In Europe the Christmas vacaction is about 2 weeks long, while in South Africa it can be as long as 2 months as it is our summer vacation. We try to cram as much adventure into our two weeks as we can. For the last 3 years we have been alone for Christmas, it’s a tough time to be without family, so a ski holiday is something that keeps us both active and busy. This year we headed to Sauze d’ Oulx in the Alps, close to the French border.
The first obstacle that we had to tackle before we even left the house was packing. I’m generally a bit of a last minute packer, and Angelo gets so excited that he starts packing about 2 weeks before, I’m not kidding. By the end of November, there is a suitcase in our bedroom ready to be filled. When going on a ski holiday, a big problem is always how to fit ALL of our winter clothes, which are already pretty ‘big’ as well as all of our ski clothes. I’ve already written a blog post on how I usually packed for winter trips, which you can read here.
Apart from the effort it takes to try and close your suitcase, the holiday itself is worth every bit of effort! Last year I wrote about how similar the skiing culture is to the South African surfing culture, this year I wanted to be a little more specific, I have decided to list 5 of my favorite things about a skiing holiday (in no particular order, and of course, your opinions might differ).
- It’s Not a Fashion Show – Firstly, as someone who lives to dress up just as equally as I love to get down and dirty, a ski holiday is the absolute best. We are not quite at the level yet where we can afford “fashionable” ski clothes, I wear boys pants size 11-13, but you get some gorgeous clothes out there. So the clothes that I wear are incredibly “poofy’ and unflattering, but you know what?! It’s totally okay, no one is really looking at what you’re wearing anyway, and besides, the majority of people all look the same anyway.
- Zero Food Guilt – If you’re anything like me, carbs are life. I’m not someone who usually suffers from food guilt, but I do occasionally feel like I should cut out the bad stuff and have a salad or something. Nevertheless, a skiing holiday completely eliminates the guilt from a carb eating frenzy, because you’re constantly moving, and being active. We ski on average 6-8 hours every day, so yeah… that’s a whole lot of calories burnt!
- Friendly Peeps – I have genuinely never encountered people who are as understanding and accommodating than the people on the slopes. I have definitely improved my skiing ability since the first year, but I’m still not quite at a black slope level (which is the most difficult). That being said, I fall fairly often, and not one person in the last 3 years has made a big issue about it. It is actually rather encouraging, you know… I want to be like the big people one day.
- Early Mornings and Early Nights – Granted that Angelo and I are not quite the party animals, the slopes close at about 4:30 / 5 pm. You are allowed to stay up at the restaurants and have a drink, or food, but the slopes are closed for skiing. Which means, generally you get back to the house at about 5:30/ 6 pm. We go eat, or eat at home, and then we are usually in bed at about 10pm. I’m not kidding, it’s the absolute best. We’re up at 7, so that we can be more or less the first people on the slopes, and not much beats those early mornings. The cold air, the quiet.. it’s bliss.
- Christmas – It’s quite a vibe on Christmas day, and a lot of people actually dress up. Either in costumes, or the decorate their ski clothes with Christmassy things. Everyone is shouting Merry Christmas, regardless of what language they speak. There is Christmas music playing at every stop, and well… hot chocolate and snow. Is that not Christmas dreams?! We usually open our presents before we leave for the trip, so that we don’t have to pack them. Then we go out to eat at a “fancy” restaurant to celebrate.
Overall, it’s only been about 3 Christmas’s that I have spent in the snow, before that I was usually on the beach or lounging at the pool (yes, South Africa is in full blown summer during Christmas). Now I can barely imagine being hot during December. The vibe, the people and the excitement that leads to an active and adrenaline filled Christmas is something addictive. As soon as we board the train to head back to Pavia, I already start thinking about which mountain range we are going to go to next year.
Christmas has gone from a Braai (Barbecue in Afrikaans) and the beach to snow, skiing and carbs, I couldn’t ask for more. Of course, it is always going to be a bit of a sore point when it comes to family, but at the end of the day, we are a family. That’s what’s important. I think it’s safe to say that I have completely adopted the European mentality of:
“I’m going to the mountains for Christmas.”