In mid-February, I spent the better part of a week in a quaint town in the Italian Alps, called Sauze d’Oulx. It was a charming little mountain village with cobbled streets, family-run hotels, delicious restaurants and small ski/rental shops.
Sauze d’Oulx is located just an hour’s drive from Turin and was the venue for the freestyle skiing events during the 2006 Winter Olympic Games.
One of the best things about Sauze d’Oulx was its affordability. For a European ski destination, at peak time, it was incredibly inexpensive. A large (delicious) pizza cost me around €6.50, I had glasses of wine for €2.50 a piece and après-ski cocktails often had price tags of no more than €4. Ski rentals were 15€ and my lift ticket was a mere €33 for the day.
Here’s where you’ll note that I stated the last costs were ‘for the day’ and not ‘per day’. It turned out that one day of skiing was enough for me. Prior to Sauze d’Oulx, I hadn’t been on the slopes in almost nine years. And, although all the conditions were near perfect in the Italian Alps, complete with fresh powder and no chairlift lines, I just couldn’t manage to enjoy myself.
My first run of the day accidentally ended up being on a black trail, which was challenging and tiring. The powder was piled up over a foot high in some areas, requiring more tactical skiing. This was coupled with limited visibility, which was made worse by the fact that I didn’t have goggles to wear as the snow fell. I tried wearing sunglasses, but they kept fogging up. Although, none of these inconveniences were ideal, I probably could have dealt with them if I didn’t also have the worst rental ski boots of all times. To say my boots were ill-fitted would be a massive understatement. They were a bit big in length, causing my feet to slide around whenever I turned, but they were also far too tight around my ankles. At lunchtime, I had to unbuckle them to try to stop the throbbing. I was all set to call it day after lunch, but my friend insisted that I join him for ‘one more run’. Famous last words.
Several trails were actually closed for too much snow (have you ever heard of such a thing?), so we ended up having to take a few alternate routes. This ‘one more run’ ended up taking the better part of three hours. By the time I got midway down the final path, my ankles were in such agony that I actually sat down and cried. I considered taking my skies off and walking down the rest of the mountain, but I came to my senses and realized that didn’t solve my problem and would only take longer. I thought about faking an actual injury so that a snowmobile would have to come collect me. I also even contemplated paying a more capable, male skier to ski down the rest of the slope with me on his back. I was desperate! Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that I needed to suck it up and ski down the rest of the trail, even if I sobbed and cursed the whole way (which is exactly what I did)!
When I finally got my boots and skies off, the first thing I did was walk across the street to the rental shop to return my kit. I couldn't get rid of the gear fast enough! There was absolutely zero chance I was going to put myself through another day of skiing (AKA torture). I decided then and there that this would be the end of skiing for me in Italy or anywhere else. I think it’s time I grow up and leave this sport to the kids!