Friday, 27 March 2009

Look How Far You've Come

February 2009

We arrive at Geneva Airport and find our transport for the slopes. The minibus pulls out of the airport, crosses the border into France and begins to wind its way up into the mountains.

The driver leans over and switches on the radio. He tunes into a local French station and the haunting strains of Dire Straits drift over me and wrap me in a warm blanket of familiarity.

“These mist covered mountains..."

I gaze out the window at the snow topped mountains, the peaks barely visible for the mist rolling in.

I sit back and daydream.

It’s November 1995. I’m gazing out the window of the Neilson’s Ski Holidays coach that’s taking the reps and ski guides over to the mountains for the winter season. We are all headed for different resorts but for now we are all together, some chatting, some sleeping, some sitting quietly thinking of the months to come.

It’s eight months since I asked for a job whilst on a skiing holiday with friends in Isola 2000. And pure luck that I found myself in a bubble lift face to face with the head man of Neilson’s. Sometimes you have to give life a little push and seize the opportunity – after all, no-one’s going to do it for you.

Someone hands a cassette to the Neilson’s driver. Brothers In Arms – Dire Straits. The haunting melody fills the coach and we all fall silent in awe at our first view of the distant mountains.

“These mist covered mountains...”

Suddenly it was worth the hassle of getting from Edinburgh to Luton (no Easyjet in those days), getting kitted out with uniforms and then piling onto a coach with all our worldly belongings to make a long and uncomfortable journey through the night across the channel and down through France into Switzerland.

It was the start of six magical months as a ski rep. In my case, in Verbier, playground to the rich and famous.
Verbier wasn’t without its challenges. In those days it was up to us to devise our own apr├Ęs ski programme (and make a decent profit for the company). Verbier was rich, standoffish,and not interested in rowdy ski parties. However, little by little I broke down the barriers and the locals let me in on their world (or part of it at least).

I didn’t ski every day. Funny how, when you have it on your doorstep, you can take it or leave it. And with Verbier being a top class resort, I was always aware of just how good a lot of the skiers were. It was made worse by the fact my uniform had “The No 1 Name In Skiing” in very distinctive colours emblazoned across the back, and I always felt I should be tackling an icy mogul field or be waist deep in fresh powder rather than doing a sedate “sort of parallel” descent down an intermediate run.

But bit by bit my skiing improved and in the ensuing years, long after hanging up my rep’s clipboard and microphone, I enjoyed many a ski holiday with friends.

And then one day I got married, had a son, and my skis lay cocooned in their ski bag gathering dust in the rafters of the garage. My boot bag sat in a dusty corner, buried under the junk amassed over what seemed like a lifetime of hoarding.

I was once so proud of my beautiful skis. 190’s.Long, sleek and slender, the length displaying to the world that I knew what I was doing. A badge of honour carried over my shoulder.

I had chosen them carefully during a ski test on an Austrian glacier one May, where I had the pick of the new skis for that season. I had clicked into the bindings and the skis felt light as air, curving, gliding, propelling me down the mountain with a rush of pure adrenaline and elation. They were the proverbial glass slipper, the perfect fit. And colour co-ordinated - my skis, my boots, my poles, my all-in-one ski suits.

For a few brief moments I put my skis aside in favour of snowboarding (in the early 90’s it was super cool to be out there with the hip and trendy boarding set) but I always came back to my skis. I didn’t get the same buzz from boarding. Just massive bruises and knees like footballs.

“Et maintenant.....” The radio announces an old song by Michel Sardou and interrupts my reverie. My eyes focus on the present day. We are arriving in Morzine in the Portes de Soleil region of France.

It’s been fourteen years since my last ski holiday. What will it be like?

We collect our short, fat skis from the hire shop (I was right not to bring my antiquated 190’s. They would have looked totally out of place, and worse still, they no longer matched my new 2 piece outfit ).

We took the bubble to the top of the mountain, emerging into the sunshine beside one of the sun terraces. I tightened my boots, slipped my gloved hands through the straps of the poles and stepped into my bindings. Click. Click. I pushed off and that familiar rush of adrenaline mixed with pure elation washed over me.

I didn’t tackle the icy mogul field. I stayed well clear of the powder. And at times my skis were more snowplough than parallel. But there’s nothing in the world that beats the feeling of satisfaction when you reach the bottom of a run and look back up to see where you’ve come from.

And what a great metaphor for life!

Because you should always take the time to look back and see how far you’ve come. Just as you must always have a clear vision of where you’re going.

After all, if you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there?

No comments: