High Life

Barbarians at the Ski Lift

February 08, 2013

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Barbarians at the Ski Lift

GSTAAD—Sir Roger Moore told the Sunday Telegraph that he enjoys the slow pace of life in Switzerland. As do I. One cannot have too much of a snowy peak under a blue sky any more than one can have too much of Schubert. Looking out from my bedroom window all I can see are pine forests, rock cliffs, and snow. Not a bad scene for the winter blues. Yes, nature has been degraded, with chalets being built ever higher in the mountains, but I can take it. After a heavy snowfall everything is still and serene. Greed takes a back seat, and the only sounds one hears are those of the skis beneath him.

I cross-country ski during February, the worst time to be in Gstaad because the “chic” people arrive en masse ready to party. After 55 years as an Eagle Club member I am putting my name up for the committee to try and stop the barbarians at the gates. I am a long shot, as some of my views are considered extreme. Such views include banning non-skiers, or at least not giving them access to the good tables on the terrace. I also would like to see the old and the ugly banned from the club on weekends, but as someone pointed out, that would be self-defeating. Oh, well; I can always start my own club, which I am seriously considering.

“The truest thing Sartre ever said was that hell is other people. Hell for me is modern man.”

I do my cross-country skiing in the old-fashioned manner: on parallel tracks in the classic form as opposed to the much faster kick-glide skating motion popular nowadays. At times it is a long grind up meadows and small, almost level glaciers. The going is never difficult, the surroundings always magnificent. The land, the snow, and the trees swaddling the trails create pockets of solace, with the swishing of the skis making the only sound. As someone wrote, “snow bestows silence.” I used to langlauf late in the afternoon, just before the dark. The tracks are empty, the pests have gone home, and I am alone with my thoughts.

One does a lot of thinking when skiing cross-country. Many consider it tedious, but then they’re the types who like rock music, Twitter, and Facebook. A year or so ago I wrote about being shocked when I thought I had crossed paths with a large brown bear, only to discover she was a Saudi woman in a large fur coat. (I think she was Saudi because she was fat and covered in jewels, but she could also have been Kuwaiti or from the Gulf. She was definitely not German.)