Haggis Pakora Update: quite disappointing.
Day 5 in the Dolomites was spent on an away-day adventure to Cortina d’Ampezzo and the Hidden Valley.
Unable to attempt the James Bond run in Cortina due to a race-related closure, we consoled ourselves by going down the ladies’ world cup run a few times, which, after a gentle enough start plunges dramatically downwards, towering rockfaces to the right and left.
Also to the left (we can think of it as Stage Left) was the chairlift, full of skiers, or the Audience, as I liked to think of them, as I lost control and slid down the slope headfirst, skis kicking up snow.
Sometimes the most obvious indicator that you’re on a black slope rather than a red is the time and effort it takes you to stop the slide.
Skiing, in a more conventional sense, further down the mountain, we came across several skiers who confirmed Cortina’s glamorous reputation, sliding along under the watchful eye of their personal instructors, sporting little round sunglasses, chic ski gear, and offering a whiff of expensive perfume as we shot past.
After lunch outside in the sunshine, we made the short trip to the (fairly ancient-looking) gondola that took us up to the start of the Hidden Valley run.
At the top, yet more beautiful views, and tunnels with machine guns left over from WWI. We took the time to explore the tunnels, and then took even more time gliding down a beautiful red run which curved round and through quiet mountain terrain, past frozen waterfalls, and the pub with the Alpacas. It was a twenty minute run and we took the best part of two hours over it.
Near the end, as promised, we got to hold on to a long rope attached to a horse-drawn cart, and get towed the last kilometre or so. Twice the horses stopped to poop, which nearly caused mass carnage among the fifty or so skiers who had to stop suddenly. But in the end only one wipe-out was recorded, the Flying Pistachio temporarily becoming the Swimming Pistachio in the slush.
All of my research into the Dolomites, which consisted of reading articles, reviews, and looking at photos, led me to believe that the Dolomites were spectacularly beautiful.
It is something of a surprise and, to be honest, a comfort to me that the internet, for all its wondrous technology, cannot really transport you to the Dolomites, or for that matter to any of the beautiful places in the world.
The photos and video looked great. But electronic rendering never does justice to the experience of standing in the shadow of a gigantic rocky outcrop, which – up close – feels like a living, breathing thing, while the sun slowly moves behind it in an impossibly-blue Alpine sky.
Somewhere near Alta Badia, I believe it was during Day 4’s monastic pilgrimage, we passed underneath such an outcrop. I stopped, not on this occasion because my legs were tired and needed a break, but because Emma had stopped.
She had paused and was gazing in wonder at the sight above her. So I stopped, and we all stopped, and the Sella Ronda momentarily became the Selah Ronda (© Emma).
The photo I took of this moment wouldn’t win any prizes, and would fail to inspire awe in any who saw it, except perhaps for me, because it takes me back in time to that moment of that day.
We did the Saslong again on our last ski day, for old time’s sake, and in the fairly plush-looking shop at the bottom of the slope I bought an over-priced bobble hat. The lady wrote me out a paper receipt, which felt a little incongruous, in such a glamorous establishment. I can’t remember the last time I got a handwritten paper receipt for a purchase.
It’s a very lovely hat. I have only occasionally removed it since. It has pleased me greatly that the weather has remained cold in Edinburgh recently.
At the end of the day, a day in which I finally broke the 80 km/h barrier by tucking from top to bottom of a run, and Ickle Bef put this in perspective by recording a speed of over 1900 km/h, thus earning her the new name Sonic Boom Bef… we shared a smoked mozzarella pizza, some cold beers, and more limoncellos than was really appropriate. There may have been some unseemly giggling at the bus stop afterwards.
All in all, it was a wonderful trip. Apart from the sheer joy that skiing brings, it was made more special for me by getting to ski, explode kittens, and generally have fun with such a great group of people.
But there was a healing element to the trip for me too, as the last time I organised a ski trip to Italy I had to pull out at the last minute due to my father’s passing.
Then there was the last time I organised a ski trip at all, back in 2011, when my good friend DC ended up in a coma as a result of an accident on the first day.
So just making it to Italy, and then having no holiday-ending injuries happen, felt like a win. It turned out to be a resounding win. Thanks to all who came and made it such a special trip!