Off the top of my head I’m not sure what the population of Switzerland is but I’m pretty sure that today, every single one of them was in the queue for the button lift in Saas Grund. What is normally a relatively quiet resort was swamped with people all trying to ascend this one lift and queueing in an chaotic manner to cut a few minutes from standing in the line. Maybe it’s my inner Brit raging at the anarchy but ski lift queuing should be a sport of its own. It takes brains to plan a route and read other people’s manoeuvres and it takes physicality to stop people barging in front and to hold your ground against the impatient. All normal queue etiquette is hurled out the window and is replaced by a recreation of mufasa’s last moments.
It was my first day on the slopes with my new group and I was keen to get them skiing as much as possible as they only have three days of skiing. Ideally, we could get loads of time on the snow to work on their technique, and hopefully once they improved we could move away from the stampeding button lift queue, but because it took eons to get back to the top of the run it was a slow day.
Fortunately, this week I have a lovely group to work with and they were amazing in the time we did get. They listened and took in all the advice and drills and made some good progress, but inevitably, there were some funny moments. It started off with a pretty common hurdle, a ski pass not working at the first lift. One of the most common causes was to blame, an old ski pass being mixed in the pocket and confusing the machine. What made it funny however was the kids sloth like reaction to the problem. He just stood there, wide eyed and confused awaiting assistance, and once the problem had been solved, resumed his inactive state until being prompted to go through. He then got his ski pole caught in between his ski’s brakes as he put them on the outside of the gondola and waddled alongside the lift trying to fix the issue. Whilst all this was going on another girl was having a brake issue as she tried to put her skis together. The brakes are what interlocks the skis so they are easy to carry but this girl simply could not work out how to get them gel. She frustratedly mustered to combine them but no avail, they were simply to far apart on the skis to click together. It required my assistance to point out that the reason one brake was by her knee and the other by her chest was because one ski was upside down.
These two unfortunately were no contender for today’s Jerry. There was one particular girl in my class who was at the lower end of the ski ability range and she had some special moments out on the mountain. One of the first things she made me aware of was that she wasn’t wearing her glasses and her vision wasn’t great. She didn’t let me know how blind she was on a scale from fighter jet pilot to Stevie Wonder, but I’d find out later on. From getting off the button lift to getting down the hill, there was always a little moment for us to laugh about. Every time she attempted to exit the button lift, she would always remove the button from between her legs to early, before she overcame the final hill, and so would have a slide backwards before toppling over. Every time except a few, where she would make it to the disembarkment area, release the button, free herself from any risks and then just topple over.
On the way back down she also came into her own. There were lots of falls. Lots and lots of them. Mostly small ones but at the end of the day, when we tried a steeper red run, there was a slightly larger bail. The slope had become icy which didn’t help descending the new steeper pitch so at each turn, there was a stumble. After intermittently falling down the first half, she gave up and decided one big fall and slide would be an easier way down the last half. She also thought that it would be a good idea to take me down with her. As I was helping her up from her halfway fall, she unavoidably sat back down and started to slide. This time with some more speed and straight into me as I was below her. In the tangle she managed to skewer her ski between my boot and my ski and start sliding down with me trapped in the mess. Although I had a spare ski to help stop the tumble, I thought I’d help her out by controlling the slide down and guide us both safely to the end of the steep section before bringing us to a halt to sort out the shambles.
The pinnacle of her foolishness came earlier in the day, back at the top of a run after another failed button lift departure. Having rejoined the group at the top of the line she placed herself at the back of the group for when we next skied off. As I skied off leading the group I would look back to see each kid following on. The next turn another kid would join on the end and the same for each turn after that. Until it got to this last girl, who when I looked back one last time, wasn’t ceremoniously joining the back of the group, but instead was led on the floor with her limbs in the air. With both skis off I knew it might take her a few minutes to get going again. A few minutes turned into a few more and I questioned hiking back up the slope to help. A few more turned into an eternity. After watching her fail to put on her ski whilst I grew old, civilisations rose and fell and the glacier in the backdrop melted I finally began the long walk back to her. After the lung busting expedition, I got to her and noticed in astonishment that she had both heel bindings up (impossible to get a ski on) instead of down and after correcting this issue she jumped straight into the skis and shot off. It was as I was running down the slope back to my skis and group that I learnt the extent of her previously mentioned blindness. It was definitely towards the end of the popular American soul singer because she went flying past me and the rest of the group and carried on down the slope, in a world of her own, completely unaware of the ten shouting people on the side.