As I have said I’m a bit behind on the travel updates…so this is from back in April.
We were going to be in the UK for a few weeks and figured that this would be a good opportunity to see if we could get some skiing in. However due to work and it being late in the ski season we were very limited on where we could go. It seemed like it was going to be a ridiculous low chance of getting it done but we figured why not. After some extensive planning we discovered that we could just possibly get to Zermatt in Switzerland for some skiing over the weekend. We all had to work at least part of the day on Friday and be back at work first thing Monday morning so time was going to be really tight. It would require us to fly in out and out different airports (on both ends), and making some really quick connections. I was just hoping not to get stuck in a train station overnight somewhere, although it would probably make a more interesting story (afterwards…). It made me think a bit about the TV show “The Amazing Race”.
A bit of a difference in bag packing (mine was the blue one)…not bad for a weekend of skiing!
We got out of work a bit earlier than expected and tried to head directly to the airport. We parked the car long-term parking lot and as always we were running a bit late…which we were unfortunately feeling was going to be a theme of the trip. However as luck would have it we got to our gate on time. Having not taken Easy Jet before I didn’t really know what to expect. But it was a chaotic mess of a boarding process as when they opened up boarding it became a rush as everyone started running towards the airplane outside.
I didn’t realize how serious first-come first-served seating was in the in the UK!
A lovely night in town.
Getting to Zermatt seem to be overall pretty non-eventful. We flew to Zurich, boarded our train, did a quick change in Visp, and then another train ride to Zermatt. It was a very pretty little town. Obviously commercial with all the stores and little electric cars mulling about (they don’t allow gas vehicles in the town). But it seemed like heaven for a couple of skiers and snowboarders arriving on a late Friday night. We grabbed a quick meal at one of the late night spots still open a local pizza restaurant and made our way to our hostel. Zermatt being an expensive ski resort (and equally expensive city) did not have a large swath of cheap housing options. So we went and found what was the cheapest place available in town the Zermatt Matterhorn hostel. We checked in and made our way to our dorm room. I have stayed in many hostels over the years, in various countries around the world. While this was not the worst hostel I have stayed in my life it was certainly not to the best either. It would probably rank overall low in my rankings of lodgings, however we were here primarily for skiing, and it served its purpose as a relative safe place to rest between ski days.
The next day however was what the trip was really for. I think I slept the night before, given the lack of comfort of the place, but I didn’t really care, it was time to get out and go skiing. We woke up to a morning of snow and cold which is the perfect scenario for a day out on the slopes (or at least we hoped). After picking up our decent rental equipment, we headed over to pick up some tickets for a day out on the slopes. The thing about Zermatt is that it is huge, enormous. I have not been to an area as large as this place was in my life. It is so big that you can decide if you want to also do the part in Italy as well or just stick to Switzerland. We figured we did not have enough time to do both sides so stuck with just the Swiss side and I figure that was probably enough anyway. When we entered the tunnel to the funicular tram I started to realize just how big the area is. Sure the map is huge but when you realize all the different options to getting up the mountain it just seems even more massive. There were trams, gondola, lifts, I think we saw a train somewhere as well. We didn’t even manage to take them all during out time there.
Just so many ways up to the top.
It seemed we just kept going up and up and even though we had thought we had went a long way up the mountain there was still so much to go. We ended up getting out the slopes. The conditions were pretty good overall but the visibility was nearly non-existent. I’m told it’s a beautiful area from above, but there was no way to honestly know.
Is anybody out there?
It was seriously skiing blind half the time, and it seemed to change a lot depending on elevation. Lower on the mountain the visibility would improve a bit, but the conditions got worse (spring skiing melt). But it was lovely just getting out there and being out on the snow. The funny thing about European skiing however was that honestly there is nothing stopping you from just going off trail (or off-piste) as it may. You kinda just follow the markers and if you don’t well who knows, maybe you’ll just hit a cliff or something. I guess this makes you personally responsible for your own condition, however it is very nerve wracking too especially when being able to see the trail is itself a real challenge. I often had to stick close to the markers to even know where the trail was anymore.
It was just really lovely skiing down through the trails, not really knowing where I was necessarily going or how far I was from the top or bottom.
One of the other highlights was trying to get something to eat on the mountain. We didn’t really do lunch but we figured grabbing a quick beverage and a snack was worthwhile. They definitely impressed here at Zermatt as well.
We spent much of the time up near the middle of the mountain. The trails were so long there was rarely a need to go further down the mountain. We did want to do some recon for later so we ended up going all the way down. It was easy to see how spring was in the lower valley area.
It’s beautiful but not really ski worthy
Yeah when the trail goes to carpet, you know you have problems.
All I know is thank goodness they were rentals. Going over rocks and through the muds was not the best type of skiing. It was amazing how much things changed over the mountain for conditions, but I guess that’s what you get for such a huge ski area.
The only thing left for us to do was try to go up near the top of the mountain to the glacier up there. Unfortunately the view of the area was not as good as one would have hope. Best shot of paradise? Hmm….unless paradise is a whiteout, perhaps not at this moment!
I could definitely feel the altitude up here at 3,883 meters (12739.5 feet). One of the people on the trip with us decided to head down because the altitude was bothering him. It was bothering me too, but I wanted to give it a minute and see. We ended up grabbing a bite and see how things were going.
The outside was terribly bad visually. I took a few photos from the window and from outside and the visibility was poor to beyond poor.
Looks like a lovely weather out there!
At this point we were already up here, and we didn’t know when we’d find ourselves up here again. It was time to take a chance and head down. We headed out the door and started our way down into the white.
Yeah that’s exactly the sign you want to see when you can’t see 5 feet beyond your nose!
Nothing like not being able to see as you make your way slowly down the mountain. Maybe this was not the best of ideas! But at this point there was really no going back now. Warning signs like above just made it all the more nerve wracking. I really did not want to find myself out off the trail in any way. I felt like I was groping in the dark with a pole trying to locate markers and hope I stayed in the right spots. I was hoping just to make it down ok! And overall I’m a good skier too to be honest. I haven’t skied at all this year but I generally have been going almost every year since I was 11. But this was probably the most nervous I felt on a slope given the visibility of the trail in front of me.
I have to say though as I started getting a bit lower on the mountain, it wasn’t soon before the conditions improved rapidly. It ended up in the end being the best run that we had of the entire trip, the conditions were near perfect and I could feel like I was just gliding along on the way down. Even though the top was not ideal with the visuals, the snow itself was good, and as soon as I was able to see again, it was amazing!
We ended up slowly making our way down (the trails are just so long it felt like they went on for a long time) and met up with our friend at the lodge. We headed back down the mountain towards one of the bars down there since my friend wanted to check out a bar for Après-ski there as it was the end of the season. I figured I’d hang out with them all for a bit before heading back to shower and rest up for dinner, etc.
Hanging out at Hennu Stall
I always feel a bit out of place at bars. And I felt even more out of place here! No it was fine but it got a bit interesting as people in tons of costumes starting getting up on tables and such. It seemed like some of them worked there as they were even cleaning up and such during the evening. I heard later it was some end of year tradition perhaps.
Going “ape” for Hennu Stall
Myself and one of my coworkers headed out early leaving our other behind who wanted to hang out more. Mostly we went back to relax and get some grub. There were a lot of restaurants here in Zermatt, but most were really expensive and many required reservations. It felt odd trying to get into a super fancy tex-mex restaurant. It just didn’t seem to make sense! Maybe I guess coming from the US they are a bit too common and usually not high class. We ended up finding a little spot on the way back to the hostel as we were nearly giving up called “The Bubble”. It was an English style pub place serving pub food, some indian curries, etc. Honestly this was WAY more our style anyway.
Tasty food, and relaxed atmosphere…perfect!
Not a bad way to end the evening. Now back to are glorious hole in the wall hostel and hopefully some rest before another interesting day…
Willkommen in der Schweiz