Monday, February 16, 2009
Such Great Heights
Melville once wrote “winter isn’t a season; it’s a place.” Nearing the top notch in Foscagno Pass of Northern Italy, leaving the mountain playground of Bormio behind, with the glimpses of the Livigno Valley opening up ahead, one begins to feel the truth to Melville’s words. You feel a connection to the scene - to the mountains, to the snow you just plied your trade on, to the cold, dry, high altitude air – becoming, at least in one’s own mind, a Khan of the mountains, a King of the Alps.
Nearby, weekend jet setters from Milano and Lake Como share these heights, hitting the slopes from the hours of eleven to two, to receive the good tidings of these mountains. Curiously, untold miles of wind-loaded, off-piste terrain remain untracked, just waiting for a light human touch to add to the mountain’s perfection. All I know is I want to come back right here with a beacon, a pair of reverse camber Rossignols underfoot and a little forgiveness from the gatekeepers of this hauntingly beautiful land.
This last part is perhaps the most important part. The name Livigno traces its roots back to the Middle Ages, where its Latin name was "vinea et vineola." This has nothing to do with vineyards and everything to do with mountains and snow. "Vinea et vineola" means avalanche. Looking out to the whiteness of the mountainscape all around, I appreciate that name.
Today, though, I left the Alps behind and made my way to the Jizershe Mountains of the Czech Republic in Liberec. The World Championships are just around the corner. I’ll take to the start line in just under a week. Ahh, to have one’s muse appear upon company time.