I found a glittering gem in Savoy
Rain, rain, go away, come again some other day, I chanted when we left Turin Airport. Esther, the goddess of rain would not listen but waived a certain finger to us and increased her fury washing almost all the snow away from Val Cenis, our Shangri-La of skiing to be.
However, having finally arrived in Val Cenis I hit the SCIJ atmosphere created by the reunion of old friends and new friends-to-be did its magic during the night, and in the morning the sunshine reflecting from half a meter of light powder snow nearly blinded us.
For the umpteenth time I had come to the annual meeting of the journalist's international ski club and life looked tolerable for at least one week.
As always, there had been an opening ceremony, that had been great, but missed by many. Usually it means an embarrassing march under colours through the village, speeches, fireworks, etc.
Three Swedes and I were fighting through the monsoon rain. Two late-landed Britons slept in their car that rested on a mattress of snow waiting for a snowplough.
Anyway, what could one do on a morning like this but rent wide flat skis, put on the darkest goggles and hit the off-pistes and spoil one's thigh muscles on the very first day.
In every SCIJ meeting there's a "Nations' Night, when members treat each other with her/his national delicacies, too often liquid. After 22 SCIJ meetings my menu on Finnish delicacies suitable of transporting 15 hours through warm conditions have been tasted and ignored enough. So I decided to treat my colleagues with a vision of what they could have enjoyed.
Nations' Night went as it usually does. Caviar, pasta, cheese, vodka, sshalami, whisshkey, even be-be-beer. No fights or lost shoes this time. New members had no difficulties to integrate. Their difficulties came in the morning.
Enjoying track skiing
On Monday the off-pistes had been ploughed through and in the morning it was time to change skis to more on-piste, particularly when a short GS track had been prepared for us.
Training doesn't much improve your track performance if you only ski six days a year, but it's fun. Wish we had a GS track for several days.
Fake news are important?
In the evening we probably had the best ThinkTank ever. Media, social media, news, fake news, etc. A fruitful and lengthy conversation ended to a positive conclusion: knowing that fake news is fed to us all the time, people tend to turn to quality media.
Sponsors sponsored publishing
Paris 2024 Olympics application gave us more articles than no other ever. E.g. Ulli Brünger wrote an article that was syndicated to tens of newspapers in Germany. If we only had clippings or the number of readers of them all.
Another interesting subject was ski/sledge transformer. You climb a hill with the skis, them do some handymanism and you have a sledge to speed downhill.
Tuesday entertained us with one of the best GS track I've ever enjoyed On SCIJ meetings. The Italians did what they came for: collected half of the medals. We were all so happy for them because their happiness overflowed on all the rest of us. How can you not smile in front of that childlike, pure joy on their face.
Great day, bad evening
Wednesday was another great skiing day.
In the evening the General Assembly dropped us back to the ground.
We haven't reached the 50 % limit of clipping/participant.
Too many teams don't publish at all.
Too few countries organise meetings. We don't have a host for the 2019 meeting.
Too few people want to work for SCIJ.
Well, finally Ana Raic-Kneceviv volunteered to run for vice president, and as nobody opposed she was elected.
Killer Cross Country
Thursday took us the the Bessans cross country stadion.
If the sun could get any sunnier, it did.
Getting ready on the bench watching the mountains behind the skiing area, waxing faces and skis.
Slowly, in a relaxed mood we forced ourselves towards the ski trails.
- Look out, look out! Get of the ski trail!
The early birds glided downhill attacking us late-ones. Disaster. Rolling, cursing, bodies hitting innocent people. No brakes on these skis.
The ski trails in shadow were ice and more slippery that a dance froor in the fifties. You couldn't kick forward. You couldn't brake. Going downhill you could do nothing but yel but yell.
We were much too early on the ski trails.
But the show had to go on.
It's the juniors' duty to go avant garde. Casualties we were bound to have.
Great trick to make friends
Danish rookie Rasmus with a dislocated shoulder was the one to get all of ours sympathy.
The war is cruel and the cavalry barbarous, my mother used to say.
So the race went on. The sun came from behind the mountain. The ski trail softened. No more casualties but still close encounters with the terrain. Nothing like in Jasna though, where we had more casualties than skiers.
Still Blaz Moznic, responsible for the racetracks, looked a bit worried. Nobody sued him, though. The GS track had been a great success. So, the average was about O.K.
Again the medals went to the best ones. Nobody was disqualified. Luckily that kind of nationalistic farce has never taken place after Font Romeu.
Comic strips in a church
On Thursday I had a very interesting afternoon.
The Forts of Esseillon: they enclose the valley of the Haute-Maurienne in a succession of buildings attached to the rock. This system of defense, which has never really been used, has been completely transformed into a center of tourism and leisure with in particular two vertiginous zip lines.
After seeing the frescos of Chapelle Saint Sebastian you simply cannot deny knowing what Easter is all about.
On Thursday night all the stress was gone. Even the Italians seem to know how to partie. After dinner in the multi-purpose hall of Lanslevillard the dance floor was full all the time. When the hall was closed the hotel lounge hosted at least half of us till 3 o'clock.
On Friday morning there were not many scijers waiting for the ski lift to open. It's a pity. It was maybe the second best skiing day of the week. I skied till the ski lift refused to take me up anymore.
Gala and fare thee well
The formula is almost always about the same, but e.g. food and drinks differ. Always very good, this time excellent. I should know. I sat between two noted food columnists.
After our ski week there's usually something called Post Tour. Often enough it means good food and good drinks. The best one I ever attended to was in Piemonte, Italy. Lunch meant six courses with matching wines plus appetizers before that. Then we had to hurry to get ready for supper with the mayor of Limone, who also was a ski instructor and surgeon. Somehow we managed to include good skiing in the three days.
This time I had my own post tour in Turin. I wrote such an excellent article of Turin last year, that my wife wanted to spend a week there, too. So, we had a flat in the very centre by the Piazza Castello, and I realised that every word I had written was true and more.
We had been told the fake news that Hannibal's troops with elephants and all had travelled through Mont Cenis Pass to Rome.
Only afterwards did I find out what a highway the pass head been through milleniums. Fachinating! CLICK TO LEARN MORE