Tuesday, February 16, 2010

On winter recreation

In but a few short days I will be going skiing. Yes, I, Katrin Holt, have decided to blatantly put life and limb at risk. Why? Because love means making certain compromises—and in this particular case that means agreeing to extreme physical discomfort and a generous dose of ridicule because I’m the significant other of a Frenchman and in the winter, the French go skiing. With their significant others.

There are many sports at which I am bad. Volleyball was never my fort, nor was tennis. I never did manage the 7-minute mile back in junior high, despite the dubious pleasure of weekly opportunities. I’m lousy at basketball, never played water polo and the hand-eye coordination of softball was never my thing. But while my skills in these areas may be less than stellar, at no sport am I more pathetic than I am at skiing.

At this point in my diatribe (oft-repeated, especially around this time of the year), my interlocutor generally protests with something along the lines of, “But you said you’re from the mountains. How can you not know how to ski?” As if mountains were all the same, all across the world, each and every one of them outfitted for rock climbing in the summer and alpine skiing in the winter. Yes, I’m from the mountains, and no, my mountains aren’t known for skiing. Hiking, sure; apple pies, absolutely. But no skiing. It’s more a sledding kind of place. Sledding is fun; sledding is easy; sledding I like.

So no, I’ve never learned how to ski. And honestly, this ineptitude has never been the source of any significant sense of inferiority. On the contrary, the very concept of donning multiple layers of puffy, multi-colored ski clothes, strapping what appear to be 10-pound moon boots to my feet, and going sliding off on those precarious-looking contraptions popularly known as skis, risking a broken neck in the name of “fun” and coming home at the end of the day cold, wet and nursing a bruised body and ego, has somehow never succeeded in eliciting any form of enthusiasm from me. And yet, much of the world, including 99% of the French, sees things differently. How many times have I heard the praises of skiing sung? The beauty of the mountains; the thrill of the descent; the gratification of those particular muscle aches; the gustatory bliss of a piping hot fondue savoyarde or raclette at the end of the day. I could go on....

But I won’t. Let me just say that the skiing world and I have always had our differences. Even before ever attempting it, I already knew that it wasn’t my bag. Yes, I once took a shot at a quick bout of skiing, back in my wayward youth, at a site aptly named “Purgatory.” We only stayed for a day, the majority of which I spent falling over, careening into innocent fellow skiers and bouncing down gargantuan “kiddie” slopes like a human snowball much in the fashion of vintage Goofy cartoons, leaving random skis and poles dotting the hillside behind me. In the end, I sought refuge in a pseudo log cabin café, where I basically hid until day’s end, sipping hot chocolate and watching tiny children tearing the hell out of the slopes as though it were easy AND fun.

In light of my lack of affinity for winter sports, I long ago mastered the fine art of avoiding any form of participation in the masochistic post-Christmas French tradition of “le ski.” However, G. caught on to my heretofore-successful maneuvering and has somehow managed to finagle me into joining his ski-loving family this year for “just” a long weekend. We’re going to “zee Alps,” where I would just like to point out in passing that skiing deaths—deaths!—occur every single year.

But no matter. I shan’t be called a wuss. I shall go. I shall leave frozen Paris and travel to the even more frozen Alps, where I shall don the silliest ski clothes that I can get my hands on and spend every day acquiring the aches and pains required to earn my evening dose of raclette. Have I mentioned that I abhor raclette, right along with every other traditional Savoyard dish involving potatoes and/or bread and stinky, indigestible melted cheese? But never mind! I’ll go, and if I hate it (which I undoubtedly will), then I won’t go back again next year. That is the other half of the compromise.

And so, dear readers, if you never hear from me again, know that I at least left this earth in a spirit of adventure and diplomacy, risking my fragile ego and my (relatively) young life in the name of Franco-American relations. I should be awarded immediate French citizenship just for this. And if I do survive, you can expect a full report on this totally bizarre ritual fashion of rendering the already bleak winter just that much more unpleasant. Wish me luck!

Sonny Bono: I bet he agrees with me.


  1. Hi Katrin,
    I am pleased to discover your blog, H. and I enjoy your acid style!

    I just wanted to tell you a bit from my ski experience. As you well know I come from Rio de Janeiro, so I don't even come from the mountains, and I had never seen snow falling before going to ski here in France a few years ago. Skiing was a whole new world but I really gave it a chance. By that I mean that I accepted to go the WHOLE x-mas week, but took 2 hours private classes through the first 2 days. This first week was tough, I fell many times, I cried with fear for my life, and I felt ridiculous next to the litle kids for whom it was so natural to sky fast and tzzzz stop.But at the end I had had some fun too, and I was proud to have survived it. And in the following year I kept going 1 or 2 weekends with 1 hour classes to regain confidence and improve bit by bit. after 5 years I can say that I long for it, for me it is the only really good thing about winter.

    I think it is a bit like what you said about Valentine's day. When you look at it from outside you just hate it, but if you really give yourself a chance to look at it from another angle (whithout clinging to all opportunities to hate it), it can be really great.

    So bon courage!


  2. Hi Katrin!
    So, how was skiing? I now live in Utah, which is all about the winter sports as well. I went skiing once last year, fell many times, and haven't tried it since. Oh well. Hope all is well!


  3. Yay Katrin! Did you survive? Sean and I went to Tremblant 2 weeks ago and I loooved it - even though I'm not that great at skiing. Do your muscles ache? Substitute fromage for chocolat and then you have delicious fondu... xx

  4. I like to snowboard. I also like cheese and bread, so bread covered in cheese sounds okay to me. Here in USA we have the luxury of having such bread delivered to us via "Domino's" or any other crappy, yet amazing when drunk, fast food pizza place. Aaah, Cheesy bread.