12 February 2013
Our own indomitable travel writer, Travis Monk, braves the slopes of Switzerland in the name of experience, skis and excess baggage.
“Do the ‘Cheese’. Now the ‘Wizard’s Hat’. Now do the ‘Falling Tree’. And the ‘Angry Conker’. And the ‘Pensive Hamster’.” My ski instructor Tomas is reeling off a load of ski moves to me but I'm having a hard time keeping up. This is because I haven’t got my skis on yet.
I was told before I ventured out here that Zermatt, Switzerland offers some of the most breathtaking views of skiers falling over and since I arrived last Tuesday for Seven Seas Worldwide, it hasn't failed to disappoint. The most rewarding aspect of a skiing holiday is watching smug people fall over; though this is something I've yet to convince Tomas who is adamant that I memorise his bewildering lexicon.
With my feet securely inside my snap-buckle ski boots, I slide uneasily down one of the more moderate slopes at the resort, pursued by Tomas and his faithful dog Duke who – despite wearing top-of-the-range ‘dog-skis’ - appears to be managing as badly as me.
I didn’t want to go on a skiing holiday but I was roped into it by my friends Jocasta, Alexandra and Pip-Pip. I had visited Jocasta’s apartment in the Dordogne valley during the summer to finish my latest advice book ‘How to Throw a Memorable Funeral Wake’ whereupon Jocasta mentioned she was going on a two week break to Zermatt and that my company would be most welcome. I get the feeling I was only ever invited because I have a helicopter but nevertheless I accepted.
The nearest I had gotten to the skiing experience before this is when I fell down a flight of stairs and lost my wallet, so Tomas had much to teach me. A local skiing instructor can set you back about £50 a day. That’s for a good one. There are many unskilled skiing instructors operating in Zermatt and they’re easy to spot because they often refer to skis as ‘long flat shoe things’. They also complain of the cold and their lessons last about fifty seconds. Tomas is a competent instructor, though he has a distracting moustache which has caused me to ski into a tree on more than one occasion.
Later in the day, my pals and I took a trip up to Klein Matterhorn using a cable car. This was a particularly arduous trip as there is no cable leading up to Klein Matterhorn, but we got there eventually. There’s no prejudice up here: Professionals and beginners can be found rubbing shoulders and falling over together without discrimination.
If this skiing trip has taught me one thing, it’s that human beings can’t just go to a picturesque location, find a nice bench and admire the view; they have to attach unnaturally long things to their feet and risk injury there too.
I’m just skimming the surface of the human condition here. Well, I would be, but I don’t know how to skim either. Fortunately I do know about shipping which is why I can safely say that if you want to send your skis ahead as excess baggage you probably want to get an online shipping quote now. Or your skims. Or anything else, for that matter.