Wesley's Story, Photos: Grindelwald, Jungfrau, and the Eiger
Getting there is half the fun?
After a trip rife with minor troubles (one flight canceled,
replacement flight delayed, almost lost passports and tickets when somebody
accidentally left something in the rest room in Zurich airport, every plane
we rode was filled to overflowing and 110 degrees inside, screaming baby
letting loose 120db cries every time I nodded off), we arrived at our
hotel in grey, overcast Grindelwald.
Getting skis is more fun
First order of business was a nap. Second was to stroll around town trying
to find a particular ski shop known to sell Stöckli skis. Took close to an
hour to walk an up and down zig-zageddy path to Egger Ski Service. Walked
in, there was two pair of Stormrider IIs on the rack: one short, the other
long. 198cm long, to be exact. Enquired about the fatter Asteroid
model: no go. Apparently, they are near impossible to find, even in their
country of manufacture. Even before I left the US, I had many email conversations
with a shop over the hill
in Wengen and with Jon Martin's local shop: only 186 Asteroids available,
even direct from the factory. They make everything by hand, and just aren't
making the big sticks. Maybe February, they say, if they feel like it.
Anyway, Herr Peter Egger and my lovely wife Vickie and the Birds in Hand all
convinced me that the Stormriders were indeed a fine ski and would suit me
very well. There was some discussion of bindings: Herr Egger did not have
my favorite brand (Look), but convinced me that a Swiss-made Alpine
(rather that Alpine Touring) Fritschli would be a perfect choice for a
Swiss ski. It seemed expensive, I said coyly. How about 10% off package
price, said Herr Egger. Deal, said I. W
When all was said and done, brand
new big phat honking boards with never before seen in the US of A super
lite Swiss bindings were in my hands -- mounted within minutes before my
eyes (they even drove me to the hotel and back to get my boots, and home
again after everything was mounted), all for just under 1000CHF. I robbed the poor guy. Too
Getting to ski is the most fun: Day One
Anyway, on the what counts: the skiing.
The weather just sucked. Cloudy, foggy, drizzle in town and part way up
the mountain. Wet snow, for the most part. "God help us if it freezes," said Vickie.
They were supposed to be running a make-up downhill race on the Lauberhorn
course in Wengen: cancelled. We hoped the weather would clear for the
Real Lauberhornrennen on Saturday. List member Jon Martin was to meet
us at 8:00 AM to go
over and watch.
But all in all, still not a bad day of skiing. 12,000 ft of vertical in just
We started off on the First Gondola, which rose 3668 feet in 26 minutes. Our initial warm-up run was the Berme run to Schreckfeld, and then on down the Faxhubla to the Grindel chair: about 1450 foot of vertical. We rode up the Grindel and then took a very short spill down to an interesting drag lift, the Bärgelegg. Interesting because the first 100 meters or so of ascent was steeper than any piste I'd seen so far. This brought us about as high as we needed to go, considering the clouds and white-out conditions above, so we hopped onto the Gemsberg piste -- a marvelous blue that passed through a stunning, out of the way canyon to Oberläger. Here we joined the Stepfi piste, a rollicking red out around the perimeter of the resort that dropped us way down to the Hotel Wetterhorn, for a total of maybe 3600 feet of vertical descent. Time for the famous Hausgemachtwurst spitting sausage lunch.
We couldn't find a way down from Wetterhorn, so we had to hurry through the end of lunch to climb aboard a bus back to town. A short ride found us back at the First Gondola, ready to do it all again.
From First, we now meandered down through Schreckfeld, Egg, and Bort and the Mühlebach piste all the way back to town, some 3668 feet of vertical through cow pastures and around barns and cattle fences. Just like Vermont, only different. Again, nothing steep, but oh, what I would give to frolic down these sloes on a big powder day!
This run took us close to 50 minutes to complete. Very cool. Very cool mountains and
glaciers, from what little we could see of them. The new Stöcklis
performed admirably. I was a happy camper.
Getting on the Web was Geek Fun
Finding web access was easy. Making it work was another thing. It worked
fine this afternoon, then I ran out of change second before I could hit
the send key. Now I have a pocket full of quarters (actually, 5 CHF for 15
minutes), but the darn thing keeps telling me "can't find page." Not
to mention the keyboard is different: the z any key are transposed, and the
shift key doesn't do what I expect.
Day Two: A Day at the Races (NOT!)
Well, it did freeze. Snow was described by official reports as "hard". Even
calling it snow is too much a compliment.
Met up with Jon Martin. Had a wonderful time waiting for the Lauberhorn
downhill to start. And waiting and waiting... A beautiful sunny day on
top of the mountain. The view of the Eiger, Möench, and Jungfrau was beyond
belief. But about a 1/3 of the way down the course, the fog was thicker
than pea soup. It just sat in the valleys all day long. The scene up top
was circus like: thousands of people, many dressed in funny costumes.
Marching oompah bands. Cowbell parades, with bells bigger than bowling
balls. Swiss air force doing Blue Angel sorts of maneuvers overhead. Wine,
women, and song. Sausages everywhere. But by 2:00 PM, they called off the
race and everybody went home disappointed.
Except the Chicken Headed People. One look at them, and it was clear that nothing would bring down their spirits. See the movie to see for yourself.
And except Vickie, who flagged down the Canadian team with her Canadian flag
for long enough for Jon to snap a picture of her and me and them all
Meanwhile, Jon and I looked like the Bobsie twins with our matching
Despite all the pointless hoopla, we still squeezed in some skiing. We rode the Männlichen gondola up 3294 feet during our first 26 minutes, then tried to work our way around to the Lauberhorn. Easier said than done: down to the Männlichen chair, up, down to Läger chair, up, down to the Gummi chair, up, then down to the Arven chair. Wow -- we still aren't there yet? Lousy snow conditions, but wonderful undulating terrain. Again, what I would give to ski this stuff in Powder! Endless easy off-piste possibilities. At the Arven chair, they were piping Swiss yodel music: I felt like I was in Fasntasyland at Disney. Finally, we got up to the Lauberhorn chair, and oh what a crowd! Some twenty minutes later, we were finally at the race course. All in all, it took us all morning to get there.
While waiting for the race, we took a couple of laps on the Wixi chair. Some good snow here, at least at the top, but it turned ugly once you hit the shadow of the Eiger. The Wixi chair was the only chair close to the race course, so the wait here was just what you would expect in Europe: cut throat. The chair itself was wacky, too: a high speed detachable double.
When they finally called the race, we scooted on down along the course to see where it all led. Vickie split off to go to Wengen and take the trains home, while Jon and I continued to the course finish in Innerwengen.
Here we caught a short double back up to a waiting train that returned us to Kleine Scheidegg. We chose the Mettlen and Shattwald pistes to return us to Grund: about 30 minutes and 3400 feet of winding, crowded, icy skiing. It rocked.
Day Three: Ice and Slalom
Sunday, weather was almost the same. Took the train up to Kleine Scheidegg, and the Tschuggen piste down. Mostly icy death: Vickie gave up part way down and took the train. Met up with her in Grund, and convinced her to ride back up with me and ski down to Wengenalp.
Caught the second run of the slalom, we think, because the visibility was again dismal. Man oh man, them guys is fast, and the course is steep.
The wait for the Innerwengen chair after the race was insane, so we took an equally insane tact and walked all the way to Wengen in our ski boots, skis slung over our shoulders. What were we thinking? Anyway, found a train back to Kleine Scheidegg, and back down the Mettlen to Grund.
If we did it again, we'd blow off the skiing all together and just watch the race. What were we thinking, anyway? (ski ski ski ski)
Last modified June 26 2001 03:54 PM