A Retreat into the Swiss Alps
This past weekend was our first travel weekend of the semester…yes the madness has officially once again begun. Luckily, this week we started off slow & didn’t actually have to try to plan a trip while trying to do homework, go to class, & keep up with readings (can you tell that I’m already overwhelmed? I get anxiety just looking at my syllabuses!). Our program organized & offered a spiritual retreat, a weekend full of reflection & skiing in Villars, Switzerland. 60 of us spent three days in an old chalet in the Swiss Alps, reflecting on the semester that has passed & the new one that is just beginning.
As you might recall from my last post involving winter sports, you may remember that I am not the best at ice skating & unfortunately the same goes for my skills on the slopes. Between school & volleyball, I somehow never had the chance to visit one of the many mountains we have in Vancouver enough to become a seasoned skier. However, I did get some lessons over winter break from my dad, snow plowing my way to gaining enough confidence to hit the slopes on my own in Switzerland.
Swiss people are probably the most efficient & organized out there…except when it comes to skiing on their mountains. For some reason they don’t feel the need to mark their slopes with colours, names, or any kind of indicator as to the difficulty of the run. I’m not sure why this is the case, but from the level of skiing I saw on the mountain, it seems as if every Swiss child is born on a pair of skis. Toddlers were going off jumps & whether it was a blue, (the easiest) or an orange (a double black in North America) they didn’t seem to care as they could ski pretty much anything. However, for us non-Swiss newbies it was more important that we knew which run was which before heading down, for the sake of both our lives & others.
After renting all our equipment & heading up the gondola, we reached the top of the mountain & started our day on the slopes. We were looking to warm up with some blue runs but after noticing the lack of signage & trying to navigate a map, we decided to ask for help. After talking to multiple people, we discovered that to get to the blue runs, you had to go through a red run (an intermediate slope). This was not great news as many of us hadn’t skied since we were kids. Eventually we safely made it down the red run & discovered a blue loop that was perfect for us. From there the day went great…we skied, had burgers & milkshakes, & then skied some more.
However, it wasn’t until we tried to get down the mountain that we ran into real trouble. Earlier that day we ran into another girl from our program who told us about how she took a wrong turn & ended up “skiing in the streets” in the tiny village at the bottom of the mountain. She somehow had skied down the entire mountain & ended up having to take a train all the way back up to the slopes. We all thought this was hilarious, but little did we know…
After deciding to call it a day, Caroline & I started to ask around about how to get back to the train or the gondola in order to get back down the mountain. We were told we had to ski down a ways to the station. Following the directions we were given & the mass mob of people heading down the mountain, we were sure we were headed in the right direction, until all of a sudden it was quite clear that we weren’t. The trail suddenly got very narrow, very icy, & very steep. An hour later, we were sitting on the side of a black slope, sliding down a section of it on our butts, with no one around & no end in sight. After pulling ourselves together & pushing through our fear & frustration, we put back on our skis & decided there was nothing left to do but ski it out. Giving it all we had, we skied until the slope suddenly ended & we were left with skis on our feet, poles in our hands, standing on the side of the road. Suddenly Nicole’s story earlier that day didn’t sound so funny anymore.
We finally made our way back to the ski rental shop & met up with some others from the retreat, reliving the experience at dinner over a beer & some delicious fajitas as we explained why we looked so traumatized. Although I feared for my life at some points, I can now say that I not only skied in the Swiss Alps, but that I skied down a Swiss Alp & survived.
The next day during our solo reflection period, I sat on the porch & stared out at the Alps. Although I still couldn’t believe what had actually happened the day before, as I looked back I noticed something I hadn’t before in my traumatized state. I remembered sitting on the side of the slope, close to tears, but taking in the beauty of the world around me. We later figured that if we had to go, the Swiss Alps wouldn’t have been a bad place to do it.
Just a girl sharing the baubles she loves & the bliss she experiences!