At some point during your stay in Europe you will begin to tire of churches, statues, bridges, monuments, ruins and the rest. Seeing is one thing but doing is much better. That is how the search for a different experience on the Eurotrip led us to the Ski town of Saas Fee in the Valais, home to some of the best all year ski slopes in Europe. Not for us the mundane train rides to the Jungfrau or the Titlis (where I am told the restaurants even have signs in Hindi). However not knowing the first thing about skiing this would be, in the words of the one and only Barney Stintson ‘legen… wait for it… dary!’.
Saas Fee turned out to be really beautiful and there was not an Indian or a non European in sight. Unique experience… CHECK.
What with all the ski schools closed the day we landed up there and the lady at the rental shop actually dissuading us from trying on our own (even though it’s bad for her business!), we almost gave up hope of being able to try the slope. But out of sheer bloody mindedness we decided to just shove caution out the back door and give it a shot. Apparently the beginner’s slopes would open only the next day or so we were told when we reached the counter for the ski pass. "Whatever..we're here so let’s try it out" said I. A slope called Morenia was recommended to be the easiest available place to try.
In retrospect, BAD decision. We could have easily ended up dead. On a slope gravity is your enemy and your friend. One wrong move and it’s ‘bye bye cruel world’. Climbing the ski lift we took silly photographs trying to get the pro skiing look. Even though I would give myself 10 points for style, it is saddening that I will do anything for a facebook picture.
Walking onto the slope we boldly plonked the skis down and strapped our boots in. This was going to be awesome. Then I started sliding backwards. Panicking I dug my ski sticks into the ice to no avail. Gathering speed I fell backwards under the wood platform outside the restaurant. Luckily for me it wasn't a full out drop or I wouldn't be writing this. An embarrassed smile and a cheery" I'm fine" was the best I could manage to reassure the worried faces looking down on me from the platform.
Falling isn't the hard part about learning to ski. Falling is easy and for me it was effortless. But as in life the hardest part is getting back up.
It was plenty of entertainment for a large group of snowboarders sitting outside the Morenia Restaurant. There was constant laughter whenever I managed to fall in a new and interesting way but also some cheers when I managed to stay up on the skis for a bit.
Finally when I decided to take a break and went in for a Coke, I wondered whether they could possibly offer me some advice. I sauntered over to them. "Could you tell me how to turn?" I inquired. Turns out they don't speak much English. "We are snowboarders, not skiers" one of them managed. "Never mind then" I said. "Where are you from?" One of them wanted to know. "India" I replied to much murmuring, "…and you are Germans, I think?". "Swiss Germans" he corrected. I detected the slightest hint of pride. "So… why are you here?" he asked half wonderingly and half sarcastically.
It irritated me a bit that he would consider it incredible for someone like me to be there on that slope with him. I really wanted to make him understand that in the future there would be many more Indians on the slopes as in every other field that we have excelled in.
I could have lectured him for hours on how India was an emerging economy with strong growth and a powerful democracy with a larger youth population than that of the whole of Switzerland and how we would, along with China, soon be one of the two largest economies in the world, but I didn't think it would have left any impression, given the little English that he understood. I had to convey it in much simpler terms.
"Why!?," I countered with false surprise," Why NOT?" as I picked up my gear for one more try on the slope.