Wednesday 24 January 2024 – Some Guy has challenged me to show myself in my skiing gear, 20th vs 21st century.
So I will. But you’ll have to read through some more of my ramblings first. For every prize, there’s a price!
I started skiing in 1980, 44 years ago, when I was 27, on a visit to Sauze D’Oulx. The fact that I’ve now visited a further eight times since then shows that I like the place. Is it perfect? No, not for several reasons. But its character is clearly something that resonates with me.
The place has changed somewhat since that first visit.
- The best bar in town, Andy Capp’s Pub, closed down sometime before 2003; its eponymous ski race, that I always used to look forward to participating in, therefore is no longer run. When I mentioned this race to a group of Scottish people also staying in my hotel, there was a somewhat shocked reaction as they tried to absorb the implications of running a ski race on a public piste. But the race course was set up every week and used for racing by punters recruited from Andy’s and also by the ski school for people who had been taking lessons. More on this later.
- The lift system has got better – a bit. The lift near the town now carries four people at a time rather than two, but is still slow; the large number of drag lifts have been replaced by a smaller number of (better located) chair lifts; the most important chair lifts have been upgraded to high-speed operation; and a few new lifts have been installed, and these now link Sauze to neighbouring resorts in a big area called the Via Lattea – the Milky Way. It’s great to have the possibilities of skiing further afield, but I read somewhere a telling comment that the lift operator’s business model is cost minimisation rather than market share expansion.
Some things haven’t changed much.
- The Sportinia plateau that I mentioned earlier, is still a lively hub, with several restaurants and cafés, most of which are pretty much exactly as they were back then, and all of which provide great rest stops and a contribution to the charm of the place which (you’ll have noticed from my previous post) is important to me.
- The best place on the mountain is still the best place – a hotel/restaurant called Ciao Pais.
- The town is a lively place in the evenings. There are some great bars, some dating back to 1980, like the Scotch Bar and Il Lampione, and some new ones, like the Ghost Bar. That said, I didn’t spend a lot of time in them, but that’s down to me; as a younger man, I was ever in favour of bar crawls, but I’ve grown out of that desire. Or maybe, as Robert Heinlein so memorably put it “It’s amazing how much ‘mature wisdom’ resembles being too tired”. OK, I’ll come clean; I was too tired even for a post-prandial drink in the hotel bar, far less an evening going out drinking. But I did take an after-dinner walk a couple of times around the town and it was clear that it’s still a lively place, if not quite as hooligan as I remember it.
And, finally, I’ve changed, in more than just my attitude to drinking. I used to choose skiing resorts to visit on the basis of the extent of the ski area, as I used simply to want to cover as much of the lift system and as many of the pistes as I could. On this holiday, I relished the exercise component of skiing; I’m now probably much fitter than I ever used to be, and my main objective this week was to ski from the start of a run to the end, without stopping (or crashing into something, of course). This is something that I rarely, if ever, used to do, simply because I often needed to stop and rest on the way down. This week (after a slow start, admittedly), I could do a 4.5km run from top to bottom of the hill at an average 25kph with energy to spare, which I found rather gratifying at my age.
On my first day in Sauze this year, I covered 17km at an average of 18kph, and expended 747 calories doing so. On my last, I skied 18km at 25kph, expending just 395 calories, which is an elegant demonstration of how my confidence and ability increased over the course of the week. I even felt, at the end, that I was near regaining whatever used to pass for style when I was a regular skier:
And so to my friend Guy’s challenge – to display my skiing gear between the centuries.
Here is a selection of my various outfits between then and now.
And these days? Well, the jacket and trousers haven’t changed since 2001 (just not quite so tight, these days), with one exception….
I used to hate wearing a hat or goggles. I only tolerated a woolly hat when my increasing baldness meant that I otherwise got a sunburnt scalp. This year, as a precaution in case the 18-year lacuna led to a crash, I rented a helmet but was sure I wouldn’t use it after day 1. Wrongly, as it turned out; should I ever go skiing again, I will be sure to be sporting one and using goggles as well.
And for a final laugh, here is my first ever lift pass
Will I ever buy another lift pass? Who knows? I certainly enjoyed myself enough to entertain the idea of skiing well into my 70s.