The shape of things to come

The Idle Skiers are back in old London town, a couple of weeks earlier than planned. The Schengen area rules required us to leave Switzerland before 30 March and we gave ourselves a few days leeway.

We travelled to Zurich yesterday and flew into the U.K. today. The last 24 hours have shown the shape of things to come. Last night, in the Radisson hotel at Zurich airport, we needed a plug adapter. The receptionist said they would send one up to the room. A few minutes later the room ‘phone rang and a metallic voice asked us to open the door. “It sounded like a robot” I said to Mrs IS, before opening the door to find a robot. It was a R2D2 look alike.

However, it hadn’t brought the correct adapter. We sent it on its way (by pressing the “decline” button) and R2D2’s younger brother headed towards the lifts.

Today, in the lengthy border control queue at Heathrow, a large group of young Japanese, clad head to toe in hazmat gear, didn’t attract a second glance from other travellers.

Putney in the rain

The Idle Skiers are now confined to barracks for ten days of isolation. We have suitable reading; The Wooden Horse, The Colditz Story, The Count of Monte Cristo and so on. Tunnelling starts tonight.

A brilliant ski season, with more snow than could have been imagined possible before its beginning, brought 921,712 vertical metres in 2,057 lift rides and 5,098 kilometres travelled.

Short day

If anything, today was more beautiful than yesterday, with still better and much quieter skiing.  I was on the 9.00am cable car, which was not full. A tour around the Mannlichen-Scheidegg circuit failed to reveal many further skiers. The season has several weeks to run, but will anyone still be skiing at the end?  It is beginning to look doubtful.

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                                                      Lauterbrunnen valley in the afternoon 

It was a short ski day, but exceptional, with the downhill and slalom courses at their best. The day brought 5,100 vertical metres in 12 lift rides and 30 kilometres travelled.

For the first time in a long time, the Idle Skiers have left the village.

Superlatives exhausted

It has been another wonderful day. It is difficult to say more about it. It was only on Friday of last week that we were still freezing on the mountain. Today was warm.

The Idle Skiers were on the cable car, which was more or less full, just before 9.00am. The snow was fairly crisp at that time, but the skiing was still great and remained so all day.

 

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                                                                     Plum Pudding hill in the morning

We toured the Mannlichen-Scheidegg circuit. Mrs IS called it a day at lunchtime, but I took the cable car back to Mannlichen for another ski around the sunny pistes.

Was it the best day of the season? That is impossible to say. In this difficult winter of few holiday makers and poor times for the village, the skiing has been at its absolute best on so many days.

The day brought 11,426 vertical metres in 24 lift rides and 62 kilometres travelled.

Spring

Without any doubt, today was a glorious Spring day. The sun shone, the snow sparkled in the reflected light and it was warm for the first time in weeks.  

There were a few more people around to enjoy the day – the 9.30am cable car was at its revised capacity of fifty people – but measured by any other winter it was extraordinarily quiet still.  

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                                                              Blue sky over the Berghaus

Mrs IS was on the mountain later due to Pilates commitments, but she arrived to find the skiing at its best.  In the afternoon, the lower part of the Wixi piste was softened by the sun, but there were not sufficient numbers on the slope to create much of a mogul field. The downhill course to Innerwengen was as good as it gets .

Another great day brought 10,060 vertical metres in 23 lift rides and 56 kilometres travelled.

 

Avalanche season

It has snowed for what seems an eternity.  It feels like winter on the mountain still just now, despite a sunny morning, but it will be warmer over the next few days. Yesterday, an avalanche hit the far side of the Eigernordwand lift, on the way to the White Hare off piste run.  Skiers, or boarders possibly, were caught up in the falling snow, but all survived.  It is likely to be the first of many avalanches over the next few weeks as the largest amount of snow for many years meets Spring weather  

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                                                               Early sun, distant cloud

On a great morning for skiing, I was away early to the warm sunshine on Mannlichen. As the day went on, the clouds scooted over the mountain yet again and the temperature dropped dramatically.

A sunny morning and a chilly, cloudy afternoon brought 10,601 vertical metres in 23 lift rides and 57 kilometres travelled.

Sunday crowds

It is not often that the day trippers on Sunday outnumber those on Saturday, but they did this weekend. The day dawned unexpectedly bright and the skiers came to enjoy the sun. The weather changed by mid day and the mountain emptied accordingly. It is funny how people remember Monday is a working day when the weather turns.  

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                                                             The sun slips away

Back in the village shortly after 4.00pm, the roads were empty and the Co-op, as I went by the door, seemingly deserted also. It looks like another quiet week in Wengen.

Yet another cold day brought 8,511 vertical metres in 18 lift rides and 45 kilometres travelled.

Thirty one years

It was a mix and match sort of day. The sun shone, the clouds rolled in and then disappeared again. It snowed for a while, just to show that winter is not over yet. Mrs IS timed her arrival on the mountain at the worst part of the day for the second time this week.

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                                                               Sun and cloud. 

This weekend marks thirty one years since we first set foot in Wengen.  It was a beautiful day back in 1990, with not a hint of snow in the village. At a time long before snow making, skiing below Wengenalp was more or less impossible, which seems hard to believe on this blisteringly cold day three decades later. 

A cold, cold day brought 8,879 vertical metres in 19 lift rides and 52 kilometres travelled.

After the storm

This morning dawned bright and sun was edging its way around the mountains as the Idle Skiers foraged for breakfast.  The forecast from yesterday was bettered by some distance.

Still though it was quiet on the mountain. The 9.45am cable car took fourteen people to Mannlichen. The skiing was as good as it gets and the temperature very cold for any time of year, never mind close to Spring.  

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                                                            The Eiger in the afternoon 

Late in the afternoon some clouds rolled in and for a while it snowed on Wixi. The sun picked up again on the way home. In Wengen, I collected a parcel at the station. A few weekenders were arriving, but nothing like the crowds you might expect for a snow packed couple of days in March.

A cold, mainly sunny day brought 10,290 vertical metres in 22 lift rides and 55 kilometres travelled.

Brief interval

This morning, it looked as if the stormy weather was coming to an end. It was still snowing at breakfast time, but there was blue sky over Interlaken and it was heading in our direction. By the time I reached Mannlichen, prospects looked good.

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                                                         On Mannlichen in the morning 

For an hour or so, it was a great skiing day. The bad weather wasn’t finished yet though. The sunny period turned out to be a brief interval in an ongoing drama of heavy snow. Mrs IS arrived at Mannlichen just as the weather reverted to type.

The skiing conditions are fantastic, but a little more visibility at least would be welcome. There might be a hint of sunshine in the morning, before the weather closes in again.  

The day brought 7,702 vertical metres in 16 lift rides and 43 kilometres travelled.

The most snow?

I was asked today if this winter has seen the greatest snow fall the Idle Skiers have experienced in Wengen. I almost said yes in answer, but then remembered the winter of 1999, when the Cafe Oberland was destroyed and the owners killed. That year, the top of the village was cordoned off for some time by reason of avalanche risk from the Mannlichen cliff face. A risk which eventually became reality when the old cable car was hit a couple of weeks after the tragedy at the Cafe Oberland.

So this winter doesn’t come close really. However, it has snowed for days on end now, save for the occasional interlude. I have just checked on the balcony and it is still snowing lightly despite some late afternoon sunshine.

 

                                                              On Mannlichen, between snow falls 

The various groups of Polish skiers were on the mountain again today, determined to make the most of their week in the Swiss alps. They haven’t had much sunshine as yet, but perhaps tomorrow.

Another day of heavy snow brought 6,301 vertical metres in 14 lift rides and 40 kilometres travelled.