Monday, January 15, 2007

Business & Pleasure, Part the Second

Continued from a previous post, we rejoin our protagonist the morning after a rather painful return to the ski slopes, high in the magical Bernese Oberland.

Just after dawn on Sunday morning, I limped back to the cable car through light drizzle; a blanket of low cloud gave the valley a rather melancholy look. Rather than continue to Murren, I stopped at Winteregg; at this height, the weather was a little better - snow was falling. An old chairlift dropped me off at the head of a couple of friendly-looking blue runs - deserted, except for a small group practicing with a rescue sleigh. Making cautious turns on the empty pistes, I soon realised that something had changed overnight: my balance, and the rhythm of my turns were transformed.

I rode the Winteregg lift once more, but this time turned my skis south, towards Murren. Emboldened by an uneventful run down a red piste, I decided to give Birg one more try. Good decision: long before it reached Birg, the cable car broke through into clear skies. Although some cloud remained on the Schilthorn and across the valley a mantle of cumulus hung across the summits of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau; a brisk breeze whipped around the Birg, and I began the traverse that leads from the peak into the valley below.

Minutes later, I knew my old "ski legs" were back at last; I let my turns lengthen, relishing the freezing wind on my face as my skis cut a fresh path down near-empty pistes. The vanished clouds had left a sprinkling of fresh powder, and each turn kicked another puff of snow into that clear, clear air; as the piste steepened, the falling powder began to keep pace with me, and I, tightening my turns, cut through the tumbling debris of my own descent.

Riding a chairlift back up so as to have another run to the Kandahar station, I had the leisure to discover an eerily beautiful example of turbulence in action; the high ridges above me were continuously throwing off weird eddies in the air - currents all turned in upon themselves, horizontal twisters, made visible to me by snow crystals they carried, more brilliant than any diamond against the deep, deep blue of the high-altitude sky.

That morning is still fresh in my mind; the thrill of rediscovery as I took again the steepest line down the piste, rhythm and balance restored, careless of gradients that I would hardly dare tackle on foot; how the cloud veil fell silently into the valleys, until sheer self-preservation brought me to a halt at the margin of the piste, so that I could stand in silent and awestruck wonder, that any living land could be so beautiful.

A week on, my business in Stuttgart completed, a certain date in February beckons from my calendar; more Alpine adventures to follow...

No comments: