While recently skiing in Zermatt, Switzerland within the comfort and safety of the resort, I was overwhelmed with the towering mountain landscape that is the Alps. Having skied a lot at resorts in the United States, this panoramic view was like nothing I had ever experienced. The runs were long and secluded; sometimes I found myself making turn after turn with my husband as the only other person in sight. It was as if we had our own personal mountain. The views were so awe-inspiring that although I was ready for a break, I pushed forward and focused on rewarding myself with lunch in Cervinia, Italy. My legs were tired, already sore from three days on the slopes, but I could not pass up the opportunity to ski over international borders.
As I stepped off the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise lift at 12,740ft, I was overwhelmed with the beautiful vista that surrounded me, but I was also shocked by the extreme change in climate. I knew having gone up in elevation that there would be a vast glacial terrain, but I was not prepared for the conditions. At -13 degrees Fahrenheit and 30mph winds, it was the weather that took my breath away, not the views. Within seconds of taking my gloves off to get a few pictures, my hands were painfully numb, and I was unable to hold onto the camera. I fumbled trying to get my gloves back on and headed as fast as I could down the long, open glacier run into Italy hoping to find a place to rest inside as soon as possible. The winds were blowing so hard that I found it difficult to control my turns. While the gondola was full coming up, I realized that my husband and I were the only ones around and thought it was likely that we were the only ones crazy enough to stay up here. My husband took one look at me and began to massage my nose, telling me that it looked frostbitten. The cold had affected me so quickly. I was already cold and hungry before we started this run, but now I was getting desperate for both food and shelter.
Only one other person was sitting inside, another skier that I’m sure was also grateful for refuge from the cold and wind. The man, whom we met upon entering, was a ski guide and the small hut we were in held eight rooms where hikers and skiers can rent by the night when shelter is needed from the outdoors. I was thrilled as I sat down to be handed a menu filled with a variety of Italian dishes. This is what I had hoped our lunch would be, and I was even more grateful since spending the last few hours in the cold. As we placed our order, the chef made his way in what seemed like a very tiny and modest kitchen. The fire and wine were very helpful in warming us, but once the food arrived, I forgot all about the frigid tundra we had just escaped. I was in Italy and was going to enjoy eating Spaghetti ala Bolognese.
Recovered from the cold and hunger, my husband and I left the small Italian shelter and skied our way back down into Zermatt. As we made our way back down in elevation, the wind was less intense, the temperature felt warmer and we saw more and more people on the slopes. I honestly don’t know if it was the location, the journey, or the food, but this meal was the best I had ever had. It was not at all how I had envisioned a trip to Italy, but it was an adventure that I would never forget nor regret. The restaurant had saved my life, and there is no beach in the world that I would have rather been.
Mandy Sullivan attended Northern Illinois University for Kinesiology with emphasis in Athletic Training. After working for years in a physical therapy office and traveling every chance she got, Mandy decided to leave the medical field and pursue her interest in food and travel. Check out her website and blog at www.vacationfoodtours.com.