't oblige (I am such a fair weather skier; I'll take the wind, so long as there is sun and good snow). And it was a busy Sunday. And I got slammed into by a maniac on skis. Still, I like the fact that you can ski all day here, never repeat a trail and criss cross the border while you're at it.

    Thank you for all your comments. I post one more day from Cervinia (Sunday), then it's back to work. Until Spring Break anyway.

  8. Nice one! Here's some stoke from the swiss side of the Alps...Saturday was a gooood day!


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