Manners, feelings Black moods and Black runs Jan-March 2018
I thought I’d go up to the Nyon plateau get my thoughts together or at least try to retrace them and the steps of the last few months. The time has flown which it tends to do when your continually running and we certainly have been, remarkable really how much you can fit into what seems such a short time, a blur of happy curious faces with a sour look thrown in once in a blue moon and the none stop running up and down those stairs.I managed an afternoon to myself got the gondola lift up into the clouds, sat myself in the window of the big wooden cuckoo clock restaurant looking out into the freezing mist that had descended on the mountain that morning, a sort of in-between place, visibility down to around 20 feet, not good weather for skiing but good for being still and for feeling.
A quiet anxiety has been brewing within and between us about the next step after the season is over, and freedom is an empty space, a prison without forward motion. But what we consider motion is a little different to both of us. I could quite easily set off and drive not stop except perhaps for refreshments and spiritual top ups in the woods beaches or whereever it speaks and whispers to me
Orsi, is driven in a different direction she likes a structure at times like these and has searched the net for opportunities which I’ve followed up with beautifully written letters of introduction. We had planned on a definite return to Teignmouth in Devon to begin the process of starting a healing center/practice, we made great friends there, it’s a beautiful spot but the idea of going back to a small English town has somehow cooled, I’ve wriggled a little, perhaps trying to avoid my souls obligation.
Tempting opportunities arose; working in Ibiza at a Yoga retreat, where we’d live in Pearl (our van) Orsi would be the vegetarian cook, we were up for it, interested in the Yoga, but their reviews were really very poor, they paid nothing, in fact I would pay 20% of any earnings for the privilege of parking out front there so no; they seemed greedy.
There was running a retreat villa in Cyprus doing basically what we do at the Chalet but they seemed very cagey, in the end we didn’t trust them. I was sad about that one, but you have to go on your instinct. We interviewed for a hostel in Andalucía, which looked beautiful, but they went for others who were more fluent in Spanish, disappointing too. We also interviewed for a mobile Vegan Sushi company working the festivals in the UK, we liked them very much, pay was good, but they went for the long term couple option, I have to give them credit, I have never ever had ‘no’ said to me in such a beautiful way, that one crashed our motors
‘Trust” I kept saying “something good coming”
We liked the festivals, were rewarded with a wealth of experience, made dear and trusted friends but we’ve been coasting under financially and we need to make something up. Festival pitch fees can be crippling because of what I can charge with the time involved for a thorough session; also by 6.30 most people at a festival have begun to indulge and we can’t work with anyone under any influence but their own mind, so we are limited, but we’re richer for sure. I feel confident ‘now’ to handle any situation that presents itself, Healing and Hypnotherapy wise, but really I need to start looking after us.
Chalet life is a safe haven, it’s a bubble, we’ll not be walking away with a pot of gold that’s for sure. It’s a life style, a pause, a breather; a shallow breathing kind of breather at times, but it has its rewards We put our certificates out on display but don’t set a charge, we leave it up to the person and what they feel appropriate if they feel any benefit, to leave something at the end of the week, I’ve been quite busy this season and mostly people have been generous, I’ve done some great work.
The great thing about working in the chalet in that way is that we are able to observe the results as a week progresses. It’s deeply satisfying to see the change in people, the changes speak for themselves and have confirmed many times over, we’re on the right track. I encourage everyone I’ve worked with to continue and practice what they got once they get home; I sincerely hope they do as that is where the scales are permanently tipped
But how to get by pay the rent; petrol, support ourselves, save something, right now we’re not sure, but last year the Mayor of Teignmouth called me up to come into work, that was a first, so lets see what this summer brings
But back in the Chalet, the dailies, the routine the physical hard work, I overlook the place, I cook serve and run the breakfasts except pancake day which orsi loves to do, she preps the 3 course evening meals, which is no mean feat. After breakfast in the kitchen I follow orders, which can be tough at times. Orsi is hard working committed and focused; time and time again I wonder where all that wonderful food appears from?
It’s been challenging catering for different groups with all their different tastes with the same weekly menu. We had a lovely people from Holland who had booked the whole chalet, “The wine snobs” they called themselves, they brought their own wine and glasses, the Haute savoir dishes didn’t seem to be their thing, we’d worried but then the following week ‘The respectful Scotts’ 10 bottles of prosecco before evening meal, 8 or 9 bottles of red wine with the meal and beers to follow, but who virtually licked the plates clean, they were a great bunch too. We’ve also had a quite a few vegetarians, I always tell them, you got lucky when you booked in here, Orsi’s vegetarian dishes are amazing, they were all in rapture from the first meal and we of course always happy to have a vegetarian or two as we get to eat a main meal too
I do the bedrooms every morning after breakfast, fold clothes and towels and re arrange sometimes devastated rooms, I don’t have too but it’s always seemed like an opportunity for something gentle and seems natural, so I take great care. My rule is, “I’ll carefully and beautifully fold anything I find on the bed” anything on the floor is the persons business, I mostly keep to it, little signs of kindness and care do carry far, its where magic begins in fact.
We’ve had some really great people come through this last three months who’ve been a pleasure to serve. We also had out least favorite in all our two seasons here. “The absent parents” I called them, working class northern English, who’d “done well” They were greedy and demanding people, who wore their manners as if it were an achievement which thinking back on them I suppose they were.
They arrived with two additional suitcases packed full of sweets for their kids and which were all finished by mid week when they discovered the French do chocolate and donuts too. It was remarkable to see. Their kids ran riot, trashing the ground floor bedrooms, running screaming through the chalet in the evenings, while the absent parents sat upstairs in the dinning room, pissed, seemingly oblivious to the mayhem downstairs.
I heard one of the mothers say as a door down stairs somewhere slammed with a shattering crunch
“Oh I do hate that sound it really makes me nervous” She didn’t move an inch from her bottle to investigate though.
We can’t serve alcohol after the meal is served, we’re not a pub, we’d explained, offered to go down to the supermarket to get them supplies, they hadn’t listened and so became very passive aggressive when we said “Non” Just like their kids really. There are many unpleasant things I could write about them, and to be honest I had done, but I don’t want this to become all about the one bad group we had
Though; I was particularly angry though about their customer feedback. They’d seen Orsi working so hard, to prepare two sets of meals every day, one 2 course for the kids at 5pm and a 3 course for the adults at 7.30pm which they were always late for and bristled with indignation when I asked if they could be on time. Orsi, always conscientious, considerate, always consulting with them, in early finishing late, going the extra mile. She prepared lunchtime cakes and sweets; canapés before dinner and a beautiful cheese board after dinner, every day, and always beautifully done, and they marked her down because of the alcohol policy
I noticed as I’d cleaned their rooms they all had paracetamol and ibu profen by their bedsides. One morning before breakfast a little girl maybe 5 -6 years old who’d had a poorly tummy the day before asked me for a glass of water and to break up the pill she had in her hand
I presumed her mum had given it her but few minutes later mummy appeared, looked at her curiously and asked why she was taking the pill ? It took me a few seconds to register, the girl just said “I need it for my tummy” Astonishing. There was more but…
Lets just say we felt sorry for the kids, the adults we were ashamed for them.
We tried each day to pull ourselves together focus on the good, send them love, “What we think is how we feel and so… how it is” etc But it was tough and at times I’m afraid we failed.
We were so happy when we heard their transfer to the airport was at 9am Saturday morning we did a little dance when the Skiidy Gonzales van rolled away and we closed the door. It took a while to shake them off as we re-scrubbed the trashed Chalet that day.
But then the next guests arrived, 2 families of Welsh farmers, a group of Doctors and a couple of Sailors. We began to lighten up, the Welsh were so open and direct with two little kids, wonderful parents, the doctors were amazing, right up our street charming and lacking in airs and graces. The bruises of that week faded and dulled as the laughter and conversation of the new week with those wonderful people healed us, we rose to it; it was such a relief to have them there, it was that week Dr Tom took me out and gave me excellent one to one skiing tips, from there on in I grew wings.
Then the following weeks “The respectful Scots” and after them the “Sandwich Makers” all wonderful warm, eccentric individuals, just so easy to be amongst. Orsi imprinted their food with love and I folded with gentleness and appreciation picked stuff off the bedroom floors sang and played guitar in the evenings. It is these things that we are learning from too, to sense and appreciate the diversity and individuality, when its all boiled down, it really is manners and kindness that maketh the man/woman, we bloomed in the presence of these things, it doesn’t all come from us, we of course respond to that river flowing toward us. The change in the energy from group to group was instantly noticeable in the same setting. We consciously responded to it and with the very best we had.Saturday is change over day and always a hive of activity. We’ve have been up at anything from 3.00am to 6.30am to serve breakfast to guests with early flights. Then there’s the deep clean, the scrubbing of bathrooms and showers, the lounge and the dinning room, stripping and making up the beds as 13 of 14 new guests arrive at various times or all at once and in various moods. Getting them settled in, most just happy to be there, the odd one with a room query or a few guys now and again who don’t want to share beds with bearded mates, fair enough, and a few ladies wanting single beds.There is the ski and boot fitting at some point that first evening for those who’ve hired, usually from Doorstep Skies an impressive uncomplaining efficient bunch of guys mostly it seems from Yorkshire. At times we’ve been about to call them about arrivals, only to find the racks in the boot room already full of skis, boots, poles and helmets, multiply this with maybe 20 to 30 other chalets in one day; many a holiday has been made and saved because of them, an excellent bunch
In between all this activity is the constant prepping of food the constant cleaning and the constant clearing of snow from the driveway and back steps down to the ski lift.
But then there are the dazzling white mountains, so beautiful so mesmerizing soothing and quieting, no doubt about it, and there is the snow coated forests, the hard packed slopes mists and dazzling sunshine and our skiing, I still pinch myself that all this is right outside our back door.
When we arrived here last year we’d gazed upon the place without snow on the slopes just mud and brown grass and were distinctly unimpressed, then the snow came, blanketing the place and we watched people begin coming over that lip down towards the Chalet and just marveled at the daring, agility and their grace, we also thought it was madness, but we got the hang of it.About mid way through this season, we’d come back to the Chalet on a Wednesday, our day off after an afternoon up in the swirling mists of Avoriaz, Orsi had left me too it and gone back across to the slopes of Morzine and Plenny where the sun was shinning, I’d stayed on I wanted the challenge in the near zero visibility, cutting on and off piste over and over on difficult terrain, I did my final descent down a Black run there called “Combe du Machon” up there on top I’d paused looked over the lip I couldn’t see a thing below me, it was a moment, a split second pause
“Go!!” I said to myselfI slid over and dug in. I cut across to my left, lifted myself, cut back and cut back again over and over left and right, through the surprisingly thick fluffy snow, I flew down, well, to me right there and then I did, but in retrospect it was methodical tight S’s, I loved coming down that day. I had the legs for it, that run changed something in me or for me.
That night I played an acoustic set at the Hideout, a full 4 hours, the whole chalet had turned up so I played hard, it had been such a great day, but later that night my teeth ached I couldn’t sleep, I worked hard at turning the volume down as I call it, it worked to an extent but it tired me. It took days to get my jaw to calm down and would come back with a vengeance a few weeks laterNext day on that Thursday morning we’d been up at 5 am to send a couple of guests off to the airport, fed and coffied, croissants and pan o’chocolate, then set the breakfast table which even at a normal hour can be a jigsaw puzzle, but at that time of day with just a few hours sleep, running up and down those stairs with my jaw and teeth aching, I was literally dizzy.
We went back to bed for a precious half an hour, slept deeply, then back up at 7am for the full breakfast for 12. Then the clear and set up for evening meal, the bedrooms, I had to get wood to restock the chalet, as the mean spirited owner had said we’d cost him money and wanted his wood pile replenishing, up and down those spiral chalet steps. I have no idea how many times but it’s a hell of a lot. I am fit again as planned but by about 12.pm the Chalet was itself was spinning
We stumbled down to our dark little room, fell into bed, clock set for 12.28pm. We fell deeply and immediately asleep. I had a dream I was in the Mountain Heaven van in the driveway outside the chalet, I was revving up, as I pulled out onto the ‘black’ road of Route De la Manche, a vehicle came out of nowhere to my left, I’d seen it just in time and pulled back. It jolted me. I woke up at 12.26pm and I was simply and absolutely switched on.
“I want to ski today” I said quietly.
Orsi wasn’t feeling good, I suggested she stay in and curl up, I knew she wouldn’t keep up that day. There were 5 black runs on the Morzine/Les Gets side I’d been thinking about them and planned to do every one that afternoon. I was quiet with intent.
Orsi Ummed and ahed and dawdled, but my high tide pulled her out into the mountains.
At the Nyon lift she sensed my focus and said
“Are you Ok?”
I hadn’t realized I’d been so quiet
I said “Yeah I’m really good”
We’ve mostly always skied together but I was rocket fueled and by the time we got over to Ranfoilley she realized she was on my shirttails, the practice at Avoriaz the day before, everything Dr Tom had shown me was paying off, I was looking up at the black runs, she let go, left me too it and went off for an easier time.
We’ve honestly seen incredibly beautiful death defying feats all around us every day in those mountains on those slopes and I’m not foolish enough to think I’m up to that level just yet, but I definitely felt the bar lifting, another level emerging.
We’ve also seen the slopes littered with accidents, the ambulances at Nyon at the height season at least 3 times a day, helicopters being guided in to the more serious ones up in the mountains. Its not old ladies either, but the healthy young and agile who hadn’t realized that packed snow is as hard as concrete and coming off a snowboard at 50mph or more is going to hurt. We saw a young guy last week over in Avoriaz sparked out unconscious. You just ski past, the guys with the yellow cross on their arms are always on the wayI came up to the lip of the Grains of Gold black, a group stood peering over the edge contemplating, I swept past, no hesitation, confidence, I just knew
All the blacks that late in the season were pilled high with mouguls, which are where people have braked hard turned and swept piles of snow up, proceeding skiers have followed the tracks, skied over and packed down the snow into icy mounds. You can attempt to ski around them but then you’ll be mostly on ice, so you ride up onto the lower half of them, as the mound itself is softer, smash them down with outside ski and shave them with the inside ski as you turn. Dr Tom had shown me the secret of the lift and the turn and I’d watched carefully ever since
I had a couple of slips, but I was up again instantly, I heard myself groan and grunt involuntarily as I strained to lift myself up onto or over another mound or as I crashed down onto one, it was a strange thing to realize those sounds were me, I flew down Grains of Gold.
At the bottom my energy rose, so I was straight back up there. Coming down off piste across to the Yeti black run, it looked less icy, I thought it would be a good test, but the surface snow was crusted and was soft underneath so was really hard to turn on and such an effort to lift to turn again and again and again, I wouldn’t say it was pleasant but it sure was an exhilarating work out
I was on and off the hard packed pistes into jarring frozen snow, over sheer drops and blind spots, my skies did their job held my weight as I shot across vertically, looking up to get my bearings, cutting aggressively into the snow ice walls. Lifting myself turning mid air landing with a crump arms like a drunken boxer hitting out at an invisible opponents. I did the Yeti run 3 times,I squinted under the glare of the dazzling sunshine, reflecting off the astonishing mountains and bright glittering slopes. It was my day to let rip. I felt myself bubbling as I swept back up and across towards Les Gets and a wide open run where you can pick up remarkable speed, lips, horizons, you, rising up and swooping over, a blind spot, woosh around it. Then there was Les Gets rising up in front but in fact was me descending at 50 miles an hour or more, a remarkable optical illusion as the snow covered ski town emerged in front like huge painted theatre back drop being raised
Getting off the ski lift back at the top, remarkably, I met Orsi. It was 3pm. She’d lifted and was up for it now I think it’s how it is with the mountains, if you hit them with a fury, they will give it you back, if you hesitate you’ll fall, if your not present you’ll slip, if you approach them with grace energy and respect they will give you that too. Orsi’s clouds had dispersed and she’d decided to come and fly.
We shot down up and across to Plenny. I went straight over onto the black where I’d fallen so many times before, but that day, I recall looking to my left and there was Orsi on the red we shot down neck and neck. I powered on, feeling it in my legs, onto the middle section, over took a couple there looking tentative, they checked me out and followed, I lost them and was down to the ice sheet at the bottom in what seemed seconds, remembering, dig in aggressively, dig in, a fighters stance but with wings. It was an amazing experience.We went straight back up, we know the area so well now and so shot straight across to Chamoisiere, I really love that run. On the way shadows were becoming long now, it was patchy, and we knew that where the sun shone the snow will hold you, sssshhhhhh and where the shadows were long you knew it would be faster and the ice was going to challenge you, CrCr Cr Cr CCCCrrrrr it was flickering shadows and bright sunshine through the trees, over and over, literally, on your toes
In the chair lifts too the moments of stillness, deep peace, contemplation, beautiful silences, I am sure everybody is the same whilst suspended up there, in the tree tops, up close to the forest feeling its soothing presence, that community seeping out and into people, so beautifully quiet. From up there we could see across to Chamoissiere the black to the left the red to the right, it was chopped up and moguly like I’d never seen it before.
Once up there at Le creux 2090 meters on that mountain top Orsi took the Red I looked over the edge of the Les Creux black, just a second checking my route onto it, the moguls where huge, at least waist height and once you commit, there’s no going back. I slid on. Ice, SSSScccrrr then into and over the first icy moguls, then snow, deep snow, I recalled last year how smooth it had been at exactly this time, today was different, it was so tough lifting myself into the air turning and landing. Suddenly there was my Dad in my ear
“Dad” I said “I can’t talk right now, but if you want a ride lets go”
I suddenly but subtly felt warmth all around my neck and realized he was hanging on for the ride like a cape, is the only way I can describe it, I was smiling and laughing. I could feel him as I smashed down into and over those moguls.
When you’re in the moment, in the purity of that thing what ever it is, when there is nothing to distract, there is only life and the force and the self. It is clarity because you’re not looking for anything, not trying, your just doing. It is the best of ourselves, the peace we are, or at least I am looking for. I knew I could get down any run that day
I think I’d plugged into some invisible main grid as I shot in controlled but perfect S’s down that incredible slope, wings again at full stretch, Deeply involved, I got it, right then in the moment, and maybe, just maybe that’s why I came there that day. It was written in the clouds and my Dad, I think he was there for the rest of the afternoon sometimes very strong and at others times just faintly, I encouraged him and it would get stronge
“You still there Dad? Come on…. lets go” and over another snow ice ledge, we shot down.
From Chamossiere I swept across towards Des Tetes we call it three lifts and back up onto the Nyon Plateau ready for Black No5 but as I came up I could see the chair lift up to Mont Nyon was motionless I looked at my phone it was 4.27pm damn!! They’d closed the lift
Damn! I wasn’t to be stopped now though, I glanced quickly at the at the chair lift I’d got off, the very place we’d first walked up to on our very first week here. There are moments when skiing really reminds me of riding a horse and right then as I pulled up I felt the feeling again I recognized from Ghost Ranch I mentioned in the last writing, I looked over a sheer drop into down into the bowl of Nyon, then I nudged myself over that lip, I was ready for it. I cut right in and swept along its edge then lifted turned mid air, landed and dug in and cut back, I was still on my skies, still standing, for less than a spilt second it was quite surprise, I lifted myself again turned mid air crunched back again, then swept down into Nyon Basin. I was elated, arms outstretched swept down and past the Nyon restaurant and onto the red Chamois run and down to the Nyon Car park and the Chalet.I’m not sure how fast, in fact that’s not really of interest, but what is, is the feeling of deep peaceful exhilaration, safe, focused and in the moment. It was a triumph for me. Orsi too has followed me over some edges and found she had the legs and stomach for it too and in many ways they are the safer routes. My dream came back to me quite a few times that dayOver at Plenny and Les Gets the slopes we’re crowded with people who skied as we did last year, and many more much worse, its remarkable to see who is out there and how on earth they manage to get down. A couple of times getting across to where we wanted to go was dangerous with people coming out of nowhere way out of control.
I’ve wondered many times why people terrorize themselves in such ways, unaware erratic and profoundly naive of where they are, people coming through at 60mph and unable to turn or stop, it was a relief to get onto the deserted black runs.
That evening was tough running up and down those stairs serving the dinner, I kept saying 5 Black runs today I did 5. From then on the gates to the slopes were open to me, never to be closed again, I got it, the boy from Blackpool can ski, its official