March 02, 2012
GSTAAD—It’s early in the silvery morning light as I look out my window up here in the heights. A batallion of wispy white clouds hides behind the surrounding mountains—a reminder that a perfect dawn makes for a perfect day’s skiing. The clouds play games. They wrap themselves around the peaks like snowcaps and then are chased away by the sun, only to return. Someone once compared the movement of ice to a soul’s passage to heaven. I watch the glacier from my house daily but have yet to feel the movement of a soul. Then again, I’m not that spiritual. Glaciers are great to look at and wonderful to ski on—they’re flat and fast—but as far as their passing a soul to heaven, I ain’t so sure.
Yes, man is vile and nature sublime, and the latter forces one to ponder the workings of memory and time. I used to schluss these mountains nonstop, showing off to the slowpokes making parallel turns behind a ski guide. No longer. I am now lassoed to a female guide called Fear, who keeps reminding me that in this high-altitude world, wretched excess pays a very steep penalty. Youngsters schluss by me, leaving me green with envy and filled with sorrow at what a coward I’ve become.
Ah, the distilling process of memory and yearning for what once was. “Never again, Taki old boy,” says Fear. I listen and follow her instructions. Turn, brake, brake some more, turn again. One’s ever-present yearning to recapture youth is as strong as the desire to recapture the scent of a once-young and beautiful girl named Beverly. She was in school here, and I had just gotten married to my first wife and had the bad luck to meet Beverly going up the ski lift. One thing led to another, straight into a Geneva hotel room. Bev found out I was recently married and all hell broke loose. She threw a pitcher of orange juice as I came into the Palace bar, calling me a liar and a cheat in front of my bride, who proceeded to kick me on the shin like I’ve never been kicked before or since. (Miss B was an American from the Midwest, and those girls don’t take that kind of stuff sitting down, as they say. My first wife was French and very much a lady, but she had a terrible temper.)