I’ve often suspected that ski resorts have their heads in the clouds when it comes to describing conditions and potential for great skiing. Websites are snowdrift-deep in fabulous pictures of deliriously happy skiers emerging from pristine pistes covered in fine powder snow. Pictures like that would not have been taken here today. Nor yesterday. And probably not tomorrow.
We arrived in the beautiful hamlet of Gressoney La Trinite 1600m above sea level, expecting to see white everywhere. Beautiful crisp snow dusting the roofs and gardens. Maybe the odd snowman, his alpine cap tipped at a jaunty angle, his stick arms holding a ski pole retrieved from last year’s deep snow, waving at us merrily. Or perhaps icicles, carved by nature herself, teasing us with the will-it-won’t-it-fall-on-my-head game in the mid-afternoon thaw.
But nature has been having a bit of a laugh at the crazy humans who wear ultra-padded trousers and squeeze feet into strange-angled boots which creak and jangle and thrust them forward so that the answer to the question ‘does my bum look big in this?’ is always ‘yes, yes it does.’ Instead of white, the early snow is melting away to reveal brown and green and autumn’s detritus, still frozen, including the dog poo.
It’s turning into a bad ski season here, but you wouldn’t know it from the cheery websites . Of course they can’t be blamed for the snow coming, then going or the high winds which closed most of the lifts. No commercial enterprise will post a photo of brightly-clad skiers and boarders standing on frozen grass looking wistfully uphill, but a hint of less-than-ideal conditions on a given day would have been nice, especially as many or us booked in ages ago so were coming anyway.
Yesterday was challenging enough, with high winds not only making it draughty round the houses but whipping up a frenzy of spindrift activity and forcing the closure of the telecabine, our stress-free escape route. So we had to go with the stress option, where the optimistic description of the piste as a ‘cruisey red’ should be changed to ‘terrifying ice-riddled steep piste with no toilet stops’. But I’m sure they wouldn’t print that either. The one consolation was that as the last folk on the mountain, the rather dishy doe-eyed Italian ski patroller coaxed us down, Rachel and I that is, the boys didn’t need help. Nor were they impressed with our description of said patroller. Noel said he was only helping us so we didn’t die on his bit of the mountain. But he called us ‘miss’ and didn’t snigger out loud as I skied like the worst beginner in the history of skiing.
So today as we piled off the bus and waddled our way to the lift, we were just in time to see it grind to a halt and a little man put up a ‘chiuso’ sign. The electronic board featuring lots of little mini lifts went from green to red. If the high winds that forced the closure were forecast, they weren’t on any of the sites we saw. There was nothing for it but to head back and drink coffee, which is never a bad thing, particularly in Italy which has splendid coffee.
At least one member of our party did get to ski today, though. The nursery slopes are kept going with snow brought down from on high and four-year-old Matilda showed us what it was like to have fun. Maybe I’ll send that photo to the websites.