Unfamiliar mountain

In the early afternoon, I left the top of the Lager chairlift to find an unfamiliar mountain.  Nothing at all was visible; not the fence to left of the lift, above the Lauterbrunnen valley, not the nearest piste marker. I set off in what seemed the right direction (it was down hill anyway) and eventually found the piste to Gummi. 

It had snowed overnight and into the morning, but had not stayed on the ground in the village. On the mountain, things were better high up, although even at Holenstein the new snow had a soapy texture.  For a while, it looked like the day might clear, but then came the early afternoon white out. 

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                                                       Clouds clearing for a while

Tomorrow is set to be sunny high up, with cloud in the valley. It will be Saturday of course, so combined with the forecast, it is likely to be busy.

A day with plenty of cloud brought 5,520 vertical metres in 14 lift rides and 44 kilometres travelled.

Great skiing

Early on, it didn’t look promising.  The morning was grey again.  On the balcony, the weather gauge claimed the temperature to be over six degrees with the prospect of rain later.  The forecast on Meteo Swiss decided it would be colder. 

I erred on the side of caution, wearing some warm ski gear and for a change it turned out to be the right decision.  The sun showed up despite the early cloud, but there was a light, cold wind all day and whilst warm in the village, it was anything but that on the mountain.  

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                                                     Some afternoon clouds

The chilly day brought great skiing, some of the best of the season.  The clouds came and went and a few flakes of snow fell mid afternoon, but the sun persisted, allowing 11,503 vertical metres in 25 lift rides and 61 kilometres travelled.  

 

Not sunny

The forecast for today suggested more good weather, but this morning turned out to be overcast and fairly miserable. Sunny weather or snow are both great news; grey days offer much less.  

It had been cloudy last night as well, so the snow this morning was neither frozen nor slushy, just an odd intermediate state which was tricky to negotiate in the flat light. The Idle Skier headed for Tschuggen, where the trees offered sanctuary. Things picked up though and by mid afternoon there was some hazy sun and better snow conditions.  

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                                                              Late afternoon sun

Tomorrow’s forecast promises more cloud, with a bit of sunshine. Of course, anything might happen. A mainly grey day brought 8,966 vertical metres in 21 lift rides and 50 kilometres travelled.

Snow machines

It was glorious weather today, with another painted blue sky, sun all day and slightly cold conditions to keep the snow in good order. On Saturday, everyone I encountered said it would be quiet the following day. On Sunday, people said the same about Monday. Today it was true, with the mountain more or less deserted for much of the day.

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                                                                   I, snow machine

The collection of short stories by Isaac Asimov published as I, Robot, later made into a pretty good film, explores the thinking of robots. Amongst other things, they gather together for security. Here in Wengen our robots, the snow machines, are gathering together before their departure for summer hibernation. The snow making season is over and we are reliant on nature until the end of the season.

Another great day for skiing brought 11,216 vertical metres in 24 lift rides and 60 kilometres travelled.

First

The First ski area is a featureless bowl above Grindelwald.  On a bright day, it offers great skiing. When the cloud is down, a compass is useful. Perhaps the best features are the long runs back to Grindelwald, Bort in particular taking skiers to Grindelwald station almost; that is, when there is some snow on the run, which is not always the case for this sunny piste.

First is due to close on 5 April, but I have heard a couple of times in the last few days that it may happen sooner, with the lack of paying skiers being the reason.  The Idle Skiers have not been over to First this season, or last season for that matter. Last year, the snow was poor in the Grindelwald valley and the runs back to town were not open.  This year, our horizons have diminished, as I mentioned a while ago, and skiing at First seems about as likely as skiing on Mars. Still, it would be disappointing, if the rumours are true, for the area to close early. Perhaps we need to make the trip over there quickly. 

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                                                               At midday 

It has been a sunny day, but colder again. It has been quiet. The run home from the top of Wixi was more or less deserted. The day brought 10,594 vertical metres in 23 lift rides and 58 kilometres travelled.

All change again

When the Idle Skier clocked off for the day yesterday, it was possible to see a few metres at most. This morning, with the weather changing again, we were off early up towards another painted blue sky and glorious sunshine. It was a great day. The temperature had dropped, the snow was excellent and the crowds, such as they were, had left the mountain.

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                                                            Eigernordwand and the Eiger Express 

Mrs IS called it a day at lunchtime, but I carried on for a couple of hours more. The clock is ticking on the season, with February just about gone, so best to make the most of what is left to us.

Another day in the sun brought 10,173 vertical metres in 22 lift rides and 55 kilometres travelled.

Fog bound

It was a dark and dreary morning when the Idle Skiers woke. It seemed that the weather was set for the day, but as always, things changed quickly.

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                                                                  Clouds clearing 

The Idle Skier arrived at the top of the Mannlichen cable car in the continuing gloom, but the sun showed up almost immediately and brightened the rest of the morning. The day then reverted to type and by early afternoon, the cloud was at piste height and it was damp and cold on the mountain. Later on, a very light dusting of snow fell at Scheidegg.

A day which brought several seasons of weather rolled into a few hours brought 7,100 vertical metres in 17 lift rides and 43 kilometres travelled.

Platinum lift

It was colder today.  The Idle Skier ventured to Grund and even there the snow was in good condition.  As always though, the weather is fickle.  It had seemed that the temperature might drop for a while, but the next few days seem now set to be warm.

When I passed through the new terminal building at Grund, I noticed again the door to the VIP lounge. The only thing which might make this place more like an airport would be a couple of jets parked outside. A VIP lift pass, needed to access the lounge, brings with it free drinks and snacks, before boarding a private car on the Eiger Express.  This platinum luxury comes at the bargain price of 18,000 Swiss francs a year for two people. Incredibly, there seems to have been little difficulty in selling the tickets. 

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                                                                       On the Eiger Express 

It was quiet enough today that for the more reasonable price of a season ticket (or a day ticket for that matter), skiers had their own car anyway, although without the added hospitality.

A chillier day of good snow and almost luxury travel brought 10,655 vertical metres in 22 lift rides and 56 kilometres travelled.

Waiting for Sunday

In a few days time, on Sunday, the temperature is forecast to drop below zero degrees for a short time. It is a step in the right direction. This warm weather is all well and good, but it doesn’t do the snow much good and we can see the slow melt on south facing slopes and the roofs of mountain top buildings. In the village, the snow is disappearing quickly.

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                                                                 Mid day at Tschuggen 

Still though the skiing was excellent, although not at all like a February day. More skiing in the warm sun brought 10,330 vertical metres in 22 lift rides and and 55 kilometres travelled.

From where now?

It was warm again today and on the sunniest slopes, the moguls appeared by mid day. This weather looks set to continue for several days at least. It is great spring skiing, but it is still only the last week of February. We need a change of weather very soon.

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                                                                Afternoon sun

The early queue at the cable car vanished without trace on the mountain yet again. It is very quiet. From where now, or more importantly, from where next season, will the skiers come? The Swiss seem to have rediscovered Wengen. There have been many first time visitors from within the country’s borders these last few months and the village can take heart from that.

British skiers have been long time stalwarts of Wengen, but have been missing for most of the season of course. Will they be back next time around? It is difficult to say with confidence that will be the case. If, come the autumn, someone sneezes in Penzance, it seems possible that everyone as far as Newcastle will be prevented from catching a bus, never mind a plane to Switzerland, vaccines notwithstanding.

Dutch, German and Irish skiers also feature heavily in Wengen’s line up of customers. Will they be back? The Netherlands seems unhappy with its current state of affairs and I suspect a nation of travellers will want to return as soon as possible. Germany and Ireland seem to have disappeared from the radar, at least as far as the Idle Skier can see, so it is difficult to say. Only time will tell of course and ultimately all will depend on whom the Swiss authorities are willing to let into the country. It doesn’t seem that this whole business has run its course yet.

Despite everything, the skiing remains magnificent. The day brought 10,374 vertical metres in 22 lift rides and 55 kilometres travelled.