Image: Brijesh Patel
January 15 2011
I am preparing for my annual non-skiing holiday, when I turn up in Austria and do not ski for a week. I started not-skiing about four years ago, primarily as a way of wearing warm clothes that the climate in Britain did not afford the opportunity to wear. Of course that was then. Now, the polar bears ambling down Mount Street and the ice floes in the Thames have signalled that I no longer need to clear off to the Alps to wear my winter clothes (the other day when I was in Gstaad it was seven or eight degrees warmer than in London). But the habit has stuck. Besides, my children seem to enjoy sliding downhill on long laminated planks. And, on top of a mountain gazing out at creation, cigar in hand, I find it hard to feel too bad about being alive.
I did not realise how cold it could get until I decided not to go skiing – I thought a stout pair of shoes, a heavy tweed suit and a sheepskin coat would be enough to preserve me; it was a lesson learned the hard way. On one occasion it got so cold that, sitting outside, I raised a glass of water to my lips to find that a film of ice had formed across the top of the glass as I was lost in my reverie. And if it does that to my drink, you can imagine how the extremities suffer.
I immediately took expert advice, commissioning a coat from that master in leather and suede, Henri-Georges Zaks at Serpahin in Paris, and equipping myself with a pair of Sorels. Sorels are Canadian, but I was introduced to them in St Moritz one year, when I went to watch the polo on ice there – much easier to follow than the grass-bound version as the ball is bigger and bright orange. They are very warm boots but they are also vast.
Looking down while wearing a pair of Sorels is an unsettling business; if you are not careful, you think your leg is stuck in a moderately-sized well. You can drop stuff, telephones, writing instruments, both volumes of War and Peace and they just disappear into the cavernous blackness of the Sorel. Honestly, it would not surprise me if I removed a Sorel at the end of a hard day’s not skiing and found a couple of dozen Chilean miners awaiting rescue.
Anyway, this year I have determined to try a footwear alternative. In the Ralph Lauren sale I came across a boot called the Redford, a leather and rubber affair with a sheepskin lining and very stylish look. The only slight problem was that the whole of Europe seemed to have come across the Redford boot at the same time: through the wonders of Her Majesty’s internet, the entire network of Ralph Lauren’s European stores was searched and only one pair, a size eight, was found – although which country held this treasure was kept secret, presumably to stop the nation state in question being besieged by bootless non-skiers such as myself. In the end a pair of Redford boots was located in one of the warmer of the American states (after all, how busy can the snow boot section of Ralph Lauren in Palm Beach really get?) and they are currently being sent to the UK.
However, just in case this precious cargo is hijacked along the way by some unscrupulous non-skiing boot fancier, I will be packing one of those large metal tubes, not for my cigars, but rather to rescue anyone who has the misfortune to fall into my Sorels.