And Then There was Vail

For a short while after returning from Switzerland we enjoyed sunny San Diego.


However, San Diego didn't stay sunny. In fact, it snowed. 
Coincidentally, we headed off to the snow again


The chair lift "Born Free". Skiing makes me feel like I was born free. 
Vail is a great place to exercise ones freedom.


Tim was there for business. 
So was I, but the business of getting fresh tracks.


I love Vail. 
Vail is to ski resorts in the U.S. what New York City is to cities.
Just like NYC,  Vail has a heartbeat. The pulse is palpable.  



At 3:30 p.m. I scored some fresh tracks on Outer Mongolia bowl. 


The next day Tim's business was through and it was his turn to play. I showed him where all the good skiing was had the day prior. Unfortunately, me and thousands of others skied up the nice inches of fresh snow the day prior. It was 40 degrees the day before, followed by a day of windy and gray. Can you say " Death Cookies served on a Boiler Plate"

Tim's still smiling because he's happy not to be a work. Also, this is Tim's face for "I've been had once again by my wife who skied under a bluebird sky and got fresh tracks while I worked". Of course, I gave him the standard line I give all residents "You should have gone to nursing school. 



 Between, the two of us we did sniff out the best snow. It was tucked away on "Blue Sky Basin"


Yup, this is good snow.


I like the trees. 


Next time Tim would like to order 1-2 feet of fresh powder, no ice. 

Until then, we'll keep smiling and dreaming of the perfect turn, the perfect tracks and epic powder. 

Switzerland Day# 4, Saas Fee



The next day we took the ski bus to Saas Fee. Saas Fee is a glacier way up high. Greater than 12, 000 ft to be exact. The Swiss don't mess around when it comes to getting to the mountain.


Of course the bus ride came after we rode the train. In Switzerland the trains are very smooth and on time. Rumor has it, "they beat BART."

I enjoyed the walk through the village and was the self appointed photographer so long as Tim carried my skis.


Hmm....I wonder if that cross will be deemed "unconstitutional. " Pardon me, but I think old things belong. Some might argue I ski too much and sight see to little, but with villages like this....it's the beast of both worlds. 




I knew it was worth visiting Saas Fee before boarding the first tram up. Was the skiing really good or was the village all the "to -do". 





Bands that play at the bottom of the slopes. A train that goes through a tunnel in the mountain to take skiers to the top  (no need to slow down the tram in the wind, say good bye to getting chilled riding the chair lift). But the skiing? 


Tim gives it a thumbs up!

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Bruce and I track up the fresh stuff. I finish with a hop and a powder pig salute.

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Once again I finish with the powder pig salute, or the hip high snowbank salute.

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Bruce scores yet another set of fresh tracks. He may be a self described "old man", but he is sporting the latest and greatest in ski design. Rocker bottoms by Rossignols. You should see the graphics. I think my mother in law needs to keep an eye on Bruce. Soon he'll be growing his hair long, getting tattoos, and smoking funny stuff while waiting his turn to get big air in the pipe. Skis....just another gateway drug.

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Another one of my favorite runs at Saas Fee.  The iPhone will never do the Alps true justice, but this clip captures just a hint of Alpen Glow. We loved Saas Fee so much we actually came back for days 5 and6.
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"I'm stuck" 
For real! The snow was so deep that when the run flattened out you needed to hop in somebody elses track or best case scenario you get stuck. I'm not really a big mountain, deep snow girl by trade so I am sort of learning these things as I go.

In doing so I have developed the following questions:

If you loose your ski in snow that deep, will you ever find it?

If you fall into a crevass, will anybody notice you are missing?

The answer to both I believe is "Not on a powder day?"



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This is by far the deepest snow I have ever skied in. I think this is the kind of snow people pay gads of money to access via helicopter. I actually nervous skiing in snow this deep. Every turn would throw snow into my eyes and honestly my lungs. You'd think I would draw on my years of skiing to keep my cool. Actually, I kept thinking, "Thank goodness I became a triathlete and learned to swim".  I kept visualizing a snorkel. 

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I am usually quite lame, keeping my skis on the snow and not getting any air, but when the landing is 6 feet of fluff I'll let my hair down. The trouble with landing in snow that deep is you loose all your speed ,well at least I do and it's a heavy hike to get going again. I figure I need to expend the calories in order to negate my Caotina drinking. 

This year, the three of us got avalanche beacon with finders. A lot of ski jackets are made with beacons in them now and that helps people find you, if they miss you. Somebody has to have a finder, so I think it is wise to keep have a buddy system just in case. Why does this so remind me of the clapper commercial? The one where the old lady who falls and screeches "Help, I have fallen and I can't get up."


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Switzerland has some steep runs. You can see I am sliding my skis sideways so I have more time to see what was coming and to ditch some speed if needed.  

Switzerland is an awesome place to ski but there are some key differences from skiing in the U.S. Basically "nobody wipes your butt". Things like cliffs, creeks, and cornices do not come with 82 caution signs and red tape. I guess , skiers are expected to use their brains. Getting on the lift there are no attendants to direct the flow of traffic. I'm not discriminating, the New Yorkers do it at Killington, but the Euros cut in line and sometimes they shove when getting onto the tram. Lift ops sit inside a booth at the bottom of the chair lifts and don't grab the lift for you. Poma lifts are common on top of the glaciers. They are actually great as they don't slow down in  high winds. They go multiple times faster than those in the U.S. They are completely unmanned. So if you have never ridden one have a friend look for the red emergency stop button while you get on for the first time.  

Another key difference is the selection of skis. It is not uncommon to see really old straight skis and rear entry boots in Switzerland. The Swiss seem to either be very extreme, mountaineering over the top of the glacier and out of the resort or very refined and skiing textbook style turns down groomers. I'm not in the ski shape I once was but I have to say softer, wider skis hide a lot of my imperfections  The technology has made skiing the ungroomed 1million times more fun and I don't even have the latest. The off piste is so much fun. If venturing to Switzerland, I would totally recommend equipment geared for off piste/ all mountain because you will be very limited with just groomed runs. They get icy in a hurry and are more crowded. The majority of the resort is ungroomed terrain.  In the U.S. I think renting demo skis is an awesome plan vs skiing old skis or buying new and skiing infrequently. However, in Switzerland the rentals and demos seem to all be carving skis. 


Switzerland Day #3: Zinal

Day 3. The sun was shining.


Is everybody ready?

I am.
The boys too!

Zinal has somethng for everyone.


Even if you don't ski or snow board, it's no excuse not to enjoy the mountain.

At least enjoy the swing set!

Resorts in the alps are seriously cool and truly enjoyed by all. Most resorts have trams that run to the top instead of chairlifts, making it very accessible. It is very common to see people bring their dogs up to the top of the mountain for a hike. Often you see grandparents taking toddlers up to the mountain top in strollers, simply to enjoy the mountain. For that matter, I have seen elderly Swiss hiking up the mountain. French women have tricks for staying slim, apparently so do the Swiss.


So Cool!

There was not a bit of disappointment in Zinal.

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Bruce finds a line just his style.




Zinal was steep and deep!
 It was everything I dreamed. 
A girl could not want more. 
Be still my dancing heart. 

Tim's a shredder.


I'm am off- piste poser. 
The yellow helmet gives me away.

Big Air! Big Air!

Big air in more ways than one.

Finally, we gave in and refueled.

Rather unsuccessfully, I was framed for eating an entire croute.


I wonder what instigator would try to do that? 

Although I probably could have eaten an entire croute.
  11, 500 ft wasn't enough for Tim and I. We felt the need to earn a few turns. 

 Oh my gosh! I am positively giddy with all the fun I'm about to have. 


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The snow was post avalanche. It had settled and was a little heavy and crusty. It gave our legs a workout. Quads, they burn at 12, 000 ft, even if it's cold out.We earned our turn, our lunch, and a good nights sleep. 

After that, it was back to the soft, light, and fluffy, stuff.

Fluffy!
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No groomers required, with fairly fat skis, it's smooth as can be. 

What a day! Who could want more? 
However, tomorrow is another day. 

Switzerland Day #2 Grimentz

The next day we awoke early in search of fresh powder.


Our desire for fresh tracks outweighed our love for Hotel Du Lac's amazing breakfast.

We left before breakfast. We headed down the mountain into the valley and up another mountain pass. 


The bus ride to the mountain has amazing views. 
Riding the bus gives you great appreciation for the driver. 
The tunnels it passes through are narrow and the canyons below are a long, way. down. 
Tourists should not rent cars and attempt to drive these roads. 
No, I think not.


Once in the village of Grimentz, it is all smiles.




Not that we weren't smiling already.


We were reunited with our old friend. 

His name is Everest. 
You'll never guess what he is named after. 



Big dog. Big mountain. 

He's really soft. 
He love's to be pet. 

Don't tell anybody.
The first time I met him, I was afraid.


He works in the ski shop at the base of the mountain....keeping the floor warm. 

He is most excellent at his job. 


Just like last year, we found fresh tracks.


Pretty much, we had the mountain to ourselves. 


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Tim took full advantage and showed his appreciation by throwing a 360.



Without a proper breakfast we were hungry for lunch.
Who says we just went skiing and ignored the cultural aspects?


Displayed is a traditional Swiss lunch on the mountain, in the French speaking region. 

Croute:
 Basically a thick slice of toast. 
Covered by a melted cheese. 
Maybe topped with an egg or ham. 
Maybe both. 

Dessert : Blueberry Tart

Drink: Rivella
Rivella is a carbonated beverage that does tasted totally different than other soft drinks. 
Apparently it has milk serum in it. Interesting no?
Empty calories yes, but no high fructose corn syrup. 

Of courses after lunch we made some more turns.


I noticed that Grimentz was a little flat. A nice mountain but look at all the tracks running straight. Fresh snow is slow, so a little more pitch would be perfect in my mind. We heard a rumor that Zinal, was much like Grimentz but steeper. The thought of that was music to my ears.


Time to rest up and get ready for another adventure. Zinal tomorrow.

Switzerland Day #1: Crans Montana

After flying all night. We arrived in Zurich.


We gathered are things and headed down the escalator one flight. 
We bought our tickets for the train and headed down the escalator one more flight. 


...and boarded the train. It was that simple. 


A few hours later we arrived in Crans Montana. 
A beautiful ski town. 
It was dark and snowing when we arrived.


When we woke up, this was our view. Not bad!



It was sunny. 
Turns out it has been sunny a lot in Crans Montana. 

Sun is nice, but it melts the snow a bit. 
Good it was snowing when we arrived. 


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I did my best to make good use of the fresh powder before it got wet, heavy, or tracked up.

With help from my friends, it seems we used up all the fresh powder. 

No worries, powder hounds have powder noses. We were certain to sniff out some more fresh tracks. 








Switzerland 2011: The Preview


Somehow Switzerland never disappoints.


We are safely home now, with only one trip casualty. 
That would be a container of Caotina that exploded in my bag. 
If something smells "chocolaty" next time you ski with me, you know why.

Somethings don't change.


The villages are full of life. 


Bruce is prepared for an avalanche and everything else. 


Aqua, the Bernese mountain dog was there to welcome us. 


Total Awesomeness, No?


Full report to come, with blow by blow details to last until the next trip.