Les Diablerets, Suisse/Switzerland 2003

Friday the 14 of March we "Brothers and Sisters on Skis" in Europe and America are packing our skiing gear and clothes and head for Les Diablerets and skiing competitions.
Simultaneously in Kuwait "Brothers in Arms" of the allied troops are getting ready for a more serious race to Baghdad.


With mixed feelings we travel by car, by train, by plane and arrive in Switzerland.
Seeing the mountains covered with snow through the aeroplane windows puts the thoughts of war somewhere in the background.
Geneva welcomes us and a fast train takes us in first class along the beautiful coastline of lake Geneva through Lausanne, Vevey and Montreaux.
In Aigle we change to a smaller train that heads for the mountains, passes tunnels and crosses bridges climbing higher and higher. Hepaticas and snowdrops bloom, birds sing and the sun shines hot but not a patch of snow can be seen. Are we too late? Is spring too early? Well, there's always the glacier.
We reach the small station and, surprise!, the valley is white with snow. The shuttles take us to Hotel Victoria where the early birds warmly welcome us. Little later, after unpacking we rejoin the others in the lobby. This is one of the best moments of the week. Welcoming old friends and newcomers in the lobby. Lots of hugs and kisses on the cheeks.

Sunday wakes up as sunny as one could hope.
To our surprise the road in front of the hotel is full of Swiss Army vehicles. Military action is not in question, but our transportation to the 125 person Glacier gondola.
Starting a ski week at 3000 m above the sea level is shock treatment at least to the lowlanders. That is: most of us. However, we are so well trained sportsmen that nobody passes out. A bleeding nose is the only wound among us.
In the evening the General Assembly gives a new period to the International Committee members Helga Dingova and Uli Ritter.
Afterwards the Nations Evening fills us with international peculiarities in the form of food and drink and later the disco beat goes on and on and on...

The sunny Monday takes us to the near-by slopes between Les Diablerets and Bretaye. Conditions are almost summer-like. Snow is soft and sun-block is
more than obligatory.
In the afternoon a representative of our main sponsor Adecco tells us about how they find jobs for ex-athlets. Well, also to thousands of other. Wonder if there's hope for ex-SCIJ-members, too.
When the moon replaces the sun in the sky we enjoy the fondue and after that we ski down to the valley in a torch convoy.
At first skiing in the moonlight is exciting and fun, but in the end when the snow cover gets thinner our skis screech in pain when crossing little loose stones.
At night president Bush gives a 48 hour warning to Iraq.

 

Tuesday is the day of the great grand slalom race.
In the morning the slope looks steep, long, hard, icy - all in one - interesting to some, frightening to others.
In the race the champions stand out quite clearly, but afterwards the men's winner Tobias Thayer does not convince the organisers with his being a professional journalist working in major media and after three days he receives his prize in the guests category.
The fourth fastest man is disqualified for practising the race track.
After all the fuss Ralf Scheuerer is the winner by three seconds. Italy's Davide Labate is second and Switzerland's Simon Mathhey-Doret third.
The ladies' champion is as clear as she can be and there's nothing to it. Italy's Elisa Calcamuggi beats Croatia's Nina Sossi by six seconds. Juliette Hall of the British Hall clan surprises all but her family by being third.
In the evening we meet Pierre-Yves Jorand of the victorious Swiss Alinghi sailing team. The coach and spy of the first European boat to win the America's Cup tells us about the race and the preparations for it. A quick-tempo film illustrates the story and gives an exciting feeling of the hectic atmosphere of the race.

On Wednesday morning the Army lorries take us to Leysin and its six-man gondolas.
Long interestingly winding slopes lead us back to the village. But the sad truth is that we are here a month too late. The snow on the lower slopes is sloshy.
However the off-pistes all around seem to have been an endless playground for enthusiastic skiers.
We enjoy lunch, alpenhorn music and a 360 degrees view of the Alps in an incredible rotating glass-tower restaurant. After lunch one of the slopes is closed because of avalanche danger, but the slope nearest to the restaurant stays in excellent condition. Some of us spend the afternoon sledding in the snow park. An enjoyable dinner in various nice little restaurants all around the village of Les Diablerets ends another satisfying skiing day.
At 4.30 CET the allied troops invade Iraq.
Thursday is the day of the great cross country competition.
Skis have been waxed through the night but hot sun changes the trails so quickly that only tarot cards can tell the right waxing.
Slide O.K. but not enough hold. Harder clister in the middle or blue stick?
Snow's getting wet, slide gets worse.
The start puts an end to all the pondering; the champions are champions no matter what. Luckily the difficult snow gives enough excuses to the others.
Germany's Kerstin Eckstein is the cross country queen and Karolina Beranova from Checz Republic and Italys Elisa Calcamuggi her princesses.
Germany's Ralf Scheuerer is the king and Switzerland's Simon Mathhey-Doret and Poland's Borkowski (great name for a skier) his knights.
In the afternoon some twenty of us have the chance to meet and interview Michael Chaplin in Charlie Chaplin's house in Vevey. Michael turns out to be a very pleasant man, eagerly telling us about his plans of making the mansion a living Chaplin Museum.
Relaxation after the races keeps quite a few people awake rather long. It's always great to see the sun rise from behind the mountains when just drawing or drawing back the curtains.

Most people spend Friday monring on the slopes between Les Diablerettes and Bretaye or Glacier 3000.
In the afternoon our think tank organises a discussion forum on war and media. Colleagues from all over the world exchange their experiences on media coverage in this terrible time.
The "Winds of Hope" foundation later collects us once more in the congress hall. We learn about a horrible, but little known disease called NOMA. Two very brave men, Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones, after circumnavigating the world in a balloon, use their fame to raise awarness of this forgotten sickness.
The last dinner party in Hotel Victoria mixes happy togetherness and melancholy of parting. Lots of hugs and kisses on the cheeks. Some people we shall meet next year, some people maybe never again.

On Saturday it's all over
and thoughts of work start to creep in. The meeting is over but the war in Iraq has just begun. Let's all hope it's been over for a long time when we meet again in Alpe d'Huez next year.
Rauli Storm

 

14 mars 2003
Au moment où les "frères d'armes" des troupes alliées prennent leurs quartiers au Koweit, à la veille d'une redoutable confrontation sur territoire irakien, une autre fratrie, totalement pacifique celle-là, prépare elle aussi "armes et bagages", destination Les Diablerets, pour une semaine d'amicales et pacifiques confrontations. Drôle de coïncidence!

Samedi 15 mars 2003

Premières images de la Suisse à travers les hublots de l'avion: chic, il semble y avoir de la neige! De Genève à Aigle via Lausanne et Montreux dans un confortable pullmann, puis dans un petit train à crémaillère, nous gagnons notre destination, parmi les fleurs et les pâturages verts; serions-nous un peu tard dans la saison? Pas du tout, Les Diablerets sont couverts de neige, nous prenons possessions de nos chambre dans la joie des retrouvailles générales, embrassades, petits moments dÕémotion et de bonheur

Dimanche 16 mars 2003

L'armée suisse est là et nous attend de pied ferme juste devant l'hôtel; la guerre? Non la logistique de transport pour nous amener au Col du Pillon d'où nous nous envolons littéralement à raison de 125 personnes par benne jusqu'à 3Õ000 m d'altitude. Rude traitement pour nous autres gens de plaine; heureusement nous sommes tous en excellente forme et la journée de ski à Glaciers 3000 fut tout simplement exceptionnelle! Le soir l'Assemblée Générale réélit pour un nouveau mandat Helga Dingova et Uli Ritter, puis la Soirée des Nations nous réunit tous autour des festivités gastronomiques typiques de nos pays respectifs, toujours abondantes et généreuses, plus ou moins alcoolisées, musicales et dansantes jusque tard dans la nuit, et même tôt le matin pour certains ...

Lundi 17 mars 2003

Chacun part à la découverte des domaines skiables des Diablerets et de Villars-Bretaye; la météo est quasi estivale, les conditions de ski excellentes et la crème solaire de rigueur. En fin dÕaprès-midi le PDG dÕADECCO, spécialiste du travail temporaire et principal sponsor de la rencontre, nous explique sa philosophie de reconversion dÕancien sportifs de pointe; du coup certains dÕentre nous envisagent avec sérénité la suite de leur brillante carrière ... Après une fondue roborative, cÕest la descente à ski vers les Diablerets, à la lueur des torches et de la pleine lune, dans une longue procession ponctuée de quelques chutes et surtout de rires!
A Washington Georges W. Bush donne à lÕIrak un dernier délai de 48 heures pour rendre ses armes de destruction massive.

 

Tuesday is the day
of the great grand slalom race.
In the morning the slope looks steep, long, hard, icy - all in one - interesting to some, frightening to others.
In the race the champions stand out quite clearly, but afterwards the men's winner Tobias Thayer does not convince the organisers with his being a professional journalist working in major media and after three days he receives his prize in the guests category.
The fourth fastest man is disqualified for practising the race track.
After all the fuss Ralf Scheuerer is the winner by three seconds. Italy's Davide Labate is second and Switzerland's Simon Mathhey-Doret third.
The ladies' champion is as clear as she can be and there's nothing to it. Italy's Elisa Calcamuggi beats Croatia's Nina Sossi by six seconds. Juliette Hall of the British Hall clan surprises all but her family by being third.
In the evening we meet Pierre-Yves Jorand of the victorious Swiss Alinghi sailing team. The coach and spy of the first European boat to win the America's Cup tells us about the race and the preparations for it. A quick-tempo film illustrates the story and gives an exciting feeling of the hectic atmosphere of the race.

On Wednesday morning
the Army lorries take us to Leysin and its six-man gondolas.
Long interestingly winding slopes lead us back to the village. But the sad truth is that we are here a month too late. The snow on the lower slopes is sloshy.
However the off-pistes all around seem to have been an endless playground for enthusiastic skiers.
We enjoy lunch, alpenhorn music and a 360 degrees view of the Alps in an incredible rotating glass-tower restaurant. After lunch one of the slopes is closed because of avalanche danger, but the slope nearest to the restaurant stays in excellent condition. Some of us spend the afternoon sledding in the snow park. An enjoyable dinner in various nice little restaurants all around the village of Les Diablerets ends another satisfying skiing day.
At 4.30 CET the allied troops invade Iraq.


Thursday is the day of the great cross country competition.
Skis have been waxed through the night but hot sun changes the trails so quickly that only tarot cards can tell the right waxing.
Slide O.K. but not enough hold. Harder clister in the middle or blue stick?
Snow's getting wet, slide gets worse.
The start puts an end to all the pondering; the champions are champions no matter what. Luckily the difficult snow gives enough excuses to the others.
Germany's Kerstin Eckstein is the cross country queen and Karolina Beranova from Checz Republic and Italys Elisa Calcamuggi her princesses.
Germany's Ralf Scheuerer is the king and Switzerland's Simon Mathhey-Doret and Poland's Borkowski (great name for a skier) his knights.
In the afternoon some twenty of us have the chance to meet and interview Michael Chaplin in Charlie Chaplin's house in Vevey. Michael turns out to be a very pleasant man, eagerly telling us about his plans of making the mansion a living Chaplin Museum.
Relaxation after the races keeps quite a few people awake rather long. It's always great to see the sun rise from behind the mountains when just drawing or drawing back the curtains.

Most people spend Friday monring on the slopes between Les Diablerettes and Bretaye or Glacier 3000.
In the afternoon our think tank organises a discussion forum on war and media. Colleagues from all over the world exchange their experiences on media coverage in this terrible time.
The "Winds of Hope" foundation later collects us once more in the congress hall. We learn about a horrible, but little known disease called NOMA. Two very brave men, Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones, after circumnavigating the world in a balloon, use their fame to raise awarness of this forgotten sickness.
The last dinner party in Hotel Victoria mixes happy togetherness and melancholy of parting. Lots of hugs and kisses on the cheeks. Some people we shall meet next year, some people maybe never again.

On Saturday it's all over
and thoughts of work start to creep in. The meeting is over but the war in Iraq has just begun. Let's all hope it's been over for a long time when we meet again in Alpe d'Huez next year.
Rauli Storm