Here are some photos from my ski trip on Sunday with my friend Giovanni to Monterosa in Valle d’Aosta, the region to the north of Piemonte (where Torino is) that borders France and Switzerland. More precisely, we drove to the town of Gressoney-La-Trinité, one of several small towns at various points on the mountain.
We were in the middle of the Alps very close to the Swiss border, and the scenery was breathtaking.
It was so nice to be back on skis. I hadn’t skied in ten years. It was also interesting to ski in Europe for the first time. Most things are the same, but the trail colors are different (easy trails were blue, not green; intermediate trails were red, not blue; difficult trails were black, which was the same).
Also, the ski lodges felt so much more European. I’ve only skied in a few places in the US, but I was used to one really big lodge, maybe at the base of the mountain, with a public building feel to it, lockers, cafeteria food, and long tables with plastic chairs, and then another smaller lodge at the top.
Here, on the other hand, there were many small lodges scattered around the mountain, usually near chair lifts. There was outside seating and inside it was cozy and snug with a fire and a few tables and even a lone musician playing softly. In the back there was a standard Italian bar with typical drinks and homemade-looking cakes. The aroma of the food inside was lovely. You can eat really well in these rifugi as they are called (“refuges/shelters”); they are little mountain restaurants.
We were lucky and there was beautiful weather and good skiing conditions. It was also quite warm. I don’t think I’ve skied in the spring before, but we were up between 2200 and 3200 meters (7,218-10,499 feet), so there was snow. We also practically had the mountain to ourselves and there were no lines at the chair lifts.
The strangest thing was, while skiing down a trail, being passed by a group of super-fast little kids zipping down the mountain like professionals. They were groups of students with an instructor, and better than any kids I can remember seeing. Giovanni said they were kids who were born in the Valle and so practically grew up on skis. I also saw kids having downhill races in which they ski around the flags.
When I participate in a new activity in Italy, I usually learn some new vocabulary. On Sunday I learned these:
seggiovia – chair lift
cabinavia (or officially, telecabina, or colloquially, ovetto “little egg”) – gondola / cable car (the small one)
funivia – cable car (the large one)
Here are some other words if you’re interested:
sciare – to ski
lo sci / gli sci – ski / skiis
gli scarponi [da sci], i bastoncini [da sci] – [ski] boots, [ski] poles
la giacca, i pantaloni, i guanti, la maschera, la sciarpa – jacket, pants, gloves, ski mask, scarf
la pista – trail, run, slope
la montagna – mountain
divertirsi – to have fun
Not all Italian vocabulary is firmly impressed in my mind, to the amusement of my friends. After a wonderful day of skiing, which passed all too quickly, I finally took those rigid ski boots off and put my regular boots on, which at that point felt like ballet slippers, and felt that my calf muscles were really sore. I clutched my calf and said, “Le caviglie sono doloranti” (My ankles are sore).
Once in the car, I suddenly felt all the tiredness that the excitement of the day had prevented me from feeling before. I got home around 6:45 pm, took a shower, and buonanotte.
We were surrounded by this fantastic scenery all day.
Seggiovia (chair lift)
There was even a covered chair lift to keep out the wind.
Lunch break! We packed lunch so we couldn’t sit at the tables at the rifugio, so we sat on these reclining chairs with this view in front of us. Ahhhhhhh.
I liked how people lined their skis up right on the snow. There weren’t any of those wooden racks.
Giovanni, with his good camera, took pictures while skiing, without falling on it or dropping it in a snowdrift.
That’s a statue of a stambecco (a steinbock / Alpine ibex), a wild goat that lives in the mountains of the European Alps above the snow line.
This is the slope where I fell. It’s steeper than it looks I was fine… the funny part was that I slid and slid and slid really fast down the hill, losing both skis and poles and turning into a “big white cloud”, as my friend said. It seemed like I would never come to a stop; it was like a giant slippery sliding board. Then I had snow up my jacket and in my gloves, but thank goodness it was a warm day and I dried off. That was the only time I fell, except for another half time when I fell over from a standing position. Maybe I should keep that to myself.
Cabinavia (gondola / cable car) You can see Gressoney-La-Trinité and the parking lot down below.
Two photographers going skiing involves many photo breaks like this…
… how could it not?
‘Til next time.