Season’s end

Skiing on Mannlichen continues until Easter Monday and on Scheidegg to the end of the month. For me though, the ski season ended today.

The weather forecast was correct last night; we had early morning cloud and then some sunshine. It was a good day to finish, cold with good snow on Mannlichen in particular and few skiers all day.

         Sunshine breaking through clouds on Mannlichen 

I suppose any period of five months will have its ups and downs and this winter has been no different. In weather terms, we have been up, down and everywhere in between. Early season, before we arrived in Wengen, there were excellent skiing conditions. Around Christmas it was very warm and I thought the season might be finished in a few weeks, but the weather gods relented. Much of late January and almost the whole of February brought a long period of cold, sunny weather. The lift companies did a sterling job. With no snowfall to speak of at all in that period, they managed to keep the pistes in fantastic condition. March and April have brought a return to winter and more snow. It should last until closing day and beyond.

A first rate day brought 8,213 vertical metres in 19 lift rides and 48 kilometres travelled. An 86 day season brought 734,067 vertical metres in 1,591 lift rides and 4,089 kilometres travelled.

Thank you all for your time spent with this blog over the winter.

Sunday in the snow

The village has been lively for the last couple of mornings. Yesterday, there were cows on the nursery slope (not skiing), with one making a break for freedom and last spotted, by me anyway, heading for the Wengen Curling Club hut. This morning, the starters for the Lauberhorn run were gathering by the tourist office. The course for this race is the World Cup downhill run in reverse, from Innerwengen to the top of Wixi. It must be hard work in the snow, probably harder for those in Easter bunny outfits.

            Morning sunshine

On the hill it was a fantastic morning, with blue skies dotted with clouds and the almost perfect snow. As the day went on, the clouds built up. At Scheidegg in the afternoon it hailed for a while and then snowed for an hour. Towards the end of the day the sun returned on the tops. After a couple of poor days, we have had two great skiing days. MeteoSwiss promise some more sunshine tomorrow, for part of the day at least.

The day brought 9,062 vertical metres in 23 lift rides and 49 kilometres travelled.

More winter

The temperature dropped last night, the heavy rain turned to snow and the wind abated. This morning, the snow line was just above the village. After a couple of very poor days, winter has returned. It looks set to stay for a while, with temperatures well below freezing until Thursday at least.

It was still snowing on Mannlichen this morning, with good skiing and few people. The only club on the hill was Bonigen, but then they do not miss many Saturdays. The wind was still around though, swirling the snow at the top of Mannlichen and closing Honegg and Eigernordwand for a while in the early afternoon.

                 Above Holenstein this morning

Unexpectedly, the day changed.  As the wind dropped again, the sun emerged and a glorious afternoon came from nowhere.  There was very good skiing on Wixi and as far as the bottom of Bumps T bar.  From there to the Innerwengen chair was slow and torrid.

A very good day brought 8,780 vertical metres in 19 lift rides and 48 kilometres travelled.

Almost grounded

The wind was blowing this morning even here in the lower part of the village. I set out more in hope than expectation and sure enough, the Wengen-Grindelwald part of the mountain was more or less closed. The Eiger Express was open but doubtless moving at a snail’s pace, and the Innerwengen chair was running also. Neither looked an attractive option, particularly Innerwengen where the slalom course has been closed for a couple of weeks.

       The Mannlichen cable car sign 

The few people skiing were heading for Winteregg, where the small group of lifts leading to Allmendhubel were all open. I decided to follow the herd. On arrival, there were two immediate bonuses. Firstly, the lifts were still running. Secondly, it wasn’t raining cats and dogs as in Wengen.

However, snow conditions were similar to newly poured cement. One run was enough and I was back in Wengen a couple of hours after leaving the village. An exceptionally brief visit to Murren brought 457 vertical metres in 4 lift rides and 2 kilometres travelled.

The forecast is for the temperature to drop and snow to fall, but with the threat of more high winds.

Stuck again

It was a nondescript morning, grey and overcast but not raining or windy. What was remarkable though was the temperature in the village, almost 12 degrees at about 9.30am.

The temperature wasn’t much lower at Mannlichen and my skis were pretty much stuck to the piste from the start. The sun broke through when I reached the top of Lager, but of course that didn’t help the pistes at all and it was a slow ski to Gummi.

         Sunshine at Lager

The Punch Bowl seemed likely to offer the only decent snow on the mountain and it was indeed quite good as far as the railway tunnel. However, on my second run the sticky snow had reached the traverse near the top. On the way down I met another of the Wengen regulars and we decided the day had nothing more to offer. We were both on the 12.16pm train from Scheidegg back to the village. It rained intermittently in the afternoon.

A short, slow day brought 3,037 vertical metres in 7 lift rides and 21 kilometres travelled.

Some rain

It wasn’t anywhere near as bright this morning as yesterday. It had rained during the night and the sky was a dark grey at breakfast time. The cable car was quiet and the gondola from Grund more or less deserted. Still though it was a good morning’s skiing, with that slight glaze to the snow when it has rained but not too heavily. As a bonus the sky brightened for an hour or so.

                    The Eiger in the afternoon 

As the day went on, the skies darkened again and the snow became heavy on the lower slopes. The day was poor in comparison to twenty four hours ago, but being on the mountain was still worth the effort. We may have more of the same weather tomorrow.

A day with good to soft conditions under ski brought 7,484 vertical metres in 16 lift rides and 44 kilometres travelled.

Near perfect

The sun had its hat on from early today. The sky was a clear blue and the mountain was cloaked in fresh snow. It was a morning to be moving and breakfast was reduced to a croissant bought hurriedly from the Co-op. I made it on to the 8.30am cable car, which was near full.

It was worth the effort. Mannlichen glistened in the sun and the snow squeaked under my skis. There was a steady stream of arrivals on the cable car for the next hour or so, but the test of a busy day is the gondola from Grund, which remained quiet all morning.

     From Distelboden

However, Wengen’s usual suspects were out in strength. I encountered most of them during the day, some of them several times. This has been the best day of the season in the view of the cognoscenti. It is probably the last great day for this winter.

In the afternoon a haze of cloud obscured the sun, but it was a small blemish on a near perfect day. The sun picked up again on the way home and the run to Innerwengen was at its best.

A great day in the sun brought 12,298 vertical metres in 26 lift rides and 69 kilometres travelled.

The good, the bad and the ugly

This morning brought a welcome sight, snow to the valley floor. It wasn’t heavy snow in the lower part of the village, but still there was five centimetres of new white stuff on the postboxes. That was the good news. The bad news followed fairly quickly, as the cable car and all the Mannlichen lifts were closed by the continuing storm. I am sure that the bar for closing the lifts becomes lower each winter.

The ugly news was visibility at Scheidegg, which was poor. I had headed for Wixi and for an hour or so blundered around in the clouds. Later I was given the tip that things were better on the other side of Scheidegg. I should have realised myself, after all these years watching the weather progress up the Lauterbrunnen valley. Things were indeed better and a good afternoon was had.

      Below Bumps T bar

Later on I headed back to Wixi, which was still shrouded in cloud at the top station. Just below Bumps T bar, the sun was shining. It was a good ski to Innerwengen, though the snow was very heavy for the last few hundred metres. It has snowed lightly into the evening.

A good day with some tricky clouds brought 6,596 vertical metres in 19 lift rides and 37 kilometres travelled.

Usual service resumed

It was dark this morning and raining steadily. From home, there was no discernible snow line and it looked as of it would be raining to the the top of Mannlichen. On the cable car though, the rain turned to snow near the the summit. On the other side of the hill, the clouds were low and it was snowing hard.

There was good skiing on Mannlichen. Despite the clouds, visibility was okay. The new snow, although only a few centimetres deep, had transformed the mountain as far as Holenstein. On the ridge, beyond the Berghaus, the Snowopen Air concert continued. The cloud was at its thickest there and the surprisingly large crowd may have heard their favourite bands, but I doubt they saw them.

              On the Arven lift

The cloud was denser under the Eiger and the the snow more sticky, but still it was a return to normal service on the mountain. This evening, snow showers have reached the lower part of the village. It might snow more tonight. Again, we hope for the best.

A good day with new snow and few skiers brought 7,299 vertical metres in 17 lift rides and 46 kilometres travelled.

Less than perfect

If yesterday was far better the expected, today was worse than seemed possible early on. When I emerged from under the duvet, it was a warm, grey morning. Nothing unusual for the last week of March.

It is of course the Snowopen Air concert this weekend. Local politics have moved it from a natural amphitheatre at Scheidegg to a small and exposed site at Mannlichen. It was indeed exposed this morning. The benign conditions in the village gave way to a strong, cold wind at the top, which whistled around the cable car station. The snow on the piste to the four man chair was forming dust devils to a height of a couple of feet above the ground.

I hoped things might be better at Scheidegg, but it was a forlorn hope. Most lifts were closed. Honegg was moving very slowly, the top of the lift lost in blowing snow. I headed for Branndegg, the one half decent run of the day.

           Grey morning

It was a long round trip, as I just missed a train to Scheidegg. When I did make it back, the Lauberhorn lift had opened. At the top, the first hundred metres were as smooth as polished marble. Lower down, the snow turned to chalk and then slush. I spent the afternoon chasing some decent snow conditions, but never found them. In a montage of the best ski day ever, not a single second of this Saturday would make the cut.

It may be different tomorrow, with colder temperatures and new snow promised. As always, we hope for the best. A difficult day of ice and wind brought 5,352 vertical metres in 17 lift rides and 39 kilometres travelled.