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Title: Winter Sports in Switzerland
Author: Benson, E. F. (Edward Frederic)
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                       [Illustration: THE EIGER

                _From the Drawing by Fleming Williams_]



                             WINTER SPORTS
                            IN SWITZERLAND

                                  BY
                             E. F. BENSON

             WITH 12 FULL-PAGE ILLUSTRATIONS IN COLOUR BY
                          C. FLEMING WILLIAMS

               AND 47 REPRODUCTIONS FROM PHOTOGRAPHS BY
                         MRS. AUBREY LE BLOND


                                LONDON
                     GEORGE ALLEN & COMPANY, LTD.
                        44 & 45 RATHBONE PLACE
                                 1913

                         [All rights reserved]

                  Printed by BALLANTYNE, HANSON & CO.
                  at the Ballantyne Press, Edinburgh



CONTENTS


CHAP.                                PAGE

I.    THE SUN-SEEKER                   1

II.   RINKS AND SKATERS               23

III.  TEES AND CRAMPITS               79

IV.   TOBOGGANING                    115

V.    ICE-HOCKEY                     129

VI.   SKI-ING                        137

VII.  NOTES ON WINTER RESORTS        167

VIII. FOR PARENTS AND GUARDIANS      191



ILLUSTRATIONS


PLATE

      THE EIGER (_colour_)                                 _Frontispiece_

I.    WINTER SUNLIGHT                                     }

II.   BY THE STREAM-SIDE                                  }

III.  HOAR-FROST                                          }

IV.   JEWELS OF THE FROST                                 } _At end of_

V.    BLACK ICE ON THE SILS LAKE                          }  _Chap. I,_

VI.   THE BUDDING ICE FLOWERS                             }  _between_

VII.  THE FULL-BLOWN ICE FLOWERS (twenty-four hours later)} _pp. 22 and 23_

VIII. ICE FLOWERS IN DETAIL                               }

IX.   MAGNIFIED ICE FLOWERS                               }

X.    WINTER MOONLIGHT                                    }
      SKATING, ENGLISH STYLE (_colour_)                     _Facing p. 32_
      SKATING, CONTINENTAL STYLE (_colour_)                   _”       34_

XI.   A WINTER HARVEST                                    }

XII.  CLEARING THE SNOW FROM THE RINK                     } _At end of_

XIII. SPRINKLING THE RINK, CHÂTEAU D’OEX                  }  _Chap. II,_

XIV.  PUBLIC RINK, DAVOS                                  }  _between_

XV.   SKATING-RINK AT MÜRREN                              } _pp. 78 and 79_

XVI.  SKATING-RINK AT CHÂTEAU D’OEX                       }
      “SHE LIES” (_colour_)                                 _Facing p. 98_

XVII.  CURLING                                            }  _At end of_

XVIII. CURLING AT MÜRREN                                  }  _Chap. III,_

XIX.   THE THREE KULM RINKS                               }   _between_

XX.    LADIES’ CURLING MATCH, ST. MORITZ                  } _pp. 114 and 115_
       “ACHTUNG!” (_colour_)                               _Facing p. 116_
       ON THE CRESTA RUN (_colour_)                           _”       122_
       TAILING (_colour_)                                     _”       126_

XXI.    THE BUILDING OF THE CRESTA--“BATTLEDORE”          }

XXII.   THE TOP OF THE CRESTA, ST. MORITZ                 }

XXIII.  STARTING ON THE CRESTA                            }

XXIV.   CHURCH LEAP, CRESTA RUN                           }

XXV.    CHURCH LEAP, CRESTA RUN                           }

XXVI.   “BATTLEDORE” CORNER, CRESTA                       } _At end of_

XXVII.  CROSSING THE ROAD, CRESTA                         } _Chap. IV,_

XXVIII. NEAR THE FINISH ON THE CRESTA                     } _between_

XXIX.   BOB-RUN, ST. MORITZ: IN THE LARCH WOODS           } _pp. 128 and 129_

XXX.    ROUNDING SUNNY CORNER, ST. MORITZ BOB-RUN         }

XXXI.   BOB-RUN, ST. MORITZ                               }

XXXII.  THE STRAIGHT FROM THE BRIDGE, ST. MORITZ BOB-RUN  }

XXXIII.  ST. MORITZ BOB-RUN                               }
         ICE HOCKEY (_colour_)                   _        Facing p. 132_
         THE TELEMARK TURN (_colour_)                      _”       156_
         THE JUMP (_colour_)                               _”       164_
         SKI-JORING (_colour_)                             _”       166_

XXXIV.   AT ST. MORITZ                                    }

XXXV.    PRACTICE SLOPES, MONTANA, SWITZERLAND            } _At end of_

XXXVI.   A SLIGHT MISHAP                                  } _Chap. VI,_

XXXVII.  SKI-JUMPING                                      } _between_

XXXVIII. SKI-JUMPING, MONTANA, SWITZERLAND                } _pp. 166 and 167_

XXXIX.   VETERANS OF THE ST. MORITZ SKI CLUB              }

XL.      A PRACTICE GROUND                                }

XLI.     CROSSING THE ROAD ON THE CRESTA                  }

XLII.    TOP OF KLOSTERS RUN, DAVOS                       } _At end of_

XLIII.   THE START, SCHATZ ALP RUN, DAVOS                 } _Chap. VII,_

XLIV.    BOBBING ON THE SCHATZ ALP RUN, DAVOS             } _between_

XLV.     SKATING-RINK AT VILLARS                          } _pp. 190 and 191_

XLVI.    AT LA BRETAYE, VILLARS                           }

XLVII.   “BLOW, BLOW, THOU WINTER WIND”                   }
         THE ICE CARNIVAL (_colour_)                        _Facing p. 194_



WINTER SPORTS IN SWITZERLAND



CHAPTER I

THE SUN-SEEKER


There is an amazingly silly proverb which quite mistakenly tells us that
“seeing is believing.” The most ordinary conjurer at a village
entertainment will prove the falsity of this saying. For who has not
seen one of these plausible mountebanks put a watch into a top-hat, and,
after clearly smashing it into a thousand pieces with a pestle, stir up
the disintegrated fragments with a spoon and produce an omelette? Or who
is so unacquainted with the affairs of the village schoolroom at
Christmas as not to have seen a solid billiard-ball or a lively canary
squeezed out of the side of a friend’s head? Such phenomena are by no
means rare, and occur periodically all over England. The observer’s eyes
have told him that he has seen such things, and the verb “to see” is
merely a compendious expression to indicate that on the evidence of your
eyes such or such a phenomenon has actually occurred. But no one
believes that the disintegrated watch has become an omelette though
ocular evidence--seeing--insists that it has. It was a conjuring trick.
And this leads me to the consideration of the phenomena on which this
whole book is based.

For High Alpine resorts in winter are a conjuring trick of a glorious
and luminous kind. Our commonsense, based on experience, tells us that
ice is cold, but is melted by heat; and that snow is wet; and that
unless you put on a greatcoat when the thermometer registers frost, you
will feel chilly; and that if you frequently fall down in the snow you
will be wet through, and if you do not change your clothes when you
return home you will catch a cold. All these things are quite obvious,
and he who does not grant them as premises to whatever conclusion we may
happen to base on them, is clearly not to be argued with, but soothed
and comforted like a child or taken care of like a lunatic. But High
Alpine winter resorts give, apparently, ocular disproof of all these
obvious statements, and those who go out to these delectable altitudes
in favourable seasons see (which is ocular evidence) every day and all
day the exact opposite of these primitively simple prepositions
regularly and continually taking place. They sit in the sun, when they
are tired of skating, and see that though a torrid luminary beats down
on the frozen surface, burning and browning the faces of their friends,
the ice remains perfectly dry and unmelted; they trudge through snow,
and find that they are not wet; they see the thermometer marking
anything up or down to thirty degrees of frost, and go out coatless and
very likely hatless, and are conscious only of an agreeable and bracing
warmth; they go ski-ing and all day are smothered in snow, and yet
return dry and warm and comfortable to their hotels, and do not catch
any cold whatever. Shakespeare once made an allusion of some kind (I
cannot look all through his plays to find it) about hot ice, meaning to
employ a nonsensical expression. But it is the most striking testimonial
to the magnificence of his brain that all he ever wrote meant
something, although, as in this instance, he designed it not to. For
without doubt he was alluding to what appears to occur at St. Moritz or
Mürren.

But it is all a conjuring trick, or so these altitudinists are disposed
to think when they return home to the dispiriting chills of a normal
February in England, and find that when the thermometer marks 45° or
thereabouts they shiver disconsolately in the clemming cold. Even when
they were out in Switzerland they hardly believed what appeared to be
happening, for they found that if the weather changed, and instead of
the windless calm, or a light north-wind, the Föhn-wind blew from the
south-west, warm and enervating, then, in proportion as the thermometer
mounted, they felt increasingly cold. All these things, though they
thought they saw and felt them, were of the nature of a conjuring trick,
and they never, after their return to the lowlands, really believed
them. It was obviously impossible that they could have felt warm and
dry, after being rolled in the snow. It must have been an illusion,
capable of immediate disproof if they now went out without a coat, or
sat down on a snowy London pavement. A pleasant illusion, no doubt, but
clearly an illusion. It was like the omelette emerging from the top-hat,
into which a watch had, only a moment before, been placed and pestled.

And if those who think they have experienced these phenomena, which so
clearly contradict the most elementary laws of Nature, cannot fully
believe in them when they re-enter the chilly spring of England, still
less do those who have not experienced them find it possible even to
simulate credulity when the foolish Alpinist recounts them. I rather
fancy that people who have never been to the high altitudes in winter,
believe that all those who say they have done so, and come back and tell
their friends that sun does not melt ice, and that snow is dry, and that
ten degrees of frost is an agreeable temperature to stroll about in
without a coat, are in some sort of inexplicable conspiracy. But the
conspiracy is so widely spread now, and is still spreading so fast, that
one’s remarks on the subject are received with politeness nowadays,
though still with incredulity. Some strange wandering of the wits has
taken possession of the conspirators, who are otherwise harmless. And,
such is the force with which their illusion holds them, and so anxious
are they that credence should be given to it, that they employ some sort
of skin-dye to add completeness to their strange tales, and appear with
brown hands and faces when they come back to the anæmic metropolis. They
are clearly the victims of some obscure but infectious derangement of
the brain, of which the chief symptoms are those strange illusions and
an immense appetite.... And, as I have said, the victims of these
illusions, before they have spent many days in England, are already
themselves wondering whether all these things really were so, or whether
they were but the fabric of a pleasing dream. But they make plans to
dream again about the middle of the ensuing autumn, and for the most
part find that the vision is recapturable. It is all great nonsense; but
if you take a suitable ticket at a suitable time of the year, and go
where that ticket will allow you, the nonsense is found to be recurrent.

I do not know whether ice and snow, and all the forms of the “radiant
frost,” as Shelley calls it, are in themselves more beautiful than the
spectacle, to which we are accustomed, of an unfrozen world, or whether
it is merely because we are unused to the gleams and sparkle of these
whitenesses, that we find them so entrancingly lovely. It would be
interesting, for instance, to ascertain whether an Esquimo or other
dweller in the Arctics accustomed to ice, would go into ecstasies of
admiration at the sight--shall we say--of Hyde Park Corner on a moist
warm day of September, when the roadway is swimming in a thick brown
soup of mud, and gusts of tepid rain stream on the wind-swept
lamp-posts, thus supporting the idea that it is to the novelty of the
spectacle that the arousing of our appreciation is due. Certainly it
would be hard to say that anything in the world is more beautiful than a
beech-tree in spring, or a crimson rambler in full flower, or glimpses
of the Mediterranean in a frame of grey-green olive-trees; and I am
inclined to believe that it is partly the contrast which a sunny morning
in winter among the High Alps presents to all that a Londoner has known
or dreamed of hitherto that partly accounts for the ineffable
impressions it never fails in producing on him. And to that we must add
the exhilarating and invigorating effect of the still dry air, and the
sun that all day pours Pactolus over the gleaming fields. In such an air
and in such a flood of light all our senses and perceptions are
quickened, the vitality of our organs is increased, and with the
wonderful feeling of _bien-être_ which the conditions give, our
appreciation is kindled too. I always feel that it _must_ have been on a
frosty morning that David said: “I opened my mouth and drew in my
breath.” And perhaps on that day the cedars of Lebanon were covered with
the crystals of hoar-frost, and below the snowy uplands the dim blue of
the sea slept insapphirined at the bases of the shining cliffs....

I lick the chops of memory, and go back in thought to the middle of
December, when, having previously determined not to go abroad till
January, I hurriedly fly the country, like a criminal seeking to escape
from the justice that is hot on the heels of a murderer. In such wise do
I fly from my conscience--conscience, I may remark, is one of the things
that everybody leaves behind when he goes to the High Alps: apparently
it and other poisonous organisms, such as the bacillus of tuberculosis
cannot exist in those altitudes--while below my breath I again register
the frequently broken vow that I will be at home again by the middle of
January at the latest. For indeed it seems impossible to tolerate London
any longer just now: the fogs have begun (these are the excuses with
which I seek to stay the protests of conscience, before I fly from it),
and for three days last week we lived in a thick and ominous twilight of
dusky orange, tasting evilly of soot and sulphurous products. At
intervals a copper-coloured plate showed itself above the house roofs:
and, oh, to think that this mean metallic circle was indeed none other
than the hot radiant giant that in the happier climes was rejoicing to
run his course across the turquoise expanse of cloudless sky; that this
remote and meaningless object was the same that sparkled on dazzling
peak and precipice and turned the untrodden snows to sheets of diamond
dust. Then after three days of Stygian gloom the fog was dispersed by a
shrewd and shrill north wind, and for a whole morning snow fell heavily,
which, as it touched the pavements and roadways of town more than
usually befouled by the fog, turned into a base and degrading substance
resembling melting coffee-ice. The streets swam in the icy treacle of
it, and motor-buses and other ponderous vehicles cast undesired helpings
of it at the legs of foot-passengers. After this dispiriting day the
weather changed again and a tepid south-westerly gale squealed through
the streets. This was too much: I bought a quantity of what is known as
sermon-paper and two new stylographs (this was another sop to
conscience, and implied the intention of working out in Switzerland),
made a few hasty and craven arrangements on the telephone, and slid out
of Charing Cross Station at 2.20 P.M. precisely next day, leaving
conscience, like an abandoned wife, sobbing on the platform.

Now, while journeys, whether on land or sea, are apt to be but tiresome
businesses when they are undertaken at the call of some tedious errand,
they are vastly different affairs when they conduct the traveller to
joyful places and delectable pursuits. They are coloured by that which
awaits him at the end of them (like the sweetness of sugar permeating
tea), and this particular progress is to me full of romantic happenings.
Dusk is already closing in before I reach the coast, and as the train
halts on the hill above Folkestone, before being towed backwards down to
the harbour, I can see the lights beginning to twinkle in the town and
along the pier, which is surrounded by the great grey immensity of the
wave-flecked sea. A fine rain is falling dismally, and as I hurry across
the slippery quay I am weighed down by an enormous greatcoat (the
pockets of which, I am sorry to say, are “salted” by various packets of
cigarettes, which is why I wear it), and I stagger under the weight of a
suit-case, sooner than part with which I would die. For the French or
Swiss railway companies often (no doubt with humorous intent) arrange
that the traveller’s large luggage shall not arrive for twenty-four
hours or so after he has got to his destination, and in less experienced
years I have packed my boots and skates in these detained trunks, and
have been obliged to wait in savage inaction till the railway company
has come to the end of its joke, just as one waits for the end of a long
funny story. Not so now: my inseparable bag contains my large and
cumbrous skate-shod boots as a first charge, and after they have been
stowed, the mere necessities of life, like clothes and dressing-case, as
opposed to its joys, fill the rest. Even in the harbour the steamer
sways with the back-wash of the heavy seas outside, and the
mooring-ropes squeak and strain to its unease. I stick in the narrow
gang-plank that conducts in precipitous incline to the deck (at least
the corner of my suit-case does, which is part of my identity); a faint
and awful smell of red plush sofas and cold beef comes up from the
stairs leading to the saloon; the tarpaulins, rigged up along the open
passage between decks, flap uneasily and are buffeted by the rain-soaked
wind, and sailors hurry about with white japanned tin objects in their
hands....

All this sounds dismal and dispiriting enough, but such incidents, I
repeat, take their colour from that to which they lead the traveller,
and when bound for Switzerland they are all haloed in a vague
pleasurable sense of excitement and romance. We put out on the turbulent
and windy sea, and as we round the end of the pier the whole boat
shivers as a great white-headed wave strikes her. It is cold and wet on
deck, but I have to linger there while the cliffs of my beloved native
land vanish into the grey of the swift on-coming night, and feel a
perfect glow of enthusiasm at the idea of not setting eyes on them again
for another month or so (probably “so”: because conscience is now far
away, perhaps still waiting at Charing Cross Station, in case I return
by the next train), and already I am beginning to be doubtful whether I
really made a vow to be back by the middle of January. I pass rows of
silent figures with closed eyes reclining on deck-chairs in the more
sheltered corners: then the whole ship makes a scooping curtsey into the
trough of a wave, and the water pours sonorously on to the deck. Shrill
whistles the wind in the rigging, and a raucous steam-siren proclaims to
all the traffic in the Channel that we are off to Switzerland to skate,
having left our consciences and the white cliffs of England behind us,
and not caring two straws, at this delightful moment, as to whether we
ever see any of them again.

I love the landing on the friendly shores of France, the waiting while
the ship is reluctantly coaxed sidling up to the pier, the hustle to get
through the custom-house and enter the warm, well-lit train. The foreign
tongue is delightful to the ear: so, too, to the eye, the blue-bloused
porters, and the unplatformed station, where the huge carriages tower
high above one, emitting mysterious jets of steam. All is strange and
new and delightful: the engine of unaccustomed build and outlandish
voice, the grey upholstered compartments with their hot-carpeted floors,
the restaurant car with bottle-filled racks, where presently I sit, part
of a moving pageant of eating and drinking, as we shriek through
stations and scour with ever-increasing velocity through the darkness of
a stormy night. At Laon mysterious jugglings take place: another string
of carriages is slowly shunted on to our train, to the accompaniment of
many cries of warning and encouragement and wavings of lanterns, and the
buffers come home with a soft thud. We cast off our tail, lizard-like,
which is hauled away to travel divergently to Basle, and soon we are
thundering on again by the more direct route to Berne. At some timeless
hour a long halt is made, and compartment doors are flung open with the
sonorous proclamation of the arrival of _les messieurs de la douane_.
Enter _les messieurs_, and at their sesame bags fly open, and with
strange staves they explore the hidden recesses under the seats, in
their nightly search for laces and spirits and cigarettes and all the
contraband of peace. Soon this complimentary visit is over, the green
shades are adjusted again over the lamps, and the vibration and rhythm
of the racing wheels mingle and blend themselves into the blurred edges
of dream....

I do not wake until we are actually slowing down to enter Berne--that
city so justly famous for its bears, its President of this delectable
republic, and its terrace from which the eager tourist vainly scans the
impenetrable clouds which invariably screen from his view all possible
glimpses of the mountains of the Oberland. Whenever I arrive at Berne it
is always a grey chilly morning, just above freezing point, so that the
icy streets are half slush. At first this used to depress me with
ominous forebodings of a thaw at the higher altitudes: now I know that
all the winter through it is always just thawing at Berne, and that the
sky there always is heavily be-clouded. I think a sunny frosty morning
there would cause me some considerable anxiety, for it would imply a
complete upset of climatic conditions, and midsummer might be expected
to hold its abhorred sway on the heights. So in perfect equanimity I
climb back again into our train--heated to the temperature of the second
hottest room in a Turkish bath--and we jog in more leisurely fashion
through the half-frozen villages towards the lake of Thun. These
villages are mainly composed of houses taken from the larger-sized boxes
of toys, with stones fastened down on their wood-shingle eaves to
prevent their roofs blowing away, and with staircases, clearly built for
ornament, and completely unpractical, climbing up the outside of their
walls. Stations and banks and hotels seem to be constructed with a view
to moderate permanence; the rest are clearly so made that they can be
taken up and planted down somewhere else. Then as we emerge on to the
edges of the lake, higher hills begin to tower across its steely-grey
levels, and rifts in the clouds that shroud their heads and hunched
shoulders show glimpses of sun that shine on the whiteness of snow. Mile
after mile we pursue a meandering way along the shores, and thread the
darkness of hoarse tunnels, whose lips are fringed with dripping
icicles, and the sense of something coming, something high and clear,
begins to grow. Though in front, where Interlaken lies, a veil of
grey-blue mist is interspersed between us and that which, I know, soars
above it, the clouds are beginning on all sides to become unravelled
like wool-work pulled out, and through the rents and torn edges gleams
of turquoise sky are seen. High up climb serrated rims of rock, cut
vividly clear against the blue and fringed with aspiring pines; higher
yet, where the boldest of these brave vegetables can find no footing,
further ridges appear austere and empty and gleaming. Yet these are but
the outlying buttresses and ramparts of the great towers at the base of
which they lean and cluster: to-night we shall sleep in an eyrie far
above them, and far above us yet will watch the unscaled precipices of
the great range, over the edge of which the unheeding stars climb and
swim into sight all night long, pouring the golden dew of their shining
upon forest and glacier, until the snows are rosy with dawn.

We paused in Interlaken Central Station to draw breath after our
lake-side amble. Here the snow lay crisp and hard-trodden in the
streets, but overhead the gutters gurgled and the eaves of houses
dripped with its melting in this brilliant morning. No shred of cloud
was left in all the shining heavens, and like the flanks of a galloped
horse the pine-clad hillsides steamed in the sun.... And then the
miracle.... As we steamed forth again to the Eastern station, a long
valley lying between two wooded hills opened out, and there, clear in
the light of the young day, and white with virgin snows and blue with
precipices of ice, and set in the illimitable azure, rose the Queen of
Mountains, the maiden, the Jungfrau, peaked and domed and pinnacled in
ineffable crystal.

The Jungfrau is and will always be my mistress among mountains, as she
was when I first saw her at the age of twelve. One mistake I have made
in my conduct towards her, and that was ten years later when I climbed
her--and yet who could tell she would prove so tedious and heavy (not in
hand but in foot)? For I approached the lady of my adoration from the
Concordia hut, and instead of feasting my eyes at every step on her
queenly gracious carriage and maiden slenderness, I found that the
closer I got to her the more did she appear round-shouldered, not to say
hump-backed. In addition, a quantity of fresh snow had fallen, and we
had a long tiresome and utterly unexciting trudge, a hot and stodgy
affair. I had imagined that ventures and perils would have to be
encountered for this wooing and winning of her, with balancings and
poisings on stairways of precipitous ice and needles of pinnacled rock:
instead she had to be solidly and laboriously and dully approached; it
was like wooing some great bolster or gigantic cow. For a little while
after that I cared nothing for her; she was a mature and silent barmaid
of vast proportions, but gradually her charm and enchantment cast their
spell over me again, the dissolution of which I intend never to risk in
the future, unless I approach her by a more hazardous and daring route.
To those who approach her dully, she gives herself dully: the more
daring wooer she may perhaps kill, but she does not bore him.

But the wonder of her, when seen through clear air with the brilliant
winter sky around her head from the entrance to this valley that leads
up to Lauterbrunnen! Up it we steamed in a little angry rattling
snorting train, which cut itself in half to take some of its aspiring
contents to Grindelwald on the left, and others among whom I numbered
myself to Wengen and to Mürren. By the side of our way ran a turbulent
mountain stream fed by the glaciers of the Oberland, too swift to freeze
altogether, but with its backwaters and sheltered reaches covered over
with lids of ice. For all its glacier-birth steam rose from it in the
icy air that hovered in shaded places, and the alders and hazels that
hung over it were thickly encrusted with the marvellous jewellery of
the hoar-frost, spiked and _parsemès_ and refoliaged in wondrous winter
growth with tendrils and scrolls of minutest diamond-dust. Narrower grew
the valley, steeper and taller the wooded hills that overhung it till at
last we reached Lauterbrunnen, close to which the Staubbach, most
amazing of all waterfalls, leaps a clear eight hundred feet from the
edge of the high plateau-shelf, which skirts along the mountain-side on
to the rocks below. Even in summer, when the melting of the snows that
feed the stream make it of far greater volume than when the stricture of
frost is on it, the water, poured as from a jug-spout, disintegrates in
its fall, so that it reaches the valley more in wreaths of mist than in
solid water, and collects again from the dripping rocks; while in winter
its diminished volume is further spent in the manufacture of the huge
icicles that fringe the edge of its leaping-place, and hang in great
streamers, the beard and hair, you would say, of the very Frost-king
himself, who sits at ease on this precipitous throne. Little water
to-day runs away from where the clouds of mist and water-smoke fall on
the rocks, for most of them are frozen there, and a layer of ice covers
the boulders where they come to earth. For here, so engorged lies the
valley, so close to the great rampart of the Oberland, that the sun
which blazed on Interlaken has not yet surmounted the barrier of
mountain-peaks.

Parallel with the Staubbach, and up a hillside which appears hardly less
sheer than the precipice itself, runs the funicular railway which leads
to the Mürren-plateau. At first sight it seems as if it must be meant
for a practical joke, constructed by humorous engineers to astonish the
weak minds of travellers, and, though practical from the point of view
of a joke, to be perfectly impracticable as a means of conveyance. Its
steepness is that of disordered images seen in a dream, and it was with
a sense of utter incredulity that I first took my place in one of the
small wooden compartments and was locked in by an apparently sane and
serious conductor. He blew a whistle, or a bell sounded, just as is done
on real lines of traffic, and immediately afterwards we began to ascend
that impossible line of rails, sauntering with smooth and steady
progress up that ridiculous precipice. More amazing still we soon
observed a similar car sauntering steadily down it, just strolling down,
even as we were strolling up. We met, we passed, and I had a vision of
passengers smoking and chatting, as if nothing in the least remarkable
was happening and imminent death did not await us all....

But more remarkable things than that were happening. Upwards from the
valley we climbed on this Jacob’s ladder that reached if not to Heaven,
to very heavenly places. Pine woods and rocks melted away below,
streaming quietly downwards; presently we were level with the top of the
towering precipice from which the Staubbach was discharged, and
presently that too was left below. But higher as we mounted there
climbed with us, in fresh unfoldings of glaciers and peaks and
glittering snow fields, the great range of the Oberland. New peaks “met
Heaven in snow,” new _arêtes_, too steep and wind-swept to allow a
vestige of snow to lie there pointed arrow-like to the tops above them.
Eiger, Monch, Silberhorn, and Jungfrau towered glittering just across
the Lauterbrunnen valley from which we had come, and as we sidled along
the upland shelf on which Mürren stands, gradually the whole range
spread itself out in tremendous rampart, radiant, rejoicing, and
austere. For foreground was this narrow ledge of white fields dotted
here and there with cattle-châlets, and pines scattered singly or in
companies, all wearing plumes and tippets of snow that made their
foliage seem a black blot in the sunlight, and soon the congregation of
village roofs appeared, and Mürren stood bathed and basking in sunshine,
drowned, so to speak, in the sparkling champagne of the invigorating
winter morning. And the intoxication of the high places, an entrancing
vintage of oxygen and ice and sun, invaded limb and sinew and brain.

It is supposed by those who have never seen the infinite variety of
forms into which frost converts mist and dew and all manner of water,
that there must be a monotony in those vast expanses of snow and ice.
They figure to themselves the depressing spectacle of snow as it usually
appears in England, smooth and soft and wet, and too close a cousin to
slush not to be tainted with a family resemblance; the image called up
by ice is a grey surface in which are imbedded dead leaves, twigs and
stones thrown on to it by boys for purposes not clearly understandable,
while all they know of hoar-frost is an evanescent decoration that
occurs at the edges of ditches and on lawns when tea is being made in
the morning and disappears as soon as the poached eggs, leaving the
grass soaked and dripping. But as is crystal to soap so are those
radiant congelations of the High Alps to the same as seen beneath grey
skies and unluminous days. Here, if snow has fallen, as sometimes
happens, while wind is blowing, it is driven into all manner of curving
wave crests and undulations; then when the fall is over, the sky clears
again, a night of frost hardens and congeals the outlines, and the trees
wear fine feathers and plumes of whiteness. As the snowfall packs with
its own weight, there grows on the surface of the fields a crust half
snow, half ice, covered with dazzling minute crystals. During the fall
of the snow there has been moisture in the air, and often on that
brilliant morning that succeeds the fall, the air is full of minute
frozen particles of water that sparkle like the old-fashioned
glass-decoration on Christmas cards, so that one walks through a shining
company of tiniest diamond fire-flies. And the frozen surface of snow
reflects the wonderful azure and gold of sun and sky, and here in the
blaze it lies white beneath a vivid yellow, there in the shade a dim
blue permeates it. After a few days of hot sun more of the fall will
have melted and slipped from the trees, and they stand black-foliaged
and red-trunked waiting for the decoration of the hoar-frost. The one
more night of frost covers every sprig and fir-needle with amazing
spikes and fernlike sprays of minute crystal. Wondrous are their
growths, more particularly if, as sometimes happens, some cold mist
comes up from the valleys. Then with a craze for decoration almost
ludicrous, you shall see your friends with hair and eyebrows bedecked
with these jewels, each separate hair wearing its frozen garniture, and
their coats and stockings ornamented in like manner. They grow white in
a single minute almost; and such as have moustaches, close to the
moisture of their breath will suddenly turn to walruses with long
dependence of icicles. And yet--here is a conjuring trick again--though
ice and frost frame their faces they are conscious of no cold at all.

Marvellous, too, are the dealings of the frost with the running streams
and the lakes such as those at St. Moritz or Davos or Sils. Often,
unfortunately, it happens that a snowfall will occur when they are but
lightly frozen over, in which case the snow quite covers them, breaks
through perhaps in places, and with the ice already formed, makes a
rough uneven surface useless to the skater, and to the beholder no more
than a level snow-field, with perhaps ugly stains on it where the water
has come through and formed the grey ice, which is of no artistic
moment. But sometimes it happens that a snowfall occurs before any ice
has formed on the lake, and thus, though it lies on the surrounding
ground, it melts in the water, and at the end of the fall the lake is
still unfrozen, though the winter mantle lies over field and wood. Then
let us suppose there comes a hard frost with no more snow. Night after
night ice absolutely clear like glass forms on the water and gradually
thickens. If the days are windless it is entirely smooth, and
practically invisible, so that it is impossible to believe that you are
not looking on a sheet of water. Then the glad word goes forth that the
lake bears, and you hurry forth to skate on it. But mountain and wood
and landscape are all mirrored in it as in perfectly still water, and it
is almost incredible that here is ice a foot or two thick. Tremblingly
you launch yourself on it, scarcely able to believe in its solidity; for
through that unwavering surface you see every weed and stump under
water. The very fishes flit and flick visibly below your feet, and so
glassy is it that through it it is possible to see the subaqueous
foundations of the lacustrine dwellings in the lake of Sils, never to be
seen unless the lake is frozen, since the slightest ripple of the water
sets the surface a-quiver and mars its translucency. But seen through
this foot or so of perfectly clear ice--black ice, as it is called--it
is as if one looked through that charming contrivance called the
bathyscope, by which you can observe the depths of the sea. Below the
ice, the water lies still and in a calm sheltered by this solid ceiling
of crystal, and you see, as if in an aquarium, the fishes and the
water-weeds, and all the gales that ever blew will not shatter the
reflections or obscure the depths. Then when your courage has come to
you, and you begin to grasp the fact that an army might march across
this invisible plain of ice without breaking through, you will no doubt
venture forth from the shore, and feel what you never feel on rinks and
other prepared surfaces of ice, the divine elasticity of your floor. And
very likely just when you are some half-mile from the shore, you will be
terror-stricken to hear a crack as of artillery resound close to you,
and a great crack will zigzag like lightning through the ice. The first
time you hear that, the present writer is willing to wager any
reasonable sum that your face will blanch (unless too sun-tanned) and
you will skate with incredible celerity for the nearest land. But that
salvo portends no danger whatever, except if your skate-blade enters
such a crack (of which there will be, unfortunately, a considerable
number in the course of a few days) longitudinally. Then it is true you
may have a fall, but these explosions do not mean that you will ever be
food for fishes.

But after a few days, in all probability, even though no snow falls, the
surface of the ice, except where it is kept swept, becomes useless for
skating, thanks to another of the wonderful conjuring tricks of the
frost. Owing to dew, or from other moisture in the air, there begin to
form upon the ice little nuclei of hoar-frost such as are seen in Plate
VI. They look harmless enough, and with perfect justice you admire
their exquisite fanlike fronds, and think no more of them. But in a
couple of days the same surface, as shown from the identical point of
view in Plate VII, presents a totally different aspect, and one which is
clearly discouraging to the most ardent of skaters. But then, since you
are finally and completely and irrevocably thwarted in any ambition to
skate on this depressing surface (for it is as if all the ice-moles in
the world had made their common earth there, multiplying exceedingly),
you will be wise to examine and admire the astounding forms of this
fairy frost-work before it becomes confluent, and, losing the
individuality of its separate tufts, covers the whole lake like powdery
snow. In Plate VIII you may see the marvellous delicacy in detail of
these bouquets of frost-flowers, and the same on larger scale in Plate
IX, where they are already becoming a very jungle of anti-tropical
growth.

In that wonderful poem “By the Fireside,” Robert Browning, in speaking
of the Alps in autumn, says:

    “But at afternoon or almost eve
     ’Tis better; then the silence grows
     To that extent you half believe
     It must get rid of what it knows
     Its bosom does so heave.”

And that which he weds to such lovely language is another of the spells
which the circle of the Alpine day and night weaves round us. Only, I
think, in winter the silence which he speaks of at evening, or, he might
have added at night, is a thing incredible to those who, I may almost
say, have never heard that silence. In spring or summer or autumn it is
broken by sounds of cowbells perhaps, and, almost certainly by a murmur
of wind in pine-woods, or of water hurrying from the heights. But in
winter, on a still evening those evidences of life are dumb, and yet the
silence itself is pregnant with vitality. At sunset the high tops burn
in rose-coloured flame, and as the glory fades into the toneless velvet
of the frosty sky, the stars in their wheeling are of a brilliance
utterly unknown to lower altitudes, except perhaps where the desert lies
fallow and dry beneath Egyptian skies, and no emanation from the earth
dims the burning of these “patins of bright gold.” But that “quiring to
the bright-eyed Seraphim” reaches not the mortal ear, and at evening or
at night in these High Alps, there is felt, as it were, that ecstasy of
silence that seems on the point of bursting into chorus: “it must get
rid of what it knows.” Nowhere else have I felt so rapturous a quality
of stillness: the frozen snow lies taut under the grip of the immense
energy of the frost: no avalanches slipping from the snow-laden flanks
of the Jungfrau under the hot beams of the sun, startle the valley with
sonorous thunder: the wind stirs not the lightest needle of the pines;
the villagers are home from the frozen fields, and doors are shut.
Slowly the last rose-colour fades from the peaks, and the stars
brighten, and you hold your breath to hear the most wonderful thing you
have ever heard--utter stillness, that yet is strained almost to
bursting point with the energies that make it, the peace that passes
understanding that lies above the snow and beneath the stars....

       *       *       *       *       *

Then having heard it, having thought perhaps you understood it, or best
of all, being conscious that you do not understand it at all, you may
start for home, and glide on your skis down a slope to the very doors of
your hotel. Probably you will have a great many falls, for it is the
most difficult thing in the world--which is saying a good deal--to ski
with the smallest success in a fading or faded light. But you will have
heard the silence of the winter night: that will generously console you
for your misadventures....

[Illustration:

PLATE I

WINTER SUNLIGHT]

[Illustration:

PLATE II

BY THE STREAM-SIDE]

[Illustration:

PLATE III

HOAR-FROST]

[Illustration:

PLATE IV

JEWELS OF THE FROST]

[Illustration:

PLATE V

BLACK ICE ON THE SILS LAKE]

[Illustration:

PLATE VI

THE BUDDING ICE FLOWERS]

[Illustration:

PLATE VII

THE FULL-BLOWN ICE FLOWERS

(twenty-four hours later)]

[Illustration:

PLATE VIII

ICE FLOWERS IN DETAIL]

[Illustration:

PLATE IX

MAGNIFIED ICE FLOWERS]

[Illustration:

PLATE X

WINTER MOONLIGHT]



CHAPTER II

RINKS AND SKATERS


Something has already been said about the swift-growing jungles of
frost-flowers that so speedily cause the lakes in Switzerland to be
utterly useless for all purposes connected with skates. It suddenly
strikes the writer that the inexperienced in these matters will have
concluded that I mean that when once those frost-flowers have formed all
skating is over, and that if they have gone to Switzerland for the
indulgence of this taste, all that is henceforth to be offered them is
the opportunity to admire this frozen vegetation instead of cutting
figures. I therefore hasten to assure them that lake skating in
Switzerland _does not count_; indeed most winter resorts have no lake at
all; and even if they have, skating there is quite the exception and not
the rule. In nine cases out of ten the snow spoils the ice before it
bears, and the frost-flowers spoil the greater part of it, even if the
snow has held off, almost immediately afterwards. Lake-skating, in fact,
is of the nature of a bonus rather than a dividend: to be enjoyed if it
happens, but by no means to be reckoned on.

But at every Swiss resort there are rinks made, which render the skater
independent of natural surfaces of ice, and those, at all well-conducted
places, are “new every morning,” because every evening they are swept
and sprinkled with water, which by the ensuing day has frozen, and
presents a fresh surface to the zealot. In fact, an artificial
skating-rink is as necessary an equipment in the Swiss winter resort as
is the hotel itself. The construction and renovation of these rinks is
most interesting, and ranks among the fine arts, just as does the
architecture of a fine golf-links or the preparation of good wickets.
These rinks are used for two purposes: skating, including bandy or ice
hockey, and curling. I do not count ice-gymkhanas or ice-carnivals,
because anything is good enough for them. You can play the shovel-game
or crawl through barrels among the jungles of frost-flowers. I do not
imply that such entertainment is not exceedingly amusing; I only mean
that the artist in rink-making paints his masterpieces primarily for the
sake of the skater and the curler, not for the Pierrot with his Chinese
lantern, or those who win three-legged races.

The technique of these ice-pictures is in brief as follows:

In the beginning of the creation (from the skater’s point of view) a
piece of ground is carefully and accurately levelled. This, if it is to
be the foundation of a well-and truly-laid rink in the ensuing winter,
should be done early in the spring, because the ground will have then
had time to settle down, and the inequalities which always occur in this
settling can be made good, before the first frosts of the autumn begin,
and the soil gets fixed and frozen. Also, so I am told, the fact that
the ground will then be covered with a growth of weeds and grasses,
causes the foundation of the rink to be of better quality. This is
easily understandable: the base is matted, and is probably more coherent
in texture and less liable to contain holes through which the water may
drain away. Then, when the whole ground has been doctored, _i.e._ when
the small inequalities have been corrected and it is as uniformly level
as can be expected of anything in this shifting world, everybody sits
down and smokes (as is the habit of the Swiss peasant) till the first
good snowfall comes, probably in November or early in December. Then the
merry peasant has to put down his pipe and work begins again.

A row of them (I am describing the most up-to-date method) stand close
together with arms interlocked, in as straight a line as may be, and
trample down all this beautiful fresh snow. Up and down they go, in slow
time, stamping heavily with their great feet, and making out of perhaps
a foot of snow some 3 or 4 inches at the most, of really compact and
hard foundation. It will resemble at the best, as regards evenness, a
lane over which flocks of ponderous sheep have passed; but the
groundwork (this is the main point) will be of hardened snow, though
extremely rough of surface. Then they may all sit down and smoke their
pipes again--all, that is, except the headman and those who pull about,
at his bidding, the yards of hose which at one end terminate in a brass
nozzle, at the other in the water-supply, which should run in the main
at high pressure. This water is then turned on to the compacted snow
which gets soaked with it, and, if a few nights of hard frost follow the
original snowfall, becomes gradually converted into a sort of rough but
glazed and solid ice. Then, if nothing untoward happens, in the shape of
thaw or further snowfall, the next step is taken. But if there is during
these few days a thaw, they have to wait for more snow to fall, and do
their trampling over again; while if there is more snow, the poor
wretches have still to trample and get the foundations firm again. But
if all goes well--and the experienced iceman will delay the original
trampling until the barometer or his weather-sense (preferably the
former) promises cold weather to follow--he makes his second operation.
He will have built a small bank of snow perhaps 3 feet high and
well-spaded down, round his rink, and have sprinkled that as well as his
rink surface, so that it is at any rate glazed with ice and water-tight.
Then, waiting for a bright sunny morning, he floods the whole rink with
perhaps 2 inches of water. The sunniness of the day is most important
for this operation: if he put on this flood on a cold day, or at evening
when a frosty night was imminent, all the water he put on, lying on the
cold frozen surface below, and with the frosty air above it would freeze
solid without cohering to the original frozen foundation. But putting it
on while the sun is hot, the top surface of the foundation is percolated
with the flood, and when the frost of the night follows, the flood binds
with it. One night possibly may not consolidate the flood: if it does
not, he waits till another night completes the work. All the time, it
must be remembered, the rink presents the most depressing appearance:
little bits of frozen snow have floated up to the surface, frost-flowers
perhaps have made their ill-starred appearance, and it still somewhat
resembles a sheep-trampled lane. But then things begin to look better:
and another inch of water is put on, and then another inch, and then
another, each being consolidated before the next is applied, and each
being applied not in the evening, but when the sun will slightly melt
the previous surface. With each of these floodings the ice grows more
desirably smooth, and more immaculately clean, till at the end of
perhaps a fortnight there is something like 18 inches of solid ice over
the ground that was levelled in the spring. At least this thickness is
required if the ice is to last properly, for even in mid-winter the most
sickening series of climatic catastrophes may occur, which, unless there
is good thickness of ice originally built up, may spoil the rink
altogether. For on hot sunny days, though the surface of the ice remains
quite dry, very great evaporation occurs, and the dryness of the air
drinks up the melted ice before it visibly or tangibly becomes water. Or
again, even in the most well-conducted winters, at the most approved
resorts, there may be a complete thaw, and “the pools are filled with
water,” which also evaporates. In both these cases, there is a
consequent loss of ice, and the bullion, so to speak, must be able to
stand the drain upon it. Still worse, there may be a snowfall followed
by a thaw, followed by a frost. The thaw has eaten into the ice; the
frost has caused this rodent mixture to get encrusted again. And then,
if there is not good depth of ice, the most excruciating events tread on
each others’ heels. The ground below the thin ice is warmed with the
penetrating sun, and begins to exude bubbles; the bubbles rise, and
horrible water-blisters, skinned over with ice, appear. The skates crash
through them (“and langwedge which I will not pollewt my pen with
describing,” as Miss Fanny Squeers said) and cut into the half-frozen
ground, which thereupon begins to leak. The most awful mess ... there
are no words for it. Therefore it is necessary, as soon as possible, to
get a good thickness of ice.

But this building-up of the rink requires immense patience and
forethought. Night after night when the building is going on, and the
weather is warm and beastly, the head iceman, if he is really competent,
will sit up through the long tale of dark hours, keeping himself awake
with coffee, and watching the thermometer to see when it registers
sufficient degrees of frost to enable him to put more water on to the
ice. He will wait all through a cloudy night, hoping for the sky to
clear, in order to get a half inch more foundation. It is useless and
worse than useless to apply more water unless there are several degrees
of frost, for this only weakens his original trampled foundation of
snow, and leads to the awful trouble of blisters coming up from the
ground. But if even an hour or two before daybreak the temperature
sinks, and there is a chance of gaining a further thickness of ice, he
will rouse his men, and at any rate spray or sprinkle the whole surface
of the rink, in order to get a little more ice, just a little more.
Night and day, like a mother over a sick child (I am not exaggerating),
a man like Rudolf Baumann, and others not so well known to me, will
watch over their rink, to console, to fill up holes, to add another
fibre of underlying muscle.

But even when a couple of feet of solid ice are built up over the
ground, the trouble of the iceman is not over. Again a snowfall may
come, followed by a thaw, and the removal of this reveals sometimes a
terrible sort of chicken-pox on the ice. If the snowfall is followed by
cold weather, not much harm is done, for the snow is removed by shovels
and barrows, and a sprinkle of water over the whole rink--sprinklings
being made at night, since a sprinkle freezes almost as it falls,
opposed to the slower habits of a flood--shows next day that the rink is
no whit the worse. But if a thaw follows a snowfall, the general laws of
nature are suspended, in order to thwart icemen and skaters.
Theoretically, the surface of the ice below the melting snow will thaw
evenly. Practically, it does nothing of the kind. The surface is
unaffected in one spot, and immediately adjoining it has thawed into a
small round hole about 6 inches in circumference. Why this happens I
cannot say, except that it is part of the general malignity of natural
law; but the effect is apparent enough, and when the thawing snow is
removed, the ice is found to be covered by numberless small holes. Each
one of these has to be filled up by hand, with a freezing mixture of
snow and water, or better of pounded ice and water.... There are rinks
in Switzerland 300 yards long--I leave the consideration of these, in
the matter of labour required, to mathematicians who like dealing with
progressions that approach the infinite.

Now the shrinkage of the ice already gained goes on all winter long,
owing to the evaporation of the surface, and owing to the cutting edges
of skates, which cover it with a sawdust of frozen stuff that has to be
swept off every evening. This perpetual loss must be made good, or else
the rink would soon vanish altogether, and it is made good by floodings
or sprinklings. A flood of a couple of inches over the whole surface is
of course the easiest way of doing this, but it is far the least
satisfactory. For, as I have said, the flood must be put on while the
sun is still on the ice, to enable it to bind into the ice already
formed, and thus hours of daylight are lost to the skater. Furthermore,
unless a really severe night follows, it will not be all properly
frozen. So the good ice-maker, instead of turning skaters off the ice,
and getting by one flood sufficient thickness to last for three or four
days more, sprinkles instead. This is a far longer and more troublesome
process, for with his hose-pipe with its small nozzle he has to go over
the ice again and again, six or seven times perhaps, or more, in a
single night, if ice is badly wanted. If it is freezing hard, each
sprinkle will solidify almost as soon as it falls, and sometimes he
sprinkles all night long; while if it is far too warm for a flood to
have a chance of solidifying, he will, unless a real thaw is going on,
still find it possible to sprinkle once or twice before morning, even
though there is but a degree or two of frost. Another immense advantage
that sprinkling has over flooding is, that ice thus made, little by
little, in exceedingly thin layers, lasts, for some reason, far longer
than a greater thickness of ice frozen solid in a single night. Why this
should be so, I do not know; but the fact is incontestable. Certainly
also a flood of a couple of inches frozen solid is far more brittle in
itself than ice built up in thin layers, and an awkward toe-strike with
the tip of the skate will cut a great chunk out of flood-ice, whereas it
makes far less impression on sprinkled ice. The sprinkle should be
thrown far and high (as illustrated in Plate XIII), so that it comes
down on to the ice in fine mist-like rain that freezes quickly and
freezes tightly into the ice already there. Of course all these
difficulties are not encountered in a perfectly cold winter. Given a
hard frost every night, it is easy to keep pace with the daily
evaporation. But even in the loftiest winter resorts in this excellent
republic, mid-winter thaws occur.

Such in brief is the making of these rinks that seem such simple affairs
when made, just a level piece of ice with a smooth surface. But the
knowledge, the care, the watchfulness which are necessary to secure
good ice that will last all winter and reasonably resist any thaws and
snowfalls that may occur, are enormous. And the same care that is
lavished on their making must be expended on their keeping. No one with
soil on his gouties or a cigarette even in his mouth should be allowed
on the sacred surface, for even a feathery ash of tobacco if allowed to
lie on the ice will get warmed by the sun and gradually melt its way
into the ice. The sprinkle that night covers it, and it is embedded in
the ice like a fly in amber. Again the sun shines on it, it melts a
little water round it, and forms the nucleus of what will spread into a
blister in the ice. Any dirt in the same way makes similar holes, and
nothing but the clean skate-blade and the necessary and privileged boots
of the icemen should ever be allowed on the rink. How amazed would be
the pioneers of outdoor artificial rinks if they could see the huge and
perfect surfaces now yearly prepared for the hordes of foreign visitors
who flock to Switzerland. Of those pioneers John Addington Symonds was
one, and in his charming essays he recounts how at Davos he and a few
enthusiastic friends took exercise by incessantly working the handle of
a pump that stood in the middle of a level field, until, I think, the
pump froze. Then greatly daring they proceeded to skate over the amazing
ridges and shelves of ice which must certainly have been the result of
this hardy undertaking. Nowadays a reservoir must be built at a
sufficient height above the rink to secure a good pressure of water
for the sprinkling, and patient laudable men sit up all night
watching the thermometer to see if it is safe to offer water to the
delicately-nurtured crystal. But from these fine-art rinks has fine-art
skating been evolved, and if the pioneers of rink-making wondered at
our reservoir, our cohorts of workmen, our huge glassy surfaces, still
more perhaps would the skaters of those days be astonished to see some
champion of the Continental execute his “back loop change loop eight”
laying the loops on top of the other, or observe four gentlemen of the
English swoop down at top speed and on back edges to their centre, flick
out four creamy rockers and glide away again to their appointed
circumference. So much then for the skater’s material needs; we pass on
to consider the use he puts them to.

Now there are two styles of skating (I do not refer to good skating and
bad skating), known respectively as the English and the Continental or
International. In past days, certain exponents of one or the other
school, with the mistaken idea that to belittle another was to magnify
themselves, fell into the stupid error of comparing the two to the
accompaniment of robust vilifications of that style which happened not
to be so fortunate as to number them among its adherents. But it is no
exaggeration to say that the two styles have nothing whatever to do with
one another. It is true that the performer in each case is on skates,
and that the skates progress over ice; but the very skates are
different; so, too, is the whole mode, manner, style, and effect of
performance, and it would be as reasonable for the Rugby football player
to assert that Association is not real football, as for the English
skater to label the International skater an acrobat or contortionist, or
for the International skater to call his detested English brother an
exponent of the ramrod school. Many flowers of speech bloomed in the
gardens of these controversialists, the more exotic and violently
coloured blossoms springing, I think, from

[Illustration: SKATING--ENGLISH STYLE

_From the Drawing by Fleming Williams_]

certain skaters in the International style, who were admirably
industrious at one time in their denunciation of anyone who ventured to
skate in the English style. The present writer, for instance, who, poor
fool, thought he was amusing himself quietly in attempting unambitious
feats in English skating, without interfering with anybody, had an open
letter addressed to him in the _Engadine Post_, pointing out the
vileness and wickedness of his heretic ways; and a precious little book,
that now lies open before me, which did not attract as much attention as
its unconscious humour seems to warrant, informs us that the theories on
which English skating are based are “diametrically opposed to every
principle of nature, science and art, and at variance with the
unrestrained freedom of action and movement which prevails in every
other branch of athletic sport.” Probably the writer felt better after
that, for we have heard nothing of him since; while with regard to the
above-quoted criticism, the only comment that need be made is, that on
the same silly lines it would be reasonable to call lawn-tennis at
variance with unrestrained freedom of action and movement, because it is
not part of the game to slog the ball wildly out of court.

But of late this controversy has somewhat died down, the fact being that
no one with the smallest knowledge of the difficulties and beauties of
skating at all, in whichever of these two styles, ever joined in it,
since, whether in personal preference he was English or Continental, he
had sufficient acquaintance with skating matters to appreciate and
admire the excellence both of his own school and of that to which he
owed no allegiance. He saw also that the two schools had nothing to do
with each other, and instead of jeering at the other, contentedly
practised at the one he happened to prefer. Naturally, most Swiss
resorts tend to one style or the other; but at Davos, the original
cradle of the modern English style, the two schools flourish side by
side, as also they do at Mürren, one of the newly-opened Swiss centres.
There particularly--at Davos there is a separate English rink, mainly
occupied by English skaters--you may see the votaries of the different
schools of this now obsolete controversy cheek by jowl on the ice, and
lying down together, after a fall, like the lion and the lamb. At St.
Moritz, similarly, both styles are bloodlessly practised, though the
International style is the more popular; while Grindelwald is nowadays
exclusively International, after having been exclusively English. So,
too, is Wengen. On the other hand, at Villars, one of the largest
skating resorts in the country, there is scarcely an Internationalist to
be seen, and Château d’Oex, Montana, and Morgins are similarly almost
entirely English in their leanings. But without more enumeration it is
sufficient to say that both schools flourish exceedingly, and will
undoubtedly continue to do so, and nothing that anybody says will
detract from the prosperity of either.

Now skating, in both these styles, is largely a matter of form, and
herein it differs from nearly every other sport. It does not suffice in
skating, whether you are English or Internationalist, to _do_ certain
things, to cut threes, to execute rocking-turns, or loops or
back-brackets. All these things have to be done in the manner prescribed
by the Vedas, so to speak, of your school. Without doubt there is reason
at the base of these methods, for it is clear that if, in a combined
figure, four English skaters were

[Illustration: SKATING--CONTINENTAL STYLE

_From the Drawing by Fleming Williams_]

allowed to fly into their centre on a back edge with their unemployed
leg waving, and there execute a rocker, there would immediately be a
heap of mangled bodies on the ice, a result which is not recognised as
being among the objects of combined skating; and similarly, in the
International style, the graceful poses of arm and leg, which ignorant
English skaters look upon as mere display, are designed to assist the
movement. But in all other games (and this is where skating differs from
them all) the point is to achieve a certain object, and the achievement
of that object, however attained, renders the achiever a notable
performer if he consistently attains it. The golfer, for instance, who
consistently drives a long straight ball, puts his mashie shot near the
hole, and generally putts out, is a magnificent golfer, in whatever
manner or style he executes these tyrannously difficult feats. There are
a hundred and a hundred hundred styles and modes of putting, and they
are all good, provided only they enable the putter to hole his ball. At
cricket, similarly, a man may bowl fast or slow with any sort of break,
and with any sort of action (provided his shirt sleeve is not wantonly
flapping), and he is a good bowler if only he gets wickets cheaply. But
at skating the prescribed thing has to be done in the prescribed manner,
and the prescriptions of the English school are, broadly speaking, all
of them diametrically opposed to the principles of the International
school. In the English style the employed leg (_i.e._ the one which for
the moment is being skated on) must be straight; in the International
style it must be bent. In the English style the unemployed leg must be
close to the other, and hang beside it, loosely and easily; in the
International, wherever the exigencies of the movement demand that it
should be, it must at any rate never be there. In English the arms must
not be spread and swung abroad to assist the movement, but must be
carried inactively by the side, whereas in International, as long as the
skate moves the arms must be engaged on their assigned activity. In both
schools, in fact, every movement must be executed in a given way, but in
no case is there the smallest resemblance between those ways, though
both should result in clean edges and clean turns executed at defined
places.

It is not my intention to give here a manual of English skating,
beginning with instruction to beginners and ending with timorous hints
to experts, but any book on Winter Sports would necessarily be
incomplete unless it babbled to some considerable extent about skating,
which, without doubt, is the sport in pursuit of which the large
majority of English folk visit the High Alps in winter. From whatever
cause, this slippery art exercises a unique spell over the able-bodied
and athletic section of Anglo-Saxon mankind. It may be that this is
partly accounted for by the comparative rarity of the occasions on which
we can skate, owing to our Gulf-Stream-beridden and generally
pestilential climate, and it is sufficient that some puddle-place in a
village green should be half-frozen to cause the majority, not only of
youth but of sedate men and women, to hurry down to the spot, and there
slide about on both feet with staggerings and frequent falls and the
ever-present possibility of occasional immersions. But the rarity of
even half-frozen puddles in England does not wholly account for the
transcendent spell: there is something in the quality of motion which
is started by a stroke of the tense muscles, and then continues of its
own accord, without effort or friction, until the impetus is exhausted,
that appeals to our unwinged race, who must otherwise keep putting foot
before foot to get anywhere. The sensation itself is exquisite, and the
sensation is rendered more precious by the fact that from the days when
the tyro slides cautiously forward on both feet, to the days when,
having become a master in his art, he executes back-counters at the
centre in a combined figure, there is always a slight uncertainty as to
what is going to happen next. The tyro rejoicing in the unaccustomed
method of progress is conscious of a pleasing terror as to whether he
will not fall flat down, and glows with callow raptures all the time
that he does not; while the finest skater who ever lived, will never be
quite sure that he will flick out his back-counter cleanly and
unswervingly. We can all walk pretty perfectly--at least, there is no
pleasing terror that we may be going to fall down--but none of us at our
respective levels as artists in skating can skate pretty perfectly. We
can only skate moderately well, considering how well we can skate. And
the joy of it! The unreasoning, delirious joy of the beginner who for
the first time feels his outside edge bite the ice, and, no less, the
secret elation of the finest performers in the world, when they execute
their back-counter close to the centre, at high speed, and without the
semblance of flatness in the edge! And even if any of us was so
proficient as to perform such a feat with absolute certainty, there is
no doubt whatever that we should find some further feat that would put
us back into the dignified ranks of stragglers again. And the same
holds good with regard to International skating: at least if there is
any among those delightful artists who will execute the Hugel star first
on one foot and then on the other without a pleasing anxiety gnawing at
his heart, I should very much like to know his name and black his boots
for him.

To go more into detail with regard to the manner and style of these
antipodal twins, we will take first the twin known as English skating.
This falls into two broad classes, namely, single skating and that which
is the cream and essence of English skating, combined skating. A further
development of combined skating, namely, combined hand-in-hand skating,
has not long ago been undergoing a successful evolution, under the
auspices chiefly of Miss Cannan, Lord Doneraile and Mr. N. G. Thompson.
Without doubt it holds many charming possibilities, and very likely
there is a great future before it, but owing to right of primogeniture
we will first consider the two elder branches. In both the technique, so
to speak, is the same. The object is to skate fast on large bold edges,
to make turns of all sorts and changes of edge cleanly and without
effort, and to skate all these turns and edges in a particular and
prescribed manner.

The first consideration, therefore, is the manner. The stroke must be
taken, _i.e._ impetus must be set up, not with a push of our skate-toe
into the ice, but from the inside edge of the skate blade. The reason is
obvious, for if a skater thrusts his sharp skate-toe into the ice he
will make a hole in it, and damage the ice. That is sufficient: I think
there are probably four or five other reasons, which in a general and
unspecialised treatise like this need not be gone into.

The skater having got his impetus by leaning against the inside edge of
one skate, launches himself on the other. Now there are two edges to a
skate, namely, the inside and the outside. There is also the flat base
of the skate. Both theoretically and practically, he never uses the flat
of the skate in his actual progress. When he turns, whether the turn is
a three-turn or a rocker, or a counter or a bracket, he comes up to the
flat for a moment, but instantly leaves it again. He progresses on one
edge, the inside, or on the other edge, the outside. And while he
progresses, he must progress in the prescribed manner. And the
prescription is this:

I. _His head must be turned in the direction of his progress, whether he
is progressing forwards or backwards._ Again common-sense is at the base
of this rule. For if his head is turned in the direction of his
progress, he is looking, unless unfortunately blind, where he is going.
This avoids trouble to himself, if there are holes in the ice, and
trouble to other people if there are other people on the ice.

II. _He must be standing erect with his shoulders and body sideways to
the direction of his curve, not facing square down it._ In other words,
he must, among other things, be travelling not further forward than on
the middle of his skate, otherwise he will not be standing erect, but
leaning forward. This attitude is that which is referred to, in the
humorous book I have already quoted, as characteristic of the ramrod
school. But the author, in his blissful ignorance of skating matters, is
not aware that it is impossible to execute a long smooth circumference
of curve if you progress on the forepart of your skate. If you are on
the forepart of the skate, you must be leaning forward, and no one of
known anatomy can lean forward and execute a long smooth edge. The
balance is unsteady, and the edge wobbles. Commonsense, then, again
endorses this rule. In order to be steady on a long edge, your balance
must be of the established order. You must be upright, and travelling
without muscular effort to retain your position. This is only attained
by travelling on the middle or the aft part of the skate. For nobody can
stand still on their toes. But standing on the middle part of the foot
or with the weight on the heel it is perfectly easy to do so. But when
this humorous author (whom I drag out of his obscurity for the last
time) calls this the ramrod school, he proves himself ignorant of the
first principles of English skating, or perhaps has only observed
himself in some mirror at Prince’s Club attempting to assume the correct
attitude himself. As a matter of fact, the proper attitude of the skater
in the English style is exactly that of a man who is well made and
master of his limbs standing still with the weight chiefly on one foot.
While skating, it is true, the weight is entirely on one foot, and the
performer is moving, and not standing still. But the pose necessary to
smooth and swift progression is exactly that. It no more resembles a
ramrod, when decently done, as every good English skater does it, than
it resembles a coal-scuttle or a pince-nez, or what you will.

III. _The unemployed leg_, i.e. _the leg of the foot which is not
skating, must hang close to the employed leg_. Again the reason is
obvious. If four persons came into their centre with a waving
unemployed leg, they would hit each other. Also, if the unemployed leg
is put out behind, the skater must lean forward in order to counteract
its weight. He will then tend to skate on the forepart of his skate. In
a series of long edges this attitude is impossible to maintain except by
effort. Nobody could skate for a quarter of an hour in combined skating,
accurately and largely on such a principle.

IV. _The arms must hang by the side, and be carried loosely easily,
close to the body._ Again the explanation is obvious. There is no need
for their flying abroad, since a long edge is most easily accomplished
with the limbs and body in rest after the stroke, and these long smooth
edges are part and parcel of English skating: it is founded on them.
English skating postulates so perfect a balance, travelling on the
middle of the skates, that it chooses (this is the reason for the rule)
not to let that balance be assisted by the added or subtracted weight of
a correcting arm. It says (this is what it comes to) that you must be so
firm on your travelling root, so to speak, of balance, that you dispense
with all adjustments of weight. The weight has to be practically
perfectly adjusted. There must be no adjustments adventitiously
obtained.

Now these four rules are at the base of English skating. If you happen
to play a game, you conform to the rules, and you do not argue, for
instance, when you are playing cricket, whether you should be given out,
when quite clearly you have been caught at the wicket. If you are at all
sensible, or in any way like cricket, you pocket your duck’s egg and
retire. Superb strokes may be made at cricket, which nevertheless are
fatal to the striker. Superb attitudes, similarly, may be made in the
International style, which are quite completely wrong. They may be
supremely statuesque, but they are not skating. The case is exactly the
same with the English style. Certain canons have been laid down, all of
which seem to be necessary to the attainment of excellence. It is no
doubt possible to skate charming “threes to a centre” doing everything
quite wrong from beginning to end. But if you choose to adopt a style,
you must conform to the rules of that style. Similarly, it is quite
possible to skate the same “threes to a centre” in the International
style, which shall leave the same mark on the ice (though the skating of
them broke every possible rule) as the most finished performer could
leave there. But who would not applaud the International judge who
ruthlessly ploughed such a candidate? He has not kept the rules, which
in contradistinction to other games prescribe not only what the object
in view is, but the manner in which the performance is to take place.
But this manner, we venture to point out, has not been laid down in an
arbitrary way: it is the manner, both in International skating and in
English alike, in which the feats demanded can alone be properly
performed.

Now if the skater will take the trouble to conform to the four rules
given above, he will find that even at the outset of his career there is
great fun in store for him. Should he conform to them completely, when
the complication of turns is added, he will quite certainly find that
there is a championship, if he cares for that, in store for him also.
The rules were not negligently made; indeed they were never made at all,
but are simply the condensed experience of the best skaters, the methods
by which the fittest survived. And the fittest did, and always will do,
that which is recorded in these rules, and the ensuing complications,
even the most complicated of them, are comparatively easy to those who
can maintain the proper travelling position. But nobody who cannot hold
a long firm edge, for which the proper travelling position is essential,
need ever trouble his dreams with the notion of becoming a good skater.
And no one’s edges approach perfection, if he cannot traverse, on
backward and forward edges, outside and inside alike, a distance of at
least a hundred yards, given that the ice is reasonably good, without
stirring from the attitude he has taken up after his stroke. A really
fine skater will traverse much more, and be still as a rock throughout
his travel; but no good skater will be so unsteady that he will not
easily traverse that. In his actual skating he will, probably, never be
called upon to make so lengthy an edge, but its accomplishment should
present no difficulty to him, if he aspires to be a fair performer. Even
as the pianist, when performing, is not called upon to play simple
scales with both hands, so the skater will not be called upon, in his
combined figure, to skate for a hundred yards on one edge. But both
pianist and skater ought to find no difficulty at all in executing these
simple feats.

The beginner is advised to get a fair mastery of all the edges before he
begins to attack the fortress of the turns. He should be able to
progress steadily and smoothly both on the outside edge and the inside
edge forward, and to make some progress also on the back edges, namely,
outside back and inside back. This last is far the most difficult of the
edges, and it will be a long time before he is able to take fast bold
strokes on it. But he should have some acquaintance with it before he
attempts to make the turns that necessitate its employment, and be able
to hold it in the correct position. He can then set about turns and
changes of edge, which all imply correct travelling.

Now there are four groups of turns, common both to the English and
International styles, each group of which contains four turns to be
executed on each foot. Altogether, therefore, there are sixteen turns to
be learned which employ each foot singly. These with the four edges,
executed in the prescribed manner, form the material of the art. These
turns are common both to English and International skating,

I. The first group is known as simple turns, and consists of turns (or
changes of direction, from backwards to forwards or forwards to
backwards) from:

  (i) Outside forward to inside back.
 (ii) Inside forward to outside back.
(iii) Outside back to inside forward.
 (iv) Inside back to outside forward.

They are all of the same shape with regard to the marks they leave on
the ice, and from their shape are known as “three” turns, or “threes.”

Thus:

[Illustration]

The arrow shows the direction of progress: the turn is the cusp in the
middle between the two curves. Thus if the first edge is outside
forward, the second is inside back: if the first is inside forward the
second is outside back: if the first is outside back the second is
inside forward: if the first is inside back the second is outside
forward.

II. The second group of turns is known as rocking turns, or more
generally as “rockers.” Like the “three” turns, they are all of the same
shape, thus:

[Illustration]

and are four in number, namely:

(i) Outside forward to outside back.
  (ii) Inside forward to inside back.
 (iii) Outside back to outside forward.
 (iv) Inside back to inside forward.

Now, in both these groups the body revolves or rotates at the moment of
making the turn in the direction indicated by the dotted lines; it
revolves, that is to say, _outside_ the direction of the first curve.
But it is possible for the body to revolve in the opposite direction,
that is to say, _inside_ the direction of its first curve. This makes
possible the third and fourth groups of turns.

III. This group, which is known as brackets, from the mark left on the
ice, corresponds to Group I, and the edges employed in it are the same,
namely, outside forward to inside back, &c. But in this group the body
revolves on the _inside_ of the direction of the first curve, and the
mark on the ice, consequently, is as follows, the dotted line again
indicating the revolution of the body:

[Illustration]

IV. The fourth group is known as counter-rocking turns, or more
generally as counters. It corresponds with Group II, for the marks on
the ice are approximately the same, and the edges employed are outside
forward to outside back, &c. But here again the revolution of the body,
as in the brackets, takes inside the direction of the first curve, thus:

[Illustration]

These sixteen turns, or changes of direction while skating on one foot,
comprise all the varieties of so doing that seem theoretically possible,
since they include every forward edge to every back edge and every back
edge to every forward edge, skated with rotation of the body both
outside and inside the direction of the first curve, and until somebody
discovers a third edge to a skate, or a third direction of rotating the
body, it is not possible that they will be added to.

But changes of direction may be made by the employment, not of one but
of both feet, and though these might be more properly described as
strokes rather than turns, there are two groups of them which enter
largely into English skating. These are known as mohawks and choctaws.

I. Mohawks consist of either forward edge combined with the
corresponding back edge taken up by the other foot. Thus if the right
foot starts as an outside forward, the left, to complete the mohawk, is
put down on the outside back edge, thus:

[Illustration]

Here the rotation is made, as in the brackets and counters, on the
_inside_ of the direction of the first curve, and the figure is known as
the outside forward mohawk. Similarly, the mohawk can be skated on the
inside edges, _i.e._ the right foot starts with an inside forward, and
the left completes with an inside back. Here the rotation, as in the
threes and rockers, takes place on the outside of the direction of the
first curve.

II. Choctaws also employ both feet, but the second curve of a choctaw is
on the opposing edge to the first curve. An outside forward choctaw thus
consists of an outside forward on one foot completed by an inside back
on the other, thus:

[Illustration]

In this, as in the corresponding mohawk, and the brackets and counters,
the rotation of the body takes place _inside_ the direction of the first
curve. Similarly, the inside forward choctaw consists of an inside
forward on one foot and an outside back on the other. Here, following
the corresponding mohawk, the rotation of the body takes place outside
the first curve.

Theoretically, of course, there are corresponding mohawks and choctaws
starting from the back edges, _i.e._ outside back to outside forward,
&c., but though these strokes are constantly used, both in single and
combined skating, they are never dignified by this sounding title of
“back mohawk” or “back choctaw,” merely because the manœuvre is so
simple and common a one, that it needs no name at all, and if, for
instance, in combined skating, the caller (who directs what shall be
done) has his skaters on a back edge, and desires that the next stroke,
let us say, shall be an inside forward edge, he calls “inside forward”
merely.

Finally, in giving this catalogue of material out of which all English
skating is built, there remain only the changes of edge, made on one
foot, to enumerate. They, as must naturally be the case, are four in
number:

  (i) Outside forward to inside forward.
 (ii) Inside forward to outside forward.
(iii) Outside back to inside back.
 (iv) Inside back to outside back.

With regard to the cross-mohawks and cross-choctaws--in case the skater
ever “hears tell” of them--he need not worry himself even to remember
their existence, since, most rightly, they have been blotted out of the
book of English skating, owing to their clumsiness and the fact that to
skate any of them violates some canon of the essential form of English
skating. Apart from them, the whole material of English skating has now
been stated, namely, the four edges, the sixteen turns, the two mohawks,
the two choctaws, and the four changes of edge.

But when we consider that the first-class skater must be able to skate
at high speed on any edge, make any turn at a fixed point, and leave
that fixed point (having made his turn and edge in compliance with the
proper form for English skating, without scrape or wavering) still on a
firm and large-circumferenced curve, that he must be able to combine any
mohawk and choctaw with any of the sixteen turns, and any of the sixteen
turns with any change of edge, and that in combined skating he is
frequently called upon to do all these permutations of edge and turn, at
a fixed point, and in time with his partner, while two other partners
are performing the same evolution in time with each other, it begins to
become obvious that there is considerable variety to be obtained out of
these manœuvres. But the consideration of combined skating, which is the
cream and quintessence of English skating, must be considered last; at
present we will see what the single skater may be called upon to do, if
he wishes to attain to acknowledged excellence in his sport.

Now the National Skating Association of Great Britain encourages both
the English and International styles, and for each there have been
instituted certain graduated tests, not competitive but standard, of
three orders. The third or lowest test in the English style is broadly
designed to encourage skaters, the second to discourage them again
(_i.e._ begin to make them feel the difficulty of the whole affair, just
when they thought by passing their third test they had broken the back
of their difficulties), and the first or highest to give them healthy
occupation for a few winters, and fit them for becoming really
first-class skaters. All of these tests must be passed before at least
two qualified judges, appointed by the N.S.A., and they are as
follows:--


THIRD-CLASS TEST

     (_a_) A forward outside three on each foot, the length of each
     curve being 15 feet at least. The figure need not be skated to a
     centre.

     (_b_) The four edges, outside forward, inside forward, outside
     back, inside back, on each foot alternately for as long as the
     judges shall require, the length of each curve being 15 feet at
     least on the forward edges and 10 feet at on the back edges.

     (_c_) A forward outside 8, the diameter of each circle at least, to
     be skated three times without pause.

Here, it will be seen, is the beginning, the ground-work of English
skating. The easiest turn has to be skated, the four edges have to be
skated; also the easiest “8” has to be skated, in order to familiarise
the beginner with the idea of leaving a point on one stroke and
continuing to travel on that stroke (with turns to punctuate it, as he
will see later) until he arrives back at that point again. The point in
question is marked for him on the ice with an orange or a ball. And
whether in single skating or in combined, it is called the centre.
Simple as this third test is, it has to be skated in proper English
form, which the learner should begin to acquire from the first moment he
takes a serious stroke on the ice. For it is vastly easier to acquire
good form at the beginning of his education, than to acquire bad habits
which must subsequently be got rid of.


SECOND-CLASS TEST

     (_a_) A set of combined figures skated with another skater, who
     will be selected by the judges, introducing the following calls in
     such order and with such repetitions as the judges may direct:--

1. Forward three meet.
2. Once back--and forward meet.
3. Once back--and forward three meet.
4. Twice back off meet--and forward three meet.
5. Twice back meet--and back--and forward three meet.

     (_b_) The judges shall call three “unseen” figures of quite simple
     character, in order to test the candidate’s knowledge of calls and
     power of placing figures upon the ice. These shall be skated alone.

     (_c_) The following edges on each foot alternately for as long as
     the judges shall require, namely:--

1. Inside back, each curve being 20 ft. at least.
2. Cross outside back, each curve being 12 ft. at least.

     (_d_) The following figures skated on each foot, namely:--

1.  Forward inside three, the length of each curve being 40 ft. at least {R
                                                                         {L
2.  Forward outside three        “       “         “     50 ft.     “    {R
                                                                         {L

     (_e_) The following figures skated to a centre on alternate feet
     without pause, three times on each foot, namely:--

1. Forward inside three, the length of each curve being 15 ft. at least.
2. Forward outside three        “       “         “     15     “
3. Forward inside two threes    “       “         “     10     “
4. Forward outside two threes   “       “         “     10     “
5. Back outside two threes      “       “         “     10     “

     (_f_) The following figures skated on each foot, namely:--

1. Forward inside “Q,” the length of each curve being 30 ft. at least  {R
                                                                       {L
2. Forward outside “Q”        “        “       “       30 ft.    “     {R
                                                                       {L
3. Back inside “Q”            “        “       “       25 ft     “     {R
                                                                       {L
4. Back outside “Q”           “        “       “       20 ft.    “     {R
                                                                       {L

Here, it will be seen, the test begins with a combined figure. The whole
subject of combined figures will be treated of separately, and for the
present we need only remark that this is a very simple one. Then follow
the inside back edge, which, as I have said, is the most difficult of
the edges, skated larger than before, in curves of 20 feet, and the
cross-stroke on the outside back. This means that the stroke is taken
with the feet crossing, the one that is taking the stroke being crossed
behind the other. As a matter of fact, this stroke, which at one time
played a considerable part in English skating, since in combined figures
all strokes from outside back to outside back were bound to be taken
from the crossing position, is now not obligatory. But it is a pretty
stroke in itself, and necessitates the skate being placed on the ice on
the edge. Then follow the two forward turns, skated rather large, in
order to begin to familiarise the learner with the feeling of turns
taken at a high speed. This necessitates clean skating of the turn
itself, since if a turn is skated fast, and not clean, it is quite
possible that the skater may fall, and he will in any case make a blur
instead of a sharp cut turn. Also these turns teach him to hold his
edges out after the turn, the tendency being to let the body rotate,
whereby the curve curls in, and the skater soon finds himself in a
position that it is impossible to maintain. But if he skates his turn,
and then can hold an edge for 50 feet _away_ from it afterwards, he may
congratulate himself on the fact that he is beginning to skate his edges
big and in the proper style. For these cannot, practically speaking, be
held out, unless the rules for position are being conformed with. Then
follow four simple figures of the class known as 8’s, of which the
simplest is that required in the third-class test, namely, an outside
forward 8. All 8’s, as their name denotes, are of the same general
shape, _i.e._ the shape implied by their name, but between the edges
that trace the shape of the 8, the skater is now required to put in
certain turns. He starts, for instance, on an outside forward edge, when
half round his circle makes a three turn, and comes back to his centre
on the inside back edge. Or he starts on an inside forward edge as in
the third 8, and has to make two turns before he arrives at his centre
again, which he reaches as an inside forward edge. Or, more searchingly,
he has to start his 8 on an outside back edge, and make two turns and
aim at his centre again on an outside back edge.

The remainder of this test is taken up with the figures known as Q’s. In
these the skater is required to start, at some speed, on any edge
forward or back, and after travelling on it for varying distances, as
laid down, to change his edge (from outside to inside, or inside to
outside) and after holding that edge for the prescribed distance make
the three appropriate to that edge. The Q’s are very largely used in
combined skating, the change of edge being coupled not only to “three”
turns, but to rockers, counters and brackets. Here the name “Q” is
becoming obsolete, and indeed has become so in combined skating, the
figure being called “forward change three” or “inside back change
three,” &c.

Now, as I have said, while the third test is supposed to encourage the
skater, the second is supposed to discourage him. What is meant is that
he has now run up against the really crucial difficulties in English
skating, of which perhaps the greatest of all is to stand still, as the
Irishman might say, while moving rapidly. As will be already seen in
this test, he is required to do this for somewhat extensive travel: in
his outside forward turn, for instance, he has to proceed for at least
fifty feet on his forward edge before making his turn, and the same
distance on his back edge after making his turn. And though this present
disquisition is intended to be a statement of English skating and not a
book of instruction, the writer cannot bear to let this one opportunity
slip of giving just one hint. It is perfectly impossible to travel
steadily for distances like these--and the skater will have to learn to
go much further yet on his edges--if he is travelling on the forepart of
his skate. All forward turns, by the slight check they give to the speed
(I am not now talking of those ideal skaters who actually get speed out
of a turn), tend to put the skater further forward on his skate. He must
therefore approach all forward turns on the back part of his skate, so
that by this tendency to rock forward he will make the turn itself on
about the middle of the skate. Never for a moment, if he can help it,
must he get on the toe of his skate, and if ever he does, he must regain
position again by leaning fearlessly back. And in this second test, he
will find that the difficulty of travelling well back on his skate is at
first appalling. But having learned that, and learned it thoroughly, he
will probably not come across any subsequent requirement which appears
to him so clearly impossible.


FIRST-CLASS TEST


SECTION A

This section consists of the combined figures in Parts I and II. The
judges may also give such simple calls as they think fit, to enable the
candidate to recover his position, to alternate the feet, &c.

The figures shall be skated with another skater, to be selected by the
judges, but if there are only two judges, neither of them shall skate.

Each call must be skated at least twice, beginning once with the right
foot and once with the left.

Subject to these conditions the calls shall be skated in such order and
with such repetitions as the judges may, while the set is in progress,
direct.

In calls introducing “twice back” the candidate must recede at least 35
feet from the centre.

To pass this section the candidate must satisfy all the judges in the
manner in which he skates each set considered as a whole, and also in
the manner in which he skates each individual call.

The judges may pass a candidate in Part I, notwithstanding a reasonable
number of errors on his part in the course of the set, provided that he
ultimately skates all the calls to their satisfaction; and in Part II,
notwithstanding errors, provided that the candidate has shown competent
skill in skating unseen calls.


_Part I_

1. Twice back--and forward three--and forward inside three, off meet.

2. Twice back--and forward three threes--and back meet--and back two
threes--and forward two threes, meet.

3. Twice back--and forward three about, change, meet.

4. Twice back, about--and back off meet.

5. Twice back--and back inside centre three, change--and forward meet.

6. Twice back three, centre three, off meet.

7. Twice back centre change, three, meet.

8. Once back--and forward--and forward inside two threes centre change
meet.

9. Twice back--and forward two threes, pass, meet.

10. Twice back two threes, off pass, meet.

11. Inside twice back--and forward inside two threes, meet.

12. Forward change, three, change, three, circle--and forward three,
change, circle--and forward about change, three, off meet.


_Part II_

In addition to the above, the judges shall call a further set of not
more than six or less than four “unseen” figures of moderate difficulty,
in order to test the candidate’s knowledge of calls and power of correct
placing. This unseen set must include rockers, counters, and brackets,
and shall be skated by the candidate alone.


SECTION B

No candidate shall be judged in Part II of this Section until he has
passed in Part I.

The judges may allow a candidate any number of attempts at a given
figure which they consider reasonable.


_Part I_

The turns, mohawks, and choctaws of this part must be placed close to
and on the near side of an orange or other fixed point on the ice. They
must all be skated on each foot to the satisfaction of the judges.

The curve before and after the turn or change of foot must be 40 feet
long at least.

                { Outside back.
Threes          { Inside back.

                { Outside forward.
Rockers  }      { Inside forward.
Brackets }      { Outside back.
Counters }      { Inside back.

Mohawks  }      { Outside forward.
Choctaws }      { Inside forward.


_Part II_

To pass in this part, a candidate may select not more than one figure in
each group, and must score forty-five marks at least. A selection once
made by a candidate must not be altered.

No marks shall be scored in respect of any one-footed figure unless it
is skated on each foot, and the number set against each figure
represents the maximum that can be scored for that figure.

A candidate shall not score for any figure on which he shall not have
obtained at least half marks.

_Eights._--In marking these figures, the judges will take into
consideration the general symmetry of the figure, and the approximate
equality of corresponding curves.

In each figure the complete 8 is to be skated three times without pause.

The figures need not be commenced from rest.

In groups D and E the turns and choctaws respectively are to be made on
the near side of the centre.

The following eights are to be skated to a centre on alternate feet:--

_Group A_

                                     Max.
                                     Marks

Outside back two threes                4
Inside back two threes                13
Outside forward bracket                6
Inside forward bracket                 4

_Group B_

Outside forward two brackets           6
Inside forward two brackets           10
Outside forward bracket, three         9
Inside forward bracket, three          5
Outside forward three, bracket         4
Inside forward three, bracket         12

_Group C_

Outside back two brackets             14
Inside back two brackets              11
Outside back bracket, three           16
Inside back bracket, three             8
Outside back three, bracket            5
Inside back three, bracket            14

_Group D_

Outside forward rocker                                      8
Inside forward rocker                                       4
Outside forward counter                                     8
Inside forward counter                                      4
Outside forward centre choctaw and inside forward centre
  choctaw, beginning on each foot                           4
Outside forward mohawk and inside forward mohawk to
  a centre, beginning on each foot                          4


_Reverse Q’s_

The turns and changes are to be made on the near side of fixed points
determined by the candidate; the distance between these, and the lengths
of the first and last curves, are to be each not less than 50 feet
beginning on forward edges, 35 feet beginning on back edges.

_Group E_

                                            Max.
                                           Marks.

Outside forward three, change                2
Inside forward three, change                 3
Outside forward rocker, change               3
Inside forward rocker, change                3
Outside forward bracket, change              5
Inside forward bracket, change               4
Outside forward counter, change              5
Inside forward counter, change               3

_Group F_

Outside back three, change                   5
Inside back three, change                    8
Outside back rocker, change                  6
Inside back rocker, change                   8

_Group G_

Outside back bracket, change                16
Inside back bracket, change                  8
Outside back counter, change                16
Inside back counter, change                  8

_Group H_

_Grape Vines_

Single, each foot leading                    2
Double forward                               3
Double backward                              3
Pennsylvania                                 5
Philadelphia                                 6

Now, again omitting for the moment the subject of combined skating, we
see that in Part II the rest of the groundwork of English skating is
very thoroughly traversed. To pass this final test the skater has to be
able to execute all the threes (the two simple ones are omitted, as they
have already been required in the second test), rockers, brackets,
counters, mohawks, and choctaws at fair speed and on large edges at a
given point on the ice. Having done that to the satisfaction of the
judges, he has then to make his selection from a large number of 8’s,
which include practically most possible 8’s comprising one or two turns,
excepting these simple ones with regard to which he has already
satisfied the judges in his second test. Here he has to score marks,
selecting not more than one 8 of each group, and by the devilish
ingenuity of those who drew up this test, it is impossible for him to
get through unless the majority of the 8’s he selects to skate are
really difficult. He may then add to his marks by executing what are
called reverse Q’s at two given points on the ice. At the first of these
he has to make his turn, whatever it is, and at the second to change his
edge. This requires a considerable degree of accuracy, for in order to
arrive smoothly and still at a fair travelling pace at the second point,
he will find that he has to have a practically perfect control of the
edge, which has not been disturbed by executing a difficult back turn,
let us say, at the first given point. Finally, if he is still in want of
marks, he may earn a few more by a grape-vine. This latter does not
properly belong to English skating, since it is a two-footed figure, and
those responsible for the test might have omitted this group with
advantage.

_The Combined Figure._--Probably no branch of sport--except, perhaps,
flying--has undergone such improvement and revolution within the last
fifteen years as this art of combined skating. Not only are there a
vastly multiplied number of competent and even first-rate combined
skaters, but the skill demanded of a first-rate combined skater, and the
variety of the manœuvres he may be called upon to execute, is
immeasurably greater than a decade and a half ago. I do not mean that
there were not in 1897 a certain number of skaters who might have been
able to execute a difficult set as directed by a caller of to-day, but
these were, in golfing parlance, “plus players,” and the ordinary
“scratch” skater--one, that is, who had passed his First Class
N.S.A.--would have had no more chance of getting through such a set
without throwing everybody out, and himself down, than he would have of
flying. Both the speed and the size of these combined figures has
greatly increased, and the whole of the material of English skating is
employed. And the main reason for this improvement and revolution is due
to the greatly augmented number of English skaters who now go to
Switzerland in the winter, and the multiplication there of really large
rinks.

That this immense improvement has taken place in combined skating is
proved, luckily, not only by the fallacious memory of individuals, but
by printed records. I have before me the Badminton volume on skating
(edition 1902), in which, for instance, we find the following figure
(among many others like it).

“Forward two turns. This movement skated to a centre is very difficult,
and is a great test of good skating, and many men make a practice of
devoting five or ten minutes to skating it every day when they come on
the ice, feeling that if they can skate it, making the curves between
the turns of equal length and making the turns clean without any scrape
and yet coming true to the centre, they are in good form and equal to
skate anything that may be required of them.”

Now no doubt two turns to a centre, as required in the second-class
test, is a very good elementary figure, but it no longer has anything
whatever to do with combined skating, whether it is skated with a
partner or with a second pair, or simultaneously with other skaters.
Speed and size and difficulty (as demanded by the scale on which
combined skaters now move) are necessarily absent from it, and from a
hundred others of these calls which then were the last word in combined
skating. A man who had passed his second-class test would be capable of
doing this, which was then considered a criterion of good combined
skating, whereas the same man could not live for two calls in a combined
figure of moderate difficulty to-day. The whole nature of the business
has changed: turns have to be executed at high speed far away from the
centre, and the curliness and smallness of such skating as is here
implied and necessitated has vanished altogether, giving place to a far
more difficult style and speed.

Nor, again, in this respect, is Part I, in the first-class English test,
up-to-date in requirements of size. Here we read that on a “twice back”
the candidate must recede at least 35 feet from the centre. That no
doubt was laid down because on the artificial rinks available in
England, such a distance took the skaters nearly to the bounds of the
space at his disposal. But any candidate who, on the Swiss rinks, where
nowadays almost all first-class tests are passed, receded but 35 feet
from the centre would have, practically speaking, no chance of getting
through. His lawless judges would inevitably tell him to skate larger.
Still less would he be able to take part in any combined figure-skating
for amusement by skaters who had any pretension to be of the
first-class. With these big surfaces of rink, the whole style and method
has become larger and faster, and therefore more difficult.

A third instance, to prove how greatly the art of combined skating has
progressed, has the ring of pathos about it, and, though only oral, is
trustworthy. A friend of mine, who resides at that excellent English
skating centre, Oxford, told me that in old days he could scarcely get a
combined figure, since the most elementary calls were sufficient to
floor his partners. But not so long ago he told me he could scarcely get
a combined figure, since nobody cared to skate such elementary calls as
he was capable of. But he assures me that he skates just as well now as
he did in the days when there was nobody up to his standard. Perhaps in
twenty years more, no first-class skater will care to engage in such
simple stuff as we now think rather advanced. And dearly will such
present-day skaters who are fortunate enough to be alive then, love to
see the newer and more arduous manœuvres! But since it is impossible to
prophesy about the things we cannot imagine, it must be sufficient to
give the outlines of combined skating as practised by fairly expert
gentlemen to-day.

There are two manners of combined skating, called respectively
pair-skating and simultaneous skating. The first of these (which we will
first consider) is the more difficult, and, so to speak, the more
classical. Theoretically it can be skated by two, four, six, or eight
persons: practically it is skated by four persons, grouped, at the
beginning of things, at right angles to their neighbours, and at a few
yards distant from their centre. One of these, who skates in the first
pair, is known as the caller, and he announces (in a loud mellifluous
voice) what he is about to skate, and what the trembling gentleman
opposite, who is his partner, must also skate. They advance to the
centre, from opposite sides, and begin skating whatever is ordered. The
moment after they have left their centre, speeding out to the
circumference of the huge imaginary circle, of which their orange or
india-rubber ball, from which they have started, is the centre, the
second pair (at right angles to them) proceed to do exactly the same.
The size and pace of the figure, as well as its details, depend entirely
on the caller: as he skates, so must his partner skate, putting down his
edges and turns simultaneously and at like speed to him, and as the
first pair skate, so (with certain modifications) must the second pair
skate.

Now, the whole material of skating is at the caller’s command. He can
(and does) order threes, brackets, rockers, counters, mohawks, choctaws
and changes of edge to be skated when and how he wishes them. He can
(and does) couple any pair or any three of these movements, to be skated
on one foot or on both, one after the other. He directs, with a word of
power, from the elaborate vocabulary of combined skating, the length of
an edge, and can command it to be held so long that the direction of
progress is reversed, or to be further continued till a complete circle
is made and the original direction of progress resumed again. Then, with
another word, he brings himself and his partner (followed closely by
the second pair) back to their centre again, on the off side or the near
side of it, and orders that they shall start a fresh figure there, or
that they shall make a turn there, or scud by it like four express
trains which just, and only just, arriving from the four parts of the
compass, do not collide with each other, and scatter again to east and
west and north and south. Sometimes he brings them in simultaneously, so
that they converge till they almost touch, and then spread out again.
And if the figure is going decently well, there is no pause, no foot
without its edge and turn assigned to it. This mystic, swift,
interweaving dance lasts perhaps a quarter of an hour of hard,
enraptured skating.

Simultaneous combined has this advantage, that an uneven number of
skaters can take part in it. The caller’s duties are the same, but there
are no pairs of partners. All leave the centre simultaneously, all (it
is hoped) arrive back at it simultaneously. Since there is no crossing
of pairs at the centre, a far larger number of skaters can take part in
it, as they have not to wait for a prior pair to clear, and if
elementary calls only are ordered, upwards of ten or twelve skaters can
join the dance with effect. No one of them, as in pair skating, crosses
the path of another skater: they leave and arrive at the centre on
converging not crossing lines. Thus it is an easier sport than is
crossing pairs, since in the latter case the edges that leave and
approach the centre intersect each other. Vastly enjoyable as it is, it
lacks to the present writer that classical distinction that
characterises pair-skating.

The final item in English skating is hand-in-hand skating in the
combined figure. Here, instead of single skaters combining to perform
in unison, pairs take the place of units. Necessarily the figures
compassable by a man and woman hand in hand are fewer in number, as at
present worked out, than those which can be skated by single skaters,
and the speed at which such figures are skated is less than in the
combined skating of single skaters. Hand-holds have to be changed, and
partners brought into the new position required by turns, &c., by pulls,
or by what in the nomenclature is called “steps”--_i.e._ single strokes
and edges. Already this style has taken the place in the annual
championship of English skating, and without doubt it will grow both in
the number of its practitioners, and in the force and speed of their
movements. It is scientifically based, being evolved from the charming
movements that are possible to hand-in-hand skaters when going free on
the ice, and not bound to consider their opposing partner, or to arrive
in a given manner at a given point. But it resembles, at present, in the
opinion of the writer, the performance of a yearling. It requires the
devotion of a dozen first-class skaters of both sexes to determine its
possibilities. His wish is, that it will get them. His fear is that the
necessarily cramping influence of conjoined hands will prove to debar it
from the speed and largeness of other branches of English skating. He
sincerely hopes that his fears are quite unfounded.


INTERNATIONAL STYLE

It has been already remarked that the two styles, English and
International, have nothing to do with each other, and that the
practitioner of one who is so imbecile as to belittle the other, is no
less crack-brained and idiotic than a Rugby football player who calls
Association a “rotten game.” Personally, I do not skate in the
International style, but to attempt to depreciate the beauties of it
would be to me as unthinkable as it would be to run down polo. To the
spectator, whether of polo or of International skating, the skill and
the splendour of these sports are, unless he is entirely lunatic, beyond
any question at all. But it is as an admirer, pure and simple, that I
venture to embark on a subject with which I have no practical
acquaintance.

Spectacularly there is no doubt that to the ignorant the International
style rightly makes the most powerful appeal. A simple manœuvre, as for
instance a forward three to a centre, looks far more difficult and
hazardous when executed even only moderately well in the International
style than when executed almost perfectly in the English style. In the
one case, to the ignorant, arms and legs are flying: it seems impossible
to maintain a balance, and the attitude itself is charmingly graceful:
whereas in the English style the whole difficulty of the manœuvre, such
as it is, lies in the necessity of making it look easy, and standing
quite still and at rest.

But the difficulty of doing it perfectly in the English style is, as a
matter of fact, far greater than that of doing it properly in the
International style. Of that there is no question whatever. A good
English skater will put down his turns and edges one over the other, in
the accurate fashion so rightly demanded by the International style,
without producing half the effect that a good International skater will
produce. But the English skater has done the more difficult feat. On the
other hand, I do not think that the skater in the English style is ever
called upon to do anything so difficult in his highest test as the
back-loop 8, or perhaps the rocker 8, as required by the first-class
International test. And then I think of a back bracket, executed at good
speed at a certain point, in the correct style. Really I do not know....
Also I do not care. The back-loop 8 of the International skater is
altogether lovely, which is all that matters.

But, as I have said, the two styles have nothing to do with each other,
either as regards tests or as regards the general sport of them. I can
imagine no more glorious athletic feat than that of four first-class
English skaters performing a really difficult combined set properly, a
set that is as far away from the compulsory set of the first-class test
as is the first-class test from the second; nor, on the other hand, can
I imagine a more glorious athletic feat than the free skating of some
champion of the International school. But when Mr. Grenander or Herr
Salchow are so kind as to show me the Hugel star, I no more think of
comparing that with the combined skating of fine performers in the
English style, and others, than I compare it with Mr. Baerlein in the
tennis court or Mr. Jessop slogging his sixes. They have nothing to do
with each other.

As in English skating, I propose to lay before the reader the tests of
the International school, and in contrast to the rule of English form, I
subpend the essential requirements of International excellence, as laid
down by the collective experience of its senators. Proper form is no
less essential in one than in the other, and the same sternness of
requirement is insisted on in both. But the effect is poles apart: in
the International style a fixed freedom of the unemployed limbs is
necessary, in the English a fixed quietness and immobility. Neither is
laid down in an arbitrary manner: it is impossible to perform the
necessary evolutions in first-class skating otherwise than is provided
by the rules. No English skater could, in his prescribed form, execute
the International figures: no International skater in his could do what
is required of his English brother. Here, then, are the essentials of
good form as demanded by the International school:

     “Carriage upright but not stiff; the body not bent forwards or
     sideways at the waist; all raising or lowering of the body being
     effected by bending the knee of the tracing leg with upright back;
     the body and limbs generally held sideways to the direction of
     progress. The head always upright. Tracing leg flexible with bent
     knee. The eyes looking downwards as little as possible. The knee
     and toe of the free leg turned outwards as far as possible, the toe
     always downwards; the knee only slightly bent. The free leg
     swinging freely from the hip and assisting the movement. The arms
     held easily, and assisting the movement; the hands neither spread
     nor clenched. All action of the body and limbs must be easy and
     swinging with the direct object of assisting the movement of the
     moment; violent or stiff motions are to be avoided, the figure
     should seem to be executed without difficulty.

     “The figures must be begun from rest--that is, by a single stroke
     with the other foot; and at the intersecting point of two circles.
     Every figure must be repeated three times consecutively. No
     impetus may be taken from the ice by the foot which is about to
     become the tracing foot; and every stroke should be taken from the
     edge of the blade, not from the point.”

There are also the following directions for correct tracing, _i.e._ the
marks left by the skate on the ice.

     “The essentials of correct tracing are:

     “Maintenance of the long and transverse axes (as the long axis of
     the figure a line is to be conceived which divides each circle into
     two equal parts; a transverse axis cuts the long axis at right
     angles between two circles); approximately equal size of all
     circles, and of all curves before and after all turns; symmetrical
     grouping of the individual parts of the figure about the axes;
     curves without wobbles, skated out--that is, returning nearly to
     the starting-point. Threes with the turns lying in the long axis;
     changes of edge with an easy transition, the change falling in the
     long axis.”

In this form, then, and with this accuracy of tracing, the following
figures must be skated for the third test:--

Eight            Rfo--Lfo
Eight            Rfi--Lfi
Eight            Rbo--Lbo
Change      {(_a_) Rfoi--Lfio
            {(_b_) Lfoi--Rfio
Threes           RfoTbi--LfoTbi

R = RIGHT.
L = LEFT.
T = THREE.
f = FORWARDS.
b = BACKWARDS.
o = OUTSIDE.
i = INSIDE.

Into the system of marking--candidates have to get a certain proportion
of marks in each figure--we need not go. It will be sufficient to say
that it is necessary to skate each figure passably, and to earn more
than half marks on the whole.


SECOND-CLASS TEST

This has to be passed before three judges, and is divided into two
parts--(1) Compulsory Figures; (2) Free Skating. The regulations for
them are as follow:--

(1) _Compulsory Figures._--Each figure may be marked up to a maximum of
6 points. The marks given for each figure are multiplied by the factor
of value for that figure. In order to pass, a candidate must obtain a
minimum of 2 marks out of 6 in each figure, and an aggregate of 130 out
of the maximum of 234 marks.

(2) _Free Skating._--The candidate will be required to skate a free
programme of three minutes’ duration.

This will be marked:

     (_a_) For the contents of the programme (difficulty and variety) up
     to a maximum of 6 marks.

     (_b_) For the manner of performance up to a maximum of 6 marks. In
     order to pass, a candidate must obtain 7 marks for (_a_) and (_b_)
     together.

The marks for compulsory figures and for free skating must be obtained
from each judge. Judges may use half marks and quarter marks.


_Compulsory Figures_

                                      Marks. | Factor. | Total
                                             |         |
Eight               Rbi--Lbi                 |    2    |
                                             |
Change         {(_a_) Rboi--Lbio             |    2    |
               {(_b_) Lboi--Rbio             |    2    |
                                             |         |
Three          {(_a_) RfoTbi--LbiTfo         |    2    |
               {(_b_) LfoTbi--RbiTfo         |    2    |
                                             |         |
Double Three        RboTfiT--LboTfiT         |    1    |
                                             |         |
Change Three   {(_a_) RfoiT--LboiT           |    2    |
               {(_b_) LfoiT--RboiT           |    2    |
                                             |         |
Change Three   {(_a_) RfioT--LbioT           |    3    |
               {(_b_) LfioT--RbioT           |    3    |
                                             |         |
Loop                RfoLP--LfoLP             |    2    |
Loop                RfiLP--LfiLP             |    2    |
Loop                RboLP--LboLP             |    2    |
Loop                RbiLP--LbiLP             |    2    |
                                             |         |
Bracket        {(_a_) RfoB--LbiB             |    3    |
               {(_b_) LfoB--RbiB             |    3    |
                                             |         |
One-foot Eight {(_a_) Rfoi--Lfio             |    2    |
               {(_b_) Lfoi--Rfio             |    2    |

 R = RIGHT.
 L = LEFT.
 T = THREE.
LP = LOOP.
 B = BRACKET.
 f = FORWARDS.
 b = BACKWARDS.
 o = OUTSIDE.
 i = INSIDE.

Here is a remarkably varied programme, and one that will obviously give
a good spell of regular work to a candidate who intends to grapple with
it. It contains more of the material for skating than does the
corresponding English second test, in which only the four edges, the
four simple turns, and the four changes of edge are introduced, since
this International second test comprises as well as those, the four
loops, and two out of the four brackets. These loops, which are most
charming and effective figures, have nowadays no place in English
skating, since it is quite impossible to execute any of them, as far as
is at present known, without breaking the rules for English skating,
since the unemployed leg (_i.e._ the one not tracing the figure) must be
used to get the necessary balance and swing. They belong to a great
class of figures like cross-cuts in all their varieties, beaks,
pigs-ears, &c., in which the skater nearly, or actually, stops still for
a moment, and then, by a swing of the body or leg, resumes or reverses
his movement. By this momentary loss and recovery of balance there is
opened out to the skater whole new fields of intricate and delightful
movements, and the patterns that can be traced on the ice are of endless
variety. And here in this second International test the confines of this
territory are entered on by the four loops, which are the simplest of
the “check and recovery” figures. In the loops (the shape of which is
accurately expressed by their names) the skater does not come absolutely
to a standstill, though very nearly, and the swing of the body and leg
is then thrown forward in front of the skate, and this restores to it
its velocity, and pulls it, so to speak, out of its loop. A further
extension of this check and resumption of speed occurs in cross-cuts,
which do not enter into the International tests, but which figure
largely in the performance of good skaters. Here the forward movement of
the skate (or backward movement, if back cross-cuts are being skated) is
entirely checked, the skater comes to a momentary standstill and moves
backwards for a second. Then the forward swing of the body and
unemployed leg gives him back his checked and reversed movement.

Similarly, the bracket 8 is fresh material in this set of compulsory
figures. The shape and nature of the bracket is the same as that in
English skating.

The candidate for the second International test has also to skate a free
programme of three minutes’ duration. This takes the place, so to speak,
of the section in the English test devoted to combined skating, which is
not practised in the International style. This free skating is spoken of
in its place under the first-class test.


FIRST-CLASS TEST

This has to be passed before three judges, and is divided into two
parts--(1) Compulsory Figures; (2) Free Skating. The regulations for
them are as follow:--

(1) _Compulsory Figures._--Each figure may be marked up to a maximum of
6 points. The marks given for each figure are multiplied by the factor
of value for that figure. In order to pass, a candidate must obtain a
minimum of 2 marks out of 6 in each figure, and an aggregate of 190 out
of the maximum of 336 marks.

(2) _Free Skating._--The candidate will be required to skate a free
programme of three minutes’ duration.

This will be marked:

     (_a_) For the contents of the programme (difficulty and variety) up
     to a maximum of 6 marks.

     (_b_) For the manner of performance up to a maximum of 6 marks.

In order to pass, a candidate must obtain 7 marks for (_a_) and (_b_)
together.

The marks for the compulsory figures and the free skating are arrived at
by taking the total marks of the three judges and dividing by three.
Judges may use half marks.

This free skating is a charming item in the system of International
skating, and might, with great advantage, be introduced into the English
branch. It is in itself perfectly fascinating to look at, and from the
technical point of view it is quite admirable as a test of knowledge. A
good programme will contain dozens of turns and changes of edge, all
melting into each other without break or pause. None who have seen the
free skating of a fine performer can ever forget or question the
brilliance and variety of this three-minute free skating. As likely as
not, he will make his entry on to the rink in a spiral edge, and before
it has come to rest at the centre, start off on his coruscating
performance. Rockers, brackets, counters, and turns succeed each other
with bewildering rapidity; and all are performed with the utmost ease
and grace. It seems impossible to tell where the motive-power comes
from, so smooth and effortless is the travelling; you would have said
the skater was wafted by some localised wind, or impelled by some
invisible mechanism. But before he arrives at this part of his test, he
has to skate his compulsory figures, the list of which is subjoined.

_Compulsory Figures_

                                               Marks. |Factor.| Total.
                  {(_a_) RfoRK--LboRK            |   3   |
Rockers           {(_b_) LfoRK--RboRK            |   3   |
                  {(_a_) RfiRK--LbiRK            |   4   |
                  {(_b_) LfiRK--RbiRK            |   4   |
                  {(_a_) RfoC--LboC              |   2   |
Counters          {(_b_) LfoC--RboC              |   2   |
                  {(_a_) RfiC--LbiC              |   3   |
                  {(_b_) Lfic--RbiC              |   3   |
                                                      |       |
Three,            {(_a_) RboTfioT--LbiTfoiT      |   3   |
Change Three      {(_b_) LboTfioT--RbiTfoiT      |   3   |
                                                      |       |
                  {(_a_) RfoLPfoiLP--LfiLPfioLP  |   4   |
Loop,             {(_b_) LfoLPfoiLP--RfiLPfioLP  |   4   |
Change Loop       {(_a_) RboLPboiLP--LbiLPbioLP  |   5   |
                  {(_b_) LboLPboiLP--RbiLPbioLP  |   5   |
                                                      |       |
Bracket,          {(_a_) RfoBbioB--LfiBboiB      |   4   |
Change Bracket    {(_b_) LfoBbioB--RfiBboiB      |   4   |


 R = RIGHT.
 L = LEFT.
RK = ROCKER.
 C = COUNTER.
LP = LOOP.
 B = BRACKET.
 f = FORWARDS.
 b = BACKWARDS.
 o = OUTSIDE.
 i = INSIDE.

Now, here is a list of requirements which, when we think of the accuracy
demanded by the International style in the matter of tracing, will
clearly be too much for any but the very elect. Not only has a figure as
difficult as the back-loop 8 to be skated, but it has to be skated with
accuracy: the loops must lie approximately one on the top of the other,
and the edges that lead into and out of them must be symmetrically laid
down. It is this accuracy which makes the International style so hard of
achievement in its higher branches; to hope to get through this list of
searching figures, it is clear that the balance, the pace, and the power
of the skater must be in perfect control. And all the time the
appearance of insouciant freedom is there, though all the time that
freedom is bound by laws as relentless as those which regulate the
tranquillity of the English style. The feats are so difficult that they
cannot be executed except in a certain way, just as the ball that spins
so carelessly over the tennis net cannot win a short chase off the back
wall unless it has been hit in one way and no other.

A further important branch of International skating is the pair-skating,
which ranges from the simple waltz-step to the most intricate
evolutions. The rhythm and grace of this delightful exhibition is beyond
all words; beyond all words, too, is the training and skill which it
implies. Every bar of the music which accompanies it has its appropriate
movement: it is a perfect song of motion set to the band. But the beauty
and swing of it are things quite indescribable; one might as well hope
to reproduce the dancing of Pavlova in pen and ink as to convey any
sense of it to those who have not seen it. And those who have seen it
would very wisely yawn and pass on if they observed a purple paragraph
on the subject looming ahead. But thistledown is not so light in a warm
west breeze, nor the curves of a swallow’s flight more deliciously
unconjecturable than a well-matched pair in this pastime so perfectly
preconcerted that it looks entirely unrehearsed. On they drift, gliding,
turning, parting to come together again.... Mrs. Gummidge, for the
moment, would cease to think of the old ’un, and inquire the price of
skates--and knee-pads.

[Illustration:

PLATE XI

A WINTER HARVEST]

[Illustration:

PLATE XII

CLEARING THE SNOW FROM THE RINK]

[Illustration:

PLATE XIII

SPRINKLING THE RINK, CHÂTEAU D’OEX]

[Illustration:

PLATE XIV

PUBLIC RINK, DAVOS]

[Illustration:

PLATE XV

SKATING-RINK AT MÜRREN]

[Illustration:

PLATE XVI

SKATING-RINK AT CHÂTEAU D’OEX]



CHAPTER III

TEES AND CRAMPITS


These great Swiss rinks, the construction of which has already been
dealt with, are made for the benefit of the skater and the curler, but
wherever possible the curler should be accommodated with a separate rink
of his own. Epicure though the skater is, with regard to the smoothness
and levelness of his ice, the curler, quite rightly, is even more
exigent, and slight slopes of surface and minute inequalities and
roughnesses which do not interfere with the skater at all, make it
impossible for the curler to have a satisfactory rink. In any case, the
curler’s portion must be roped off from the skating part of the rink,
for, naturally, no skate blade must make the smallest scratch on his
sacred enclosure; while, on the other side, the curler is liable, in the
ecstasies of his “sooping,” to shed and scatter pieces of broom which
wander on to the skater’s ice and cause falls. Besides, the skip
habitually shouts at the top of his voice, and a good stone evokes
choruses of open-throated music: thus, if many curlers are shouting at
the top of their voices, combined skaters cannot hear the caller, unless
he shouts at the top of his voice. If he does this while skating a
figure, he will speedily become purple in the face and quite breathless.
Also, the curler smokes when he curls, which tempts the skater to do
likewise, and for the sake of the rink he must not. For those and many
other reasons, the curler should, when possible, have a separate rink
of his own, where he can soop and shout and smoke without interfering
with anybody.

Now, just as the art of skating has enormously progressed owing to the
facilities afforded by Swiss rinks and winters, so too has that great
sister art of curling. As in all forms of sport where delicacy or
“touch” are essential to success, occasional practice is not enough to
produce really first-rate curlers, or, indeed, to keep the first-rate
curler at the top of his game; and any who wish to excel must have
constant practice, such as Swiss or Canadian winters give him. But
Canada is a far cry to go a-curling, and we may put down the
vastly-growing number of curlers, and their growing skill, to the
opportunities afforded by Switzerland. There, all day long, in a
brilliant sun and yet on unsoftened ice, harder and faster than is ever
procurable in English or Scotch winters, the game goes on, and I do not
know of a single Swiss resort where provision is not made for those who
practise this delightful sport.

Into the history of curling there is not space to penetrate, and we
must, in a treatise of which the range is confined to the present and
does not explore into the mists of antiquity, confine ourselves to
considering the practical aspects of the game. As St. Andrews is to
golf, as the N.S.A. is to skating, or the M.C.C. to cricket, so to
curling is the Royal Caledonian Club, whose rules are the acknowledged
authority on all points in connection with the game. It would take too
much space to give these _in extenso_, but the following extracts, with
certain notes, will be found to explain the principles and practice of
the game, and enable anyone to construct a standard rink.

1. The length of the rink for play, viz. from the hack or from the heel
of the crampit to the tee, shall be 42 yards--in no case shall it be
less than 32 yards.

2. The tees shall be 39 yards apart--and, with a tee as the centre, a
circle having a radius of 7 feet shall be drawn. Additional inner
circles may also be drawn.

3. In alignment with the tees, lines, to be called central lines, shall
be drawn from the tees to points 4 yards behind each tee, and at these
points foot scores 18 inches in length shall be drawn at right angles,
on which, at 6 inches from the central line, the heel of the crampit
shall be placed; when, however, in lieu of a crampit a hack is
preferred, it shall be made 3 inches from the central line, and not more
than 12 inches in length.

4. Other scores shall be drawn across the rink at right angles to the
central line, as in the diagram, viz.:

     (_a_) A hog score, distant from either tee one-sixth part of the
     distance between the “foot score” and the farther tee.

     (_b_) A “sweeping score” across each 7-foot circle and through each
     tee.

     (_c_) A “back score” behind and just touching outside the 7-foot
     circle.

_Note._--In these four rules are contained the complete directions for
the marking out of the rink. But as they contain certain terms of mystic
meaning, it may be useful to state them in a less technical manner.

In other words, then, you start with a point on the ice, which is the
“tee,” and using this as a centre you draw round it a circle of 7-foot
radius. This is done by means of a lath or strip of wood with two nails
or steel points projecting from the lower face, 7 feet apart. Inserting
one of these in the centre you pull the lath round, so that the other
scratches on the ice a circumference at a distance of 7 feet. As stated
in Rule 2, “additional circles” may also be drawn. These circles are
drawn from the same centre, with a radius of 2½ and 4 feet
respectively from it. This is done for convenience in measuring the
distance from the tee of stones lying within the 7-foot radius, as it
gives additional lines of measurement. This whole system of circles with
the central tee is called “the house,” and, as we shall see, all stones
which, after being played, have come to rest with any part of them lying
within the house, may add to the score of the side which has projected
them there. Behind the house, in the position specified in Rule 3, is
placed the crampit. This is a strip of iron long enough for the player
to stand on with one foot in advance of the other. It is roughened with
spikes on its lower side, so that it maintains a firm position on the
ice, and at the back of it is a ridge against which the player places
his right foot before delivering the stones. It forms, in fact, a firm
base for playing from, since, if anybody attempted to put down a
curling-stone, while standing on the ice itself, with sufficient
velocity to make it slide over the 42 yards to the other tee, he would
quite certainly slip and put himself down instead. It is from a crampit
that almost all curlers nowadays play. As an alternative they may use
what is in the rule called a “hack,” which is a small iron contrivance
fixed to the boot, and which answers the same purpose as a crampit. But
it is not, in Switzerland anyhow, often seen, for it requires adjustment
for each individual player, whereas the crampit fits all alike.

Now this arrangement of hog-score (usually called “the hog”), back
score, sweeping score, “house” and crampit (or hack), scratched in the
ice according to these directions, completes the construction of one end
of the rink. At the other end a similar construction is made in
alignment, the centre of the two houses being 39 yards from one another.
Here is the rink ready for play, and the rest of the rules deal entirely
with the game itself.

_Note._--Now I have before me the Rules of the Royal Caledonian Curling
Club of 1911-1912, which, I believe, are the latest. But neither there
nor elsewhere can I find the slightest allusion to the principles of
scoring at the game, foreknowledge of which is probably assumed. But
since it is possible that there are those who do not know how the score
is made, it is well to state it. Briefly, then, the stone which, at the
end of a “head” or “end” of the match (which is made up by every player
having had his turn, and having played his two stones), lies nearest to
the tee counts one point to the side to which the stone belongs, given
that it or any part of it lies within the house. If the stone that lies
next nearest to the tee belongs to the same side it counts one also; so
also does the next nearest and the next nearest and the next nearest,
provided they are all in the house and belong to the same side. But if,
after the stone lying nearest to the tee, the next nearest belongs to
the opposing side, the first-named counts one, but this second stone
takes precedence of all others lying in the house, and the side that
owns the nearest one counts one only. Supposing there are two stones
which, after measurement, are found to lie exactly equidistant from the
tee, the head or end is a draw, and is like a halved hole at golf.

       *       *       *       *       *

5. All matches shall be of a certain number of heads or shots or by time
as may be agreed on, or as fixed by an umpire at the outset....

6. Every rink of players shall be composed of four a side, each using
two stones, and no player shall wear boots, tramps, or sandals with
spikes or other contrivances which shall break or damage the surface of
the ice. The rotation of play observed during the first head of a match
shall not be changed.

_Note._--Players are usually shod with “gouties.” These are cloth
overshoes with india-rubber soles, and are put on over the boot. What is
required is (by the rule) something that will not injure the ice, while
the player for his own sake will wear something that enables him to run
with the stone he is sweeping with the least possible risk of falling
down. On the whole, rubber-soled footgear is the best.

       *       *       *       *       *

7. The skips opposing each other shall settle, by lot or in any other
way they may agree upon, which party shall lead at the first head, after
which the winners of the preceding head shall do so.

_Note._--The head, as already stated, consists of the projection of
sixteen stones from one crampit towards the house at the other end of
the rink, for each player puts down two stones, and there are eight
players. Then when all have played the head is complete, the score is
recorded, and the next head is played from the crampit behind the house
into which they have just been playing. They “cross over,” that is to
say, to the other end of the rink.

The skips (short for skippers) are the captains of the opposing sides.
They have complete control of their sides, and direct each player (with
due regard for his capabilities) what shot he is to play for. The skips
“toss up” who shall have the choice of beginning (stones being played by
opposing sides alternately), and the side which scores at the first head
takes the honour (as at golf) at the second head. If neither side scores
(the head being halved) the honour remains as it was. It may be noted
also that though in regular matches (as stated in Rule 5) the number of
heads to be played is settled beforehand, in an ordinary friendly game
it is more usual merely to see how time is going when play has been in
progress a couple of hours or so, and then determine how many more heads
shall be played.

       *       *       *       *       *

8. All curling-stones shall be of a circular shape. No stone, including
handle and bolts, shall be of a greater weight than 44 lb. imperial, or
of greater circumference than 36 inches, or of less height than
one-eighth part of its greatest circumference.

_Note._--The stones, then, are great granite buns with a handle to
project them by. The usual weight is from about 36 to 40 lb., and the
reason why a limit is given to their weight is that people like Mr.
Sandow could doubtless deliver stones which weighed as much as grand
pianos. These could not be shifted by lighter granite buns, which would
merely recoil from them. Two or three of them would also fill up the
greater part of the fairway of the rink.

9. No stone shall be substituted for another (except under Rules 10 and
14) after the match has begun, but the sole of a stone may be reversed
at any time during a match, provided the player is ready to play when
his turn comes.

_Note._--The question of the reversing of stones is dealt with later in
the practical part of this essay. For the moment it is sufficient to say
that one side of the stone is very highly polished, the other less so.
When the stone is put down on its highly polished (or “keen”) side, it
will, of course, with the same initial velocity travel further than if
put down on its rougher (or “dour”) side, the friction on the ice being
less.

       *       *       *       *       *

10. Should a stone be broken, the largest fragment shall be considered
in the game for that head--the player being entitled to use another
stone or another pair during the remainder of the match.

11. All stones which roll over, or come to rest on their sides or tops,
shall be removed from the ice.

_Note._--So weird a phenomenon seems impossible, but then curlers are
very weird also. Incredible as it may sound, it is quite possible to put
down one of these great granite buns with the handle in the centre of
its top crust so unevenly that, after a drunken wobble or two, it turns
right over amid howls and shouts and execrations. Probably you could not
do it if you tried, any more than you could cut a golf-ball smartly to
square leg when you mean to go quite straight. But these distressing
feats are known to occur, without the player having had the smallest
desire to accomplish them. The traditional penalty for thus mishandling
a stone is “drinks all round.” The present writer has never seen a
stone come to rest on its side, but “_credit, quia impossibile_.”

       *       *       *       *       *

13. Players, during the course of each head, shall be arranged along the
sides, but well off the centre of the rink.... Skips only shall be
entitled to stand within the seven-foot circle.

14.... Should a player play a wrong stone, any of the players may stop
it while running; but if the mistake is not noticed till the stone is at
rest, the stone which ought to have been played shall be put in its
place, to the satisfaction of the opposing skip.

16. The sweeping shall be under the direction and control of the skips.
The player’s party may sweep the ice from the hog score next the player
to the tee, and any stone set in motion by a played stone may be swept
by the party to which it belongs. When snow is falling or drifting, the
player’s party may sweep the ice from tee to tee.... Both skips have
equal rights to clean and sweep the ice behind the tee at any time,
except when a player is being directed by his skip....

_Note._--The all-important question of sweeping is dealt with later. The
principle at the base of the rule is that a player’s side may encourage
(or not) his stone to proceed, but the other side may not interfere with
it in any way at all. In accordance with this principle is the direction
that says that if a stone during its course moves a stone belonging to
the other side, that stone may be swept or left alone at the option of
the other side.

       *       *       *       *       *

17. (_a_) If in sweeping or otherwise a running stone is marred by any
of the party to which it belongs, it may, in the option of the opposing
skip, be put off the ice; but if by any of the adverse party, it may be
placed where the skip of the party to which it belongs shall direct....

(_b_) Should any played stone be displaced before the head is reckoned,
it shall be placed as nearly as possible where it lay....

18. No measuring of shots shall be allowed previous to the termination
of the head.

19. The skip shall have the exclusive regulation and direction of the
game for his rink, and may play last stone or any part of the game he
pleases.... When his turn to play comes, he shall select one of the
players to act as skip in his place.

22. Every stone shall be eligible to count which is not clearly outside
the seven-foot circle. Every stone which does not clear the hog-score
shall be a hog, and must be removed from the ice.... Stones passing the
back-score, and lying clear of it, must be removed from the ice, as also
any stone which in its progress touches the swept snow on either side
the rink.

_Note._--Thus there is only a certain portion of the ice on which stones
may remain during the progress of each “end” or “head.” If a player
sends down a stone too weakly so that it does not reach the hog-score,
or so crookedly that it goes into the swept snow at the side of the
rink, or so strongly that it passes over the back-score, it is at once
removed from the ice. But, strangely enough, it is nowhere laid down
what the breadth of a rink should be. Somewhat pathetically this rule
presupposes that there is always “swept snow” at the side of the rink,
which, happily, is not the case. As a matter of fact the space allowed
for each rink is, roughly speaking, about 20 feet, though I am not aware
that it is laid down authoritatively anywhere. In any case a stone, to
be of the slightest use, must be lying not so wide as 10 feet (lateral
measurement) from the tee, and those lying wider, as well as those which
have definitely passed beyond the back-score, cannot conceivedly come
into play, and so may as well be removed. But the case is different with
stones lying short of the hog-score, and in a straight line between the
tees. Such stones, as will be readily understood, might possibly be of
the utmost value to guard other stones lying in the house, and perhaps
to be promoted into possible scorers. A guard, then, which is so
important an item, must be put down with some skill, and with requisite
strength, and thus it is laid down that stones lying short of the hog
are considered not to have been sufficiently skilfully played to take
part in the game and be of value to their side. These are therefore
ignominiously removed.

Here, then, have been given the conditions under which, and the court,
so to speak, in which, this great game is played, and we will suppose
ourselves on the fast, perfect ice of a Swiss resort on a sunny morning.
The skips have “picked up” their sides; every player has a broom or
“besom,” which we will hope sweeps clean; the four players on each side,
namely No. 1 as lead, No. 2, No. 3, and No. 4, have had their places
allotted to them. As a general rule it is the skip who plays in the most
difficult place--i.e. No. 4, where, if the other three players under
their skip’s direction have built up an interesting house, he will have
the most delicate and hazardous shots to negotiate. But it sometimes
happens that the skip, who primarily should be chosen because of his
knowledge of the game, may not have the requisite skill of hand for
that post: it may happen that a player on his side is a finer performer
in the delivery of his stones, though his skill in tactics and
generalship may be inferior. In such a case the skip, who directs the
place of each player, may put himself in another position, and, if he
does not play as No. 4, will usually lead. Then he goes first, and can
devote a mind, untroubled by the thought of the shots he will himself
have to play, to the tactics of his campaign. But, as a rule, the player
with the best knowledge of the game is usually the best player also, or,
at any rate, is good enough for the critical post of No. 4, and in
general the skip occupies that position.

Round about the crampit, behind the back-score, are ranged the sixteen
stones which the players have selected, and if they are wise they will
have turned them momentarily upside down, so that they rest on their
handles on the ice, and their bases, or soles, are exposed to the rays
of the sun. This should be done because it often happens that some
fragment of broom or some little congelation of frost has frozen on to
the soles, which will impede their smooth passage down the rink. But if
they are slightly warmed like this, a polish on the side of the besom or
on the glove will ensure their being quite free from any such
impediment. In order to identify the stones of each side, it is usual to
tie some fragment of ribbon to the handles or otherwise distinguish the
stones of one side from those of the other, since without some such mark
they are as alike as sheep, and, as is obvious, the whole game depends
on the relative position of the stones of one side as opposed to that of
the stones of the other. But if one side is “ribbons” and the other
“plain” the skip sees at a glance, even when the house is growing most
populous and complicated, how his enemies lie and what is the position
of his own stones.

The skips, then, take up their positions by the house into which the
stones are about to be played. Only one skip, as laid down by the rules,
may be in the house at any given moment, and that skip is the skip of
the player then delivering his stone. The other skip stands outside and
behind the house, but ready, if the stone of his opposing side has been
put down too strongly, to sweep it out of the house when it has once
passed the tee. Till it reaches the tee he may not interfere with it in
any way, but once past that he may (and certainly will) polish the
surface of the ice over which it is going to travel for all he is worth,
so as to assist it in passing through the house altogether and so be
taken off the ice. If, on the other hand, his side has the house, he
stands inside the house, or in front of it, calls out how he wants the
stone laid, and holds his broom as a mark on to which the player is to
aim his stone. On that mark the player, if he hopes to deliver a
successful stone, must fix his eye with the hungry steadfastness with
which he has to look at his ball at golf.

Then, in order to grasp the hang of the game, we, the invisible
spectators, must leave the skip with the besom pointing on to the ice
and observe the other players. Down the rink they are ranged, No. 2 of
one side opposite No. 2 of the other, No. 3 opposite No. 3, leaving the
centre of the ice, the “howe-ice,” as it is called, clear for the
passage of the stones. Thus to No. 1, who is about to deliver his stone,
the whole of the house with its seven foot radius is unimpeded. Just
outside that empty riband of ice, so soon to ring with the sliding
stones, stand No. 2 and No. 3, his own No. 2 and No. 3 on one side, the
inimical No. 2 and No. 3 on the other. His own side should be alert for
any direction from the motionless skip; the other side are sublimely
indifferent, for they may not interfere with the course of his stone.

He delivers the stone: the skip, eagle-eyed, watches the pace of it. It
may seem to him to be travelling with sufficient speed to reach the spot
at which he desires it should rest. In this case he says nothing
whatever, except probably “Well laid down.” Smoothly it glides, and in
all probability he will exclaim “Not a touch”: or (if he is very Scotch,
either by birth or by infection of curling) “not a cow” (which means not
a touch of the besom). On the other hand he may think that it has been
laid down too weakly and will not get over the hog-line. Then he will
shriek out, “Sweep it; sweep it” (or “soop it; soop it”) “man” (or
“mon”). On which No. 2 and No. 3 of his side burst into frenzied
activity, running by the side of the stone and polishing the surface of
the ice immediately in front of it with their besoms. For, however well
the ice has been prepared, this zealous polishing assists a stone to
travel, and vigorous sweeping of the ice in front of it will give, even
on very smooth and hard ice, several feet of additional travel, and a
stone that would have been hopelessly hogged will easily be converted
into the most useful of stones by diligent sweeping, and will lie a
little way in front of the house where the skip has probably directed it
to be. If he is an astute and cunning old dog, as all skips should be,
he will not want this first stone in the house at all; in fact, if he
sees it is coming into the house, he will probably say “too strong.”
Yet, since according to the rules only stones inside the house can
count for the score, it seems incredible at first sight why he should
not want every stone to be there. This “inwardness” will be explained
later.

No. 1 of the other side delivers his stone: No. 1 of the first side
delivers his second stone, and No. 1 of the opposing side delivers his
second stone. And from this moment the whole problem of the game becomes
as complicated and interesting, given that the stones perform something
like that which is required of them, as does a game of chess when the
first four or five moves of a recognised gambit have been played and
countered. Even at so early a period of a head at curling, the
possibilities of its subsequent development are almost infinite; the
building up of the house may progress in a hundred different ways, and
it will be possible only to consider only one or two of the problems
with which the skip is confronted.

In actual “moves,” what has happened is this: the leads (No. 1) of each
side have played their stones, and No. 2 on each side go up to the
crampit for their turn. No. 3 on each side thereupon moves towards the
crampit, while No. 1 on each side becomes the sweeper nearest the house,
so that each stone as it comes down the ice may have its sweeper ready
if sweeping is ordered. No. 3 (when No. 2 is playing) is nearest No. 2:
he dances sideways along the ice ready to sweep if the order comes,
until he delivers the stone into the keeping of No. 1, who has just
played. Often, if sweeping is an urgent necessity, both he and No. 1
will vigorously scour in front of the progressing stone, since often in
the ensuing situations it is not a question of additional feet that are
required, but of an inch or two. There may be a stone in the house
already, and it is doubtful whether an opposing stone has “legs” or
vitality enough just to pass it, and thus lie nearer to the tee. In such
a case all possible assistance must be rendered it; the skip will career
wildly out of his house and join No. 3 and No. 1 in their operations.
Anything, anything to give this dying stone an inch more of travel!...
Also, a stone with smooth ice in front of it will travel more directly,
that is with less curl upon it, as it is becoming moribund, than a stone
which has the infinitesimal fractions of tiny frost-flower or moisture
to encounter. But that opens up the awful question of “handle.”...
There will be something about that in its appropriate place.

But here, at any rate, we have the rink moving. Slow stones are being
encouraged to cross the hog, or to enter the house, or, even at this
early stage, to cannon rudely against the stones already in the house
which must be ejected. Theoretically, I think, in the ideal game of
curling, which we shall never see on this side of the grave, the leads
should have laid down four stones a little in front of the house, or
perhaps each lead should first have put down a stone in front of the
house, and then delivered their second stones with in-handle or
out-handle, round their first stones, which thus become guards of their
second stones, which should lie, say, in the four-foot circle. But we
need not consider so perfect an opening. If any leads led like that,
they would be skips of a team of archangels, who would be soundly rated
for their clumsy play.

As a matter of fact, what usually happens in a good team is this sort of
thing. The first man to play miscalculates the speed of the ice (though
he is quite a good player) and is soundly hogged. His opposing No. 1,
being too frightfully intelligent, and profiting by that which he has
seen, puts down a stone that passes the tee, and rests perhaps in the
seven-foot circle beyond it. And though that stone for the moment
“counts”: that is to say it is in the house, and, theoretically, may be
a winner, it will not in real practice be of any good when the head is
finished. There is bound to be a better stone than that, and any other
stone over the hog that lies in front of the house, though not counting
at present, is far superior, for it can be promoted (_i.e._ brought
nearer the tee) by any stone that strikes it, whether of its own side or
of the enemy, and thus is both dangerous to the other side and helpful
towards its own. Also it can become the most valuable guard for a stone
that has curled round it and lies in the house and behind it, whereas
the stone that comes to rest beyond the tee can, if struck, only travel
further away from the tee instead of towards it.

The two leads put down their second stones. They have gauged the speed
of the ice, and this time do as their skip tells them. They both put
down stones that come to rest just in front of the house, or perhaps
just in it. But if either of them make what would be the most perfect
shot of all, if they were playing the last shot of No. 4, namely one
that rests on the tee itself, or in the 2½-foot circle (called the
pot-lid), he has not done probably as much for his side as if he had
laid his stone just in front of the house, for No. 2 of the other side
follows, and he has only to be straight irrespective of too great speed
to dislodge that perfect stone and in all probability lie there himself.
A guarded stone in such a position is the most valuable stone that can
be imagined, but without a guard its worth is enormously decreased.
Indeed it is positively a dangerous stone, since it gives the other side
something to rest on.

We will suppose, then, that when No. 2 plays there are lying on the ice
two stones, both a little in front of the house, one right in the middle
of the ice, the other three or four feet to the side of it. The object
now will probably be to get past those stones, and, by the twist
imparted to the stone No. 2 now delivers, to lie behind one or other of
them in the house, and thus be guarded. If this shot is perfectly played
there will be lying a stone close up to the tee and incapable of being
directly attacked (_i.e._ by a hard shot played down straight on to it),
for the guarding stone in front of the house prevents this, and it is a
very different thing to be obliged to play round this guarding stone so
as to hit the other. Thus it may be necessary for the opposing skip to
direct that this guard should be removed by a fast straight stone, so as
to open up the house again. But this costs a stone, even if successful,
and stones are not lightly to be squandered. Should this shot come off,
the first skip will probably direct that another guard be laid to
protect this asset in the house. Having once got a stone in a probably
winning position, the skip is right to guard it and to guard it and to
guard it, directing that stones should be laid to right and left of it,
so as to block the passage of a stone which, by curling inwards or
outwards, can reach and dislodge it, and perhaps lie there in its place.
Practically speaking, a stone which lies close to the tee should be
guarded at the cost of every stone belonging to the side if necessary
(_i.e._ if the guards are being removed by the enemy), and no skip in
his senses will direct his player to put other stones in the house
until he has rendered reasonably secure from attack the stone of his
which lies close to the tee.

The above analysis of these early stones takes, of course, only one case
out of the hundred ways in which they may lie, and gives but one
instance of the value of stones lying in front of the house, rather than
(in the early stages of the game) in the house. Among other values they
possess they are also capable of being promoted--_i.e._ a subsequent
player may be directed to hit one of them gently, so as to push it into
the house, while his will lie there in its place guarding it. Or he may
be told, if the stone in question is lying rather wide, to get an inwick
off it--_i.e._ play on to the inner side of it, as in the manner of a
half-ball shot at billiards, and, cannoning off it, slip into the house
himself. Perhaps it will be an enemy’s stone selected for this manœuvre,
and perhaps, also, he will hit the wrong side of it (_i.e._ the outer
side), and instead of slipping into the house himself, will kindly
promote the other stone instead. Thus these stones in front of the house
are both an asset and a danger, and it is not too much to say that their
presence, lying there, is about the largest constituent in the interest
of the “end” and the building of the house. They present, as has been
seen, infinite possibilities of value and menace. And all their terrific
potentialities have to be weighed and pondered by the skip.

When twelve stones have been put down (_i.e._ when the first three
players on each side have contributed two each) the skips, if playing
four, leave the house and go down to the crampit to deliver their
stones. One in all probability looks troubled, the other in that case
will almost certainly wear a face of benignant elation and call
attention to the beauty of the morning. Their places in the house to
direct and hold the guiding besom are taken by other members of their
side (probably the No. 3s), and before they go they will almost
certainly hold a secret and muttered conversation with these gentlemen,
consulting and conferring over the shots to be attempted. For by this
time the situation, if the play has been respectable, is sure to have
become complicated. Very likely four or five stones are in the house,
and of those four or five all but one may happen to belong to one side.
But that one is sitting there on the very tee itself, and thus takes
precedence of all the others. If only it could be got at and evicted and
soundly butted out of the house, the other four would all count. But it
lies well guarded, for just in front of the house are two stones a
little to right and left of it. There is clear ice (a “port” as it is
called) of not more than two feet between them, through which it is
possible to send a stone that will reach that tee-sitter. But, oh, how
small a two-foot port looks at the distance of nearly forty yards!

Now, it is to the first skip that this
by-every-means-in-his-power-to-be-guarded stone belongs, and with
justice he fears that his opposing skip is perfectly capable of sailing
blandly through that rather narrow port, butting the stone that lies so
perfectly on the tee out of the house altogether, and lying there
himself instead. So he has elected to play a shot that will close up
that port and leave the stone on the tee for the moment impregnable. He
wants to lie just over the hog and no more, for the nearer a stone is to
the hog the more it blocks the passage. So, calling on his sweepers to
be ready to sweep (“Sweepers wake!” in fact), he puts down his stone
with in-handle on it, directing this a little

[Illustration: “SHE LIES”

_From the Drawing by Fleming Williams_]

wide of the left-hand stone of those two guards, by which the temporary
skip is holding his besom. For one moment he watches its passage, eyes
glued to it, stricken to stone. Suddenly an awful misgiving occurs to
him, his face turns to a perfect mask of agonised fury, and he yells at
the top of a naturally powerful voice:

“Sweep her, don’t leave her for a moment. Sweep! Sweep! Don’t leave her.
Good Lord, can’t you sweep? Oh, well swept, well swept indeed!”

Then probably with infernal superiority he shouts, “Is that about where
you wanted it?” knowing perfectly well that it is.

All this means that

     (i) He was afraid he had put down his stone too weakly, and that it
     would not get over the hog.

     (ii) It would then be ignominiously removed, and he would wish he
     had never been born.

     (iii) The opposing skip would sail through that port, and out the
     winning stone.

     (iv) That it is all his fault, and that he will never curl again,
     but take to that degraded pastime, skating.

     (v) Finally, that his stone has been swept over the hog and lies
     now bang in the middle of the passage, closing it completely--a
     perfect gem, pearl, peach.

Says the other skip grimly, “You’ve got some good sweepers on your
side.”

Says the first skip (airily and forgetting that he has been howling to
his side to sweep), “Oh, it had lots of legs.” (Liar: it is just over
the hog.)

Ensues a shouted colloquy between the other skip and his lieutenant (No.
3) in the house.

No. 3. Can you see anything of the port?

Skip 2. No.

No. 3. Can you see anything of the stone that lies?

Skip 2. No.

     (Skip 1 here probably lights a pipe and talks gaily to a friend.)

No. 3. Can you get round their guard with out-handle?

Skip 2. No.

No. 3. Can you get round the other guard with in-handle?

Skip 2. No.

     (Long pause.)

Skip 2. Yes, I can. At least there’s nothing else to be done. No, give
me more ice than that! (This means that he thinks his stone will take
more curl, and wants the directing broom to be put wider.) That’s about
right.

He plays his shot amid dead silence. It soon becomes apparent that his
stone is not going to curl round this guard at all, but will hit it. It
does so, and lies by its side, merely giving an additional rampart to
the granite fortification in the middle of the ice. The silence becomes
rather painful.

Skip 1. Bad luck! (He does not mean that at all.) I think I’ll try and
get another stone in the house.

Skip 1’s No. 3. For heaven’s sake don’t disturb our stone here.

Skip 1. No, I’ll play it just tee high....

     (He puts down a hopeless hog.)

Skip 1. I wish you fellows would sweep!

     (His pipe goes out.)

Skip 2 shouting to his No. 3. Well?

No. 3. Well?

Skip 2. See what happens, I think. There’s nothing to play for.

This means he is going to play for a fluke. There is no reasonable
chance whatever of reaching that stone on the tee, and a wild toboggan
of a shot sent down among all those guards may do something, though
heaven alone knows what. He puts down stone with full swing, most
unevenly, so that it careers up the ice violently rocking. It hits the
long guard by the hog, which is exactly what he didn’t want to do,
almost full in the face, and sends it scudding off into the abominably
bad stone he himself has just put down before. It hits this nearly full,
and starts it on its way. Bang into the middle of the house it goes,
sends that impregnable tee-lying stone flying, and lies there itself.
The five other stones in the house are all on its side, and instead of
Skip 1 scoring one, Skip 2, off an incredible, revolting, pitiable
fluke, scores five. Roars of execration and applause rend the skies, and
Skip 2 modestly remarks, “Well, there are more ways than one of playing
any shot!”

       *       *       *       *       *

Here, then, is a rough sketch of the game as it is played, as it appears
to the spectator; and after this bird’s-eye glance at it it is time to
start again at the beginning and see how to play it. And the first
consideration is the stance which the player takes up on the crampit
before delivering his stone. Here, as at golf, there are great
varieties of stance, all of which are perfectly right and proper,
provided the curler can deliver his stone from them with effect. But, as
at golf also, there are certain principles that will be found common to
all those stances, and perhaps the most important of all is that the
curler should feel perfectly comfortable and be maintaining his stance
by balance and _not_ by muscular effort. In every case again (if he be
right-handed) his right foot will be firmly resting against the rim at
the back of the crampit, for it is there that he gets the purchase which
enables him to give the needful velocity to his stone. Similarly, his
left foot will be advanced, and he will be facing full in the direction
in which he is about to send his stone, and his left foot will also be
pointing in that direction. He will also be bending down, since he has
not to drop or fling the stone on to the ice, but to place it--to lay it
there smoothly with a forward swing of his arm and body. But any kind of
divergence is proper as regards this stooping attitude: some men get
their stone down to the ice by bending the body strongly above the hips,
keeping the legs comparatively straight, while others get down by
bending the knees so far that they are sitting on their right heel, and
their right knee is absolutely touching the crampit. And all these
styles are perfectly right provided only that (i) the player feels
comfortable and unstrained; (ii) he can get his stone well down on to
the ice; (iii) his head is facing and his eyes looking in the direction
of his skip’s besom. All three of these provisions are essential to
successful curling, and if one thing can be more essential than another,
it is that the player should be looking straight at the skip’s besom.

Next comes the actual delivery of the stone, the handle of which should
lie lightly in the crook of the fingers and not be grasped like a
battle-axe. This delivery of the stone is accomplished not by a jerk, as
if throwing it, but by a steady swing forward of the body and arm
together. The whole arm of the hand which carries the stone is brought
slowly and steadily back (as in the back swing of golf), while the
weight is resting almost entirely on the right leg. Then arm and body
come forward together, without muscular exertion and without pressing,
and the stone is placed on the ice, while the weight of the whole body,
which at the top of the swing was on the right leg, has come forward on
to the left. Should the ice be slow, greater force is given to the stone
by a longer swing, and should the ice be fast the swing is shortened.
But in no case, if the ice is playable on at all, should the impetus be
derived from a muscular effort of the arm as in throwing; but as in
golf, the swing of the arm and body together give the stone its impetus.
And throughout the swing the eyes of the curler must never leave the
directing besom of his skip. It is as fatal to look away from that as it
is to take the eye off the ball at golf.

       *       *       *       *       *

Now, if the stone is put down like this, without jerk or exertion
(except such as is entailed in the swing), the stone will be laid
evenly, and will start on its course without wobbling, but sliding truly
on its polished base. But if it has been jerked or chucked on to the ice
instead of being laid there, the chances are ten to one that it will be
what is called a “quacker”--_i.e._ it will be oscillating from one side
to the other and rolling like a ship in a cross sea. This sort of stone
is quite useless, and if quacking badly will go staggering right through
the house without ever having slid at all. Sometimes, if merely a very
fast stone is wanted to break up a rampart of guards, or just “to see
what will happen” in a hopeless position, a quacker is as good as
anything else. But it is not curling.

Now there is a very important item in the swing at golf called the
“follow-through.” This means that after the ball has been hit and is on
its way, the club and the hands and arms holding it fly out after it,
while the whole weight of the body goes on to the left foot. There is no
question that what happens to the club and the arm and player generally,
after the ball has gone, cannot make the least difference to the flight
of the ball, but this “follow-through” is a symptom, an indication of
what has already taken place, and if the follow-through is satisfactory
and full it shows that the swing has been unchecked and smooth. Just in
the same way the curler has to follow through, and though no doubt both
curler and golfer can, theoretically, check their swing the moment after
the stone and the ball have started, they would be most ill-advised to
attempt to do so, since they run a grave risk of checking their swings
before the stone or the ball have gone, and thus giving to their shot
only a fraction of the force of the swing. So the curler is strongly
advised to let this forward swing of his arm and body work itself out in
the natural follow-through. And this follow-through may express itself
in various ways. Most curlers express it by letting themselves run or
slide a few steps after their stone, the forward swing of the body
overbalancing their left foot, so that they instinctively (for fear they
should fall down) put the right foot in front of it--in other words,
take a few steps. Others again, and chiefly those who deliver the stone
with right leg very strongly bent, so that the knee touches or nearly
touches the ice, have not time to scramble to their feet, and usually
express their follow-through by failing forward on their hands on to the
ice. But in whatever way they conduct themselves, this little run and
slide which some take and the falling forward of others are the result
of the player’s proper and correct follow-through. He has not, at any
rate, interfered with or checked his swing: he has delivered his stone
with the force that he believed to be required.

And now we come to the most delicate and interesting part of the
delivery of the stone, namely, the question of “twist” or “elbow” or
“handle,” as it is called, which is universally practised by all
curlers. This “handle” gives a rotatory motion to the stone, so that as
it is travelling up the ice it is also slowly revolving on its own axis,
either from right to left or left to right, and this rotation imparts to
it, as its initial velocity diminishes and its pace slows down, a
curling movement, in the manner of a break from the off or a break from
the leg at cricket, or, if you will, a swerve in the air, or, as in
golf, of a pull or a slice. Thus, though a stone on the tee may be
completely guarded and covered, the player can, by imparting this
rotatory movement to his stone, curl round the guard and reach his goal.
Moreover, he can curl round the straight guard from either side, from
the leg or from the off, so that if one path is blocked by another
guard, he may yet get access by the other. He can, too, if there is, as
often happens, a slight bias in the ice, apply the handle opposite to
the direction in which the bias of the ice would deflect his shot, and
thus keep his stone straight. Or again, by aiding the bias by the other
handle, he can get round a very wide obstacle indeed. Heaven knows that
these shots so glibly recorded are not easy; but there is hardly a shot
or a manœuvre in any game which is easy. But the man who aspires to be a
curler at all must have a fair command of this thing called “handle.” He
must be able to direct a shot with moderate accuracy on the skip’s besom
with either out-handle or in-handle. It is not enough equipment for the
most modest player, who is a curler at all, to be able to play with one
handle only. He must have a tolerable command of both.

Now, strange as it may at first appear, it is far easier to send down a
stone with in-handle or out-handle on it than to send down a perfectly
straight stone with no handle at all. Furthermore, the slightest frozen
chip of ice, or minutest fragment of broom may, in passing under one
side of the stone, impart a fortuitous and rotatory motion to it, so
that a stone arriving in the house with practically no curl at all upon
it is (except in the case of a fast hard stone) a rarity. Since, then,
it is almost bound to have some handle on it, it is wiser for the player
to put on the handle himself intentionally and allow for its curling
course. This rotatory motion of the stone is imparted to it by a very
slight turn of the arm just before the stone leaves the hand. If the
elbow is turned outwards, it is called “out-elbow” or “out-handle,”
though I am inclined to think that it is the wrist which makes the turn
(some people say the fingers alone), the elbow merely following the
wrist. This gives the stone a twist from right to left, and the effect
of it is that it curls in from the right in the manner of a ball bowled
with leg-break. This out-handle curl is easily imparted to the stone by
turning the handle of it, as the hand grasps it, outwards at right
angles or thereabouts to the direction of the stone’s travelling, and by
holding the handle “overhand,” as it were, with the knuckles and back of
the hand facing the ice in front. The curl is then naturally imparted to
it, and the player will not have to think about it at all. If he
delivers his stone in this way his wrist, if he holds his arm slack, as
he always should (giving the velocity to the stone only by the swing),
will naturally and inevitably make the outward turn. And it is a most
important thing that the player should not think of handle at all when
he delivers his stone, but leave that to develop automatically from the
correct delivery, since the consideration of the pace and direction of
the stone are enough to fill the most capacious mind and tax the utmost
of his skill. How much allowance should be made for the curl, and how
much the stone should be aimed to the right of where it is desired that
it should come to rest, is a matter which is largely left to the
judgment of the skip, who has been observing how much curl the ice
takes. This differs very considerably, and depends on the condition of
the surface. For instance, if the ice is very slow, a stone dies
quickly, and since the curl does not begin to take effect till the
initial speed has very much diminished, it will not curl for so long as
it would on keen ice. On slow ice, in other words, the course of the
stone is less influenced by handle. But again, the vigorous polishing of
the ice in front of a stone tends to keep it straight, since then the
roughnesses of the ice, on which the rotatory motion bites, are much
diminished. But as a rule, after a few stones have been sent down, it is
clear to a good skip how much handle they are taking, and he directs
accordingly.

The in-handle or in-elbow is produced in precisely the converse way to
the out-handle, and the stone, instead of curling in from the right,
curls in from the left like a ball with off-break on it or a slice at
golf. Here the stone should be held with its handle pointing inwards
towards the player, and he should hold it in the crook of his fingers
with the inside of his hand instead of the back of it facing the
direction in which he lays his stone. This grip, again, naturally gives
the required twist, and he can concentrate himself on pace and
direction. But often during the course of a match the character of the
ice will change, and it will begin to take the handle more or less as
the case may be. Both skip and individual players should be on the
lookout for this, and the tactics should be altered accordingly. Hard
ice--_ceteris paribus_--is the keener, and thus in the afternoon, when
the rays of the sun shine less directly on to the rink, it tends to get
faster and to take more curl. On the other hand, in the morning ice
tends to get slower, as the sun plays on the surface of it.

All stones are polished differently on their two faces, one side of the
stone being less inexorably smooth than the other. A stone travelling on
the keen or smoother side naturally goes further starting at the same
initial velocity than if travelling on the rough side, and should the
ice be very keen and fast, it is difficult to estimate the strength
which will take them over the hog, and yet not send them roaring through
the house. But the handles of stones can be unscrewed in a very few
seconds and fixed on the other side, so that the stones will now travel
on their rough or slower side. Conversely, also, if the ice has been
very fast, and a player has been using the rough side of his stones, he
may even, during the course of the match, if the ice for some reason
gets slower, reverse his stones and use the keen side. This will make it
possible for him to play without effort, instead of “shifting” the
stones along.

I am aware that in touching on the question of handle at all I do a
thing that is provocative of discussion. There are many ways of putting
on handle, and the adherents of any such will certainly maintain that
their own method is the best if not the only proper one. But I think the
majority of players will allow that the grip which I have mentioned,
namely the overhand grip for imparting out-elbow and the underhand grip
for imparting in-elbow, lead, more or less, provided only the arm is
held slack, to the required result. But I freely allow there are many
other methods: some curlers put on handle consciously, and consciously
twist their arms as they deliver their stone, others trust to the slight
adhesion of the little finger to the handle after the other fingers have
quitted. But it seems to me that any grip which _automatically_ imparts
the desired handle is preferable to all grips which demand that the
player should be obliged to think about his handle. He has enough to do
without that, and enough to think about. So let him, if he finds these
grips unsatisfactory, learn any grip under the sun (and over the ice)
that naturally imparts the curl he wishes to put on.

A further question arises. Is it not possible to regulate the amount of
handle and the consequent amount of curl that the stone will take?
Without doubt it is; but the curler who can put on a great deal of
handle or a little handle at will is not a person who can be instructed.
Certainly it is possible to make one stone curl a little and another
much, but he who can do this and regulate it is not a first-class
curler merely but a supreme curler. For us, duffers and strugglers,
there is a simpler method, which is to aim the shot _always_ with the
curl that we naturally impart to it, and take more or less “ice” as the
case may be: aim it, that is to say, closer to the required
resting-place for the stone if the ice is taking but little bias, and
further from it if the ice is encouraging the deflection. The superior
curler, in critical situations, it is true, when guards are spread about
like the rocks in some dangerous archipelago, will make curves, as his
stone is dying, which it would be madness for the ordinary decent player
to attempt. But he will have made such curves by the conscious
application of muscular force, sending the stone literally spinning down
the ice. We admire, we applaud, I hope, even when he is on the other
side, but unless we are more than first-rate at the game we will not try
to imitate. Personally, I have a theory which concerns the thumb. Not
for worlds would I divulge it for fear of encouraging disasters as bad
as those that I myself perpetrate. All the same I am convinced it is
right: I lack the skill to execute it....

But whatever the method of grip, whatever the curl to be imparted to the
stone, the handle should be at rest in the crook of the fingers. To hold
it tight implies muscular exertion, and muscular exertion, unless the
object is to send a fast straight stone, the only requisite of which is
great pace and moderate direction, is out of place at this delicate and
“touchy” game. Even when the ice is very slow, better practice will be
made with a longer and untightened swing than with momentum derived from
the elbow and shoulder.

Finally, but no less importantly, with regard to sweeping. It is hardly
too much to say that a good sweeper is almost worth his place in a side,
even though he is an indifferent player, so tremendous is the part which
a good sweeper plays, for he is like a good field at cricket. He should
always start before the stone gets to him, so that by the time it is
opposite him he is moving down the rink with it, ready to begin
operations the moment his skip tells him. The word of command may come
at any second, and it is often of vital importance that he should begin
instantly. Even skips have errors of judgment, and the skip may have not
given the order to sweep soon enough. This can often be rectified by
instant and vigorous sweeping, and the error repaired, whereas if a
sweeper is slow to go about his job the mistakes on the part of the skip
may be irremediable. All down his allotted portion of the ice the good
sweeper will sidle along by the travelling stone, even though no order
comes, until he has given it into keeping of the next sweeper or of the
skip himself. And with the same promptitude as he began to sweep must he
stop sweeping when he hears the word “Up brooms!” Another yard of polish
may, if the skip is correct in his estimate, be the death of a winner.
Often again it is but a question of an inch or two to turn a hog into
the most perfect of long guards, and this inch or two is entirely a
matter of sweeping. The most moribund of travellers may be coaxed over
the line and make an incalculable difference in the score by protecting
a winner. But “a little less and what worlds away.”... A shot that good
sweeping would have made into a gem is bundled off the ice like the
worst stone ever sent down on its degraded handle.

Besides matches between teams there is a very searching affair to be
played with curling-stones called a “points” competition. Here single
players compete against each other in attempting to make certain shots
which are set them. Stones are put on the ice in certain given
positions, and each competitor in turn has to try to bring off a certain
definite shot. For instance, he will have to guard one stone, to promote
another, to get an inwick off a third, to draw a port between two
others, &c. It is, of course, a very high test of skill, but is somewhat
a Lenten or humiliating affair, since the very finest players seldom get
as much as half-marks. It is, moreover, lacking in all the
“team-feeling” which is one of the greatest charms in match play, and is
also, in the present writer’s humble opinion, a terribly tedious affair,
since after each shot, if the lying stones have been touched, they must
be replaced on their marked spots, and a competition of this kind, if
there is at all a large field, goes on rather longer than into eternity.
According to the regulations drawn up by the Royal Caledonian Club there
are nine shots to be played and a tenth is added in case of a tie. The
necessary stones to play on to are placed in or around the house, and
the competitor has then nine different shots to play.

These are--(i) striking; (ii) inwicking; (iii) drawing to the tee; (iv)
guarding; (v) chap and lie (_i.e._ playing on to a stone on the tee,
ejecting it, and remaining in the house); (vi) wick and curl in; (vii)
raising; (viii) chipping the winner; (ix) drawing through a port. In
case of a tie between competitors, those who are equal play _four_ shots
of “outwicking.”

Different marks can be earned by each of these shots. For instance, if
a competitor playing chap and lie remain in the seven-foot circle he
scores one, if within the four-foot circle he scores two, given that he
strikes the placed stone out of the house in both cases. Complete
details are published by the Royal Caledonian Curling Club.

[Illustration:

PLATE XVII

CURLING]

[Illustration:

PLATE XVIII

CURLING AT MURREN]

[Illustration:

PLATE XIX

THE THREE KULM RINKS]

[Illustration:

PLATE XX

LADIES’ CURLING MATCH, ST. MORITZ]



CHAPTER IV

TOBOGGANING


To descend an ice-run like the Cresta at St. Moritz is no doubt a most
thrilling and skilled adventure, but the vast majority of people who say
(with perfect truth) that they enjoy tobogganing would sooner think of
ascending in an aeroplane than descending the Cresta, and would freeze
with fright at the thought of embarking on it. On the other hand, the
skilled Cresta runner would no more think that the quiet descent of
snow-covered roads on a Swiss luge was tobogganing in his sense of the
word, than the aeroplanist would allow that a man practising high jump
was flying. From which we may rightly infer that there are various sorts
of movement which are covered by the word tobogganing.

As a matter of fact there are, commonly practised in Switzerland, three
broad and widely differing species of tobogganing. They are as follows:

     (i) Proceeding--quickly or leisurely--down frozen roads or
     artificial snow-made runs.

     (ii) Proceeding--as quickly as possible--down artificial ice-runs.

     (iii) Bobsleighing (or bobbing)--as quickly as possible--down roads
     or artificial runs.

The number of folk who practise the first of these immensely outnumbers
those who practise the other two; for everybody in Switzerland in the
winter is guilty of the first practice, from the small Swiss native,
aged perhaps eight or under, who marches up to school with its books
tied on to its luge, and gaily and jauntily returns home seated on it,
steering and guiding with its ridiculous little feet, and shouting
“Gare” or “Achtung,” according to the canton, up to the skilled racer on
the skeleton who carries off the Symonds bowl in the race on the
Klosters road at Davos. But all these, different as their performances
are, are going on snow-runs. The snow may in places, it is true, where
it has thawed and frozen again, intimately resemble ice. But the ice-run
is different in kind from any snow-runs.

For ordinary travel, let us say from your hotel down to the rink, where
there is no question of racing, but just getting there, the toboggan
generally used is the Swiss toboggan or luge. It is a high wooden frame
(high, that is, compared to the skeleton) with two runners shod with
steel or iron, and you sit on it exactly as is most comfortable--it is
never very comfortable--and tie your lunch and skates on to it, and push
off. If you want to turn to the right, you put your right heel into the
snow, or dab with your hand on the right side; if you want to go to the
left, you perform the same operation in a sinister manner. If you want
to stop, you put both heels into the snow. If you want to go quicker,
you, while still sitting down, walk with both feet simultaneously. This
sounds complicated; but it is quite clear the moment you feel you want
to go quicker--it is done instinctively. Finally, if you are going fast,
and must make a sudden stop,

[Illustration: “ACHTUNG!”

_From the Drawing by Fleming Williams_]

owing to some obstacle in the shape of an old lady or a sleigh
immediately in front of you, you turn into any convenient snowbank at
the side of the road, and having picked yourself up, look injured, which
physically you are not. Or, if there is no convenient snowbank, you fall
off to one side or the other, and often observe your malicious luge
proceeding calmly on its course without you. In fact, you do anything
that occurs to you at the moment, except upset the old lady or charge
the sleigh.

The foregoing is a complete compendium of all that it is necessary to
know or do, when tobogganing on an ordinary road. It is as simple as
walking and generally quicker. The same, in the main, applies to the use
of luges on an artificially-made run. But every artificial run implies
the idea of racing, and thus the object is to get down it as quickly as
possible. But every artificial run has turns in it, and the idea is to
get round these turns without capsize and with as little loss of speed
as possible. The outside of these turns is therefore banked up (_i.e._
if the turn is to the right, the left side of the track is banked up,
and _vice versa_), so that you do not (if you manage properly) run out
of the track, but climb the bank and descend again into the track. But
if you do not manage properly, one of three things will happen to you.

     (i) You go over the bank and are heavily spilled. This is fatal if
     you want to win a race, unless everybody else does the same.

     (ii) You upset on the bank. This is not necessarily so fatal,
     unless you entirely part company with your toboggan, which then
     finishes triumphantly without you.

     (iii) In excess of caution, you diminish your speed so much before
     you get to the bank that you merely crawl round the bend. This is
     moderately fatal.

But we need not waste more time over artificial snow-runs. They are only
a compendious form of road-running, and what is necessary in the way of
steering and judgment of pace on them, is equally true with regard to
such fine natural runs as the Klosters road. Here there are no
artificial banks to keep the runner in his course. He has to get around
the corners by judicious steering, and crawling when necessary, and,
above all, by adjustment of weight. On the ordinary luge or Swiss
toboggan there is little adjustment of weight that can be made, but it
is a very different affair when you negotiate the same road on racing
toboggans, namely skeletons, which are also used on ice-runs.

Here, instead of this little high wooden platform on which you sit,
there is a very low framework supported on round steel runners, blunt
nosed in front, and instead of sitting on it you lie on it, face
downwards. The runners, sharply bent upwards in front, return and form
the support of the low frame, and you grasp these with your hands, and
lie down with arms bent or extended as required. But the cushion on
which you recline moves backwards and forwards in the manner of a
sliding seat, so that you can lie with legs right out behind the base of
the machine, and can use great part of your weight, inclining it to one
side or the other of the toboggan, in order to get it round curves.
Similarly, the hands have an immense leverage behind them, and with one
foot lying out behind and raking the snow, a curve can be made at high
speed, which it would be impossible to get round on a Swiss toboggan
without heavy braking and great loss of velocity. When riding a
skeleton, the toes of the boots are fitted with toothed irons, so that
they can be used together as brakes, or singly, in order to make the
toboggan curve in the required direction. The runners of these toboggans
are not rectangular like those on luges, but of circular shape, thus
producing the minimum of friction on their travelling surface. Even on
snow-tracks these are capable of tremendous speed, though that speed
does not approach what they compass on frozen ice-runs, where they
travel almost frictionless.

Apart from the “storm and stress” of racing, there is a wonderful
pleasure, if the track is smooth and trafficless, in this swift gliding
over frozen snow, and one of the most romantic of experiences in all the
gamut of motion is tobogganing by moonlight. Never will the writer
forget one such night on the Klosters road. We had sleighed up from
Davos, a party of friends, to Wolfgang, on one of those magical nights
when no breath of wind stirred the lightest jewels of hoar-frost on the
pines, when the moon was full, and the stars burned like diamonds
aflame. All the way up, after dinner, there had been talk and laughter,
and standing ready to go, we arranged that there should be two minutes’
pause between the despatch of the toboggans, and one by one we slid off
into the unspeakable silence of the Alpine night. It so happened that I
was the last to go, and for two minutes I waited at the head of the
track in a stillness that is unimaginable. When I started there was in
all probability not a living soul within half a mile, and the nearest
was sliding swiftly further away every moment. For a little way the
track lay open to the full blaze of the zenithed moon, but soon it
plunged beneath the impenetrable canopy of pines. It was possible to see
the white glimmer of the road ahead, otherwise there was nothing
visible. Then, with the suddenness of a curtain withdrawn, the blackness
became a celestial and ineffable glory of close burning constellations,
with the full disc of the moon shining imperially among them. Far below,
distant and dim, I could see the lights of Klosters, and half-longed to
reach them, in order to get out of this awful and burning and frozen
solitude, half-longed that my travel might be lengthened into an
eternity of wheeling stars and flying road. Sometimes it seemed that I
was rushing headlong through space, sometimes it seemed that I was
stopping absolutely still, and that it was this unreal world of trees
and road and bridges and banks that hurled itself by me, and that the
stars and I were the steadfast things. Once the sudden roar of a stream
over the bridge of which I passed sounded loud and menacing, but in a
moment that was past, and the hissing spray of frozen snow coming from
the bows of my toboggan was the only sound audible. And then the lights
of Klosters gleamed larger and nearer, and this wonderful swift solitude
was over.

(As a matter of fact, I had an awful spill by the cabbage garden corner:
but though that was very vivid at the time, there remains nothing of it,
except the fact, in my memory. It would have been more romantic, but
less realistic, not to have mentioned it.)


_Ice-runs_

There is one Mecca: there is one St. Peter’s: there is one Cresta. As is
Mecca to the Mohammedan, as is St. Peter’s to the Catholic, so is the
Cresta run at St. Moritz to the tobogganer. It is _the_ ice-run. There
may be others, and there certainly are, but what does the Cresta care?
It has a _cachet_ which no other possesses.

The Cresta was first engineered, I believe, in the year 1884, and its
chief architect was Herr Peter Badruth of St. Moritz. From that time
onwards it has yearly been built up with as much thought and care as is
lavished on a cathedral; every yard of it is staked out, and the angles,
curves, and shaping of its banks and corners most accurately calculated.
It is built up from the bottom upwards, so that the lower part of it can
be used while the construction of the upper part is still going on, and
the whole run is generally open not until after the middle of February.
Every winter is this amazing architecture in crystal planned and carried
out under the direction of Mr. W. H. Bulpett, who has for many years
been chief architect.

To begin with, the snow is trampled down, after the manner of making the
foundation of an ice-rink, so as to form a firm solid base, and where
the banks are to be built snow is brought in sleigh-loads, shovelled on
to it, and beaten down. More snow will then be still required, and again
more, till the whole of the banks are solid and of the necessary height
and curve. Then the banks and the rest of the course (the straights) are
sprinkled with water and again beaten down, and the glazed ice surface
begins to be made. When this has frozen, water is again sprinkled on it,
and again and yet again, till the whole section has become, banks and
course alike, a surface of smooth hard ice. Down each side of the narrow
racing track (except at its banked corner it is only a few feet wide, a
riband of ice) are little walls of firm built snow, also iced, so that
the runner, if he is going moderately straight, cannot leave the track,
though he often comes into slight collision with these walls. But even
slight collisions when travelling at a speed that sometimes exceeds 70
miles an hour are not experiences to be encountered unarmed, and the
elbows and knees are thickly protected by felt pads, while on the toes
of his boots are toothed rakes made of steel, which are used to guide
the runner round the bank and to check his speed if it is so excessive
that, unchecked, he would run over the tops of the banks.

A very high degree of nerve, skill, and judgment is required on such an
ice-run as this. The rider’s object being to cover the course in as few
seconds as possible, he must clearly take his banks (_i.e._ get round
the curves) with as little loss of speed as possible, and he will only
use his brakes when his judgment tells him that if unchecked he would be
carried over the top of them. On the other hand, he does not want to
brake unless it be necessary, and you will often see him with his top
runners within an inch or two of the edge of these huge sloping
ice-curves. At Battledore and Shuttlecock, the two biggest banks on the
Cresta, he enters the second immediately after coming out of the first,
and the two form a great S curve. Lower down again, before he threads
the

[Illustration: ON THE CRESTA RUN

_From the Drawing by Fleming Williams_]

arch of the railway bridge, there is another called Bulpett’s corner,
designed to protect him from running out to the left of the course, and
then a headlong descent takes him to the winning-post, which is at the
bottom of the hill. Passing this he snaps a thread with an electric
connection, which registers the exact fraction of a second at which he
passes it. Then, on his run out, he whirls up a steep ice-covered slope,
for if this were not iced too, his speed would be so abruptly checked
that he and his toboggan would be bowled over and over like a shot
rabbit, and comes to a stop just outside the little village of Cresta.
But even with this steep slope to check him after his race is over, the
momentum acquired is so great that, if he does not brake heavily all the
way up this hill, he will, on reaching the level ground at the top,
shoot high into the air, toboggan and all.

Some idea of the speed at which toboggans travel on the straight reaches
of the course may be gathered from the average speed at which the course
can be run. It is over 1300 yards in length, and has been traversed in a
shade over 60 seconds! This means that the highest rate of speed must be
well over 70 miles an hour. This on a pair of steel runners, head
foremost, with your face a few inches above the solid ice, with nothing
to check you except a small-toothed rake on the toe of each boot! Yet so
wonderfully skilful is the construction of the run, so cunningly is it
built to safeguard the headlong traveller, that accidents are very few.
Two fatal ones, indeed, there have been, but of one had nothing to do
with the course itself, but was owing to the fact that a rider started
from the top before one of the barriers across the course, which show
that it is not open for racing, had been removed. In the other, the
rider ran over a bank and his toboggan fell on the top of him. One of
the great difficulties which the builders and managers of this run, in
company with other ice-runs, have to contend against, is the power of
the sun. It is, of course, absolutely necessary that the icing of the
run should be so solid that there is no chance of the runner of a
toboggan going through it, which would naturally mean a bad spill. But
it is also necessary that certain of the banks must have the sun blazing
into them all day long, which would cause them to lose ice faster than
it could be made by the sprinkling which goes on when the sun is off
them. At such points, therefore, big canvas screens are put up, which
shade the bank from the direct rays; also tobogganing is never permitted
to go on all day. It starts early in the morning, when the run has been
recuperated by the night of frost, and is closed when, in the opinion of
the management, the sun has so softened the banks that there is danger
of a toboggan cutting through the crust.


_Bobsleighing (or Bobbing)_

This charming form of the sport may be described as combined
tobogganing, and in bobbing races teams of four enter against each
other. The form of toboggan used is, of course, immensely larger than
that employed in single tobogganing, since it will hold five or six
persons, and its construction is altogether different and most
elaborate. It consists of a long, low platform some 10 feet in length,
and is mounted, not on one pair of runners, but on two. The pair that
supports the fore part of the bobsleigh is a sort of bogie-truck,
pivoted under the platform, and it can be turned to the right and left
in order to direct the course of the bob round curves. This turning of
it is done by the captain, who sits first at the bows of the sleigh, and
is worked by ropes, which he holds in his hands, or by a wheel which
controls its movements. In long runs, as on the Schatz-alp at Davos, the
wheel is far better than the ropes, since it entails so much less strain
on the hands of the steersman: on a short run the ropes are as good.
Behind the captain sit the members of his crew in line, with the loops
of rope just outside the framework of the sleigh, in which they fix
their heels. Last of them all sits the brakesman, at the stern of the
sleigh, who has in his control a powerful steel-toothed brake, which
crosses the sleigh behind and is worked with levers. But it is the
captain who is in command of the bob, and the brakesman and other
members of the crew only perform his orders. The word “bobsleigh” is
derived from the movement of leaning or “bobbing” forward, which is done
by all the crew together, to get up speed or increase it. They come
forward quickly with a jerk, and go back again slowly and steadily, and
this without doubt accelerates the movement of the sleigh.

As in all other forms of tobogganing, braking is employed to diminish
speed in coming to corners, where otherwise the momentum would cause the
whole concern to leave the track altogether. So also, just as the
ice-tobogganer inclines his body inwards in a similar position, the
captain and crew lean to the inside of the track when going round a
corner so as to help the toboggan round it, while the inclination of the
front pair of runners is directed to the same end. By strong leaning
inwards, combined with the inclination of the bogie-pair of runners,
quite considerable curves may be taken at high velocity without the use
of the brake at all, and the consequent loss of speed. But all this is
left to the judgment of the captain, who has to decide whether by
direction of the bogie-runners alone, or by that in conjunction with the
leaning inwards of his crew, he can safely negotiate a corner without
calling for the use of the brake. And the responsibility is entirely in
his hands. At the same time much depends on the prompt obedience of the
crew to his orders, for it is easily possible that a corner might have
been safely coasted round if they had obeyed his call to lean inwards,
which would spill them all if his call was not immediately responded to.
How great the effect of this inward shifting of the weight can be, if it
is thoroughly carried out, may be guessed from Plate XXXI. In this same
photograph the inward direction of the front pair of runners may also be
seen assisting the work of the crew. And it is this “teamwork,” the
sense of working in unison under orders, which gives much of its charm
to bobbing. Everyone feels--rightly--that much of the success of the run
depends on his individual work, even though his individual work is only
to lean as far as possible out of the bob without parting company with
it altogether.

Bobbing can be practised on an ordinary road covered with hard snow, or,
_in excelsis_, on runs constructed for this express

[Illustration: TAILING

_From the Drawing by Fleming Williams_]

purpose. Of these the two most famous are the St. Moritz bob-run, which
starts by the Bandy rink and finishes side by side with the Cresta
ice-run, after passing under the railway bridge, and the Schatz-alp run
at Davos. Previous to its construction, not many years ago, bobbing at
Davos chiefly took place on the Klosters road, which was the same track
as that used by the ordinary toboggan, but now each has its own course.
These artificially constructed bob-runs are engineered with the same
care and nicety as ice-runs for the single toboggan, and at corners
curved banks are built solidly of beaten-down snow. The track is then
iced, for no snow could stand the continual passage of the heavy bobs
over the same banks and narrow course without speedily being worn into
ruts that would entirely spoil the going and upset the goers, and the
ice is then sprinkled over with loose snow to prevent the toboggan
skidding. But the greater part of bobbing is done on the public roads,
which are frozen and hardened by the passage of sleighs. At most Swiss
winter resorts there are facilities for this delightful form of sport.

[Illustration:

PLATE XXI

THE BUILDING OF THE CRESTA--“BATTLEDORE”]

[Illustration:

PLATE XXII

THE TOP OF THE CRESTA, ST. MORITZ]

[Illustration:

PLATE XXIII

STARTING ON THE CRESTA]

[Illustration:

PLATE XXIV

CHURCH LEAP, CRESTA RUN]

[Illustration:

PLATE XXV

CHURCH LEAP, CRESTA RUN]

[Illustration:

PLATE XXVI

“BATTLEDORE” CORNER, CRESTA]

[Illustration:

PLATE XXVII

CROSSING THE ROAD, CRESTA]

[Illustration:

PLATE XXVIII

NEAR THE FINISH ON THE CRESTA]

[Illustration:

PLATE XXIX

BOB-RUN, ST. MORITZ: IN THE LARCH WOODS]

[Illustration:

PLATE XXX

ROUNDING SUNNY CORNER, ST. MORITZ BOB-RUN]

[Illustration:

PLATE XXXI

BOB-RUN, ST. MORITZ]

[Illustration:

PLATE XXXII

THE STRAIGHT FROM THE BRIDGE, ST. MORITZ BOB-RUN]

[Illustration:

PLATE XXXIII

ST. MORITZ BOB-RUN]



CHAPTER V

ICE-HOCKEY


Many of the Swiss winter-resorts can put into the field a very strong
ice-hockey team, and fine teams from other countries often make winter
tours there; but the ice-hockey which the ordinary winter visitor will
be apt to join in will probably be of the most elementary and
unscientific kind indulged in, when the skating day is drawing to a
close, by picked-up sides. As will be readily understood, the ice over
which a hockey match has been played is perfectly useless for skaters
any more that day until it has been swept, scraped, and sprinkled or
flooded; and in consequence, at all Swiss resorts, with the exception of
St. Moritz, where there is a rink that has been made for the
hockey-player, or when an important match is being played, this sport is
supplementary to such others as I have spoken of. Nobody, that is, plays
hockey and nothing else, since he cannot play hockey at all till the
greedy skaters have finished with the ice.

And in most places hockey is not taken very seriously: it is a charming
and heat-producing scramble to take part in when the out-door day is
drawing to a close and the chill of the evening beginning to set in;
there is a vast quantity of falling down in its componence and not very
many goals, and a general ignorance about rules. But since a game,
especially such a wholly admirable and delightful game as ice-hockey,
may just as well be played on the lines laid down for its conduct as
not, I append at the end of this short section a copy of the latest
edition of the rules as issued by Prince’s Club, London.

For the rest, everybody knows the “sort of thing” hockey is, and quite
rightly supposes that ice-hockey is the same “sort of thing” played on a
field of ice by performers shod in skates. As is natural, the practice
and ability which enable a man to play ordinary hockey with moderate
success are a large factor in his success when he woos the more elusive
sister-sport; another factor, and one which is not sufficiently
appreciated, is the strength of his skating. It is not enough to be able
to run very swiftly on the skates: no one is an ice-hockey player of the
lowest grade who cannot turn quickly to right or left, start quickly,
and above all, stop quickly. However swift a player may be, he is
practically useless to his side unless he can, with moderate suddenness,
check his headlong career, turn quickly, and when the time comes again
start quickly.

I have often been asked whether ice-hockey is “bad” for skating. Most
emphatically it is not: on the other hand, it is extremely good for most
skaters, since it gives them strength of ankle and accustoms them to
move at a high speed. Strength, as we have seen before, is not the prime
need of a skater, but balance: strength, however, is a most useful
adjunct. But though hockey is good for the skater, he will certainly
find that he will not skate well or accurately immediately after playing
hockey, any more than he will skate well the moment he has taken off his
skis. But the feeling that to play hockey unfits the skater for that
which he may regard as his more artistic job, is, as far as can be seen,
unfounded.

It is a wonderful and delightful sight to watch the speed and accuracy
of a first-rate team, each member of which knows the play of the other
five players. The finer the team, as is always the case, the greater is
their interdependence on each other, and the less there is of individual
play. Brilliant running and dribbling, indeed, you will see; but as
distinguished from a side composed of individuals, however good, who are
yet not a team, these brilliant episodes are always part of a plan, and
end not in some wild shot but in a pass or a succession of passes,
designed to lead to a good opening for scoring. There is, indeed, no
game at which team play outwits individual brilliance so completely.

But such is not the aspect of the game that will strike the observer who
watches the usual pick-up or inter-hotel match on the rink, which
generally begins as soon as skaters hear the curfew of the tea-bell.
Here will be found the individualist who, sooner than pass when he has
once got the puck, would infinitely prefer to fall and be trampled on;
and you will see him, while still sitting on the ice, hacking wildly at
the beloved india-rubber, in flat contravention of the rule. Common,
too, are the “non-stops” (like Wimbledon trains) who, once having got up
speed, are practically brakeless. Indeed, it was in connection with
non-stops that the present writer saw the most ludicrously comic
incident that it has ever been his good luck to encounter in these
winter places, where so many funny things happen. And it was in this
manner. A round dozen of these delightful nonstops had made up a hockey
match. The rink where they played bounded on three sides by snow-banks;
on the fourth, at the edge of which was one of their goals, an extremely
steep descent (caused by the levelling up of the ground to make the
rink), about 15 feet in height, plunged into the snow-covered below. It
was a very cold afternoon, and (so rightly) the two gentlemen who were
deputed to keep goal preferred to plunge into the fray and go for the
puck whenever they could catch sight of it. In general, there were some
four or five out of the twelve players on their feet simultaneously: the
rest were momentarily prone. All this was delightful enough, but I had
no conception how funny they were all going to be.

It so happened that the puck was in the neighbourhood of the goal away
from the steep bank down into the field: it so happened, also, that all
the twelve were on their feet. Somebody in the mélêe near the goal hit
the puck with such amazing violence that it flew half-way down the rink.
The whole field, with ever-increasing velocity, poured after it,
spreading out on both sides of it. Another whack brought it close to the
goal at the edge of the steep bank, and again at top-speed every player
on the field was in pursuit. Faster and ever faster they neared the
goal: somebody, with stick high uplifted in the manner of a
three-quarter swing at golf, made a prodigious hit at it, but completely
missed it. The next moment every single one of those players had poured
like a resistless cataract down the steep snow-slope into the field
below, leaving the rink completely untenanted except for a small
innocent-looking puck, which lay a few yards in front of a yawning
goal.

[Illustration: ICE HOCKEY

_From the Drawing by Fleming Williams_]

For a little while this impressive stillness and depopulation lasted.
Then the first “strayed reveller” returned, heavily limping. He took his
time, and with a superb, lightning-like shot sent the puck whirling
through the unguarded goal. Simultaneously he sat down. Simultaneously a
second player showed his head over the ice-bank and shouted “Offside!”
Simultaneously also, the puck hit him in the face. It is hard to
believe, I know; but I assure the reader that it was harder to stop
laughing.

At any rate, here are the rules:


RULES OF MATCH PLAY

1. The puck shall be made of india-rubber, 3 inches in diameter, 1 inch
thick, and shall weigh 1¼ lbs., or shall be of such other size or
shape as shall from time to time be decided.

The stick shall be so made that it can pass through a ring 3 inches in
diameter.

2. The goal-posts at each end of the ice shall be 4 feet high and 4 feet
apart.

3. The team shall consist of six players.

4. The goal is scored when the puck passes between the goal-posts.

5. The game shall consist of two halves of 20 minutes each. The teams
change goals at half-time.

6. The match is won by the team who scores the greater number of goals.
If, when time is called, the number of goals is the same on both sides,
the match is said to be a tie. Five minutes each way must then be played
until the tie is decided, or the teams may arrange another match.

7. A referee shall be appointed whose duty it shall be to decide all
disputed points, and his decision shall be final.

He shall appoint, if possible, four goal umpires, two at each end.

The referee shall have power to stop the game for any cause and for such
time as he shall think fit.

In the case of unfair or rough play he shall caution the offender, and
if the offence is repeated, he may order the offender off the ice for a
certain interval, or for the rest of the match.

If no referee is appointed, the captains shall arbitrate all disputes.

8. The game shall be started by placing the puck between two opposing
players on the half-way line in the centre of the ice; the sticks of the
two players must meet three times before either may touch the puck.
After a goal the puck shall be placed in the centre of the ring and
restarted as above.

9. When the puck goes off the ice, it shall be restarted as in Rule 8,
and from a point 3 yards from the side where it left the ice. In case
the puck leaves the ice behind the goal line, it shall be restarted at a
point 5 yards from the goal line and 3 yards from the side.

10. No charging, crossing, riding off, pushing or tripping is allowed.

11. The player may not raise his stick above his shoulder.

12. No player may carry, stand on, kick or throw the puck except the
goalkeeper, who may kick it, catch it, or knock it away with his hand or
leg, or stop it with any part of his body.

13. A player having fallen is considered _hors de combat_, and may take
no part in the game until he has regained his feet and his stick.

14. Should the game be stopped by the referee by reason of the
infringement of any of the rules, or because of an accident or change of
players, the puck shall be started at the spot where it was last played
before the infringement, accident or change of players shall have
occurred.

15. No player shall play a forward pass unless at the time of his so
doing there are not less than two of his opponents (including the
goalkeeper) between him and the opponents’ goal line (the goal line for
this purpose being an imaginary line drawn from the goal-posts to the
side). In the event of such forward pass being played by or hitting such
player as aforesaid, or of his interfering with the game in any way, the
puck shall be restarted at the point where such forward pass was made.

16. In the case of one of the players being disabled, the captain of the
opposing team may decide whether he will allow a substitute or take out
one man from his own side.

17. No alteration shall be made in the rules unless it be supported by
at least two-thirds of those present at a Special General Meeting called
for the purpose, of which at least seven days’ notice must be given in
writing to each member, or by seven days’ notice posted on the Club
Notice Board--the suggested alterations to accompany any such notice or
to be affixed to the Club Notice Board. Any amendment to be brought
forward at such Special General Meeting must be signed by the proposer
and sent to the Hon. Secretary at least four days before the date of
such Special Meeting.



CHAPTER VI

SKI-ING


Of all the hundreds of folk who yearly spend a few weeks or, if they are
excessively fortunate or opulent, more than a few weeks in Alpine
resorts during the winter, there are many who devote themselves almost
entirely to one sport. Thus you may, as a rule, never meet a man except
on:

(i) The skating rink,
(ii) The curling rink,
(iii) The ski-ing slopes, or
(iv) The toboggan runs.

Weather bad for his particular branch of sport may temporarily drive him
to another and slightly despised diversion, but when possible, where his
heart is, there will his legs be also. He will be adopting one
particular method of sliding (I count curling a method of sliding,
because your object is to make your curling-stones slide in a definite
manner) to the exclusion of others, and sliding in some form or other,
whether on skates or toboggan or skis, lies at the base of all winter
sports. That is why we all go to Switzerland in the winter, because
there we find frozen water (or hope to) in abundance. We then, having
fixed on the particular and hazardous manner in which we wish to slide
over frozen water, with steel blades or long wooden shoes, proceed to
do so. In all cases the desire to slide instead of walk regulates the
choice of our holiday. Exclusive tobogganers we must regard as a
comparative rarity, for there are few who practise tobogganing whenever
possible and nothing else at all. As a rule, tobogganers do not toboggan
for the whole of every day. It entails too much hill-climbing.

But of these three classes, I think the confirmed and inoculated skier
is most absolutely wedded to his sport. You will find him a rarer
visitor to either form of rink than is the inoculated skater or curler
to the ski-ing slopes. It will often happen, also, that the inoculated
curler visits the skating-rinks, or the inoculated skater the house and
the hog. But the man who comes out to Switzerland in order to ski very
seldom visits either. For various and intricate as are the manœuvres
which the expert can perform on skates, and various as are the movements
which the expert can cause his curling-stones to perform, there is at
the command of the skier a greater expanse of conquerable territory. Not
only has he his figures, so to speak, to cut on the snow-fields, his
Telemark and Christiania swings, and his stemming turns, which
correspond roughly to the threes and rockers and change of edge in the
skater’s art, and the outwicks and inwicks of the curler, but he has his
travel over the snows for travel’s sake: he is an artist in climbing,
and the whole horizon (omitting such mountain peaks as the Matterhorn or
the Aiguilles) are part of his rink, which reaches, broadly speaking,
wherever there is snow. And some part of his rink, however bad the
weather, is pretty certain to be in order. The skater’s rink may be (as
has been known within the memory of man to happen) an inglorious series
of pools, or have vanished entirely under a covering of snow, and
similarly, the curler’s rink is occasionally found to resemble a sort of
cold wet toffee. But the skier’s rink is hardly ever altogether
impracticable, and he can both travel and in his travelling cut his
figures. Hardly ever, though he may have to go far to get it, will he
fail, except when a severe fall of snow is actually going on, to find
slopes on which he can at any rate “play about.” Consider also the
infinite variety of his tumbles. His falls are more complicated, have
more pleasing uncertainty about them, than those which any skater can
indulge in. Also they hurt far less. There are few skaters who can
manage to fall more than about half a dozen times a day, unless they are
exceptionally young, or, as the inquests say, very “well nourished,” and
yet continue their practice with undiminished vigour. But there are few
skiers, old or young, lean or otherwise, who will be the least
discouraged by twice that number of tumbles.

Here, too, is another reason for the fidelity of the skier to his sport.
It yields him, if he is a novice, a quicker dividend of pleasure than
skating yields to the beginner, or curling to the curler. After a week’s
practice, starting from the beginning, the skater will scarcely yet have
felt himself firmly travelling on an outside edge, which, when he has
accomplished it, is after all only the beginning of further trouble,
while the curler, after the same lapse of time, will not have begun to
deliver his stones with the most distant approach to what could possibly
be called accuracy. But the skier will already be cognisant of the
rapture of sliding swiftly downhill on the hissing snow, and though the
“frequent fall” awaits him, he will have experienced a genuine taste of
the authentic joy. He will, too, have climbed high and heavenwards, have
seen new horizons spread themselves, have seen further peaks in the
magic of the Alpine air and sunshine rear their austere heads.
Stumblingly, perhaps, he will have penetrated into new valleys among the
“holy hills,” and felt the surprise and sting of exploration. He will
also, if he has devoted himself to the tricks--the skating-figures of
his art--be appreciably nearer the achievement of stemming turns than
the skater will be to the accomplishment of a simple three, or the
curler to the hope of coming into the house round a guard. Thus, if
anyone who can get three weeks in Switzerland, without solid hope of
getting more in subsequent years, were to ask how, being active of body,
he could get the maximum of enjoyment out of those three weeks, I should
unhesitatingly advise him to practise ski-ing, though, should he have a
reasonable prospect of coming out in future years, I should just as
unhesitatingly recommend him to persevere for a little while, anyhow,
with his skates, or stick to the curling-rink if he desires a less
hazardous sport. But if he has a short holiday, without reasonable
prospects of coming out again, I think if he is young and active he will
get more fun in a short time if he betakes himself to the skis.
Moreover, whatever resort he honours with his presence, he is certain to
find there fair ski-ing slopes, especially in unfavourable weather, and
in the vast majority of cases, excellent ones. Indeed, if he only
anticipates one visit to Switzerland, he will find everywhere slopes
that will be for him excellent.

Also there is a greater simplicity about his needs. Nature provides his
rink, and it stretches further in every direction (except downwards
towards the valleys) than he is able to go. He wants no marking out of
house and hog-line, he wants no surface nightly renewed and rendered
flawless. He only wants his equipment, as the skater his skates, and the
curler his stones and his broom. And if, like the curler, he is, so to
speak, “never up” for a day or two, he is never down for long, and
cannot hurt his side, and probably will not hurt himself. Also, the
minimum of experimentalism will enable him to enjoy himself, and I doubt
whether the skater really enjoys himself with so little expenditure of
time and trouble, unless his only object is to progress in a straight
line. To progress in a straight line, in fact, is no fun for the skater,
but it is great fun for the skier.

Without going into any excessive details with regard to his equipment,
certain facts about it must be broadly stated. The ski itself, as anyone
seeking those altitudes in winter is probably aware, is a long narrow
slip of wood turned up at the bows and fastened to his foot. It is
smooth on the under-surface, thicker under the place where his foot
comes than elsewhere, and should have a shallow groove running up the
middle of it. In length it should be a few inches shorter than its owner
if he stands with his arms outstretched above his head. In other words,
a man 6 feet high will want a ski about 7 feet long. This is only a
rough-and-ready rule, and if the skier arrives at his Alpine resort
with the intention merely of hiring skis, he should not choose them
shorter than this. It is easier to travel on skis that are too long than
on those which are too short. But, however long the skis are, they
cannot be too narrow. Mr. Caulfield (an adept and authority) lays down
that at the narrowest part (_i.e._ where the foot rests) they should
never be more than 2¾ inches in breadth. Instantly the novice will
exclaim that his boot at the ball of the foot is broader than that, and
that his boot will project beyond the skis. He is perfectly right: it
will. But Mr. Caulfield is right too. He should also see that the grain
of the ski lies longitudinally, and that the ski itself is slightly
arched, the top of the arch lying underneath the wearer’s foot. If the
ski is quite flat, it will bend downwards in soft snow under the weight
and impede the going. These directions, which sound slightly advanced
for him who has never seen a ski at all, are really most elementary. No
beginner should attempt to ski on contraptions that do not fulfil all
these requirements. He might as well begin learning to walk in boots
that are not adapted for ordinary wear.

Next comes the awful, the intricate, the debated question of “bindings,”
by which is denoted the system by which the boot of the skier is
fastened to the ski. Into the merits of the different schools concerned
with this I do not propose to enter, nor (under the breath be it spoken)
does the fervour of the disputants seem quite to be warranted by the
importance of the subject. Provided that the bindings are easily
adjustable, and when adjusted are not easily displaced, and provided
they are not so rigid as to render likely, in case of the “frequent
fall,” a serious strain on the foot, resulting in a sprain or a broken
bone, they must be considered satisfactory enough. Such bindings are:

(i) The Huitfeldt binding;
(ii) The Ellefsen binding.

Many experts will be found to disapprove of each of these: on the other
hand, each of them is supported by expert opinions. But the beginner, in
choosing his skis, is solemnly warned against selecting unknown and
patent bindings unless advised of their excellence by an expert who is
familiar with them. He is safe, however (if anything connected with the
skis can by any stretch of imagination be considered safe), if he
selects either of the two above-mentioned bindings. They differ
enormously in principle but are both excellent. A third binding, the
Lilienfelt, has also many devotees: its opponents, however, assert that
it is dangerously rigid. But it is possible to fall down, quite often,
when using any of these bindings, with the most satisfactory results.

Of the actual equipment (_i.e._ of tools necessary for ski-ing at all)
the next matter is sticks. Of these the skier should always carry two,
by the help of which he makes a supplementary punting movement when
going along the level or up gentle slopes; while on a steeper upward
slope he leans on them to distribute his weight, and thus prevent
back-slipping of his skis. They should therefore be strong and light,
and made of cane. They terminate at their lower end in sharp steel
points, and some few inches above those points they should be fitted
with a light circular disc of wicker-work which prevents them sinking
into the snow. Otherwise the holder, leaning on them, would merely be
plunged up to his shoulders in soft drifts, which would not serve his
purpose. They also help to steady him, in the manner of an ice-axe, when
climbing very steep slopes or when zigzagging, and should be at least
shoulder high. Coming downhill the beginner, when the pace grows too
fast for his liking, is accustomed to lean heavily on them, grasping
them together in both hands and making of them a brake to his headlong
career. This manœuvre is called “stick-riding,” and is unanimously
discouraged by all experts, however divergent may be their views on the
subject of bindings. Later, when the beginner is joining himself to
these austere folk, he will cease to stick-ride, and make
stemming-curves and Telemarks and Christiania-swings instead. But as
long as the world goes round, and the force of gravity continues to
exercise its accelerating force, so long, whatever the experts may
teach, shall we see the beginner descending a slope, bending low, with
eyes starting out of his head in pleasing terror, and leaning heavily on
his conjoined sticks. It is safe also to assert that the austere experts
did exactly the same when, in the dark ages, they were starting on their
glorious careers. Therefore, by all means, let the beginner select
strong sticks. Any anchor, however illegitimate, is better than an
anchor that snaps in half. For the counsels of perfection are only
appreciated when the possibility, not of perfection, but of moderate
skill, begins to dawn on the rosy heights. Till then, O fellow-tyro and
novice, gaily descend slopes that terrify and unnerve you, conscious
that, when the terror becomes unbearable, you can lean heavily on your
sticks and check your mad career. This is profoundly immoral advice,
but the knowledge that you have strong sticks in your hands will enable
you to contemplate and thus imperfectly negotiate these places in a
straight direct line. You will know what it feels like to face straight
down these abominable precipices, and will have gained a sensation. But
without the knowledge that you held in your hands a powerful instrument
of retardation you would, very likely, have never gained the sensation
at all. This is a counsel of imperfection, and if you design to be a
first-rate skier you will not follow it. But if you have, as in our
hypothetical case, only a few weeks in these uplands, without prospect
of more, launch yourself with your strong sticks on a blood-curdling
incline, see what it feels like, and, when your nerves cannot bear it,
lean heavily on both sticks.

But the moment we progress a little further than the hypothetical case
of the man who for one winter has three weeks of Switzerland in front of
him, and then, as far as seems probable, no more Switzerland at all, the
joys of the skier increase in a quickly ascending scale. Just as the
skater in the English style finds that the threes and the rockers and
the counters that he has so painfully learned are not only delightful in
themselves, but help him towards qualifying as a good skater in the
combined figures, and just as the Continental skater finds that those
same figures assist him to produce a first-rate programme in
free-skating, so also does the skier who on easy slopes has made himself
acquainted with the various turns, find that his education there vastly
increases his enjoyment in and proficiency at the glorious excursions
which are all to be made on his immense rink. Slopes and descents that
would be impracticable for him to descend if he had not learned the
tricks, the figures of his sport, are easy and pleasurable if he can
make his Telemark, his Christiania, his stemming turns, and not only do
they become practicable, but his negotiation of these slopes becomes an
artistic performance instead of being a terrified and stick-riding
descent, just as to make a vol-plané from the skies is a beautiful feat,
whereas to slide down a rope merely hurts the hands. In the same way,
the ascents, which were a mere succession of stumblings and misdirected
efforts, and sweatings unspeakable, lose their arduousness when he has
learned how to climb steep slopes with the minimum of exertion. All his
practice with other elementary enthusiasts in the field behind the hotel
(or in front of it)--there is everywhere some such field at a suitably
steep angle--works into what must always be in ski-ing, the main object
of the sport, which is to be able to traverse the snows and make
mid-winter expeditions over the high enchanted country, which is
otherwise inaccessible. For on skis you can with ease climb slopes which
are absolutely impossible to the pedestrian, since the skier goes
unsinking over soft snow and drifts that would engulf the man in boots
as in a frozen quicksand; while in descents over such places the
difference is only emphasised. A ski-runner will in a few minutes
descend, thrilled with the joy of a movement that really resembles
flying, places which at the least take the pedestrian hours of plunging
labour. He is indifferent as to the depths of snow, since he is only
concerned with an inch or two of it, and rapturously descends a
thousand feet, while a walker is cursing at the first hundred of them.
But the ski-runner’s enjoyment and speed, both in the climb and in the
descent, are vastly increased if he has learned the elements of his art.
Thereby he saves effort, saves time, saves tumbles, and saves temper; at
the end of a run his mental bank is rich with pleasure, whereas a man
who has not taken the trouble to learn these tricks of the trade comes
in with a debit balance, so to speak, mis-spent labour, unnecessary
falls, and loss of time and temper. He must learn the elements of
climbing, of turning, and of braking, not by heavily leaning on his
strong poles, but by the far simpler and less tiring methods of using
his skis to do the braking for him.

The first difficulties that beset the beginner must be considered as
concerned with climbing, since he has to get to the top of his hill
before he can experience the pleasing terror of proceeding to slide down
it. As he flounders and falls and back-slips, he will be astonished to
see some more practised performer strolling along up the slight slope
which he finds so baffling, without the slightest effort or exertion.
Looking more closely he will perhaps notice that this expert is stamping
his feet a little as he walks, merely as if to warm them on this cold
morning. Then for a moment perhaps he seems to slip, and the beginner
anticipates the delight of seeing somebody else flounder in the snow
without being able to get up. But he sees nothing of the sort. Hardly
has the slip begun before the expert has put down one ski behind the
heel of and at right angles to the other. The slip is stopped, and the
next moment he moves easily on again.

Higher up the slope becomes steeper, and, still watching, the tyro
observes that the skier has changed his direction, and instead of
mounting in a straight line is crossing the slopes in a direction,
zigzagging across them. He has moved perhaps a hundred yards to the
right, but is then confronted by a wall of rock obviously unscaleable.
But without effort he lifts one foot rather high and turns it, putting
it down again in the direction opposite to that in which he has been
zigzagging. The other foot comes round too, and immediately the climber
begins progressing again in the reversed direction, having executed that
easy and necessary manœuvre called the kick-turn. Then a belt of trees
closes his new zigzag, and here, by way of variety, he bends down and
jumps, revolving in the air as he jumps and lands facing round the other
way. This, of course, the beginner imagines to be a merely acrobatic and
impossible performance; he resents it as we resent a conjuring trick.

Then it seems that the climber has got tired of his zigzags, and facing
the hill directly again he proceeds, this time with some slight
appearance of effort to walk straight up it with his feet and skis
turned outwards in something of the attitude of the frog-footman in
_Alice in Wonderland_. Each ski just avoids treading on the heel of the
other, and clears it by an inch or two, so that the track left resembles
the outline of a piece of herring-bone brickwork. There is the same
resemblance in the name of this manœuvre, since it is called
herring-boning. Then once more the climber varies his style of progress,
for here the slope is exceedingly steep, and he has come to a narrow
gully, where his zig-zags would have to be very short, and instead of
interspersing every few steps with a kick-turn he stands sideways to the
slope and puts down one foot horizontally across it and brings the other
close up to and parallel with it. Then he steps sideways again with the
first foot, and repeats the manœuvre. Twenty or thirty paces of this
sort bring him to the top of his gully, and he stops a moment looking
over the view which his climb has opened out to him. (That also is a
frequently-practised ski-ing manœuvre and quite easy. The view-trick is
indulged in after a steep bit of climbing, and is dictated by a love of
scenery combined with the need of getting your breath again.)

Now all these devices, the stamping of the skis, the stopping of the
slip, the kick-turn, the jump even, the herring-boning and the
side-stepping are all quite easily learned, and, if we except the jump
round, which is never necessary, since the kick-turn produces the same
result (_i.e._ change of direction), the beginner will in a few days
have so far mastered the elements of them that he will be able, without
undue fatigue, to climb slopes on which at first he helplessly
floundered. But he is advised to make practical acquaintance with all of
these conjuring tricks, for they each have their special uses. On
certain slopes there may not be sufficient room to zigzag without
continually turning, while again the surface of the snow may be so hard
and icy that herring-boning, which is quite easy if there is soft snow
on the top, may be practically impossible, in which case the
side-stepping must be employed. But any slope negotiable at all on skis
is negotiable by one of these methods, which are none of them at all
hard to acquire.

Now, it is no part of any of these treatises to do more than state how
various manœuvres on ice or snow or with the curling-stones are done,
and in ski-ing (even as much as in skating) written instructions would
be of very small use. What is far more to the point is to sally out (in
print) on to a fairly easy slope and attempt to make these phenomena
appear, so that the beginner will understand them when he sees them, and
try to imitate with a knowledge of what he has to imitate. Best of all
is it to get somebody actually on skis to show you what the thing looks
like. Then--for we are all descended from the monkeys--it is part of our
human birthright to attempt to ape what is shown, and a practical
illustration, followed by actual practice, will do more for the beginner
than a host of learned treatises. Still, when dusk has fallen, and he
can no longer even see to fall down, he is strongly recommended to study
some practical manual of ski-ing. Of these I will mention three, all of
which are illustrated by a series of admirable photographs, which make a
visual guide more valuable than any written instruction. These are:

  (i) _How to Ski_, by Vivian Caulfield. (Nisbet.)
 (ii) _The Ski-runner_, by E. C.  Richardson. (Richardson & Wroughton.)
(iii) _Ski-ing_, by W. R. Rickmers. (Fisher Unwin.)

Here he will find careful analyses of ski-ing manœuvres, clearly and at
length explaining them, and elucidating the explanation by photographs.
The curious student will no doubt find certain differences of opinion
expressed by these Masters, but, if he is wise, he will leave academic
disputation alone, and try to put into practice the precepts and
instructions given by any one of them. He may rest assured that, however
disputatious the pundits become over any theories advanced by these
authors, there is a great deal to be said for them. Indeed, their very
disputatiousness shows how much there is to be said!

To return to our forlorn beginner on the slope, who has seen vanish from
his ken the figure of the expert climber, we will suppose that he
occupies himself with his flounderings while others with equal ease and
absence of effort pass him in their ascension. Some of them, it appears,
are not going out for any expedition, for they pause when they have got
to a sufficient height and begin descending again. And here the tyro
should surely find encouragement, for he will observe that they often
stagger, fall, and are smothered in snow. That does not in the slightest
degree deter them, and probably he will begin to realise that falling,
even in the case of experts, is part of the day’s work, and, as a rule,
does not hurt at all. Indeed the skier who does not fall is either so
cautious a performer that he cannot be called a skier in any sense of
the word, or so supreme a master that he is evidently not human but some
form of Alpine ghost. On the skating-rink he will see the same thing,
for even the “plus-players,” so to speak, if they are really practising,
execute the most amazing tumbles, while on the curling-rink, the gods
and demigods make shots of the most putrescent nature.

But as he watches he will notice that these ladies and gentlemen who are
ski-ing are busy not with merely descending the slope they have
climbed, but descending it in a particular manner, and interspersing
their descent with certain definite manœuvres. Sometimes, perhaps, one
who has climbed into the gully out of which the first expert has
disappeared, will stand for a moment facing downhill, and then launch
himself on a perfectly straight course. He will be standing upright, but
leaning forward, which is not a contradiction in terms, if this phrase
is considered. In other words, his whole head, body, and legs will be
inclined a little forward, but he will also be upright because there is
no bend in his knees or hips or neck. In other words, he will be
standing at right angles to the slope, though leaning forward. His skis
will be quite close together, so that they make but one track in the
snow, and his right foot probably will be a few inches in front of his
left. His arms will be a little raised, so that his sticks, which swing
pendulum-like from his hands, do not touch the snow, and his descent is
that of a stooping hawk. A spray of fine snow rises round the toes of
his skis, like the feather of water round the bows of some
lightning-speeded boat. A moment ago he was but a speck high up on the
mountain-side, the next he is but a speck at the end of the slope below.
If not so fortunate, he is somewhere in the middle of that
sudden-spouting billow of snow that mars the smooth whiteness of the
hill. But in any case, the beginner has seen a specimen of ordinary
straight-running, the figure upright and inclined forward, the skis
close together, with sinecure for the sticks. And if our beginner’s
courage is high, he will instantly attempt, from the more gradual slope
on which he stands, to do the same. Probably, if he remembers to ape
this flying Mercury in the points mentioned, he will progress quite a
considerable number of yards at his sedater speed without falling. Then
a wild panic will seize him at the thought that his pace is steadily
increasing, and that he has not the slightest idea how to check it. That
thought alone will most likely be sufficient so to unsteady him that he
will instantly fall down and find that he has grasped one method,
anyhow, of stopping. He may then employ the few moments’ pause that
invariably succeed a tumble to observing whether, from the tracks his
skis have left, he has kept his feet together. If he has, he may feel
justifiably pleased with himself, but must not be discouraged if the
tracks resemble the old broad gauge of the Great Western Railway.

Then comes another descender. He is going quite straight also, but he
appears merely to be strolling down the same slope that the other fellow
flew down. Yet he does not use his sticks to lean on, but stands upright
also, but with toes pointed inwards, legs apart, and heels pointing
outwards. Instead of travelling on level skis, it is clear that he leans
on their inside edges; and since they are not pointing straight down the
slope it is obvious that they are side-slipping all the time instead of
sliding straight. That is the case: he is “stemming,” descending
straight, but using the sideways position of his skis to check his
speed. Our beginner, warming to his work, tries this also. He instantly
gets the toe of one ski across the toe of the other, and has discovered
another method of abruptly stopping. This time he will very likely fall
forward in the manner of a breaking wave on to a snowy shore.

This time the question of the technique of getting up obtrudes itself.
Probably his skis are still lovingly entwined together, and, leaving
them in a fond embrace, he will attempt to rise. Nothing happens: at
least he is only conscious of violent and enraged effort, which is
productive of no appreciable alteration in his position. Then it occurs
to him that he had better have his feet free of each other, and this he
strugglingly accomplishes, pointing them both symmetrically downhill.
Again he attempts to rise, digging his sticks in the snow, upon which
his feet slide sweetly and smoothly away from under him, and he is prone
on his back again. But if, after disentangling his feet, he plants them
sideways across the slope he will find they cannot slip away, because
they are edged into the snow and are as firm as everlasting mountains.
But this is instruction.

A third runner comes down the slope, this time running slantways. But
after a little he assumes the stemming position, and then his right ski
crosses in front of the other, and he comes round in a curve to the
left. Then his left foot takes the lead and he swerves again to the
right ... _da capo, da capo_ ... he describes a slow serpentine line,
running with feet together on his zigzags, and widening the distance as
he approaches the turn. First one foot and then the other goes in front
at their appropriate corners, and down this precipitous slope he comes,
but at moderate speed, weaving his dance. Each turn is made in the
stemming-position--for these be stemming-turns.

Thereafter comes a more inexplicable runner. He progresses straight for
a little way, and then advancing his right foot, he proceeds apparently
to kneel down on his left knee, bending the right leg also, but keeping
the knee up. Then it is clear that his weight is almost entirely on the
advanced right leg, the other but trails behind. Then with a visible
effort he leans on the inside of his right ski and turns it round in
front of the other towards his left. As by a conjuring trick he slews
round altogether towards his left, and comes to a dead stop facing
nearly in the direction from which he has run. And if anybody is
standing near our beginner the latter will probably hear for the first
time the mystic word Telemark.

Here, then, is a more comfortable manner of stopping dead than that of
falling down. The latter is nature, the former is art. On the steepest
slope, provided only there is a decent covering of softish snow, the
expert will make this short sharp turn and come to a standstill facing
nearly or quite uphill. Or, if so he please, he will make a
half-Telemark, bring himself sideways to the slope, and then continue
his downward descent, starting from rest again. Should he wish to turn
towards the right he will kneel on his right knee, or nearly kneel, with
heel raised, and, advancing his left ski, put all his weight on to that,
trailing the right one behind, which acts, as Mr. Caulfield points out,
like the rudder of a boat. Probably our beginner will attempt this also.
His first difficulty will be to kneel down at all without upsetting. If
he safely accomplishes this, he will have a crisis of nerves in finding
himself in so abnormal a position, and dig his stick into the snow.
Anything whatever may happen then.

A fifth and final runner on this morning of revelation begins his
descent, travelling not quite straight down the slope but on a steepish
zigzag. He does not proceed to pray in the Telemark attitude, but,
standing straight, advances his right foot, leaning his weight on it,
and trailing his left behind. Then he makes a twist of his shoulders and
body towards the right, exactly as if he was cutting a three-turn on
skates, and, lo, he has turned round in exactly the same manner as in
the Telemark. He does not, it is true, continue the back-edge downhill,
but halts on the cusp, as it were, facing uphill, as at the end of the
Telemark swing. But what he has done is to make a Christiania swing,
with the foot towards the direction of his turn advanced instead of the
opposite foot, as in the Telemark. But the effect is the same: he has
stopped in the middle of a swift downward descent without falling down
or braking. Probably, to touch for a moment on _minutiæ_, he has made
his Christiania on a hard and ice-crusted place, whereas the Telemarker
has selected a spot of soft snow for his performance. So, if the
beginner is tempted to try this last manœuvre, he is advised to look out
for an icy patch where the sun has thawed the surface of the snow, which
has subsequently frozen again. On arriving at such a patch, he will
probably conclude (as our American cousins say) to reserve the
Christiania for another day.

Now this gifted series of practisers on the slope have, in imagination,
presented to the would-be skier all that is demanded of him in the
practice of ski-running. When he has learned the more effortless ways of
ascending slopes, as exhibited by the expert whom he first observed, and
when he can make in his descents,

[Illustration: THE TELEMARK TURN

_From the Drawing by Fleming Williams_]

with a fair prospect of success, the stemming-turn, the Telemark, and
the Christiania, he is, for all practical purposes, an accomplished
ski-runner, a master of that delightful art. But for as many years as he
is active of body, he will gain in facility in accomplishing these
things, and probably no skier has ever reached anything approaching
perfection, any more than any skater has attained that undesirable goal.
It is advisedly that I say “undesirable,” since to our limited skill it
seems to me that half the fun of any sport would be subtracted if we
could possibly become perfect in it. But, on the other hand, the skier,
if he is at all master of his limbs, will more easily attain that
moderate degree of excellence which will enable him to join comfortably
and easily in these climbs and expeditions which are the joy of
ski-running, than he would attain the excellence required of a member of
a fair combined figure in skating or of a player in a respectable
curling team. But whereas in skating and curling he can only spoil the
amusement of other people (or perhaps, if they are humorously inclined,
add to it), he incurs grave danger if he attempts to go on arduous
ski-ing expeditions without having got some facility in the easier
ski-ing figures, such as the kick-turn on his ascents and the
stemming-turn on his descents. Odd as it may appear, everyone has not
the nerve to fall down in time, in case a sudden obstacle appears in
front of him, or, which is perhaps worse, a sudden absence of anything
at all, in the guise of a precipice. But a man who can, with the ease of
habit, make a stemming-turn or, better still, both of the other turns,
can stop when he chooses. To attain such moderate skill is not at all a
difficult matter, but without it, only a lunatic would join any long
expedition. If he is incapable of climbing slopes except with an
infinite degree of slipping and stumbling, he is a nuisance to his
companions; while if in the descents he is incapable of any turn, he
may, if he has the nerve to fall down promptly, be only a worse
nuisance; but if he has not, he may become a source of much danger to
himself.

Further, however expert a skier he may eventually become, he should
never dream of making an expedition alone, unless he is always close to
some well-frequented track or road, or unless he is certain that other
skiers will pass that way before nightfall. For the best skiers in the
world are not exempt from falling, and it is always possible that a fall
may result in a very severe sprain, such as will make it impossible for
the injured man to go on, or in a broken bone. It is quite true that
such injuries are rare, but no consolation will be found in the rarity
of your injury if you find yourself on a high and unfrequented snowfield
towards evening in an incapacitated condition. For nobody has skill
enough to eliminate this danger from his own case, just as no climber
will go alone, if he has a grain of sense in his head, on places where
there is any reasonable prospect of his slipping. He makes his party,
whether with guides or without, takes a rope, and puts it on when a slip
might lead to severe injury or worse. It is only the ignorant who take
unreasonable risks, or the foolhardy. It is the same case with the
skier. But with him any steep slope may result in a tumble, and any
tumble may result in an incapacity to move. Therefore, without any
exception, a skier, however skilful, should never go alone on any
expedition that takes him away from frequented paths. Nor, on such an
expedition, should unfrequented places be left behind until all the
members of the party have negotiated them. And in such it is the
unskilful straggler who falls continually, and having fallen does not
know how to get up, and has to ride his stick and go slow over all steep
places, who is so unmitigated a nuisance to his companions.

A word more of warning. Clothing is a most important item in the skier’s
equipment. He perhaps will start from his hotel in a blaze of sun, and
knowing there is a long ascent in front of him will adopt an investiture
which is altogether unsuitable for that which lies before him,
forgetting that though he will certainly get extremely warm during the
course of the day, he may also run the risk of frost-bite. He may
perhaps be no worse than the man who clothes himself scantily for
reasons of the hot upward ascent, and remembering that close-fitting
thick garments are productive of extraordinary warmth, will proceed to
put on thick woollen stockings, which make the donning of his boots over
them a matter of some difficulty. “Thick leather, thick stockings,” says
he to himself, “now I _can’t_ be cold.” But he could not have adopted a
worse procedure, for it is just through this thick, closely-fitting
clothing that frost-bite penetrates. Outside, on the boot, is a frozen
spray of snow, inside is the moisture of the foot asking, positively
demanding, to be frozen also. The tightness of the boot and stocking
further impedes the surface-circulation, and a frost-bitten foot is very
likely the response to this well-meant protection of it. Instead, the
boot should be so large that it can easily accommodate two layers of
woollen stuff loosely. Then the natural heat of the body, unchilled by
surface pressure, is diffused through these woollen coverings, and
makes, instead of a layer of icy moisture, a temperate atmosphere round
itself. Similarly with the hands: loose gloves, instead of thick tight
ones, should be worn, and the finger-receptacles should be made all in
one piece, as is the fashion with babies. Then they warm and comfort
each other, instead of being each enclosed in a solitary prison.

In other respects the clothing should be that of the mountain climber,
warm but as little heavy as possible. For the lower part of the legs
putties are admirable, for it is necessary to protect the chinks between
boot and stocking: otherwise snow collects there and forms into icy
deposits. Coat and knickerbockers should be made of smooth and
wind-proof material, and such a garment as a sweater should not be worn
as an outer covering, for the roughness of it causes the snow to cling
to it. The coat should be capable of being buttoned closely round the
neck, so that in tumbles the snow does not get inside it, and for the
same reason long gloves covering the opening of the sleeves are useful.
A woollen cap, of the type known as “crusader,” which can be brought
over the ears and neck when encountering cold winds, and be rolled up,
when so desired, is as good a head-covering as can be devised. Snow
spectacles of smoked glass, to shield the eyes from the intense glare,
should always be carried, and put on before (not after) the eyes begin
to smart and water from the dazzle of whiteness. Otherwise it is easy
to get a touch of snow-blindness.

Now, when the snow is soft and inclined to thaw, it has an odious habit
of balling on the sole of the ski, so that you walk uphill clogged with
a great lump of snow dependent from each foot, which makes it heavy to
lift, and at the same time makes lifting necessary, since it is
impossible to slide forward on it. But since it is equally impossible to
slip back, the beginner will find a certain consolation if the snow
balls slightly on his ascent, for he will climb severe slopes
laboriously indeed, but without slipping. But no consolation rewards him
when he begins his descent. In vain he encourages his skis to slide, for
the loose mass of soft snow sticking to them effectually prevents their
doing anything of the kind, and unless he has come prepared for such a
contingency he will assuredly have to stamp along all the way home. But
balling can be largely avoided by waxing the bottom of the skis,
preferably before he starts. This wax can be obtained anywhere in tubes,
and when rubbed on to the skis prevents the snow from sticking to them,
and you will see a man whose skis have been well waxed running swiftly
and easily over snow that would entirely prevent his moving if this had
not been done.

On the other hand, the snow on an ascent may, instead of being soft and
balling, be hard and icy, so that it is a difficult matter even for the
expert to prevent back-slipping. To discourage this tendency he
sometimes will tie a cord to the toes of his skis and pass it several
times round them, fastening it to the bindings. Others tie strips of
seal-skin to them, which also counteracts the tendency to slip. These,
of course, are removed when the ascent is over.


JUMPING

Of all spectacular feats compassable upon frozen snow surfaces,
ski-jumping is, to the minds of most people, the most amazing, and
compared with it all performances on ice-rinks and toboggan-runs seem to
the spectator almost tame. Not having the smallest or most elementary
practical experience of it (I should freeze with terror if told that I
had to go over even a very mild ski-jump, and probably be found hiding
in the station waiting-room to take the next train home), I can but give
an impression of it as it strikes the observer.

The glad word is passed round the hotel one evening that some famous
ski-jumper has arrived and will give an exhibition next day; and next
day, accordingly, you trudge out on to the slope where the jump has been
erected. This is a long steep hillside, and the platform for the jump
has been put up some hundred yards from the top of it. It is a champion
jumper who has arrived, and the apparatus is on the big scale. Out from
the slope of the hill is this platform, built in the manner of a dormer
window in a house-roof or a header-board above a pool. It is made of
wooden planks supported on posts, and covered with a layer of
down-trodden snow. It is some 5 yards or so in length, 5 or 6 feet
broad, and the edge of it is some 6 feet perpendicularly above the slope
at its base. At the corners of it, to guide the jumper who approaches
it, are boughs of fir stuck into the snow, or flags. Above it the slope
is of moderate steepness, sufficient, anyhow, for a skier to get up a
considerable speed when running straight down towards it from above;
below the hillside is considerably steeper, and continues at a steep
angle for two or three hundred yards. Both above and below the platform
the snow is being industriously trodden down by those engaged on the
preparations, so as to make a smooth firm run for the jumper before he
gets to his platform, and a smooth firm landing-place after his flight
through the air. The reason of this is that it is absolutely essential
that the jumper should have no check when he touches ground again after
his flight: if he landed in soft or deep snow he would quite certainly
have a bad fall. But with hard smooth snow to land on there is no such
check, and on landing he continues his course at high speed straight
down the hill. It is also extremely important for him to land on a steep
slope; for if the slope was but gentle, the shock of coming in contact
with it from such a height would clearly be extremely severe, and broken
bones would undoubtedly result. But the steep slope lends itself to the
pace he is going and the height from which he comes, and, as it were,
continues his flight on the ground. Also, the steeper the slope is, the
longer obviously will the jump be, as measured from the platform to the
point where he first lands.

A good place to see the jumping from is to the side of the track down
which the jumper will come and a little way below the platform: here let
us suppose ourselves standing. On each side of the course stretch out
lines of spectators, and a hundred yards above the jumper is standing
talking to friends and seeming positively to enjoy what lies in front of
him. Then the word is given, and, steadying himself on his two sticks he
points his skis straight down towards the jump. He shoves off with his
sticks, leaving them standing in the snow (for no jumper uses sticks
when he jumps, which would be highly dangerous), and at swiftly
accelerating speed glides down the slope. As he approaches the
jumping-platform he crouches low, and just as he traverses it he springs
upwards and forwards into the air. High above your head, a veritable
flying man, he soars, with all the impetus that his run and his spring
have given him. For a hundred feet or more he continues this amazing
flight in a superb curve, and you wait breathless, scarcely able to
believe that when he touches the ground again at that pace and from that
height there will be anything but a heap of broken bones there. But he
alights without shock or the least appearance of unsteadiness, and
simultaneously, it appears, he is already another hundred feet down the
slope, going like an arrow. Then comes perhaps the most astounding feat
of all: he suddenly kneels, and in a moment has swung round with a
Telemark, and has come to rest, facing up the hillside over which he has
flown and skimmed. And then this extraordinary young man (he is usually
rather young) will climb his slope again and instantly repeat the
process, in evident enjoyment, or, more remarkable yet, he will get hold
of another like himself, and they will take their jump hand-in-hand, let
go of each other on landing, and Telemark, one to the right the other to
the left!

This jumping is certainly ski-ing _in excelsis_, and jumpers tell

[Illustration: THE JUMP

_From the Drawing by Fleming Williams_]

us that if the beginner starts with small jumps, and is careful to do
everything correctly and in the proper style from the beginning, he will
not find it either a difficult or dangerous pursuit. But he must be
careful to make his movements (his crouch, his spring, his angle in the
air, the levelness of his skis as he alights, &c.) with accuracy and
correct timing; while it is not less important that the jump itself
should be properly constructed and the slopes that lead to and from it
be of suitable steepness. Indeed, what appears to the ignorant onlooker
the most hazardous part of the whole affair, namely, the landing on a
very steep slope, is safe only if the slope is steep, and the real
obstacle that lies in the way of most men taking up jumping as a sport,
is not that it is dangerous so much as that their nerves tell them that
it must be, and refuse to make the crouch and spring (the _säts_, as the
Norwegians call it) with vigour and confidence, even if they can master
their nerves so far as to let themselves run down on to the platform at
all. But having once reached the platform, the spring must be made:
otherwise the would-be jumper will merely flow stickily, so to speak,
over the edge, bury the toes of his skis in the snow, and certainly have
a bad fall. But, indeed, the nerves must be in good condition, for the
platform, approaching it from above, looks exactly like a cliff’s edge,
and, jutting out as it does from the slope, it entirely conceals the
slope below it: your eye tells you that you are merely leaping over the
end of all things. But if, after considering the question, you decide,
as most people do, that you will not begin jumping this season, you have
only to repeat that prudent resolution for a few more seasons, and then
you will be able to tell yourself and everybody else that it is no use
trying to learn to jump unless you begin it quite as a boy. This does
not really happen to be the case; but it is one of those excuses that
are always granted acceptance, and, having firmly established it in your
own mind, your nipped ambition will cease to worry you any more.

A further delightful pastime to be indulged in on skis is that known as
ski-joring. For this it is necessary to secure the co-operation of a
horse, and fit him with long reins or ropes, which you hold one in each
hand, and stand behind the horse out of the way of his heels. He is
lightly harnessed, and from his collar passes a long leather loop of
rein, which passes round the ski-jorer’s body. You then encourage your
horse to proceed, and if he is good enough to do so, he will naturally
pull you along on your skis by this loop of rein from his collar. It is
a fascinating pursuit to watch, and can be practised over a frozen lake
or along the down-trodden snow of roads. Especially in the Engadine you
will hear the sound of bells, and observe a horse trotting or cantering
briskly on the road, followed at a yard or two distance by an upright
figure that glides along after him, a charioteer with only his skis as
chariot. But though it is concerned with skis, it is not exactly
concerned with ski-ing, which enters into it, as an art, less than does
the knowledge of horses and the use of reins.

[Illustration: SKI-JORING

_From the Drawing by Fleming Williams_]

[Illustration:

PLATE XXXIV

AT ST. MORITZ]

[Illustration:

PLATE XXXV

PRACTICE SLOPES, MONTANA, SWITZERLAND]

[Illustration:

PLATE XXXVI

A SLIGHT MISHAP]

[Illustration:

PLATE XXXVII

SKI-JUMPING]

[Illustration:

PLATE XXXVIII

SKI-JUMPING, MONTANA, SWITZERLAND]

[Illustration:

PLATE XXXIX

VETERANS OF THE ST. MORITZ SKI CLUB]



CHAPTER VII

NOTES ON WINTER RESORTS


Of late years the number of the English and other nations who annually
go to spend a portion at any rate of the winter at some High Alpine
resort has enormously increased, and in consequence every year fresh
hotels are opened in valleys which hitherto have hybernated like dormice
beneath their snow-laden roofs, during the months of short days. But it
is by no means every high-perched hotel that is suitable as a centre for
winter sports, for there are several conditions to be considered. In the
first place, such a spot must be sufficiently high up to make it
probable that there will be fairly continuous frosts there throughout
the winter, and this again depends not only on height but also on
aspect. As regards height you cannot reasonably depend on getting this
continuity of frost (allowing for reasonable breaks) under the height of
round about 4000 feet, especially if the place in question is to enjoy
long hours of sun. True, an exceptionally severe winter may come, and
the strictness of the binding of the frost may hold, week after week, at
a much lower altitude, but it is natural that the holiday-maker, who has
only a week or two abroad and wants during all his hours of daylight to
be employed in sliding movements, should wish to be fairly safe to find
the conditions suitable, and he has, obviously, a better chance of
finding them if he goes high. But there are several places considerably
below this 4000-foot level, such as Grindelwald, which lies in a very
cold valley, where he may in an average year find himself unhampered and
rendered idle by thaws, and it is wonderful how continuous frost is at
Grindelwald. But there both skating-rink and curling-rink are, all day
long at midwinter, entirely in the shade, for the sun does not rise high
enough at noon to look over the great barrier of rock that lies to the
south of it. That protection, of course, preserves for the place its
excellent ice, whereas if, as at other winter resorts, it basked in the
sun all day, the rink would speedily be metamorphosed into a degraded
glue with discouraging pools interspersed. But if you go to greater
heights, you can combine the pleasures of skating with those of sitting
in the sun, and that to this writer is a remarkably charming
combination. But in order to enjoy that you must have greater height
than is possessed by Grindelwald, and a place like Montana, where the
sun is on the rink by nine in the morning, and continues to beat down on
it till somewhere about five in the afternoon, would see its ice and
snow disappear into slush and torrents of water were it not perched
nearly 5000 feet above sea-level. St. Moritz and Mürren are throned
higher yet, and it has to be a very warm winter indeed which will cause
a general thaw at such places. And there is nothing more irritating than
to have gone to some comparatively low place and find that day after day
goes by in melting mood, and at the same time to know that a thousand
feet higher up ideal conditions are being experienced.

The skier naturally is less dependent on the altitude of his village,
provided that there are high hills abounding in suitable slopes round
him. It is part of the essence of his sport that he climbs for it,
whereas skaters and curlers demand their playgrounds at the door and no
climbing at all. Thus the high valley leading across from Montreux in
the Rhone valley to Spiez by the Lake of Thun is, though its highest
villages and hotels are below 4000 feet, ideal for the skier, since it
has on each side of it lofty hills which are rich in good slopes. But
for the others, skaters, curlers, and tobogganers alike, it is important
that the frost should hold in the immediate vicinity of their hotels.
They do not seek their various joys on the tops of neighbouring
mountains.

Now this question of sun is, of course, a personal one, and the
popularity of Grindelwald shows that there are multitudes of folk who do
not mind skating and curling in the shade. For them, then, that is all
right, but if you happen to like skating and curling in a blaze of sun,
you will be wise to go somewhere not below the 4000-foot level. Even
there, of course, you cannot be safe against thaws, and the deplorable
series of days known as the winter of 1911-1912, when thaw succeeded
thaw at almost all Swiss resorts, taught us all that the malice of
climate is infinite and incalculable, and the summer of 1912, here in
England, where the general temperature was about the same as that of the
previous winter in Switzerland, repeated the same lesson. But in the
average year winter places over 4000 feet in height can be trusted to
let the visitor enjoy sunshine and hard frost together.

A second consideration is wind. It would be no use at all to spend the
winter on a mountain-top: what is necessary is a high sheltered valley,
like that of Davos or St. Moritz, or a high sheltered shelf on the
mountain-side, like Villars or Mürren. To be able to skate at all, it is
necessary that the day should be practically windless, and quite a
gentle breeze spoils it altogether. Moreover, even gentle breezes are
currents of moving air above or below freezing-point. If they are above
freezing-point they spell ruin, for they melt both snow and ice with
amazing swiftness; if they are below freezing-point they feel quite
intolerably cold. Therefore, all winter places should be screened from
the wind on the north and east, so that, if such airs are astir, they
pass over the valley in which you are, and their icy blasts are unfelt.
It does not matter so much whether the valley is screened from southerly
winds, for this blowing of a southerly wind means in itself that warm
currents of air are coming up from the Mediterranean, and as long as
that lasts there must be more or less of a thaw, and a screen to the
south almost necessarily implies a cutting off of the sun. This
southerly wind, so justly abhorred by all altitudinists, is generally
known as the _föhn_ wind. Philologists may try to interest us in it by
telling us that the word is derived from the Latin _favonius_, or south
wind, but when the _föhn_ blows you are not the least consoled by
knowing its derivation: you only wish it had another destination. It
brings clouds, mists, sleet, and even rain, all undesirable aliens, into
our sunny valleys.

So much, then, for the two main conditions--sun (for those who like it)
and absence of wind for everybody. And the next prime essential is a
good rink, for out of every hundred people who come out in the winter,
it is safe to say that at least eighty either skate or curl. And not
only is a good skating-rink necessary, but good skaters also, for the
encouragement and instruction of the learner, and, we may add, the
mutual admiration of each other. But it is extraordinary how a good rink
seems to breed skaters: sooner or later (usually sooner) good skaters
are attracted to it, like flies to honey, though we hope they do not
stick in it, and other mere beginners rapidly develop into sound
performers. The Davos rink developed skaters thus, and more recently the
immense rink at Villars has brought to birth a whole fresh school of
English skating. The writer is tempted to be anecdotal. Not more than
six or seven years ago he first went there and found that the only
skating-rink was one flooded lawn-tennis court. On it the most
accomplished skater in the place was instructing and demonstrating to
two pupils. She was showing them the change of edge, and as, perhaps a
little falteringly, she passed from one edge to the other she
proclaimed: “The change from the outside edge to the inside is possible,
but the change from the inside to the outside is impossible.” Indeed
that would save an infinity of trouble to many of us, if we thought it
was strictly true. But Villars made up its mind otherwise, and nowadays
the great rink, which would hold hundreds of lawn-tennis courts, holds
hundreds of skaters also who demonstrate the falsity of that sublime
pronouncement.

Now ice varies enormously, not only in smoothness or roughness of
surface, but in texture and in hardness, and without doubt the
pleasantest and at the same time the easiest ice to skate on is that
which has been frozen at temperatures not unreasonably low. Should the
thermometer have stood all night at zero or below, the ice made under
that benumbing influence will be both very hard and rather brittle;
whereas if the rink had basked in a mellow moonlight of say 10 or 15
degrees of frost, the ice, though perfectly solid and dry, will be far
kinder to the skate blade and lend itself more amenably to the edges.
Indeed, after a very cold night, the ice is absolutely unskateable on
until the sun has relaxed its adamantine rigidity; the edges of the
skate will not bite. This appears to be due to the amazing fact, not
generally known, that the skate actually moves over a thin layer of
water, which its passage, its weight and friction causes to be
momentarily produced. This transient, minute and local thaw (which
instantaneously ceases in the wake of the skate) does not take place
when the temperature is abnormally cold, and, in consequence, the skate,
instead of travelling smoothly and firmly, cannot be prevented from
skidding on the marble-like and uncuttable surface, and even when the
sun has to some extent mitigated this hardness, the ice tends to be
brittle and unkind. Thus, since in very high places there are recorded a
large number of very low temperatures, the skater will probably find
pleasanter ice at lower altitudes. Much, of course, depends on the
making of it, and the whole question perhaps may be regarded as
trifling, but in the writer’s opinion the resorts at which, as a rule,
very low temperatures do not occur, yield the greatest abundance of
jolly ice. On the other hand, the higher the place, the greater is the
probability of immunity from thaws.

So much, then, for the more technical considerations. But however
absorbed we may be in our inwicks, our Telemarks, our brackets, there
are still moments when we happen to look up and regard and appreciate
our surroundings. In fact, though we do not go out to Switzerland
primarily for the sake of the view, the natural beauty of the places we
go to make, even to the sternest and most determined athlete, a certain
appeal. And though every place alike has the witchery and magic with
which the radiant frost clothes peak and mountain-side, there are four
places, three of which are set on high shelves on the mountain-side
facing south, which, to my mind, altogether outshine the rest, and these
are Mürren, Montana, Grindelwald and Villars. Of Mürren mention has
already been made in the first chapter of this book, but those who have
seen it only in summer have no idea of the incomparable majesty of the
huge outspread panorama of the Oberland when the winter suns shine on
the winter snows. Nowhere else in all Switzerland is there to be had so
near and unimpeded a view of so great a stretch of big mountains. Eiger
and Monch and Jungfrau and Silberhorn, and the amazing precipice of the
Ebnefluh are all spread out immediately in front, with only the narrow
valley of Lauterbrunnen interposed between you and them. Their size and
nobility of form when thus seen close at hand is almost overwhelming:
almost you join in the worship of the mountains and hills that so
visibly are praising the Lord.

Utterly different, yet in its way no less sublime, is the immense
panorama of big peaks as seen from Montana. Here again (though perhaps,
strictly speaking, you are in the Rhone valley) there is no impression
of being in a valley at all, so lofty is the shelf on which Montana
stands, so swiftly the ground plunges into the Rhone valley proper
below. But this is no narrow cleft as at Mürren, and the hills that
climb out of it on the further or southern side are miles away. But what
a row of glistening giants is piled up on those hills. The kings and
captains of all the Zermatt ranges soar skywards against the incredible
blue, Weisshorn, Roth-horn, Dent Blanche, Gabelhorn, Matterhorn are
standing in their immemorial stations, and in the west Mont Blanc, with
its guard of arrow-headed aiguilles, looks down over France and
Switzerland. Nowhere else, unless you climb the inhospitable peaks
themselves, shall you enjoy so immense a range of vision that contains
so many giants of the mountain world.

Utterly different again is the quality of the view at Grindelwald.
Unlike these other eyries Grindelwald is tucked away at the head of a
valley, and immediately above it rise the appalling presences of the
mountains. High and menacing above it climb the sheer walls of the
Eiger, not those sunny crags that face towards Mürren, but the black and
sunless precipices of the north and east. Further away are spread the
snows of the Wetterhorn, and the precipice to the north of it, over
which the wicked avalanches pour and thunder; while over the ridge just
to the south of the hotels the Finster-Aarhorn points its single
pinnacle to the sky. But there, long after the sun has set to the
valley, Wetterhorn burns in rosy flame, and the Finster-Aarhorn is
incandescent above the black night-beleaguered slopes. But splendid as
are these overhanging walls of rock, there is something to my mind of
imminence and threat about them. They are crushing.

Villars, again, in the Rhone valley, is neither of the type of Mürren
nor Grindelwald: it is of the Montana class, though with less austerity.
It lies among pine woods and gentle slopes, and its high southern-facing
shelf has a wonderful charm and amenity. Below it the hillside tumbles
swiftly away into the Rhone valley, and opposite is spread an entrancing
panorama. The Dent du Midi, one of the most distinguished of
mountain-forms, dominates the nearer distance; behind, much closer than
at Montana, rise the prodigious aiguilles of Mont Blanc. If you walk but
for ten minutes either up or down from Villars towards the east, a gap
opens out, and you shall see the most part of the Chamounix range, and
the vast dome of Mont Blanc itself. Magical are the wonders of cloudland
spread out before you in the Rhone valley below. Sometimes an ocean of
cloud, solid as if made of grey marble, and to all appearance as level
as the sea, is spread from the promontories a little below where Villars
stands straight across to the hills on the far side of the valley. It
seems as if some cloud-boat would put out from behind a cape opposite
and glide across this grey sea. Or again, the valley will be full of
cloud in form of breaking waves, and tossing crests throw themselves
against the hillsides and are shattered into wreaths of cloud-spray. No
boat could live in so turbulent a water. Then, as the sun declines to
its setting, rosy beams of fire pierce this wonderful sea, and it is
shot with flame, and lit from within by a glow that baffles all
language. On another day and for many days together not a speck of mist
or shred of cloud hangs above the valley, and it is mapped out at your
feet 2000 feet down and half a dozen miles away with the clearness of
etching. And sometimes, I am sorry to say, when the weather is behaving
morosely, the cloud comes up from the valley and envelops Villars
itself. Then we take our skis or toboggan and flee up the hillsides
through the pine-woods, all encrusted with the miracle of hoar-frost,
into the unobscured sunshine that lies like a benediction on the heights
of the dazzling Chamossaire.

Switzerland, as regards its winter resorts, may be broadly divided into
districts, such as the Engadine, the Oberland, the Rhone valley, and the
strip of country between Montreux on the Lake of Geneva, and Spiez on
the Lake of Thun, and pride of place must certainly be given to the
Engadine and Davos, which are the cradle of winter sports. And the
following are (at present) the chief hill-stations, with the sports for
which they are famous.

(i) _St. Moritz._--This is the highest and probably the most populous of
winter resorts. It is situated 6090 feet above sea-level, and is eminent
for its rinks and toboggan-runs; namely, the Cresta or ice-run, spoken
of already at length, the bob-run, and the village-run for luges. Rinks
both for skating and curling are numerous, and below the town lies the
St. Moritz lake, and further off towards the Maloja pass the Sils lake.
The bandy-rink is one of the largest rinks in Switzerland; bandy is
played here every day, and numerous skating contests are held. Owing to
its height, the winter weather, as a rule, lasts here till well into
March: indeed it is not till March that the big events happen on the
Cresta.

Round about St. Moritz are other smaller winter resorts: Celerina, with
a fine skating-rink, lies a little below the end of the Cresta run, and
further down, towards Chur, is Samaden. In the other directions, towards
the Maloja pass down into Italy, is Campfer, with rink and greater
length of sun than even at St. Moritz, from which it is distant about a
mile and a half. The ski-ing also is much better there than at that
place. St. Moritz and all these other smaller centres are fortunate in
the number of hours of sun that they enjoy: they are less fortunate in
the wind that rather frequently blows up from the Maloja pass, a chilly
and disconcerting current of air that not very infrequently starts to
blow shortly after mid-day. But there is probably no place in
Switzerland which enjoys a larger proportion of perfect winter days, and
in none are the rinks more carefully made and preserved. It was one of
the earliest places in which the pursuit of winter sport began to
develop, and from the earliest days the St. Moritz school of English
skating was renowned for the strictness of its requirements. Of late
years the International style has greatly developed there, owing
probably to the very large number of German visitors who annually go
there. But there is enough ice for everybody, since many of the hotels
have private skating-rinks of their own, and there is no reason why the
two schools should not flourish side by side. Just round about St.
Moritz itself there is not any very extraordinary display of Alpine
scenery, for the larger peaks are not visible therefrom. But there are,
in addition to the winter sports already mentioned, innumerable
excursions to be made, and the lake-skating, when the chronology of
snow-fall and frost is propitious, is a tremendous though usually a
short-lived attraction. The journey from England can be luxuriously made
in the Engadine express, which reaches St. Moritz in the middle of the
day after which the voyager has left London.

(ii) _Davos_, in an adjoining valley, is now closely linked up to St.
Moritz by train, so that it is accessible from it without a long detour
by rail, or by crossing on sleighs the Fluela pass. It is rather over
5100 feet above sea-level, and, as already recorded, was probably the
earliest place at which an attempt was made, by Mr. John Addington
Symonds and a few friends, to construct an artificial ice-rink. This
they did by industriously working the handle of a pump which stood in a
meadow. Davos was originally known to the world as a resort for
consumptives and the place where the open-air treatment was first
scientifically adopted. There are to-day many sanatoriums for patients
there, and readers of this essay may have heard of a false and wicked
report that in consequence the whole native population is now riddled
with consumption, and that there is a certain risk in staying there. No
more absurdly malicious and unfounded statement could be made, and there
is probably far more risk of catching consumption by walking down a
London street than in staying at Davos. For since the dry cold of this
wonderful valley is fatal to the bacillus, it is hard to see how it
could be supposed to spread! In addition, to ensure a double security,
the most stringent regulations are enforced and every requirement of
hygiene insisted on. Visitors, therefore, can go to Davos with precisely
the same security as to any other place.

Davos is excellent alike for its rinks, its ski-ing slopes, and its
toboggan-runs. Of the latter there is the excellent Klosters road for
luges and skeletons, which leads from the hills above Davos down to the
village of Klosters, where tobogganists find a train neatly drawn up
close to the end of their run, in which they can return to Davos, if
they will, or to Wolfgang again to make another descent. For this is no
affair of a few hundred yards: the course is several miles in length.
Lately a first-rate bob-run has been constructed from the Schatz-alp
down into Davos: this is served by an electric railway for the ascent.
Just below Davos, on the level land at the basin of the valley, lie the
skating-rinks, three in number, an enormous public rink, the rink
constructed by the English for purposes of English skating, and the
curling-rink. Here all manner of important competitions are held:
European championships in the International style, speed skating
competitions round the circumference of the large rink, and for English
skaters the annual Davos bowl. Indeed, Davos has had more to do with the
formation of the modern school of English skating, especially in the
matter of combined figures, executed large and fast, than any other
place, and there is scarcely a single skater of any eminence in this
style who has not “studied,” so to speak, at Davos. Usually the ice is
of very good quality, but a better surface would probably be more often
attained if the management would resort to sprinkling more, instead of
letting a flood make ice for several days’ use. Above the town is a
lake of considerable extent, on which occasional skating can be had. But
a commoner phenomenon than the skater on that lake are the horse-drawn
sledges which are loaded with solid blocks of ice sawn out of the frozen
surface and taken away to make puddings with instead of figures on. The
valley is gloriously free from wind, and extraordinarily healthy with
its very dry cold air and abundance of sun.

(iii) Between Chur and St. Moritz lies a high upland valley some 4800
feet above sea-level, and reached from Chur by a drive of some twelve
miles, which, however, include 3000 feet of ascent. Here is situated
Lenzenheide, one of the new winter resorts opened by the Public Schools
Winter Sports Club, which is responsible for so much of the increased
sporting population of Switzerland in winter, and has developed many
fresh and suitable centres. There is a good skating-rink, curling-rink,
a toboggan-run, and unlimited expeditions for skiers on country
admirably adapted for the sport. Like Davos, it lies in a very sheltered
valley, and is singularly free from wind. It is a four and a half hours’
sleigh-drive to Chur, while St. Moritz is two hours distant.


_Oberland District_

(i) First among the Oberland resorts, by virtue of its age and
established attractions, must be mentioned Grindelwald. It is one of the
lower winter centres, but, as has already been mentioned, the limitation
is largely discounted from the point of view of skaters and curlers,
because the rinks during the months of mid-winter lie practically
entirely in the shade, and thus preserve their solidity. And if Davos
and St. Moritz must be called the cradle of English skating, Grindelwald
has no less earned the title of cradle of scientific ice-making. For
years the Boss family, who own the Bear Hotel, have studied this
intricate and delicate question, and their methods are beyond doubt
productive of the best possible ice. Grindelwald, it is true, is not
liable to exceedingly low temperatures, and thus the ice does not often
become of that very hard and brittle quality which results therefrom;
but, though the Bosses have not had to contrive how to deal with these
unpleasant conditions, they must be considered the parents of the school
of scientific ice-production. Originally Grindelwald was exclusively of
the English school of skating, but it has now passed into International
tutelage. Indeed there was hardly room for two schools; for excellent as
is the quality of the ice, it is certainly defective in area, and the
rinks should be increased in size or number, for even the Bear rink,
which is the largest there, is but of very moderate extent, and cannot
hold many skaters in comfort. There are curling-rinks of the same
superlative quality of ice, good road toboggan-runs, both for luges and
the bob-sleigh, while in every direction almost (except that of the
Eiger precipice) there are admirable ski-ing runs. It is situated 3450
feet above sea-level, and is reached by a light railway from Interlaken.

(ii) But if instead of taking that portion of the train from Interlaken
that branches off to the left up to Grindelwald, the voyager disposes
himself otherwise, he will be carried straight up the Lauterbrunnen
valley, until he arrives at that village. On the right the incredible
funicular ascends to Mürren, while a cog-line, lying in loops and curves
up the hillside to the left, brings him to Wengen, which, like Mürren,
has lately been opened up as a winter resort by the Public Schools
Alpine Sports Club. It faces the Eiger, the Monch, and the northern and
precipitous face of the Jungfrau, and is admirably sheltered from the
north and east. It stands about 4500 feet above sea-level, basks for a
long day in the sun, and is excellently equipped in the way of rinks for
skating and curling. There are two rinks, one about 8000 square metres
in extent, the other half that size. Here, as at Grindelwald, the
International style “hath the pre-eminence.” The cog-railway by which
the village of Wengen is reached continues up the Wengern Alp, where are
excellent ski-ing slopes, and you can take a lift, instead of climbing,
up towards the Scheidegg, from which the skier can descend to
Grindelwald. Wengen was opened originally for the winter season in the
years 1909-1910, and has already grown enormously in popularity.

(iii) Opposite Wengen (or rather a little further south) and on the
other side of the Lauterbrunnen valley, stands Mürren, at an altitude of
5500 feet, 1000 feet higher than Wengen. It has only been opened lately
as a Swiss winter resort, and is blest with many natural and artificial
excellences. A curling-rink adjoins the large skating-rink, and the ice,
made in the “Boss method,” is wonderfully good. Here the Continental and
English skaters may be seen side by side, and the two schools flourish,
as is reasonable, without the smallest friction. For the skier there
are any amount of expeditions, and the very large extent and variety of
the northern slopes above Mürren, combined with its height, render it
safe even in bad winters from continued thaws: it owns also (for the
more daring) one of the best jumps in Switzerland. This year (1912) the
railway has been continued to the top of the Allmendhubel, from where a
bob-sleigh run will start, and will give skiers a lift to the upper
snows. The inter-university ice-hockey match has for the last three
years been played here. Apart from its excellent faculties for sport, it
is a place of unrivalled natural beauty ... but perhaps you have heard
enough about the view. It is excellently shielded from the northerly
winds, and its height, as in the case of Davos and St. Moritz, gives it
a reasonable chance of immunity from thaw.

(iv) On the other and northern side of the Lake of Thun, and looking
across the lake and the Interlaken valley straight at the Monch and
Jungfrau (I am sorry to introduce this lady and gentleman again, but
they cannot help dominating Oberland resorts) stands Beatenberg. It lies
below the 4000-foot level, being only 3750 feet above sea-level, and in
a warm winter (like that of 1911-1912) has the penalties of its day-long
sun rigorously exacted from it. For the skier there are admirable runs
above it on the Amisbühl, and there are good skating and curling rinks,
and an artificial toboggan-run. But Beatenberg is distinctly a place to
be visited in _severe_ weather, in which the conditions there are ideal.
But from its comparatively low altitude and its enormous abundance of
sun, it must necessarily be among the places that soonest feel a thaw.
It is an exceedingly picturesque village, and the lake below and the
Oberland beyond make a charming panorama. It is within an easy
sleigh-drive from Interlaken.

Slightly away from the Oberland lie two other attractive
resorts--Kandersteg and Adelboden. Of these Adelboden is reached by a
short train transit from Spiez on the Lake of Thun, followed by a
sleigh-drive. It is essentially one of the high valley places, as
opposed to the high “shelf” villages like Mürren and Wengen, and has
admirable ski-ing expeditions to be made from it. The skating to be
obtained there is not of the best; it has not “caught on” as a skating
centre, and the rinks, when last the writer was there, were not up to
the mark of that which the skater who goes to Switzerland for the sake
of skating is entitled to expect. Skaters, for some reason, have not
been enticed there, and thus that inter-breeding of good skaters and
good rinks seems not to have taken place. But it lies in a high valley,
the altitude being about 4500 feet, and both tobogganing and bobbing are
catered for. Undoubtedly it is charming in situation, as all these
upland valleys are, but, apart from the ski-ing expeditions which can be
made from it, it does not boast any special attraction.

Kandersteg is approached also from Spiez, and lies high on a valley base
leading to the Gemmi pass. It is lower than Adelboden, being only 3800
feet above sea-level, but is capable of extreme frigidities, since it
lies in a northward sloping valley. But though it has been opened to
winter sports only six or seven years, it is already a sort of Mecca for
curling, and for the curler it is already a classical name. For the last
eight years there has been instituted an International Bonspiel for
curling, in which Scottish, English, Canadian, and Swiss teams have
taken part, and out of these eight annual events the contest has been
held four times at Kandersteg. Indeed the curler who has not been there,
excellent though his prowess may be, has got his Swiss St. Andrews to go
to, and there is probably no place that has had so many different
nationalities so often intent on winning a cup as Kandersteg. On the
first occasion of the institution of this bonspiel, twenty-eight rinks
were competing, and all curlers who have been there will acknowledge
“the atmosphere” that surrounds it. At the approach of the bonspiel a
holy hush dominates the valley. Curling is in the air, and the great
event obscures all other interests. A skater of the highest eminence
might make his appearance, a skier who could negotiate the most
incredible jumps, a tobogganer who could ride the Cresta backwards might
be announced, but all these masters of their craft would be looked on as
amiable aliens if the bonspiel was at all imminent. At such a time there
is no talk but of curling. The immediate ski-ing is not very good, but
there are excellent long excursions.

This line from Spiez terminates at Zsweisimmen, and at Zsweisimmen
begins a light mountain railway which traverses the upland valley
southwards, and debouches at Montreux on the Lake of Geneva. This valley
itself is of an average height of between 3000 and 4000 feet, but on
either side of it are lines of hills of considerably greater altitudes,
which abound in admirable ski-ing slopes. Zsweisimmen, Saanan, and
Gstaad are all first-rate centres of the sport, and there is skating and
tobogganing, including bob-sleighing, to be had. But the _clou_ of all
these places is the ski-ing, which is excellent both in quantity and
quality.

Further on towards Montreux stands Château d’Oex, an exceedingly
charming little place with a good skating-rink. It is not more than 3200
feet above sea-level, and thus the visitor cannot expect the greater
security in the matter of frost that the higher places afford, but the
ice there is often excellent, and in an average cold winter his
enjoyment of it should be uninterrupted. After that the line passes
through Les Avants, which is about the same height as Château d’Oex.
Here there is a rink, and facilities for tobogganing and bobbing.
Finally, at the level of about 3600 feet, Caux, with its palace of a
hotel, overlooks the lake itself, much in the manner that Beatenberg
overlooks the Lake of Thun.

We are now on the Lake of Geneva, at the upper end of which begins the
Rhone valley, which extends right away up to the Simplon pass and the
tunnel into Italy. Here are situated three winter resorts, opened and
controlled by the Public Schools Winter Sports Club, and a hill-station
called Leysin, which, however, in the main, is a place of out-door cure
and sun for invalids. These other winter-sport centres are Montana,
Villars, and Morgins.

Of these Morgins lies on the south side of the Rhone, at a height of
4600 feet, and is in a well-sheltered basin. A light railway goes up
from Aigle to a small village called Trois Torrents, from which Morgins
is reached by a sleigh-drive. It is surrounded by excellent ski-ing
slopes, and there are good expeditions to be made. This year (1912-1913)
it has also started into ardent activity as a nucleus of skating in the
English style, and has a very fine rink of about 10,000 square metres.
Lying as it does on northern slopes (since it is on the south side of
the valley), it is far colder than places of corresponding height facing
south, and thus in the matter of the permanence of its ice and snow. At
mid-winter the hours of sun are rather short, about four.

Opposite, on the north side of the Rhone, stands Villars, on a shelf of
the mountain-side rather than in a valley. It is reached by a
mountain-railway from Bex on the main line, and has an altitude of 4200
feet. Climatically it is absolutely ideal in a decently cold winter, and
the big hills which shield it to the north and east afford several very
good ski-ing expeditions. It has not, however, from a skier’s point of
view, the limitless scope of Davos, and it is in the main as a centre of
English skating that it has become so popular and widely known. The rink
is in extent second only to the public rink at Davos, being about 17,000
metres in extent, and is maintained on the principles of ice-making
which have come from Grindelwald. But at Villars the whole expanse of
the rink lies in the blaze of the sun, and, as at Davos, there is a
restaurant immediately adjoining. Of this big ice-surface a certain
part, of adequate size for practice and combined figures, is reserved
for those who have passed the National Skating Association’s Third Test,
or the lower of the two Villars tests. This, then, forms a club-rink for
English skating, which is the only school that at present exists at
Villars. There, rink and skating alike have quickly grown big from the
small beginnings of some seven years ago, and annually a large number of
good skaters spend a month there. Elsewhere on the rink is a strip
reserved for curlers, who have also another small private rink. For
tobogganers there is provided both an artificial snow-run for the use of
luges, and for skeletons a very good ice-run, not, indeed, of the
arduousness of the Cresta, but fast and well banked. In addition
bob-sleighing can be had on the mountain-track up to La Bretaye, and
there are the usual suitable slopes for luges. The place has now been
open some eight years, and yearly the four big hotels are crowded with
visitors. Nor is this to be wondered at, for, apart from the excellence
of its provisions for all manner of winter sports, Villars, set in its
pine-woods and faced by the splendid open view across the valley, is
possessed of an extraordinary charm of situation and natural beauty.

On a similar northern shelf of mountain, but higher up the Rhone valley,
and also higher up in the air, stands Montana. It is reached by an
amazing funicular from Sierre, and is 4900 feet above sea-level. Behind
and above it and around it stretch limitless ski-ing slopes, and there
are any amount of expeditions to be made from it. There are two good
rinks: one for curlers, another for skaters; and after a considerable
period of Laodicean apathy, Montana seems to have made up its mind to be
of the English school. But up till lately it had put its chief energies
into ski-ing and curling, and had not pursued skating in that tense and
scientific spirit which it deserves. There is a fairly good artificial
ice-run for toboggans, and another snow-run down valleywards, and plenty
of those quiet, hard-trodden paths down which the amateur tobogganer
likes to ramble. There are two lakes which, when the snow has made an
agreeable arrangement with the frost, can be used for skating, and in
summer, when the sun has come to an understanding with the snow, a fine
golf-course is found to reveal itself. But all winter long the sun
blazes on Montana, while its altitude and the cold of its nights
preserves its frozen mantle. Of the view I have already spoken: there is
something to be said for a view in the intervals of falling-down, and in
the meditation and quiescence which such falls sometimes entail.

[Illustration:

PLATE XL

A PRACTICE GROUND]

[Illustration:

PLATE XLI

CROSSING THE ROAD ON THE CRESTA]

[Illustration:

PLATE XLII

TOP OF KLOSTERS RUN, DAVOS]

[Illustration:

PLATE XLIII

THE START, SCHATZ ALP RUN, DAVOS]

[Illustration:

PLATE XLIV

BOBBING ON THE SCHATZ ALP RUN, DAVOS]

[Illustration:

PLATE XLV

SKATING-RINK AT VILLARS]

[Illustration:

PLATE XLVI

AT LA BRETAYE, VILLARS]

[Illustration:

PLATE XLVII

“BLOW, BLOW, THOU WINTER WIND”]



CHAPTER VIII

FOR PARENTS AND GUARDIANS


I have attempted in the foregoing pages to give some general account of
the out-door sports which are, as a rule, indulged in by altitudinists
in winter. But any picture of this enchanting Swiss life, however
slight, would be imperfect without some allusion to other entertainments
which take place between sunset and sunrise. As a matter of fact, there
are a good many such, and at most Swiss resorts there is in one hotel or
another a dance, or a fancy-dress ball, or a concert, or very often more
than one of these, practically nightly.

Now this piece of information, which I have thus baldly set down (for I
do not believe in the gradual breaking of bad news), will, I am aware,
strike a species of terror into many middle-aged and austere breasts.
There are large quantities of folk who would sooner die than dance, and
who would feel themselves affronted if, at the end of an active day out
of doors, they were expected to sit in rows and be sung to or amused, or
even worse, were expected to sing or amuse. At the most, they think they
would desire merely to sit quietly and read or converse, or perhaps
occupy a morose corner in a card-room, and the thought of being kept
awake after they have retired to their early beds by the sound of bands
or dancers would rouse them to a state of frenzied rage. As for dancing
themselves----

Now, I hasten to add words of consolation for all sedate folk. There is
not the slightest need for them to be apprehensive, for they will find
their quiet corners and card-rooms provided for them, unraided by the
frivolous, and nobody wants them to dance and sing unless they feel
inclined to. They have an erroneous notion, from hearing enthusiastic
young friends on their return from Switzerland say that they had a dance
every night, often fancy-dress, except when there was an ice-carnival or
a concert, that they are expected to appear as Pierrots or Columbines,
or otherwise cover themselves with shame and glory by public
performances of some such kind, or, after dinner, sally forth again with
a false nose and tights and proceed to dash about the skating-rink among
squibs and fireworks. But there is no kind of reason why they should
harbour any such fears; they can be as quiet and sedentary as they like.

But the probability is that they will not, when they have become
altitudinists, feel quite so sedentary as they do in, let us say,
Cromwell Road, after the day’s work in town. Without doubt there is
something slightly intoxicating to the mind, some sort of juvenile
effervescence in the air and the sun of these high places, which seems
to affect the steadiest head, and it is not uncommon to see sober
persons of middle-age capering about in a manner altogether surprising.
They get a sudden access of youth and high spirits, and make themselves
ridiculous (this would be their judgment on themselves while still in
Cromwell Road) with immense enjoyment and _élan_. Probably in Cromwell
Road they would never dream, for instance, if there was a fall of snow,
of making a snow-man in the back-garden, even if the snow was not
covered with smuts, but out here if by chance a heavy fall renders rink
and toboggan-run impracticable for the moment, they are perfectly likely
(they will not believe me, but it is quite true) to build up a sumptuous
piece of statuary. Similarly, unaccustomed as they are to go out of
doors on a winter’s night after dinner, except to be taken in a taxi to
the theatre, it is quite probable that they will don coats and gouties
and see what is going on at this absurd ice-carnival, which they have
been told is to take place on the rink. And really it is almost worth
seeing, even if you take no part in it.

A circle of light from hundreds of electric lamps, or a less potent but
more variously-coloured illumination from lines of Chinese lanterns,
surrounds the rink, so that in that blaze of light the great
frosty-burning stars are invisible in the vault overhead, and even the
full moon seems no more luminous than a circle of pale yellow paper.
These are reflected, wherever there is room for reflection, on the ice
they enclose, but there is not very much room for anything, as the whole
surface of the rink is covered with brilliant, gaily-dressed figures
gliding about in some interval of the dancing. Each carries a Chinese
lantern on a stick, and the whole place is an intricate pattern of
interweaving lights and colours. Then the band rings out again
(“ringing” is the only word that the least describes the sound of
violins and horns in this resonant frosty air), and instantly this sheet
of weaving light and figures begins to be permeated by rhythm. Couple
by couple are swept into this rhythm, circling, oscillating with long
gliding steps, their lanterns making a series of luminous loops as they
swing to the measure of the dance. What was but a company of mysterious,
huge fire-flies, all darting about on separate businesses, is turned
into a rhythmical and living pattern of flame, controlled by the lilt
and measure of the band. Eye and ear alike are dazzled by this musical
and moving and illuminated rhythm. Faster grows the tune as it
approaches its end, faster is formed this living and luminous pattern.
Then it stops, and the pattern dissolves itself again into streaks of
darting lights; the dance of the uncontrolled fire-flies again. And it
is far from unlikely that the middle-aged and sedate will hurry back to
the hotel to get some skates and a lantern, and some sort of
preposterous headgear.

Or, while still the fireworks and Bengal lights are unlit, you can walk
to the end of the rink, and, turning your back on its brightness, look
out over the lower valley below and the hills beyond. Away from the
glare of the festooned lights, your eye gets accustomed to the gloom,
and presently it ceases to be gloom at all. Ivory white shine the
untrodden snows beneath the full moon and the glory of innumerable
stars: far below, perhaps, a level sea of cloud extends like a marble
floor over the valley, and across it the aiguilles of Mont Blanc, and
nearer the summits of the Dent du Midi stand sparkling like crystals.
Then from behind you sounds the swish of an aspiring rocket, and across
the firmament streams a line of light. Slower and slower it mounts, then
from the end of it bursts a huge constellation of coloured

[Illustration: THE ICE CARNIVAL

_From the Drawing by Fleming Williams_]

globes of flame. Then suddenly the whole hillside, the village, the
pine-trees, and the snow-slopes begin to shine with a red glow as if the
whole world was on fire. Then stars are quenched, the moon resigns
altogether, even the lights on and around the rink grow dim in the glow
that turns everything into molten fire. But it is only a Bengal light
behind the châlet. “Only” indeed! As if there was anything more magical
than these blood-red snows and red-hot pines beneath the cold of the
winter night! For it requires a hideously-sensible person to outlive the
joys of fireworks.

Then after a while the lights are quenched and the band goes home, and
you walk back beneath the moon to your hotel. All that artificial fire
has not stained the white radiance of the guardians of the night. They
whirl steadfast and remote and sparkling, turning the snow to glistening
ivory and the shadows to ebony, as they “quire to the bright-eyed
seraphim.” And all night long (thoughts come strangely and incongruously
mixed in this intoxicating air) the patient and laborious ice-man will
be clearing up the rink, and sprinkling it through the dark hours, so
that to-morrow you shall have a virgin field for your quavering rockers.

The most absorbed votary of quavering rockers must not mind an
occasional violation of his frozen sanctuary by day as well as by night,
for there are entertainments known as ice-gymkhanas that must from time
to time be permitted to those more frivolous than he. In other words, he
will come down to the rink on some fine morning with perhaps a new and
illuminating theory that shall make all his difficulties with regard to
rockers vanish like breath on a frosty morning, to find his ice
desecrated by the presence of crowds in gouties, and shovels and
potatoes and sacks and barrels. Eager young people will put other eager
young people on the shovels and race against each other: they will pick
up a series of potatoes singly, and see who can deposit them most
speedily in a receptacle placed at the end of the line. They will have
obstacle-races and climb through barrels, or more probably stick in
them, they will perform every imaginable antic on a surface which
renders those antics most perilous, and they will assuredly shout with
laughter all the time, and cut up the ice in a manner that makes the
grim skater’s heart to bleed. But it really is all great fun, and if he
finds he cannot bear it he had better go for a walk until it is over.
The best plan of all, however, when such things are going on is to join
in them. The worst that can happen to you is that you are disqualified
for some profoundly unsatisfactory reason.

But the main point for parents and guardians to remember is, that they
will feel quite different, when they are at a sufficient altitude on a
sunny day, from what they do when they are coming out of the twopenny
tube into a London fog. An exhilaration, approaching, as I have said, to
a sort of intoxication, will invade their stately limbs, and they will
feel inclined to do all kinds of things which their sober and city minds
tell them are silly and ridiculous. But then a sober and city mind, like
the tubercle bacillus, cannot live in this enchanted atmosphere.
Fortunately or unfortunately, it does not quite die, for it slowly
resumes its activity when they have returned to Cromwell Road, and they
will find that it is probably quite unimpaired by this temporary
anæsthetic of the air at 4000 feet up in winter. They need not feel
afraid of becoming schoolboys permanently again, or of behaving like the
adorable Mr. Bultitude when his son had changed places with him in Mr.
Anstey’s _Vice-Versa_. Their business capacities will be quite
unimpaired when they get home: indeed they will very likely prove to
have been brightened up by such experiences.

And already the year is on the turn again, and these foolish long summer
days are beginning to get short. Very soon it will be time to settle
whether we go to A----, or B----, or try that new place C----.... And
then people speak well of D----, but on the other hand E----, which we
went to three years ago, has got a new ice-run, and the rink has been
enlarged. But there is more sun at F----, and even in that awful winter
of 1911-1912, when Switzerland was a mere puddle, G---- held out against
the thaw. But the hotels at H---- are very comfortable, and the ski-ing
is good, though not so good as at I----.... That is the only Debating
Society in which I enjoy taking a part.

Printed by BALLANTYNE, HANSON & CO.
at Paul’s Work, Edinburgh

       *       *       *       *       *

_The original Drawings in colour by C. Fleming Williams reproduced in
this book are for sale._

_For particulars apply to the Publishers._

       *       *       *       *       *

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