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Wesley and Vickie's 2001 Swiss Adventure
Inside the Sunnegga-Blauherd Gondola

Matterhorn Vickie

True Alp

Vickie at the Kleine Scheidegg train station

Wesley and Vickie's 2001 Swiss Adventure

Vickie's Overview

I thought rather than give the diary approach to posting this I'd pick my favorite headings. This is slanted at trying to convince people to go-it is fabulous!

Travel: SwissAir by all means. You can dump the bags at JFK and they will magically appear in your destination town. If you stay at a nice place they'll even go and get them for you and then all you have to do is relax and enjoy the scenery. Travel within Switzerland is equally easy-check bags at train station and they will carry then on and off trains until you arrive at destination. (This is true no matter which airline you fly.) Travel home- if you are flying SwissAir check bags at trains station night before and they take them and put them on the plane for you. Very civilized.

The trip home was fine (long flight but that wasn't SwissAir's fault) until we left the tender care of SwissAir and tried to get from JFK to BVT via Delta. Then it was (long account here): shlep bags to Delta terminal at JFK (which is not marked well), find out flights are cancelled, shlep bags to taxi stand, mad ride to LaGuardia, get dumped at wrong Delta terminal (not Delta's fault), shlep bags in and out of wrong terminal, shlep bags to bus to right terminal, make shuttle to Logan, shlep bags from Delta terminal to American terminal, find counter closed, try to shlep bags to gate, get stopped at security check, route out manager, got back to counter, find all flights to BVT cancelled, shlep bags to Hilton (American paid for room at least), shlep bags back to airport at 7 am, find all flights to BVT cancelled, shlep bags to Hertz Rent-A-Car, drive to BVT, arrive to have 50th wedding anniversary bunch with in laws. At one point I burst into tears at the thought of having to pick up the D#$% bags again, Wes almost got arrested for kicking a revolving door at the Delta terminal in JFK, and I'm sure the only reason American paid for the hotel room is that I looked like I was going to cry again.

Resorts: This is not the right word for where we were-ski domains might be better. I don't have my maps with me so spelling is very approximate for the names.

1. Grindelwald: Four separate areas within the domain: First, Grindelwald - Kleine Scheidegg, Wengen - Kleine Scheidegg, Murren-Piz Gloria. We skied the 1st three. We wanted to go to the Murren area but it would take about 3 hours by train to get to it. From our hotel in Grindelwald it would take either: 40 minute train ride plus 1 hour ski down to get to Wengen or 2 hours train ride. Scale is not possible to explain.

2. Zermatt: More spread out but the areas seem to be better connected. Sunnegga, Gongergrat, Furi-trockner Schkin-Kleine Matterhorn, way out there to the other side of Kleine Matterhorn which doesn't have an name.

Scale: There is no way to comprehend the scale of these places even if you have been there. Vertical from the top of Kleine Matterhorn to Zermatt village is 7000 ft. Actually skiing from top to KM to village is not done, except by Wes. As far as I can tell Europeans pick a lift and do laps on it.

We took a T-bar 2.6 km to ski some powder. We got 500 vertical feet of knee deep powder - some untracked in what I thought was the length of Salomon Hill at MRG. I still can't believe that slope was 500 vertical feet and the only way I know it was that amount was Wes had an altimeter with him. I wouldn't believe that except it was accurate everywhere else so unless there was some strange physics going on I have to trust it.

Lifts: Everyway to get up a hill except walk. I liked taking the trains up-it felt like getting up and taking the LIRR to work. We took 1 chair in Zermatt the whole 3 days we were there and as I mentioned above amazing T-bars. Goofiest lift was a platter lift at First that had more terrain changes than the runs on the glacier at Zermatt. It was a very steep climb, followed by an equally steep descent and then another climb until the top.

Equally impressive are the lift stations. For example at the Furi station there's one gondola that arrives from the village and two that head up to further parts of the mountain-in different directions. The biggest station had 5 lifts arriving and departing from it, counting the T-bar just outside.

On piste/Off piste and blue,red, black:

On piste means groomed no matter what color the trail is on the map. Off piste means not groomed. You choose, but if you get way off piste you deal with the cliff or what have you. If you stay on piste you will never see a mogul or powder but can have some of the nicest corduroy I've ever skied. Blue is easy, red more difficult and black scare the heck out of me. Some blues are harder than red, some reds are very steep-it varies and until you ski it you won't know. Any trail on a glacier is very flat. You do not ski off piste on a glacier because there may be crevasses. Since there were no trees for much of Zermatt grooming is the only way to differentiate pistes from off-piste.

When you look at a trail map of Zermatt there are only about 30 pistes marked, but that doesn't mean there isn't lots of skiing for blue-square skiers too. All the blues and reds can be skied by anyone and much of the off piste skiing is easy too.

Ski Vacation: As has been remarked several times recently the Europeans are not the world's best skiers, but they do have more fun than us. Instead of being obsessed by number of runs or amount of terrain or toughness of terrain they relax and realize that there is more to the ski vacation than skiing. (I may be kicked of the list for this statement but I don't care. I'm not hard-core, I don't have to be, and think that there really should be more to a ski vacation than skiing. Hey, half that phrase is the word vacation and while it may be second you shouldn't ignore it!) On mountain food is a religious experience. It's good, cheap, plentiful and you can find it everywhere. Outdoor eating is preferred-one day when it was colder than normal for the area we pulled up at a restaurant for lunch on the terrace and they had blankets for everyone set out. You snuggled into your blanket, ordered something to drink and ate a ton of food. (More about food later.) About 3:30 you headed down the mountain and stopped either near the bottom or in town for a drink. On mountain the younger crowd headed to the tepee bar - a tepee with very loud American rock and roll (mostly from the 70's and 80's) blasting out. Older people (the Zermatt crowd) tended to head to the cafe's in town. Some shopping, then a shower or bath and dinner at 7pm.

Food and Drink: I may never be able to eat at an American resort again. Wurst was king in Grindelwald (see point 4 below). In Zermatt it was rosti (fried, grated potato (about 4 lbs per serving I think) topped with cheese, or ham, or fried egg), or what was translated as cheese toast (a large slice of excellent bread topped with about 1 pound of racceltte cheese broiled until the cheese had melted and served with pickles). Drinks were wine (the local Vallis wine is Dole and was good) but all kinds of wine could be had including personnel sized bottle of champagne, mineral water with or without gas, and my new favourite Ovomaltine. This should not be confused with Ovaltine. The Swiss version has no sugar and was excellent. Dinners at the hotel were 4 courses (salad which was not always lettuce, soup - usually a broth, main course and dessert).

Memorable sights/events:

1. We were skiing down to Wengen after the Labberhorn had been finally cancelled and hit the fog. Out of the mists came a double row of people walking to the train stop-wearing what looked like brocade robes and carrying silver chicken heads. I thought I'd had one to many wurst for lunch and was seeing things. Prior to that we'd seen the precision cow bell drill team and after that an entire marching band got off a train.

2. We were skiing way out there at Zermatt along a trail that when across the base of the Matterhorn. As I've said you have no way to measure scale out there and all you see is white. Across the terrain comes a dog sled mushing along. I thought I'd been teleported to the Arctic.

3. Wes and I have both used 4 letter words to remember our ATM PINS. Be warned-the letters under the numbers for ATMs in Switzerland are in a different order than in the US. In the US 1 doesn't have letters associated with it and Q is dropped. Not so in Switzerland. But we finally were able to get money.

4. We were skiing on a trail way out there at First in Grindelwald when we arrived at a hotel. This was the Wetterhof and is built on the site of the first cable car ever built. (I'm not sure which came first). The cable car was destroyed in an avalanche but the hotel is still there and is known for its homecooking. They also have a farm so much of the food served is grown on the farm. According to the map you can ski from there to the village of Grindelwald, but we couldn't find the trail so we waited for the bus. When the bus arrived the driver said he was taking lunch and we decided to do the same. The special was homemade wurst mit brot (bread and sausage) and when in Switzerland you do as the Swiss do so we each ordered it. It came and Wes grabbed his fork and stabbed the wurst. A geyser of wurst juice exploded out of the sausage. The waitress raced over and said "No. You put the bread on top of the wurst first and then stab."

5. We are skiing to the area at Zermatt known as Furi when besides the trail is a whole flock of sheep being moved from one barn to another. This is at least 1000 vertical feet from the town of Zermatt, but apparently Furi is a small farming village that operates all year around. FYI Alp means mountain meadow and the First area in Grindelwald was an alp-tons of chalets and barns for summer pastures for the cows. Vickie L. Backus

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Last modified May 16 2001 02:17 PM

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