Today was a huge day for me in that I got to check a long-time item off the life bucket list: skiing the Dolomites.
I am an avid skier and have wanted to see and experience the Dolomiti for many years. Due to miscellaneous illnesses, holidays, etc., I ended up having cancellations for all of my Tuesday lessons. Thus, at about midnight the night before, I decided I was going to the Dolomites. How often did I have a free weekday and unusually beautiful weather?
After a 7:20 AM bus, 7:45 AM train to Trento, and 11:00 AM train to Folgarida/Marilleva… I arrived. The last leg of my train travel included the train attendant, Stefano, sitting down with me and peppering me with questions about where I’m from and what my Italian was like. After learning it was conversational at best, he good-naturedly lectured me on why I must drop the “block” I have and start speaking Italian freely. This is what he did for the FOUR languages (Italian, English, Spanish, German) that he speaks, all of which he picked up by engaging in conversations with strangers.
After almost four hours of traveling, I decided I needed an espresso before finding rental equipment. I stopped in the first cafe I spotted, where my new friend Stefano was having a steak with a friend. He introduced me around and shouted a “Bravissima!” when I ordered in Italian (the sad extent of my skills). I love meeting new people.
I found the nearest rental shop and headed in, afraid of what the rates for boots and skis might be… a whopping 18 euro. I made friends with the guy assisting me, a rafting guide from Chile that is working at the shop as a winter gig. His English was excellent and he was incredibly friendly and helpful. We bonded over the fact that he has a friend working as a rafting guide in Denver, Colorado and I lived there for part of my childhood - when he expressed desire to visit his friend, I was very enthusiastic and explained how much I love Colorado. I was about to find out the differences between there and the Dolomites, however.
After being outfitted, he sent me on my way to the ski pass office at the bottom of the hill. I can’t express how different this whole experience was from the ski towns I’m accustomed to in America. The ski pass office is at the bottom of a small hill, the gondola station next door that you simply walk up to and climb on, which then transports you to the runs. There is no skiing down to the bottom involved, no skiing at all actually near this little town center. The gondola is your sole transport between recreation and relaxation.
Finally, I’m up to the slopes and staring around incredulously. Twelve hours ago I was home in Verona, checking bus and train times, figuring out the exhausting logistics of how to venture here. Now I’m standing at the top of a mountain, surrounded by the Dolomites and sunshine, not a cloud in the sky. It was a surreal, “life is good” moment.
I brought my camera in its protective backpack I use to carry it around and immediately was reaching for it in this panoramic vista. I was worried about the fact that I hadn’t skied in a year and the first day is always a little rusty, thus a fall could mean destroying the equipment strapped to my back, but the lure of the Dolomites and surrounding scenery proved stronger. I started out cautious but eventually settled into my normal pace - skiing down a mountain with the sun above you and the wind whistling in your ears is possibly my favorite feeling on the planet, and I couldn’t resist taking full advantage of that. Luckily, I made it through the day intact! Even the blacks that I finally found at the end of the day had enough powder to ski without too much risk, although the level of incline was definitely felt in my knees later. I think I’m getting old.
I’ve always found skiing in groups to be a lot of fun, but skiing alone is very therapeutic. I was lucky that I made quite a few new friends throughout the day - I’ve always found that the type of people attracted to the slopes are a special breed I don’t typically encounter anywhere else. At the top of Orso Bruno, I was photographing the view when I heard someone say, “Is that your glove?” I looked down and realized I had dropped one out of my pocket, and then the accent registered. I looked up to see three guys around my age and asked, “American?” From here it was a long and enthusiastic conversation. They were from California and had come out to snowboard for a week - they have been traveling the world together for years. We connected over shared travel woes, observations of the Italians we’ve encountered, cuisine, etc. It turns out that they had been on the train with the group of guys from Atlanta that I mentioned a few posts ago. It really is a small world.
Eventually we parted ways, knowing we were wasting precious slope time and sated by finding some common ground. I spent the rest of the day in a dreamlike state, skiing the runs, basking in the warm sunshine, and stopping far too often to photograph, with anticlimactic results (none could do the scenery justice). The day reinforced a fact I long ago acknowledged - that I am at my happiest on the mountain. It’s why I still haven’t crossed “ski bum” entirely off the list. I’m grateful to have my health and to be able to experience days like these, and I’m especially glad I was able to see the Dolomites before I left Italy! La dolce vita.