Off Piste

Off piste: backcountry skiing on un-groomed and unmarked slopes or pistes, including unmonitored and often out-of-bounds areas. 

Lewis’s week here with us went by so fast. Mac was in Rome the first several days, so it was just the two of us, finding our way in these early days in a new country.

One morning we hop a train and head to Andermatt for some skiing. For him, that is. He is an incredible skier. I am not, and I don’t have the desire to see the terrain at that level (on my ass). So I ride the tram all the way to the top, packed in with all the skiers. No way am I gonna miss the view.

Today that view includes an incredible moonscape of ancient mountains dizzyingly high, bright blue sky and the sight of a lowly hiker way, way, way below, making his trek up to us.  And my laser sight is focused on the tiny speck of Lewis that is making his way down the initial chute.

I see him stop, survey the off piste, and after a few moments, make his way down the mountain.  He later tells me that he did some of the out-of-bounds, but was cautious considering his unfamiliarity with the area.  And it is avalanche season.  I’m glad that he’s always been so prudent, but I’m not stupid enough to think he doesn’t take risks.

He does, and it’s good. He has tenaciously navigated nearly four years of college and now what? A scary uncharted course lies ahead – unproven, rough, patchy. But hopefully, beautiful and sound.

The vertigo and high altitude giddiness exhilarates me.Cool wind chaps my lips and I feel the sunburn coming. Don’t we love the mountains for the sense of smallness they give us?

The feeling that, at the end of it all, it’s just us? I flirt with the idea, whether I like it or not. I miss my mom and I wonder where she is. Stupidly I wonder – can she be any higher than this? So then where is she?

Looking up and giving myself over to the vast blueness above, and sensing the cold, shadowy wildness below, I feel at peace. It’s so quiet. So, so quiet. My life is so very safe. I’m not seeking risks and thrills. And up here, I know where I am and who I am. And today I’m a mom delighting in her son carving some tracks.

Lewis is back and we take some pictures and laugh. We lean over the edge and imagine the fall. The hiker has scrabbled up to the tiny precipice near us – he squats so as not to fall and seems to be meditating on what to do next. Is he crazy? My son points out a tiny church, a toboggan run. Our own miniature Swiss village in the valley below us.

Oh how grand we are atop our castle.

10 thoughts on “Off Piste

  1. Beth, thanks for including me in this blog. You’re a fabulous writer. Bully for you for plunging into travel, and life, challenges be damned. You’re giving grateful readers like me a thrilling ride.


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