Wednesday, 26 March 2008
A Long Way to Fall
I was having a chuckle over a story about Saga Louts in one of the British newspapers and, wouldn't you know it, there they were, up the Alps in force, bawling their heads off at 2am. At first they seemed quite far away and, unable to put any detail to the noise, I prayed they were German, but no. As it got nearer the bawling took on the mangled strains of "Swing Low Sweet Chariot". I curled into a ball and tried to block out the racket. The trouble is ski resorts are, by virtue of being ski resorts, high up in mountains. As a result sounds ricochet off the slopes and amplify through the silent valleys, especially at night. I vowed not to speak any English to La Fille at breakfast and hoped everyone else in the hotel would think I was American, Canadian or even Australian.
At the same time, it struck me that getting wasted in an Alpine village is a pretty risky pastime. They are the potentially lethal combination of mountainous and slippery even for the stone-cold sober in broad daylight. Fall down drunk at night and there is a good chance it will be into something considerably deeper, colder and more difficult to climb out of than a ditch. I noticed on one of my many stops down the perilous red run, that a few chalets backed directly onto the piste; not a good place to be after a glass of après ski or ten. Believe me, it was hard enough getting down on skis. The picture postcard views were deceptive. Sides of roads and paths appeared pretty and benign enough until you realised that what looked like dwarf trees poking through the snow were in fact just the tops of massive firs.
Then there is the morning after. All that dazzling whiteness and brightness on post-party eyeballs; attempting to use a button lift, instruments of torture at the best of times, while unable to coordinate brain and limbs and skiing - swish turn, swish turn, swish turn - with a queasy tummy. It made me feel ill just thinking about it.
For a brief moment at 2.30am I found myself hoping the noisy swing-low-sweet-charioteers would indeed fall into a ravine or crevasse or down a piste never to be heard of or from again. I told myself off for wishing such a fate on anyone. Instead I hoped they would wake with rotten, head-splitting hangovers to the sound of a dozen snowploughs and a parade of plastic-booted skiers clomping past their door shouting a cheerie "Bonjour".