Why not make the most of this cold, snowy time of year like I do, by strapping on a pair of skis or a snowboard and hurtling down the nearest mountain? As a native Buffalonian who’s grown up on the slopes of Kissing Bridge and Holiday Valley ski resorts, as well as a decades-long resident of New England who’s braved sub-zero temperatures in winter, I figure: if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.
Many Italians also hit the slopes, here and in Italy, because it’s a great way to transform the winter doldrums into winter fun. Though, whenever I ski with my husband, Jamie, it always reminds me of the time when we first started dating, and he did everything in his power to impress me with his schussing prowess…
While I was studying abroad in Rome during college, my Italian cousins treated me to a holiday in the Dolomites, an Alpine region in the uppermost, right-hand corner of Italy that fans across Veneto, Alto-Adige, and Trentino. (I was so entranced by the magnificent yet mysterious region, which is dotted by gorges, cliffs, tiny towns, and the bustling city of Verona, that I set the characters of my latest novel, “Formula,” in the wine region there.)
On the trip, we traveled about seven hours by car to the small town of Campitello in the Val di Fassa region of the mountain range and bunked with friends in their home. The first day, we woke before dawn and hit the slopes until sunset. When we returned to the villa in town, we found Jamie in the main square, with a fever, chills, and a horrible sore throat, shivering alone on a snow bank in a paper thin parka that he’d borrowed from a Vatican priest. He’d hopped a bus the night before, knowing only the name of the town, and nearly 20 hours later, he’d arrived in Campitello, praying to run into us before nightfall. Ah, giovane amore!
We hauled him inside and plied him with soup, wine and blankets, and then took his temperature — 105 degrees! A cousin rushed him to the local doctor, acquired antibiotics for his strep throat, and then put him up next door at an inn. After sleeping through the night, and the next day, and the next night, he awoke healthy and joined us, ready to ski. We hot dogged down those slopes for two full days, some of the best skiing ever. That week I also enjoyed my first alpine gondola ride (very romantic), my first taste of polenta while dining in the ski lodge (delicious when accompanied with a stew of wild boar), and the first time anyone I knew had nearly died on a ski trip — not actually skiing, but rather traveling in an attempt to ski with me. I knew then that Jamie was a keeper.
During a more recent visit to Italy, I again visited my family in Abbadia San Salvatore, a small town in the Tuscan hills near Montalcino, where my young cousins and I skied on Mount Amiata, the site of “La Croce del Monte Amiata,” a beautiful steel cross where hikers climb in summer and that glistens magnificently when covered in snow in winter. Though the slopes there were considerably shorter and less steep than those in the Dolomites, the experience of skiing with family near my father’s hometown was truly memorable. Unfortunately, Jamie had to bow out of this trip, because he had the flu.
Since then, my Italian family has come to love and appreciate Jamie, though they’ve never skied with him again — too much trouble. But he and I continue to steal away from work and kids and escape to the mountains near Boston for romantic ski dates. Watchusett Mountain near Worcester, Bradford Mountain near Andover, and Nashoba Valley in Westford are all resorts in Massachusetts that feature great skiing, snowboarding and snow-tubing. Loon Mountain in New Hampshire provides a taste of the sport that rivals the action in the Dolomites — long, steep slopes with a romantic gondola ride to the top. There are many more ski resorts all over New England, but a great one for couples and kids that’s just over the border in New Hampshire is Pat’s Peak, also perfect for skiing and tubing. Consider spending a bit of February with family, friends or a sweetheart on the slopes this winter. What better way to share Valentine’s Day than cuddling on the chairlift or sipping cocoa by the fire in the lodge?
Gina Fava is the author of two suspense novels based in Italy, The Race and The Sculptor, with another coming soon, titled Formula, set in the Dolomite region of Italy. She freelances too, sharing stories she’s gathered roaming Italy in search of her characters’ favorite wines. Visit her website at GinaFava.com and connect via Facebook and Twitter.