2013 didn’t end well for me. In fact, I feel downright lucky to have survived my last days.
Sure, that last week started out quite well. But it was how it ended that had me looking forward to 2014 like no other year that has come before.
Here’s what happened…..
We arrived in the tiny little Swiss town, tucked snugly into the Alps, after dark. It had rained almost constantly during the 7 hour drive, with the rain turning into a light snow during the last hour. Though jet-lagged, we were excited to arrive in Château D’Oex, with it’s picturesque snow-covered streets. We had just missed the hot wine in the town square.
We got the keys to our rental apartment and drove the short distance to the building. The kids were thrilled at the fact that we had to drive the car into an elevator to get to the parking garage underneath. The apartment had its own private entrance from the regular lift, and we were more than pleased with our home for the next week.
We quickly settled in and made ourselves at home. The snow continued to fall during the night, and I woke up to this view outside my bedroom window:
It looked like it was going to be a great ski trip indeed!
We spent the first day getting groceries, renting our ski equipment and figuring out where to put the three little ones in ski school. It proved quite challenging, to say the least. Small ski areas (in Switzerland, anyway) don’t seem to be very well organized when it comes to ski school. Everyone was anxious to get on the slopes, so we managed to get a private instructor for the kids for two hours so G, the teen and me could go up the mountain and stretch our ski legs.
In my 33 years on the slopes, I can not remember ever having such a difficult time skiing. My boots felt like vises on my feet, and it was so painful that I could barely manage a turn. I have never been so glad to get on a gondola – even one that packed the people in like sardines – to make the final descent down the mountain. I had to choke back tears of pain as I went down the stairs to the parking lot.
I should have known right then.
The next day, we went to Saanen, a nearby town, to see if there was a better ski school for the kids. The one in Château D’Oex was not challenging enough for our little snow bunnies. Once again, we were stymied by the lack of information available. But we didn’t want to miss a day, so G, his son and the teen decided to go up together. My shins were sore and bruised, so I opted out. I went and exchanged my torturous boots for a brand new pair so I would be ready for the slopes the next day!
Let me stop here a moment and tell you a little about this part of Switzerland. Even though it is on the doorstep of glitzy Gstaad (where Madonna just happened to be), the area we were in might as well have been stuck in a time warp. The nice part was, it was charming and there weren’t hordes of people. The bad part was, there weren’t a lot of restaurants to choose from, and if you didn’t reserve in time, you were out of luck. We had to eat in a couple of times, but we did manage to get into a couple of nice places.
We had a fabulous dinner at Le Chalet, where they make their own cheese and offer demonstrations during the week. The restaurant is only open on weekends, and the specialty is, of course, cheese. The Raclette was amazing, and the traditional music and costumes of the wait staff made it a really fun experience. We all wanted to go back a second time, but because of the weekend hours we couldn’t.
We also had a nice meal in the Brasserie De L’Ours, but the service was less than stellar. In fact, at one point G got up and headed into the kitchen, we had to wait so long. Believe me, that got our waitress’ attention! (That and the bottle of wine he tried to balance on his head.)
Don’t you just love the tiny little bear on the roof? (“l’ours” is bear in French)
We even ate in the train station two times, for lack of any other option. But dining in a train station in Switzerland is like dining at a five star restaurant in the States. The food was amazing.
My second day on the slopes was unfortunately also my last. And not because of my boots. The new pair was fabulous. I could feel them forming to my feet as I skied. The teen had his mojo going on, and I didn’t look half bad in my camoflage ski pants. (I had to borrow them from my son because my ski pants cut off the circulation in my legs, thanks to two years of good food and wine.)
The snow was not bad, but there were a lot of icy patches since it hadn’t snowed since the first day. I really love to ski, but I found myself getting nervous and falling farther and farther behind G and the teen.
And then we decided to stop for lunch.
The problem was, there were only two ways to get to the ski hut:
- Get in line with 50 other people at the button lift down below us, or
- Ski as fast as we could down the hill we were on so we could make it up the hill where the ski hut stood.
The last thing G said to me was,
Let’s wait until the slow people have gone.
Mind you, G has competed in slaloms. He went to high school and college in Switzerland.
That’s the last time I follow him down a ski slope.
Wait, it wasn’t even a ski slope. The path he took was more like a toboggan run. Or maybe it was for the snow mobiles. It was not a piste.
Of course, I didn’t know this until I crested the top, and by then it was too late. I had no choice but to continue down, even though there was a series of bumps at the bottom…. and a line of people waiting for a lift.
The last thing I remember is flying down the hill at top speed, my heart in my mouth, and sitting down on my skis at the bottom praying for a soft landing. Instead, I barreled into the last guy in line – the sound of the crash reminded me of the crack of two enormous football players going head on. I felt my rib cage shift. I couldn’t breathe. I was pinned down under a snow board and a heavy ski boot.
I struggled to get the guy off me. I apologized over and over, barely able to get the words out between painful spasms in my ribs. I couldn’t take a full breath for the searing pain. I tried to call out for G, who was side stepping up the hill ahead of me, but my voice was too weak.
I thought I was going to die.
G and the teen finally figured out that it was me lying in the snow. They arrived as a medic was checking me out. It was decided that I shouldn’t ride down on his sled in case there was internal bleeding. I couldn’t sit up straight. The medic called for a helicopter.
Fortunately, the young man I crashed into was okay. His sister said that she had had a bad accident earlier in the day. I kept saying “I’m so sorry” and they both kept saying it was all right. The funny thing is, they were Saudis, from the town next to where I grew up. Saudis are such nice, lovely people. Abdullah and his sister reconfirmed that.
After a couple hours in the hospital, G came and got me. I am okay, just bruised and very sore. Luckily there was no internal bleeding and no broken ribs. It feels like it, though. I am moving very slowly, and taking pain meds when it gets too bad.
I sure am glad 2013 is over.
But even more than that, I’m happy to be alive.