Kristin learned an important lesson on the slopes – and it wasn’t how to ski!
When we were newlyweds living in Marseille, my husband planned a trip to the French Alps. “Tu sais skier, chérie?” he asked. Truth be told, it had been 15 years since I’d last hit the slopes, but wasn’t skiing like riding a bike? “Yes!” I boasted. “I lived in Colorado for nine months. We skied every weekend!” Hearing myself speak, I recognised an old foe: la fierté. And you know what they say about pride… l’orgueil précède la chute!
La Piste Noire
In Serre Chevalier, in 1992, I barely made it off le télésiège before it hurtled its rickety carriage back down the mountain. Just when the terror was beginning to subside, I looked left, and saw the drop off – there was not even a barrier to protect skiers from the mountain’s edge. A quick, hairpin turn to the right was necessary to avoid imminent death and reach the slope. As I edged my way off the landing I shouted to my husband – who’d already taken flight – “Just what sort of ski run is this anyway?”
“C’est une piste noire,” Jean-Marc called back. A black diamond? I don’t remember hearing that when he planned the outing! But what did it matter now? At that moment I was having a technical problem with my skis: they would not turn left or right. “You’ve got to get moving first,” my husband explained, having trekked back to help me.
As I struggled to get going, young children et des gens âgées sped past me. How was it that they could ski and not me? Too terrified to get up enough speed to slalom down the steep piste, I gave up – and slid all the way down on my backside, in my jeans, cursing my husband the entire way. Fast forward 27 years, and plans to enjoy a trip to the Alpine resort of Megève (where I would sightsee while my family skied) changed suddenly when I developed the flu and had to stay home. Remembering how certain rental properties in France require travellers to bring their own linens, I quizzed my husband, who had reserved the rental: “Will you need sheets?” I asked, offering to help him pack. “Oui, des draps-housses, s’il te plaît.”
Housse de draps?… On hearing the words my mind conjured up a picture of a slip cover. “Are you sure?”
“Oui, des draps-housses.” No matter how many times my husband repeated it, I could not figure out which type of sheet he was talking about. Jean-Marc’s patience was running thin when bingo! I finally understood he was asking for fitted sheets. I had been so distracted by my own thoughts (buzzing on about how my forgetful spouse wouldn’t remember to bring our sheets home again) that I was not hearing him speak. It occurred to me that my French might finally improve if only I could be a better listener!
My family had a wonderful time in Megève, and I was so pleased to see that my husband remembered to bring back all of our bedding. “Je les ai mis dans le panier à linge,” Jean-Marc told me, hurrying over to la télé to catch the end of the soccer match (Paris vs. Marseille. Allez, OM!)
What did he say? Something about putting them in the laundry basket ready to be washed? No, I don’t think I want to hear that today. I’ll become a better listener tomorrow…
La piste noire = Black Diamond ski run
Tu sais skier, chérie = do you know how to ski, dear
La fierté = pride
L’orgueil précède la chute = pride comes before a fall
Le télésiège = chairlift
Des gens âgées = older people, elderly
Le drap-housse = fitted sheet
S’il te plaît = please
Je les ai mis dans le panier à linge = I put them in the laundry basket
La télé = TV
Allez, OM! = go, Marseille
From France Today Magazine
Lead photo credit : Ski Lift, Alexandra Luniel at Unsplash