A flash back to my first and last skiing trip, Poland.
Horrific! My legs wouldn’t coordinate with my brain, I picked up speed but then couldn’t stop, I struggled to turn once on the slope and I fell over every time I even tried to get on the ski lift. I was COLD and everyone else had mastered it; my 4 year old cousin was whizzing around fearless! I was frustrated to say the least and on the second day I gave up, vowing NEVER AGAIN.
But here I was, 5 years on, in Cortina (Queen of the Dolomites!), trusting Stefano, a 60 something ski instructor who keeps calling me Schumacher B, with my life… going a steady 1 mile per hour on the baby slope. Ha! It was progress right?!
Within an hour he had coaxed me on to the ski lift chatting some random Italian/English to try and calm my nerves. I was smiling. Nodding. Willing with all my might for him to shut up so I could continue concentrating on not plummeting to my own death.
Once we’d reached the top and stepped off the chair I froze. I wasn’t ready for this.
Realising how utterly terrified I was, Stefano took hold of my ski pole and with tears silently streaming down my cheeks he gently dragged me along with him. The process repeated several times until I eventually allowed him to let go – not quite the same euphoric moment as when your Mum lets go of the seat after teaching you to ride a bike, but I was moving, forwards, on skis 🙂
Aside from the extreme sports, Cortina is a picturesque town with breathtaking scenery. A place that has humbleness although it attracts countless celebrities and high flyers. It is wonderful in every aspect; a stroll through the pedestrian center to designer shopping, browsing the Christmas market huts to enjoying a hot spiced apple juice before skating around the Olympic ice rink. The food though, is something else!
We have dinner at Bar Son Zuogo, a tiny bar/restaurant on the side of the mountain.
After eating Spatzle, a small green gnocchi cooked with cream and speck; a dish typical of the north, along with a side dish of Patate all’ ampezzana (potatoes cooked with lashings of onions and speck), followed by Kaiserschmarrn – shredded pancake with jam and fresh cream, I contemplate being rolled down the slopes for the remainder of the trip.
Not having given up by day two, we saw the children off to their instructors and stopped for a very healthy breakfast of Apfel Strudel before I cosied up on the cabin balcony with a book, I just needed time to reflect.
When the children returned, we visited the Olympic ski jump forming part of the view from our bedroom window and then sledged the hills behind the lodge.
Upon sunset, we drove up the mountains to meet friends at El Brite Delarieto, an almost self sufficient farm house set in forest surroundings with a fantastic view.
I eat Casunzeiei, half moons of ravioli stuffed with beetroot, a characteristic dish of the local area, and then try the most amazing yoghurt, made from their own goats milk, sprinkled with red berries and honey. The Chef states: “I want those who taste my dishes can feel the love that I put into preparing them”. You certainly can! Yes… We pet the goat on the way out.
Stefano was happy to see me. Why?! I have no idea! Perhaps he could see the determination on my face. I WILL ski. I was not leaving Cortina until I could!
After a rocky start we stopped for a quick lunch (this guy knew the way to my heart!) – ‘the skiers plate’ – a board of tomato, Polenta, speck and sausage all washed down with a midday mulled wine.
We continued on the ski lift as I warned him that the next challenge better not be a red slope. He brushed off the comment in his Italian way, pointing out a specific part of the mountain range and labeling it as being famous… what for? I have no idea as I forget everything as I tip my skis over the edge he has brought me to and yes, of course IT’S A RED SLOPE!!!! The drop is nearly vertical. Stefano is calling after me ‘come on Schumacher B!’. This was sure to be my end.
As a parting treat, we drove back up to El Brite Delarieto to collect some goats yogurt. Whilst the children were playing on the seesaw, their Mother and I sat in the sun sipping on a glass of cold Bollinger. Pausing to appreciate the moment.
I had survived. I had faced my fears. I could ski!