Observant, Maastricht, 27 March 2015
‘Like Maxima’, people tend to say, one eyebrow arched, when you announce that you go skiing in Lech every year with your in-laws.
The main purpose of our annual Alpine excursion is to give my husband the chance to laugh at how Dutch my once acceptable German has become. The two languages have just collapsed into the one box in my head, labelled ‘foreign’. Asked for my date of birth for the lift pass, I scrunch up my forehead and think for a bit. ‘Fünf … Zehn … Drieëntachtig!’ I exclaim triumphantly.
My favourite piste is the red number 12. It goes down, down, down, way down, and then seriously up. To make it to the top, you want to accelerate as much as possible on the downhill. Lose your nerve and brake on the steep bit, and you end up having to walk the last hundred metres uphill. And as everyone knows, dragging yourself uphill on skis is about as fun as trampolining on quicksand.
Afterwards we were sitting in the lift, facing backwards, watching the unwitting souls who got stuck halfway up the hill. ‘Look at that sucker’, we sniggered. ‘He’s never going to make it.’
Suddenly there was an almighty crash and the lift ground to a halt, with us dangling half in and half out and more than a little upside down. We’d reached the end of the lift without realising it. ‘Sitzen bleiben!’, yelled someone. Not that we could have gone anywhere. We were well past the exit, two storeys up, stranded where the chairs turn around to start on their return journey. One leg, ski still attached, was stuck straight up around my ear; the other dangled helplessly in space.
We were extracted carefully, like leftovers from a nice row of teeth, as a hundred onlookers watched. ‘Entschuldigung’, we mumbled as we collected the broken pieces of our stocks and gingerly made our way back to Lech. There’s no shame that leaving a five euro tip for a ten euro coffee won’t fix.
[*Edit: thanks to a reader, Erik Wilbers, for pointing out an initial German error in this article. Awkward.]