On a stunning March day in 2000, my Swedish fiancée, Vivianne, and I stood in the snow at a North American ski resort with some 60 guests, about to be married by a US army chaplain. Above us, a bald eagle circled. Was the soaring raptor’s presence the final touch, an auspicious avian omen of the happy years ahead of us? Or had it perhaps hungrily glimpsed a good friend’s pet golden retriever, Max, who we entrusted as ring-bearer for our special day?
For Vivianne and I, getting married on the slopes at 9,000ft made perfect sense, as it was a celebration of our shared passion and shared life. We went the whole six yards, with tins attached to our skis rattling jovially as we made our way down the hill, linking arms and kissing. Granted it’s not everyone’s idea of romance. But it suits us fine.
Our shared love affair with this part of the world had begun three years earlier. Charged with taking care of ring-bearer Max, I convinced then-girlfriend Vivianne to join me on a last-minute ski trip. It turned out to be a magical time in a place both of us adored, and Vivianne falling in love with Max was the icing on the cake. So when we decided to get married, we both agreed that this resort would be the happiest location in the world for us. The dramatic peaks, terrific skiing and abundance of enigmatic wildlife, including moose, elk, bald eagles and wolves, were a bonus.
Vivianne and I arrived at our love of skiing separately, and the way she approaches the sport – as a Swede, she grew up cross-country skiing – has influenced and enriched my own passion.
For Vivianne skiing is a relaxed pursuit, concerned with gorgeous scenery, fresh air, forgetting about the stresses of a busy life and career, and looking forward to a great lunch in a mountain restaurant. Before I met her I found skiing so exhilarating that I often skipped lunch rather than waste time eating.
Then when we got together, I relaxed and, of course, relished our mountain lunches together. I’d much rather ski at her pace and take in the wonderful frozen world around us on intermediate-to-advanced runs than ski without her on black runs and off-piste – for skiers, this is the height of romance.
Couples skiing is serious business to us; a few years ago we visited a couples’ skiing clinic, designed to stop the stronger skier in a marriage or partnership dominating the day on the slopes. It was great fun; we literally danced on the slopes together as part of the clinic. I may have earned a place in the Guinness Book of Records, having skied for 365 consecutive days in 1994, but what brings true joy to my heart is spending glorious days among white-capped peaks in the company of my wife.
The mountains are an inextricable part of our love story. The Dolomites’ breathtaking beauty; late night parties in Austria’s Saalbach Hinterglemm; traversing the French-Italian border via the Vallée Blanche; we have happy memories scattered across mountains in every corner of the planet.
This March, Vivianne and I were due to make some more, celebrating the 20th anniversary of that wonderful mountain wedding, this time in the French ski resort of Les Gets. Guess what? It didn’t happen. Guess why? No prizes. We had to cancel only a week or so before we were due to fly out. Wandering around Haywards Heath, West Sussex, just wasn’t the same.
Apart from the City Ski Championships in Courmayeur, Italy, in early January, I didn’t ski at all last winter. As a couple who embark on multiple skiing adventures a year, it feels very strange to us. You can imagine how excited we are about the possibility of skiing again this winter. Presumably we haven’t forgotten how. Even in normal times, when you make your first tentative turns after an English summer (unless you’ve had the good fortune to ski, as I often have, in the southern hemisphere during its winter) you wonder briefly whether you can still actually do it. But it’s a little like riding a bike. Fortunately, you never really forget.
Until we can return, we’ll reminisce about the romantic times we have shared on the slopes, and all that we’ve learned about each other thanks to skiing.
This upcoming season will be all about taking it where you can, and luckily we’re blessed with the nearby Alps. Austria, for example, punches well above its weight and produces great conditions even if its slopes aren’t the highest in the world. So long as the scenery is inspirational – granite spires, steeples and towering, jagged peaks make even the gentlest piste a sensory feast – and I have Vivianne by my side, you’ll find a happy skier in me.
Hit the slopes
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