Making tracks – the loss of laughter in Langhe


I haven’t used my ski blades in about ten years. And in that time, I’ve been skiing probably only three to four times. But when the snow comes….so do the itchy feet. And memories. Lots of memories that as I strap on my ski blades and head down the hill, come back. Memories of views and giggles on chair lifts and lunches and that time we were the first down in the fresh, falling snow. The only ones on the mountain.

What do you do when you don’t know where the closest ski resorts are, and you only have an hour or so on a Monday afternoon to enjoy some snow? You borrow your neighbour’s hillside. I threw my ski blades and boots (handy from a recent move and conveniently located in the garage “just in case”) in the back of the old car, drove five minutes up the hill and parked outside the old barn on my neighbour’s property.

It was thrilling in that childish sort of way when you’re probably not doing anything wrong or illegal, but it’s likely not a usual sight to see people skiing down a Langhe hillside on their own. The hill wasn’t steep enough for the descent to last more than a minute (I go slowly too), but certainly hard work on the way back up in fresh snow and ski boots. I have already put in a request to my neighbour to install a ski lift.


And so it was that I was laughing, taking pictures, a video (my first ever video on skis as thankfully smartphones and gopros were not a thing when I used to ski), and giggling like I hadn’t in years. The sound of the skis skidding through the fresh but icy snow, the breeze on my face, and the late afternoon light on the snow reminded me of carefree and good times. The push off that despite the relatively flat hillside I didn’t want to exaggerate like in years gone past when learning, any little hillock looked like a black run.


Yesterday evening, catching up with friends, I chatted with Irma, an elderly lady who reminisced about her times as a young girl on the snow, when they used to go sledding. The girls would attach their stockings to their knickers to fashion pants, and she laughed at the memory of her sister getting a bright red bum from sledding down the snow (actually she used the word “arse” which surprised me for a lady of her age).


They were the days when Barolo vineyards were not yet covering the hills around La Morra. When they were dirt poor and cultivated wheat and hay. Days when people would laugh and whistle while working, and the sledding competition involved grabbing a chicken’s or rooster’s neck on your way down and then the festival with something simple and hearty, like bagna cauda. A kind of idyllic country theme where happiness is the privilege of the poor, before the days when Barolo became big business and Unesco globalised the vineyards.

Irma lamented the loss of happiness. She says you don’t hear people singing or laughing in the vineyards anymore and the young ones…..they don’t laugh anymore. She may be right. But as I skied down that slope, laughing out loud for the sheer fun of it, I know there is hope. We can have nostalgic moments that are very much part of our present, though, symbolic of throwing off the shackles and unhappiness, head high, laughing in bright blue skies with white crystals at our feet.





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