Literature Study GuidesIn Our TimeCross Country Snow Summary

In Our Time | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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In Our Time | Cross-Country Snow | Summary



Nick Adams and a man named George ski down a mountain. Nick has a fall: "He went over and over in a clashing of skis, feeling like a shot rabbit." George says appreciatively, "You took a beauty."

They walk along a road to a ski chalet where they order wine. George calls Nick "Mike," and Nick addresses George as "Gidge." Nick tries to talk about "the way it feels when you first drop off on a long run," but George says, "It's too swell to talk about it."

They order strudel. Nick notices that their waitress is pregnant, but he notices that she does not wearing a ring. He assumes she is unhappy about being pregnant without a husband. Their waitress sings German opera to herself in the kitchen.

George says he has to go back to school that night on a train from Montreux. He and Nick talk about taking a long ski trip through Switzerland and Germany. George asks about Nick's wife, Helen, who is expecting a baby. She and Nick will return to the United States for the birth even though they don't want to go back. George commiserates: "It's hell, isn't it?" Nick replies, "No. Not exactly."

They talk about the poor skiing in the United States compared to Europe. George fears he and Nick will never go skiing again. As they leave the inn, Nick realizes they are about to ski back home, so that is one more "run" together.


During the ski run and immediately after, all the talk is of skiing. The narrator focuses intently on the action of skiing and its sensory details. The characters, too, speak the jargon of skiing: "the khud," "a good fast drop with a Christy," "telemark." One shadow falls on this enthusiastic skiing talk when Nick remarks that he "can't telemark with [his] leg." This fact may be a reference to his war injury.

After the ski run, Nick thoughts turn to pregnancy and marriage. He notices the waitress's pregnancy and lack of wedding ring. He makes up a story to explain the waitress's brusque manner, but she might be unfriendly to the Americans for any number of reasons. The way Nick imagines her—abandoned by a man and embittered—says more about Nick. He is thinking about responsibilities toward his wife and imagining the heavy costs of shirking them. When George asks if Nick is glad about the baby, Nick responds, "Yes. Now." His hesitant answer reveals he had difficulty accepting the pregnancy at first.

George pictures a life without responsibilities and without ties to women. He describes traveling around Europe as ski bums from one resort to the next, but Nick's real life is more complicated than George's imagined one. George imagines married life is "hell" and tries to sympathize with Nick. Nick says married life is "not exactly" hell. His answer leaves readers free to suppose it is at least partly hellish, but not completely.

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