Ensuring that my backside is good and comfortable, and that I’m “on the broom”, I push away from the hack. Fortunately my lead stone is not any hog. Nevertheless, on the proper second, I forgot to launch and slide alongside the ice. My stone and I half firm and, as my mouth fills with ice shavings, the stone veers left in an out-turn slightly than an in-turn and “wickes” viciously off my teacher’s left boot.
Hopscotching in ache, he loses stability and falls backward right into a one-meter snowdrift. Shortly afterward, he’s taken to the hospital in St Moritz to have his damaged toe dressed. Consequently, I’m not anticipating a cellphone name from the Royal Caledonian Curling Membership providing me a wild card invitation to certainly one of its prime “bonspiels”. Nor will I be competing within the Jackson Cup or any of the opposite curling majors on the Continent. I don’t assume that I’ll be “drawing via port” for a very long time to come back. I realized an essential lesson in Switzerland: curling is just not as simple because it appears to be like and curlers are born, not made.
I detest snowboarding as a result of I’m abysmal at it. I’m congenitally unable to get pleasure from a snowboarding vacation. After 5 makes an attempt I’ve found that there’s little any teacher on the earth can do for me. The thoughts, eager for endorphins, is keen, however the decrease torso refuses to cooperate. Being such a chronically uncoordinated winter sports particular person, I used to be determined to seek out some alpine exercise that may permit me to stay vertical for greater than two minutes. Curling appeared like a good suggestion.
The Swiss resort city of St Moritz has 5 ice rinks and is taken into account, by many, to be the house of European curling. Most lodges, such because the Suvretta House, have introductory curling breaks. Mine is unfortunately abbreviated on account of my teacher going lame. So I made a decision to flat-foot it as an alternative. Recognizing that there are an ideal many ski-phobics and rabid anti-skiers, extra resorts are offering snowshoeing as a secure various to the thrills, spills, and double fractures of downhill and excessive sports activities resembling curling.
Leo Blattler, who has choreographed ski stunts on a number of James Bond movies, is a snowshoe information within the Engadine mountains at St Moritz. He teaches folks the fun of being flat-footed. “Snowshoeing could be very stylish,” he says, as I stroll a bit like Pinocchio behind him into the winter wonderland. “Take heed to the silence. You’ve the mountain to your self. On skis, you might be too wrapped up in your self. You ignore the surroundings. Snowshoeing is essentially the most stress-free winter pursuit there’s. You might be at one with nature. Benefit from the peace.”
Round St Moritz, there are a number of walks, starting from 5 to fifteen kilometers, and half-day to full-day, relying in your velocity and what number of occasions you journey over your individual outsized toes. After about 500 grueling meters, and feeling the primary twinge of a bunion, I see a mirage.
“It’s a yeti! It’s a yeti!” I shout, pointing in direction of a bushy determine within the distance. “It’s the abominable snowman!” For a second I overlook I’m in Switzerland and never Tibet. Snowshoes can play merciless tips on a person’s thoughts.
We make our approach via the deep snow in direction of the determine. As we get nearer I understand it’s a bearded man holding out some wine glasses. “Might I introduce Renato Giovanolo,” says Blattler, as we settle for some chilled chianti and a number of other slices of chamois salami. Giovanolo has been searching and curing wild animals within the Malojoa cross on the Swiss-Italian border since he was a toddler. His father taught him. He has additionally began a worthwhile sideline of serving snacks and refreshments to famished snowshoe excursionists from close by St Moritz.
Thanking him for being an aperitif-bearing St Bernard, we tramp off via the slush. The times of sticking a pair of wicker lacrosse racquets in your toes are lengthy gone. Fashionable black canvas snowshoes are fairly fashionable, though mastering a pair doesn’t fairly provide the similar adrenalin rush or sense of high-speed journey skis. Snowshoes aren’t for adrenaline junkies.
“Orgasmic!” sniggers a sarcastic snowboarder as we trudge previous.
“Completely superior!” chips in one other self-conscious snow show-off as I make good progress in my debut trek. “Ignore them,” advises my coach, striding forward. “Most individuals deal with snowshoers as third-class residents. However they don’t know what they’re lacking. Snowshoeing is cool. And simply nearly as good train as snowboarding.”
We put the Corviglia, Lagalb, and Diavolezza mountains behind us, in addition to all of the yobs, the poseurs, the designer-earmuff brigade, the terrifying T-bars that at all times wrench my arms out of my sockets, and the terrible mountain eating places with their pleasant and savory native sausage specialties.
Our subsequent stroll is up a toboggan run to the Renesse Tower, a belvedere folly constructed by a Belgian depend in 1881. It was meant for use as a bordello and on line casino earlier than the depend ran out of cash. Now it’s a breather cease for drained snowshoers in winter and a barbecue space for hikers in summer time. “On a very good day, it has among the best views in Switzerland. You’ll be able to see the Bergell and Engadine valleys,” says Blattler, looking via the dense mist, his breath steaming within the chilly afternoon air. “However at this time you’ll have to accept second finest. My profile.”
After my sew subsides we resume our stroll, slipping and sliding simply and enjoyably down the mild gradients and up the not-too-taxing inclines of one other well-beaten toboggan run. “Don’t click on your heels. You aren’t a German” is the one technical instruction I obtain.
“Snowshoeing is infinitesimally higher than snowboarding,” Blattler says once more, as we march via a mountain forest. “It’s extra social. You’ll be able to speak.”
Blattler interrupts the eulogy to assist me conquer one other small hillock. “Snowboarding is like utilizing the subway,” he continues as I observe behind in his footprints. “You might be queuing on a regular basis and going via turnstiles. You’ve none of that out right here. Flatfoots have nature to themselves. They’re at peace with themselves and the world. And so they don’t must pay for ski passes, both.”
There’s a selection of snowshoe routes, together with an evening stroll to Isola over the Grisons Valley. Blattler additionally leads walks to the Morteratsch Glacier with views to Bernina and Palu. He rhapsodizes concerning the space’s ice caves. There’s additionally a stroll down the railway observe from St Moritz via the valley of Bever to Spinas. From Sils you possibly can stroll to Silvaplana and the Fedoz Valley. The Albula Go and Puschlav Valley are additionally accessible to “flatfoots”.
I’m a convert. Virtually. In the summertime, you possibly can go goat trekking which is far much less exhausting. You simply watch them eat.
Snowshoeing is an efficient exercise however with out the irritations of snowboarding. Snowshoes don’t fall off. There are not any dreaded T-bars to clamber on or off. You don’t really feel your life is at risk and you might be endangering the lives of others. You don’t trigger pile-ups with folks crashing into you as you slide and slew your approach knock-kneed down the mountain. You don’t fall over and stay in the identical place for a very long time as you do on skis. It’s a sedate and smart strategy to get pleasure from winter.
“These are the true Alps,” Blattler says in a tone implying that, for some, snowboarding appears a demented impulse.
Setting off from Schweizerhaus, the birthplace of the painter Giovanni Segantini, we walked up the Piz Abris the place the prehistoric glacier was halted at Maloja. There Blattler exhibits me the large holes bored by glaciers. Regionally, they’re known as “marmitte dei giganti” or giants’ cooking pots. We return to base camp for some apres-feet. The Suvretta Home Lodge was the place Nijinsky danced his final dance. Being St Moritz, it even has a heated automotive park.
Nonetheless fashionable with the designer-earmuff units, at 2000 meters above sea degree, the Engadine Valley is a reasonably down-to-earth place. You’ll be able to delight your loved ones and amaze your folks by saying you may have been on vacation to St Moritz, with out breaking an arm or a leg within the course of… Simply any individual else’s huge toe.