In an idle moment today, I found myself wistfully remembering the ski-lifts at Méribel. I love sliding up a mountain on a chairlift. It’s so quiet and peaceful, at least it is when you’re not sitting beside a Haxton, and you can just drink in the beauty and wonder of the snow-covered mountains. The ascent of a mountain on a chairlift being a somewhat longer and more controlled experience than the descent, it also gives you time to ruminate and cogitate on (and possibly even discuss, should you be blessed with suitably-erudite liftmates) some of life’s mysteries. I would warrant that Hutchison could compose an entire Monologue on the way up the Golf chairlift from Méribel Village, it being longer and slower than most. On one journey I engaged DC in a discussion on the significance of the Transfiguration, although we didn’t get very far. My memory isn’t infallible, but I suspect Tim might have interrupted with a comment about his hair or other matters relating to his personal grooming.
Tim, you see, is a snowboarder. Snowboarders are very concerned with their personal image and ‘looking cool’. That is why they use snowboards rather than skis. Being a close relative of the skateboard, the snowboard entitles them to ooze attitude and appear hip and laid back. In reality it entitles them to spend a lot of the time laid back on their butt. Sometimes this is after a fall. Falls by snowboarders are always attributed to [choose your own expletive here] skiers, or moguls created by skiers, or bad snow conditions (caused by skiers scraping all the good snow off). In addition, boarders, being strapped onto their board, can only look in one direction, and so tend to swing blindly out into the path of skiers hurtling downhill behind them.
However, all of these on-piste skiing offences pale into comparison with what a boarder has to put up with in getting back up the mountain. Ski-lifts, you see, were designed with skiers in mind, as no-one had the foresight to design a lift which perfectly suited someone with a large plank of wood strapped to their feet. *&!%£* ski-lift designers. Chairlifts are bearable for our mono-planked friends, but button lifts and T-bars are horrible. They must twist themselves into all sorts of contortions in order to be hauled back up the hill safely by either of these contraptions. I know a thing or two about twisting oneself into contortions on a T-bar myself, and I’m a skier.
Once off the lift, boarders spend a bit more time on their butt, sometimes because they’ve crashed into a *&!%£* skier coming off the lift, but mainly because they need to strap their board back on. Five minutes later they’re strapped in and ready to ooze cool on their way down the mountain. But more about those T-bar contortions, and less about oozing cool. Three years ago, in Switzerland, I encountered my first T-bar, and not a lot of cool was oozed.
For those of you unfamiliar with these monsters, study the pic on the left. Try and pretend there’s some snow in the picture. The idea is that you and a skiing mate catch one of these as it swings round the bottom terminal, and get the branches of the ‘T’ behind your butts. The thing then hauls you up the mountain. Unfortunately, on this, my first attempt at using a T-bar, I had to go solo, as there was an odd number of us skiers in our group. This proved hilariously disastrous. Having a skier (ie me) on only one side of the ‘T’ meant that the thing was forever pulling itself out from behind you. From behind me, in fact. After a number of false starts, I finally got moving, only for the whole lift to grind to a halt after a few hundred yards. Looking back, I saw that my friend Esther, whose own trials and tribulations on ski-lifts should be available in paperback before long, was having similar troubles, despite having a partner on the lift. So the lift operator had stopped the lift and was giving her some instruction. This gave me some time to think – not always a good thing. I realised that my solo T-bar trip up the mountain (and it was quite a long one) would be significantly easier if I straddled the T-bar, thus putting an even weight distribution on either side of the central pulling-bit. Doing this manoeuvre while the lift was in motion would have been impossible, but now that it was stopped for a bit, I put my plan in action. Soon the lift started up again and I headed off, now in relative comfort.
As I got nearer the top, the flaw in my plan, in a cruel, belated kind of way, made itself apparent. Extricating myself from the T-bar, while in motion, was going to be a problem. I realised I needed to twist it until the ‘T’ was vertical and then pass it through my legs without doing myself a serious and humiliating injury. Unfortunately the top of the lift arrived rather suddenly – I crested a rise to see a short flat area for ‘disembarkation’. It was here, and in full view of Tim and some other boarding friends, that I picked up the most unwelcome speed, tried in an ungainly fashion to carry out the ‘Quinny Manoeuvre’ while still holding onto my ski poles, failed to twist the T-bar far enough, crashed to the ground losing a ski in the process, and got dragged along towards a precipice before something finally went right (I do believe my heavenly Father intervened at this point) – the T-bar somehow detaching itself from my clumsy embrace and springing skywards. Only then did the lift operator see fit to stop the lift, seeing as how I was causing an obstruction to other users’ ‘disembarkation’. As was my lost ski, a few yards further back. Inconceivably, Tim and his mates found all this highly entertaining.
6 thoughts on “On ski-lifts and snowboarders”
I really do think that it was an answer to prayer that there were no t- bar chair lifts in Meribel.
I think this should be a major consideration for choosing the destination of our next ski trip!
Colin just choked on his (starbucks) coffee whilst reading this entry, hehe 🙂
Good Stuff Andrew, you are a talented man indeed. 1000 words on Ski-lifts and still an enjoyable read!
btw – Sounds like an interesting discussion re Transfiguration. Perhaps we could put your comments to good use and have a wee discussion on its significance 😉
For the Father to confirm to the disciples present that Jesus was His son and that they should do as he says and that Jesus was greater than the law and the prophets(Moses and Elijah were present).
Back to the serious stuff:
Jen: you hard at work? That bank of yours pay you to read blogs? 😉
So very true Jen. As I recall, you had enough fun with the lifts that were in Meribel (at least I did watching you!). I seem to remember several occasions where your use of and dismount from various lifts were, shall we say, a little unorthodox…;-)
Andrew I’m impressed at the sympathy you show for the plight of the boarder.
Would like to point out that there are some boarders who realise that looking cool is not the most edifying of objectives and in an effort to show true humility, concede on occasion to look ‘less cool’. There are various techniques and an experienced boarder will have attempted most of them.
This of course can be inflicted as well as volunteered – falls by boarders (admittedly quite rarely) are caused by skiiers attacking them from behind and somersaulting them cartoon-style down the hill – an interesting manoeuvre if you are lucky enough to see it!
Andrew, I think in fairness to Tim I must say that my recollection of our Transfiguration discussion is that we were accompanied by Phyllida. I don’t think I’ve ever heard Phyllida talk about personal grooming.
My main recollection of difficulties with snowboarders was a group of them lying in the middle of a green run at Glenshee or Glencoe. I was an even less proficient skier than I am currently, and it took quite a bit of effort, possibly culminating in taking a dive, to make sure that I didn’t ski into them and disturb their aura of coolness. Looking back, I have often thought that I shouldn’t have wasted my efforts and should have ploughed straight into them, thus teaching them a lesson. It’s entirely possible they may have decided to subsequently teach me a lesson by giving me a good kicking, but I think some measure of satisfaction would have lingered beyond any pain endured. Mercifully perhaps, such opportunities have never presented themselves again. Now I just target individual snowboarders. It’s a lot less conspicuous and, if done properly, nowhere near as dangerous.
We would like another installment…please!
If you lacking inspiration, you could choose from the following topics: music, lovelife, current affairs, lovelife, food, mark…or…there is always the cricket!