Ain’t no mountain high enough

Senior challenges herself skiing in Switzerland

Katherine Doan

More stories from Katherine Doan

Kicking higher
March 17, 2015
Who let the dogs out
February 17, 2015

Doan family and friends pictured on the Swiss Alps.

Spring break. The eagerly anticipated week off between Christmas and summer. A week of laziness and relaxation for some, but the adventure of a lifetime for others.

My family has gone on skiing trips every spring since I was three years old. I’ve skied the Rockies for the past 14 years, with an occasional yet tragic attempt of snowboarding, with my parents, younger sister, and friends, and I had grow quite accustomed to the rugged American charm of the people and the peaks they love.

However, this year my family embarked on a new skiing adventure to the Colorado equivalent across the pond. The Doans decided to tackle the Alps to meet a family friend who was studying abroad in Oxford and spend the week with her and her family.

Travelling from Zurich to Klosters to Zermatt and Cervinia, I was surrounded by a myriad of cultures and people from walks of life I had never imagined. Between the language barrier and my inability to read a map or follow directions, these are the most memorable moments and thoughts from my week amongst the Schweizerische.

  1. The Swiss are sassy. Whether it’s correcting your form on the mountainside or pressuring you into ordering something at dinner, they are willing, able, and adamant when it comes to sharing their opinions about anything and everything.
  2. You can get lost and end up in Italy. It was not an intentional detour, but reading road signs in German is not as easy as it would seem to be. A missed exit, faulty directions and a couple closed roads turned a four hour road trip into a nine hour event, bringing with it some of the most breathtaking scenery I have ever seen.
  3. “You ski well for an American.” Not sure if this quote was intended to be a compliment or an insult, however the European who shouted this comment to me as I descended the mountain had neither heard me speak nor fully seen my face. Apparently I don’t blend well.
  4. The Matterhorn is a big deal. Sort of. This summit towering 14,692 feet above the town is a widely known and recognized and marketed trademark of the region and its striking presence makes it easy to see why. Whether you ski it, hike it or look at it, the mount is easily appreciated though relatively insignificant for us Americans.

Through all of these, my week was one I will never forget. The first hand experiences in a culture where skiing is elegant and controlled yet fierce and intimidating, compared to my American past where the skier/stoner is more prevalent, gave me a new insight into the past time I had grown to love and into people and life in general.