Magazine article The Spectator

High Life

Magazine article The Spectator

High Life

Article excerpt

Gstaad Sir Roger Moore told the Sunday Telegraph that he enjoys the slow pace of life in Switzerland. As do I. One cannot have too much of a snowy peak under a blue sky, any more than one can have too much of Schubert. Looking out from my bedroom window, all I can see are pine forests, rock cliffs and snow, not a bad scene for the winter blues. Yes, Nature has been degraded, with chalets being built ever higher in the mountains, but old N can take it. After a heavy snowfall everything is still, greed takes a back seat, and the only sounds one hears are those of the skis beneath one.

I cross-country ski during the busy month of February, the worst time to be in Gstaad because the 'chic' people arrive en masse ready to party. After 55 years as an Eagle club member I am putting my name up for the committee in order to stop the barbarians at the gates. I am a long shot as some of my views are considered extreme. Such as banning non-skiers, or at least not giving them access to the good tables on the terrace. I also would like to see the old and the ugly banned from the club at weekends, but as someone pointed out, that would be self-defeating. Oh, well, I can always start my own club, which I am seriously thinking of doing.

I cross-country ski in the old-fashioned manner, naturally. On parallel tracks, in the classic form as opposed to the much faster kick-glide skating motion far more popular nowadays. At times it is a long grind up meadows and small, almost level glaciers. But the going is never difficult, the surroundings always magnificent. The land, the snow and the trees swaddling the trails create pockets of solace, with the swishing of the skis making the only sound. As someone wrote, 'snow bestows silence'. I used to 'langlauf' late in the afternoon, just before dark. The tracks are empty, the pests have gone home, and I am alone with my thoughts. One does a lot of thinking when skiing cross-country. Many consider it tedious, but then they're the types who like rock music, Twitter and Facebook.

Two years ago I wrote about the shock I had when I thought I had crossed paths with a large brown bear, only to discover she was a Saudi woman in a large fur coat. (I think she was Saudi because she was fat and covered in jewels, but she could also have been Kuwaiti or from the Gulf. One thing is for sure, she was not German. ) There is something very civilised about non-oppressive landscapes. The only thing one sees in the Alps are lakes and mountains. …

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