Skiing in the Alps Was Wasted on Me

When you travel abroad and come home with stories, you are often met with the phrase “Oh my goodness, that sounds like a dream.” Once you are back in the comfort of your home, these stories can even start seeming like dreams to you too. When traveling, sometimes things are so perfect that they just seem too good to be true. The scenery is incredibly gorgeous, or a sunset is so picturesque it looks like a screensaver. However, you can also find yourself in pristine scenarios that seem like a dream, but for someone else.

When I traveled to Switzerland, my plan was to stay for a few days. My main goals were to go canyon jumping, eat Nutella and spend as much time outside as possible. Skiing was not at the top of my list. As the days passed though I figured, “Why not?” and decided to dust off my skills and rent a pair of skis with a friend. Though I hadn’t worn ski boots in a few years, my excitement at hitting the Alps overshadowed the pinched feeling in my toes.

My friend and I boarded a train that slowly chugged up into the Jungfrau ski region in Interlaken. With each of us being from the northeastern United States, our eyes were soon popping out of our heads. Never before had I seen anything like this. There was fresh snow wherever we looked, and mountain peaks off in the distance. As we crept up to the ski area, the peaks slowly started to increase in size. I could not believe that this scenery was real and not the backdrop of a Disney movie.

Ski ten feet. Fall. Take way too long to get up. Ski fifteen feet. Fall. Pride myself on only taking three minutes to get up.

When skiing back home, I was used to packed trails, pine trees and running into the occasional patch of dirt on the way down. In the Alps, everything was white and there wasn’t a tree for miles. We hopped off the train and got directly in line for the chair lift. Practically giddy with excitement, we were swept into the air and made eye level with the mountain peaks.

Upon arrival at the top, my eyes still glistening with anticipation, I followed my friend to the edge of a trail. This did not look like a trail to me though, just a straight drop of untouched snow. “Can we even ski down here?” I asked her.

“Kate, this is untouched powder in the Swiss Alps, people live for this stuff, of course you can ski down.” And off she went.

I watched as she confidently swished through the snow, so I dug my poles in and went down after her. For about 10 feet. Then I hit the ground. The snow was nothing like I expected. She was right, it was literally powder. Fresh  powder up to my knees. I had no clue how people actually enjoyed skiing in this. I grasped for my poles, which were buried somewhere beneath me, and took a solid four minutes prying myself out of the snow and back on to my feet. It went this way the rest of my run. Ski ten feet. Fall. Take way too long to get up. Ski fifteen feet. Fall. Pride myself on only taking three minutes to get up. By the time I was at the bottom I was gasping for air.

“You’ve never skied in powder before?” my friend innocently asked.

“I didn’t even know you could.”

“Great, you’ll learn today” and she leapt back on to the chair lift.

The rest of our afternoon repeated the pattern of my first run. She would tell me to just ski straight down. I would manage to go for 20 second chunks at a time before falling into a deep pit of snow. My workout wasn’t skiing, but hauling myself out of the bottomless snow to stand again.

Run after run, I pleaded with my friend to go on the groomed trails that had packed down snow. After we did that a few times and I was brimming with confidence, she would take me back to the powder.

To every hardcore skier who is dreaming of hitting the Alps: I’m sorry I stole your dream.

“Kate, this is untouched powder. In the Alps. This is every skier’s dream. People wait their entire lives to come here and be in this snow.”

Days earlier I had gone canyon exploring, and weeks before that skydiving, so I was plenty used to “living the dream”. However, this time, it just wasn’t in the cards for me.

“I think I just need to accept that this is someone else’s dream I am living and that this experience is slightly wasted on me. I mean, it’s been fun but this has mainly been a struggle.”

The chair lift stopped and we hung in the air. She sighed and looked at me. “You know what. For the first time today, you’re absolutely right.”

To every hardcore skier who is dreaming of hitting the Alps: I’m sorry I stole your dream for the day and spent the entire time falling down the side of a mountain. The rumors are true though: the Alps are breathtakingly gorgeous, even if I spent most of the time looking up at them from the ground.

About Kate McCarthy

Kate McCarthyKate McCarthy is a Boston based writer. Her life goals are to travel the world and live a life that Oprah would approve of.

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