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The Sierra Nevada

We’d thought about traveling to Austria or Switzerland in search of snow, but Spanish friends told us there was an easier way. And there was. Senegal is closest to Spain, and just outside of Granada in the south of Spain, lie the Sierra Nevada, whose 3000 foot peaks gathered snow each winter within just a few hundred miles’ distance from the Mediterranean. Too good to be true?

Too good. And too true. We were there in two days’ travel, taking an evening in Madrid to rest up from yet another red-eye flight from Africa over cups of hot chocolate and a plate of warm churros. Arriving in Granada we proceeded southeast and up, on a bus that left Granada’s station several times each morning carrying travelers and their skis. The road narrowed, turning back on itself again and again and fording small streams as the snow gathered at roadside and the pines thinned, and then we were there at the ski camp.

The next morning I was at the top of the slope, or just below, with a snowboard strapped to my feet and nothing between the lodge and me but clean, white slopes. The air was thin and pure, the sky cloudless, and around me, a silence only the mountain tops can harbor. There is artifice in the sport of skiing: it’s hard to call it nature when an immense industry of lodging and and machinery grooms slopes, prepares warm meals, and clothes and entertains us. But all the props behind the stage mean nothing when the morning sun is warm on your face and the wind cuts as you carve your way down, down, down through the virgin white expanses of snow that fell from the sky only yesterday.

There may be greater pleasures on earth. But it’s hard to think of what they might be.


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