The prospect of the week to come took some of the sting out of the cancellation of Metallica’s show. I found my airport transfer in Geneva and was soon off to the ski village of Verbier in the French speaking southwest of Switzerland. It was raining and, as we got higher, snowing…a good sign. My hotel was located on the steepest section of Route de Médran and I struggled in the ice and snow with my suitcase in my well-worn sneakers. It was too late to ski, but I needed to pick up my rentals and look into the lift tickets. It was clear my shoes were not only tread-less, but leaky too. Add buying a pair of boots to the “to do list”.
The conditions on the mountain were terrific with the previous day’s foot of snow. Verbier is known as one of the top “off-piste” resorts and I didn’t have to venture too far to get some fresh tracks. I opted for the 4 Valley lift pass which encompasses the total skiable area. That day, I toured all the way across the 4 Valleys and back again.
It snowed another 6 inches that night and the runs were fantastic on Wednesday. I did some big “itinéraires” runs of Les Gentianes-Tortin, Mont-Gelé-Tortin, and Chassoure-Tortin that are high alpine tour routes and twice got to Verbier’s highest point, Mont Fort at 3330m. Later, I checked out the one area I hadn’t seen yet, Nendaz.
The last day was a stark contrast to the 2 previous days, it was bright and sunny. I spent as much time on the itinéraires as my legs could handle in the morning and the afternoon on some easy, high speed burners around Siviez. I had been tracking my days with my new Garmin Montana 680 and put up over 10,000m elevation gain and 90 km distance each day.
On Thursday afternoon, I picked up a rental car and set out for Bern, Switzerland’s capital, to meet Rebecca. I had a really tough time finding Bern’s airport as there were few signs and the final stretch of road was dark, bumpy, and skinny. I bet it’s used more by farm vehicles than airport traffic. But there she was, waiting at the door with 2 coffees to go. Bec and I set off south and soon left the main highway for Kandersteg. The road took us up and up into the clouds. I was really beginning to doubt my navigating skills when we reached a toll gate (did I mention our regular GPS was on the fritz?). The cost was 27 swiss francs. “Wow. That was a hefty toll!” I said to Bec. We proceeded through the thick fog and a man in a reflective vest directed us on to a little laneway. We stopped behind another car when Bec said, “I think we’re on a train!” Sure enough, without much ado, the train started moving. Unbeknownst to us, we were on the last car of a train on the Lötschberg Line, a 74 km car transport train which includes a 14.6 km tunnel providing passage through the Bernese Alps. Out at the other side, we continued our drive to Täsch and dropped the rental car. We walked across the street to the train that completes the ascent up the Matter Valley. We had finally arrived in the famous ski village of Zermatt.
We skied the Sunegga area on the first day and Bec soon got her ski legs under her. The clouds blew off and we got our first glimpse of the iconic Matterhorn. Bec turned me loose for a little while in the afternoon and I took the cable car up to Rothorn at 3103 m. We had a well-deserved, late lunch at Findlerhof, an on-the-mountain restaurant Bec had on her list, before getting in the last runs of the day. We enjoyed the outdoor jacuzzi, dry sauna, steam rooms, and the cold plunge pool at the hotel before heading into the centre of the village for dinner. We each had a raclette dish and shared the bratwurst and rösti at Restaurant Du Pont.
The next day was bright and sunny, much warmer than the day before. We took the Gornergrat train from the village to the final stop at an amazing 3090 m (second highest train in Europe). We skied the whole day on Gornergrat and Bec was tearing up Run 36 like nobody’s business. Bec wanted to stop in for a mid-afternoon gluhwein before riding the train back down while I checked out the Hohtälli cable car at 3286 m and got in a few more runs back on Rothorn.
Sunday being our last ski day we planned to ski over the border to Cervinia, Italy. However, the weather had other ideas. We took the cable car up to Trockener Steg at 2939 m, but that was the end of the line. The lifts above that and on the Italian side were all closed. A storm was blowing in from Italy and we could see why they might want to close the lifts. It would have been nice to see the views on a clear day from the Klein Matterhorn at 3885 m. I got in a few runs, but it was just too windy over there. So we pulled the pin on our Italy plan and headed back to Gornergrat. It was much less windy and we enjoyed a nice lunch at Vis-à-vis restaurant.
We tried to make a reservation at the popular Whymperstube restaurant, but it was fully booked. We wandered into town a bit later in the evening and thought we’d try for a table in Whymperstube and we luckily got one. We couldn’t resist a cheese fondue for our last night in Switzerland. Good thing we were burning a lot of calories on the mountain!
On Monday, we had a well needed massage at the hotel and did a small walking tour of the famous mountaineering town before starting our train journey to Geneva. I flew home to Abu Dhabi and Bec headed back to Berlin. One of our best ski vacations yet!