25 March 2010
Literary Skiers 9
What's your ski house in Verbier like?
My house is small, a cozy chalet way high on the mountain. I love it - I've spent as long as six months at a time there. You know, Verbier has grown so much. When I came there in 1956 there were perhaps forty chalets and only two small hotels. Then the Belgians lost the Congo - and ever since, Verbier has been bulging with Belgians...bulging Belgians.
Verbier is infinitely better than St. Moritz or Gstaad. It's not chic, and it's not crowded. Gstaad is a joke. I often go to Gstaad because it's just across the valley. But Verbier has very long runs - I don't like to yo-yo, I don't like getting back up the mountain - and it is in sun all day long. Verbier also, unfortunately, attracts Italians. Last season I was hit by one. I was going slow - and this big Italian came around this turn...I don't think he had ever been on a pair of skis in his life...and slammed into me. I was black and blue for months.
Had you skied before your arrival in Verbier, before the Belgians and Italians had put out contracts on you?
My, I've skied just about everywhere - in Europe, in the United States, even in Japan. I've skied, you know, since I was twelve years old. I first skied in Colorado, with my father - who was then married to one or another of his seven wives. My father was mad about two things - motorcycles and Colorado. He loved Colorado. Steamboat is where we went, and I've been back there often. I've also skied at Vail, but Vail is Disneyland - it's not my kind of place.
I find skiing in Utah incredibly crude - it's like a second-rate boys' camp in the Adirondacks. All those Mormons running around in black clothes and black ties - it's like Chanel without jewelry.
The place I really like most is Sun Valley. And I like Grey Rocks in Quebec - but not in February. In fact, it's the coldest place I've ever been. When I was last there, I stayed for ten days - not for ten days of skiing but because I was so knocked out by the cold. I hate to ski in the cold.
The most interesting skiing I've found is in Japan, in Hokkaido. I love Japan, I love its cultural charm. The Japanese have more taste than the French - such attention to detail. When they do something, they do it right.
How do you see yourself as a skier?
I have the perfect body for skiing. I'm short, my balance is excellent, and I have two very strong legs, which I've developed really through swimming - I still swim two miles a day. I can do just about anything on skis. I have a tremendous amount of endurance. Most people I know think I'm a very good skier.
I have a certain element of - well, courage really. I do things on skis that other people won't do.
--Dick Needham, Truman Capote: An Interview, Ski, 1981