As Giles and I looked around us at the Burz rifugio high above Arabba through the fading light of New Year’s Eve, we started getting excited: it felt like winter had come at last. Glowsticks were being brandished by the Arabba under-12 ski team, Ski instructors were preparing for the last run of the year with a warming Glühwein whilst Giles and I were sat outside the hut, clutching an ever-cooling pint of beer, waiting for the sun to set and the sky to darken.
As night fell, the locals began to mobilise. Helmets were donned, and the clump of skiboots rang out from within. An instructor started handing out torches and within minutes, a hundred dancing golden flames were illuminating the snow. Without much warning, the procession began, Giles and I lighting up from another seasoned instructor who had participated in every torchlit descent in Arabba for 40 years realised it was time to move off.
Skiing at night through moguled pistes without poles and with a burning hessian sack inches from one’s face was not the easiest task. It certainly paid off and was magical – all the little torches smoothly glided down the ski piste in front of us, winding their beautiful way down into Arabba. A few turns in, and the whole thing began to feel more natural. All that was left was to enjoy the descent into the village and await the New Year with a mug of hot Glühwein at the bottom. A once-in-a-lifetime experience, and a charming finish to the year.
Thanks to Cam and Giles for the words and photos!