It was still dark as I arrived at the train station. I had briefly thought about being lazy and catching the tram, but I knew that the pass in my pocket had expired. The likelihood that anyone would check at six on a Saturday morning was unlikely, but there was no need to cheat the already obviously underfinanced public transport system out of money. Especially when I could just use a bike for free, if I stopped being such a wimp about the cold.
So I bustled myself into the train as fast as possible, which was already waiting at the platform. Unusually I had bought the ticket a few days earlier- a way of taking away any chance of second thoughts. Normally I would never have second thoughts about going out into the mountains with the weather predicted to be glorious, but the last few months have been tough on my psyche and I was going off to meet people I had never met before.
I distracted myself with my books and the train took me out of the city centre and onwards to the north. There was a well-orchestrated train change, as we walked across a platform to a train that had waited for us even though the first one managed to acquire a fifteen minute delay. And then I arrived at a concrete bunker, desolate and ugly, surrounded only by streets, grey buildings and billboards. I couldn’t tell which directions the mountains were. It was still too dark and gloomy.
Luckily, that gloom did not last. After getting everything in order and finding the rest of the group, we took a gondola further up the hill to the actual ski resort, introduced ourselves and slowly broke through layers of cloud. Some of the others had previously met, but only few of them had actually had longer in depth conversations and knew significant amounts about each other’s lives.
The ski resort was Pila, a small area situated just above the city of Aosta in the valley. Composed mostly of red runs it felt fairly compact. In general, I felt like they were being quite generous with their rating system, as well. Memories of some icy red slopes in Les Deux Alpes from last year came flooding back, and I decided that my friends would enjoy this area. Apart from maybe the snowboarders, who had to trudge or ride one edge for extended periods of time.
Because the transportation had taken a while, we decided to just keep going. We skied without pause from eleven until half past three, when we realized that we would have to stop and get something to teat if we wanted food before seven pm. Another international clearly voiced my disappointment for me. “Not even in the international ski resorts to Italians deviate from their food traditions!” she grumbled, although the food on the menu begged to differ. Yes, traditional polenta was unmistakably a very popular choice, but there were also grilled cheese sandwiches, burgers and endless varieties of cake on offer.
The sunshine shone down on us as, warmed up and with full stomachs, we posed for a picture and did a few more runs. And then we decided to call it a day. The shadows grew long, and by the time the gondola took us back into the valley it was nearly dark. Our muscles were tired, our faces pink from sun and cold, and everyone had a grin glued permanently in place. It was a great way to start a weekend. I hope to catch up with all of them again, soon!