The Italian Ski Instructor by Ann Streetman
Shaken by an unwanted divorce, Jennifer was not ready to get involved with anyone. And, then she met Matteo Soldati. They were about as different as two people could be. San Diego red white and blue to the core, Jennifer was from a multi-generation Navy family. Matteo was a guest Italian ski instructor at a resort in Lake Tahoe. He would soon be going back to Italy where he lived with his parents and young son between ski seasons. Then he would be going to Switzerland where he taught at Davos and St. Moritz. She would be going back to San Diego to piece together a new life. It was unlikely that they would ever see each other again. But things changed.
Their love story plays out in the Swiss and Italian Alps and San Diego. The Italian Ski Instructor is a good read for people who like sweet romance with twists and turns in unexpected places.
Targeted Age Group:: 21 and over
Heat/Violence Level: Heat Level 4 – R Rated
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
The Italian Ski Instructor gave me a vehicle for sharing with you some of my favorite places. I have heard the music of cowbells while hiking far above Davos Dorf and Davos Platz. I have also experienced the awe of traveling up the Eiger on the cogwheel train and walking out on the glacier. And, yes I know firsthand how Matteo and Jennifer made the 2-minute train change in Filisur on their way to St. Moritz. I invite you to come along as Jennifer and Matteo work their way toward a future together.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
It’s said that opposites attract. That’s true of Matteo and Jennifer. He grew up on skis, and she loves the warm weather in San Diego. He is reserved, and she is outgoing.
Although I’ve spent plenty of money sending teenage kids to the slopes, I’ve never been on skis. My research files for Matteo are voluminous, and I lost count of the skiing videos I watched. One particular aspect of skiing was especially hard to research and write. I'm not going to tell you here, but you will know it when you get to that part of the book.
Matteo is not only an expert ski instructor, but also a talented furniture maker and wood carver in the off season. That meant my stacks of research files got higher.
Jennifer was easier to write. I’ve often written military characters. Jennifer has not served in the military, but she is a red-white-and blue military brat whose own Naval officer husband turned out to be not such a gentleman.
Jennifer stepped inside the rental shop. She was shivering from her brief trek from the lodge at Heavenly Mountain Resort. What was she thinking when she agreed to meet Brooke here for a quick girls weekend in Lake Tahoe?
A tall man behind the counter asked, “May I help you?”
“I hope so,” Jennifer said. She released her long red hair from her black knit cap and gave her head a vigorous toss. She brushed the hair back from her face. Laughing, she said, “Now I remember why I don’t go skiing very often. It’s too much trouble to stay warm.”
He watched her struggling to get out of her jacket. He stepped from behind the counter and helped her peel off layers of shirts and vests. She finally got down to a green turtle neck sweater that matched the color of her eyes.
“Thanks,” she said.
He paused a few seconds. She didn’t mind his discrete head-to-toe approving appraisal before he turned and went back behind the counter.
“I need to rent everything. Boots. The works. I hope I’ll know what to do with the stuff. I just hope I haven’t forgotten everything I used to know about skiing,” she said.
The tall good-looking man said, “I know more about skiing than I do about renting equipment. I’m Matteo Soldati. I’m a guest ski instructor. I am licensed to teach skiing in the U.S., Italy, and Switzerland.” He held his hand out across the counter.
She shook it and smiled at him.
“My friend Josh will be back in about 5 minutes. He’s the rental expert. I was just…what do you Americans say…holding down the fort for him.”
Jennifer admired his rich Italian accent.
She said, “I’m Jennifer Robertson from San Diego, and I know a lot more about tennis than skiing. I truly hate the cold, and I may need your help to get through this weekend. Do you give lessons to just anybody?” she asked.
He laughed. “You are not ‘just anybody.’ You are Jennifer Robertson, and I would be honored to give you a lesson if my schedule permits. I have time for one or two private lessons this weekend,” he said.
His reserved, but warm smile lit up his dark brown eyes.
“Good. I’m feeling really unsure of myself. Can you give me a lesson early tomorrow?” Jennifer asked.
Matteo checked the calendar on his smart phone. “I could do one at 7 o’clock. Nothing after then,” he said.
Jennifer said, “7 o’clock it is. Where shall I meet you?”
“At the ski school. Don’t worry. There’s a sign. First thing we will do is a quick equipment check to see if your skis are on properly, and that sort of thing.”
“Absolutely, I need a total refresher. I’m really nervous about skiing again,” she said.
“That’s natural, if you haven’t skied in a while and if you’ve never skied very much. Don’t worry. It will come back to you. I’ll help you,” he said.
His smile and gentle tone reassured her.
Jennifer said, “So, you’re a guest instructor here. Where do you usually teach?”
“In Davos, Switzerland, and sometimes in St. Moritz,” he said.
“Wow, you must be really good. I’ve heard about the black diamond trails in St. Moritz, playground of the beautiful people.”
Matteo shrugged. “The rich and famous may have expensive clothes and gear, but they have to work at skiing just like everyone else,” he said.
Jennifer said, “I never thought of it that way.”
He smiled warmly at her. “The Alps have a way of humbling people from all backgrounds,” he said. “The mountains help us put ourselves and our lives into perspective.”
“Did you grow up in Switzerland?” she asked.
“No, I grew up in the Italian Alps. Same wonderful mountain range, regardless of the politicians who divide it and imagine they own it. Politicians come and go. The mountains and Alpine people endure. The mountains have taught us to respect the beauty and power of their wind and snow. Living in the Alps requires self-confidence and self-reliance. Getting snowed in for long periods is a way of life. My family has lived in a tiny village near Saluzzo for generations.”
Jennifer studied this man. He had the grace and presence of a professional dancer and the assurance of an athlete, and his candid opinions were disarming. What an interesting, unusual person.
“What about this village? Where is it,” she asked.
Matteo said, “Our little village is not famous, but nearby Saluzzo is well-known for its old town bordered by the remnants of a medieval walled city. My brother and I loved to go to old town and pretend we were fighting off the invaders. My family runs a small hotel in our little village, just a nice little family hotel. Sometimes visitors to Saluzzo stay with us instead of the higher-priced hotels in the city.”
“So you work in the Swiss Alps and you grew up in the Italian Alps. When did you become a ski instructor?” she asked.
Matteo laughed. “Of course, I grew up skiing. To tell the truth, I can’t remember when I did not ski. I probably became an instructor when I was teaching my little brother to ski. I was 7 and he was 4, but I had a little help from my father. From him, I learned to be more patient with my students,” he said. “Patience is very important,” he said.
“Lucky for me,” Jennifer said. “But, I warn you. I’ll probably test your patience with my flailing.”
He laughed. “How long has it been since you skied?”
Jennifer said, “I don’t know. Let me see. It must have been 10 years ago,” she said.
“You will definitely need a refresher. The trails here are not for beginners. How did you happen to pick Heavenly?” he asked.
“My friend Brooke picked it. We both live in California. I live in San Diego and she lives in San Francisco now. She’s a good skier. She insisted that we do a girls ski weekend to celebrate. I warned her that I might spend more time in the lodge in front of the fireplace with hot chocolate than on the slopes. It’s OK. She understands,” Jennifer said.
“Ah, it’s a celebration. That’s good. What are you ladies celebrating?” Matteo asked.
Jennifer frowned. “Actually, it’s not good. We are celebrating my divorce being final. The only good thing about it is that the dread is over. The waiting and wishing are over. It’s done and done.” She couldn’t believe that she had said all that to a perfect stranger. She must have lost her mind.
Matteo said, “I am sorry. I understand.”
Jennifer looked him straight in the eyes and said, “Only a person who’s been through an unwanted divorce can understand.”
“I do understand,” said Matteo. His smile softened a bit as he held Jennifer’s gaze. “Unfortunately, I understand all too well.”
Jennifer quickly checked his ring finger. Nothing there.
It was as if he had seen her checking out his ring finger.
He said, “Yes, I am divorced, and it was painful, very painful. So I do understand why you don’t feel like celebrating. I did not. At least, I have a wonderful 5-year-old son who lives with my parents in our little village. I don’t know what he will be when he grows up, but we are trying to teach him love and respect for the mountains along with love and respect for his family and friends. If he has that, he will be all right, wherever he goes and whatever he chooses to do.”
Jennifer said, “That’s a beautiful sentiment.”
Matteo said, “He is a sweet child inside and out. I’m sorry that his world became complicated by divorce.”
A young man came through the front door.
Matteo said, “Good. Here’s Josh. He will help you with the equipment. He will get you, eh, all squared away. Now I have one more lesson to give today. Please excuse me, Ms. Robertson. I will see you in the morning.”
Jennifer watched him walk to the door. She was feeling lucky to have such an experienced ski instructor.
He looked back and smiled. “Until tomorrow,” he said.
She nodded. Experienced and intriguing. She wasn’t interested in getting involved with anyone. Not yet. But she wanted to get to know Matteo Soldati a little better. Just a little better. He was different and solid somehow.
Josh said, “You will be in good hands with Matteo. He was practically born on skis in the Alps, and he is a gifted instructor. I wish he could be with us throughout the season. He adds unmistakable European class and charm to our instruction staff. And, he is a good friend.”
“Have you known him long?” Jennifer asked.
“This is his second time to be a guest instructor,” Josh said. “We became friends the first time. He invited me to visit him in Davos, but I have not found the time to go. It would be interesting to see him working there. But, when he is working there, I am tied up here since we have such a long season. He also invited me to visit him in the summer in his village in Italy. I wish I could swing it.”
Jennifer said, “Well, I guess we’d better get down to business. I need everything. All the gear, and I don’t have a clue,” Jennifer said.
When Josh had her set with the rental gear, he asked, “Would you like me to send these things over to the lodge for you?”
Jennifer said, “I have a rule about shopping. I never buy more than I can carry home myself.”
Josh said, “That sounds like a wise rule. We appreciate your business. Enjoy the weekend.”
She paused at the door and said, “I hope your friend Matteo is a miracle worker.”
Josh said, “You can count on it.”
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