This is my first post for well over a week due to the fact I have been away from home (and away from the internet) on my annual family skiing holiday. Before you ask, yes… I have missed the internet, particularly blogging.
As I mentioned, I went skiing last week. This trip inspired me to attempt some ‘Gonzo’ Journalism. I know that I am no Hunter S. Thompson, and no story I tell can ever be as epic as that of ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’ or ‘Hell’s Angels’, but I will give my most interesting story of the week a go.
Skiing is my favourite sport, probably because it’s the only sport I am good at. But it really isn’t just that. I love the speed, the exercise and, most of all, the adrenaline rush. It is brilliant. When skiing in the “3 valleys” in the French Alps, there is plenty of skiing to come by. With six hundred km’s of interconnected piste, the 3 Valleys is one of the largest ski areas in the entire world.
Despite a low snow yield this Winter, the majority of the slopes remained open right into April. This meant that it was possible for us to access the furthest Valley (vallee de belleville) from the small alpine village of La Tania where we were staying. After an early start, we reached the third valley by eleven am. Due to the cold weather of the day, myself, my friend matt and my parents decided to stop for a hot drink in a mountainside restaurant.
After quickly warming up by the log fire, we hit the slopes once again. We headed toward the village of Les Menuires. Upon reaching the extremely busy, bustling ski village we realised that our intended destination ( the peak La Masse) had been closed due to poor snow conditions. Having lost our elevation, we had no choice but to take a gondola lift back towards the peak.
I’ve never been a huge fan of gondolas. For those who are unaware of a gondola ski lift, it is effectively four by four-foot metal box, which is attached to a wire, that is designed to carry twelve skiers, and their equipment, to peaks of mountains. I’ve only really ever been bothered by the fact you have to remove your skis before entering a gondola… That was before this day.
The four of us entered the metal box as normal. As we began to eat our packed lunch, the cabin stopped. This is usually quite a normal problem, with the lift starting again within
a minute or so… Not today however. The cabin didn’t move.
After ten minutes, when lunch was eaten, we began to joke about how we would get out of the cabin if the lift would no longer run. It was joked by my dad that we would have to be winched out. We all began joking about how we would use our items of clothing and equipment to formulate a great escape-esque exit. This good-natured humour was short-lived.
After thirty minutes stationary, tempers began to flare as we all steadily became more and more frustrated by the situation, with dramatic talks of escape being greeted with anger, rather than the light-hearted humour it was intended with.
Forty-five minutes had passed and our boredom only increased. I began thinking of how the story of us being winched from a gondola would fit perfectly into The Sun or any other tabloid newspaper and how it might help my career as a journalist. This boredom transferred into actions, as Matt and I began playing Noughts and Crosses in the steamed up plastic windows of our metal box.
An hour stationary lead me to begin to compare our situation to that of Aron Ralston, being trapped for one hundred and twenty-seven hours. Obviously I was getting ahead of myself. However, that comparison helped to calm me down and think “this could be a hell of a lot worse”.
The lift began to slowly limp towards the mid-station fifteen minutes later, where we swiftly exited the tin can. We were greeted by a lift attendant, who apologised profusely and offered us free hot drink vouchers.
Having escaped the box with little to no harm done, it occurred to me how lucky we were. We could have been stuck hovering 30 feet above the ground for much longer than an hour and a quarter. We could have had to absail to safety, we could have had to sleep in the cold metal box, we could have had claustrophobia and become mentally scarred by the situation.
I know this doesn’t sound that traumatising, but did happen to be one of the slowest hou
rs of my entire life… I empathise with you Mr Ralston.