Wesley and Vickie's 2001 Swiss Adventure
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
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
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
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
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
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).
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
Last modified May 16 2001 02:17 PM