Home again

Today was a beautiful spring day when the Idle Skiers flew into London bright and early, with the sun shining and the sky a brilliant blue. We are home again and will be here for some time, as the Government has this evening announced the “lockdown” of the U.K.

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A Spring day in London

Yesterday was the strangest day; our flight was cancelled, but the rebooking was for early this morning, so we were forced to head for Zurich anyway.  During our four hours travelling, we saw, possibly, fifty people.  Switzerland had gone into hibernation.

Fortunately, the airport hotel was still open.  There was one person working at the reception and a few other guests, but it was spookily quiet. London this morning was different as always; it was buzzing still, less so than normal, but a marked contrast to Berne and Zurich, which of course is the problem.

The Foreign Office has recommended today that all British subjects head home now, on the basis that it might not be possible at all in a few days time.  

We wonder what the next few weeks will bring.

Once more

Life here is very different to even a few days ago.  Save for essential businesses, food shops, the pharmacy and a few others, the rest of the shops along with bars, hotels and restaurants have closed.  At the moment, it seems difficult to imagine when they might reopen and, for the hotels in particular, where their customers might come from.  

Skiing ended on Saturday, but today was one more skiing day, a touring day, the first ever for the Idle Skier.  We are normally gone from Wengen before the touring season kicks in at the end of the season.  However, it is definitely the end of the season now and the weather is in full support of that. It seemed like summer today.

It was only a small trip out, starting at the old hotel Hirschen in the morning and ending there in the early afternoon.  In between times, we made it to Wengenalp via Mettlenalp.  A few hours skinning up for ten minutes skiing home.

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Towards Mettlenalp

It was worthwhile though. The mountains were beautiful, there were just half a dozen other skiers and below Wengenalp, a white hare bounded by, the first I have seen in thirty years of skiing in Wengen.

A final day in the sun brought 600 vertical metres in zero lift rides and an uncertain number of kilometres travelled.

This is the end

The end of the season came more quickly than we thought possible even yesterday.  The season ended today.  Almost all ski resorts in Switzerland closed last night, but following what seems to have been an administrative blunder, the Jungfrau Region managed one more day.

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The game is up: Wixi in the early afternoon

By early afternoon, we knew the game was up. We were skiing the last runs of the season and it was time to make the most of them.

The irony was difficult to ignore.  On a day when the wind didn’t blow, when the temperature dropped, when the snow was good all day and when snow fell steadily for a few hours, Wengen closed.

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New  snow on Wixi

People turned up to ski of course, although without realising probably that it was the last day of the season, several weeks ahead of schedule.  Bonigen Ski Club failed to show up for the first time this winter; it is a long time until their next ski day.

This evening, we have heard from friends hoping to ski in Alpe d’Huez this week; they have made it to the resort, but the prospects of putting skis on snow don’t seem to be good.

A winter’s day, the final one for the addled season of 2019 – 2020, brought 11,208 vertical metres in 25 lift rides and 58 kilometres travelled.

The season’s tally was 64 skiing days, rustling up 514,312 vertical metres in 1,183 lift rides and 2,819 kilometres travelled.

I have borrowed some touring skis from a friend and neighbour.  I have a couple of days focussed on the office lap top coming up, but let’s see what mid week brings.

One day

Today was straight from a nineteenth century penny dreadful.  The fog was dense and at ground level; poorly defined figures flitted through the gloom; the problems of the world at large came to our doorstep finally.

It only takes one day for things to change dramatically, and today was one of those days.  Life has been pretty near to normal here so far, but today the Swiss government acted.  Schools have been closed and the size of social gatherings limited to fifty people, amongst other measures. Some ski resorts are closing: the Jungfrau Region remains open for the moment, but the season seems bound to end early, if not imminently.

A friend of the Idle Skiers is staying with us at the moment.  Today was her first day skiing for a couple of years and it was not the best welcome back to the mountains.  The day started with a heavy fog, which lifted for a while mid morning, but then found renewed energy.  In the early afternoon, having left Mrs IS and our guest still on Mannlichen,  I made my way to Scheidegg and was relieved to bump into the Arven lift.  It had to be there somewhere, but just where exactly was pretty difficult to establish.

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A break in the clouds 

Late in the afternoon, the sun shone on Wixi. It was another strange day in our unusual winter.  On the way home, I passed the site of yesterday’s party.  It was foggy again by then and warm, but the snow bar was still standing.

A tricky day on the hill brought 8,497 vertical metres in 18 lift rides and 46 kilometres travelled.

The birds fly low

Early on this morning, the birds were flying low in the valley.  This is never a hopeful sign for the day’s skiing and sure enough, the wind was blowing strongly at Mannlichen, as usual it seems these days.

It is a friend’s fiftieth birthday today and a barbecue was planned for the top of the cable car.  The weather’s attempt to gate crash the party moved things to Wengenalp, which turned out to be excellent.  The sun shone, we were sheltered from the wind and passing skiers looked on enviously at grilling meat and cold beers.

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Wengenalp in party mode

This is the strangest winter. The world outside the Jungfrau Region moves everyday closer to chaos and, here, things carry on largely as normal so far, though the weather is consistent only in the fact that we rarely have more than a couple of days alike.

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Clouds held back

Today was a good day. Tonight, rain is forecast.  What the next couple of weeks might bring, weather wise or otherwise, is anyone’s guess.

A sunny, windy day, highlighted by hotdogs, brought 5,179 vertical metres in 13 lift rides and 32 kilometres travelled.

 

Fast and furious

I made it back to Wengen today bright and early.  Well it was bright down here in the village, but at Mannlichen, when I decanted myself from the cable car in the early afternoon, it was like a London pea souper of days past; visibility could be measured in inches.  Jack the Ripper could have been out there and no one would have noticed.

The weather around here is a touch on the fickle side though and within no time at all, the sun showed up and the Eiger was bathed in Spring sunshine.

 

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Early afternoon

The cloud didn’t disappear entirely and it was still poorish visibility on Wixi at the end of the day, but the afternoon was rescued.

These days technology dominates everything, including skiing. So skiers travel much faster than thirty years ago, whatever their ability; the skis do the work.  All of which makes people reckless. This afternoon, heading out of the Punch Bowl towards the tunnel to Arven and Eigernordwand, I was smeared off the piste by an out of control German skier.  Skiing is fast and furious now and you need to be careful out there.

A shortish, slightly painful, afternoon brought 4,716 vertical metres in ten lift rides and 27 kilometres travelled.

Six horsepower

Pretty much always in ski resorts, the done thing is to catch the lift, powered by electricity, and then ski or snowboard down the hill without man made energy at all.

Wengen always likes to do things differently though and, today, at the top of the Wixi chair, there hove into view a snowboard powered by a small engine linked to a miniature track behind the board.

The boarder (should that be motorist) parked at the Start bar, so evidence of this otherwise tall story was obtained.  A quick conversation established the board has six horsepower and moves quicker than your average motor scooter.

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Six horsepower; open top model only; no stereo


There are not many petrol stations around the mountain though, so the driver might end up pushing.

The day was pretty good overall.  There had been snow overnight.  It was cold.  The sun shone brightly for a while.  Bonigen ski club turned up as normal (and closed one of the best runs on Mannlichen, namely Distelboden, for more race training), but otherwise it was quiet yet again.

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Late morning

A better than average day brought 10,272 vertical metres in 22 lift rides and 53 kilometres travelled.

Later in the day, a unicyclist went past the Co-op, but I mentioned him last year and he seems well known, so hardly worth mentioning really.

All things being well, I will pick this story up again mid week.

The world outside

Today, the wind stayed away, but so did the sunshine. It started murky and remained so for most of the day.  The sun tried to break through in the afternoon, but it was a forlorn hope and the clouds won in the end.

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The brightest point in the day

It is not often the world outside pricks the Wengen bubble; the village carries on pretty much as usual whatever is happening beyond Lauterbrunnen railway station.

Even the current health crisis, quite real down the road in Italy, has passed us by for the most part. Finally though, in some small measure, the rest of the world has made its presence felt.

The Waschbar, a small open air bar on the side of Bumps, had its Bermuda party planned for this weekend, but it has been cancelled.  The Co-op has hand sanitiser at the door, though I am sure that is true of every branch in Switzerland. The cable car this morning was taking fewer passengers per journey than normal, though that might be for any number of reasons.  Still, things are not quite as usual, and for once it is not the foehn wind which is responsible.

Tomorrow promises new snow; whether there will be new skiers is anybody’s guess. Myself, I think the Bonigen ski club will turn up for race training whatever else might be happening in the world.

A truly grey day brought 8,993 vertical metres in 20 lift rides and 48 kilometres travelled.

Days like this

There will always be days like this I suppose.  A melancholy air hung over Wengen this morning and if didn’t change much for the rest of the day.

Down here in Upper Lauterbrunnen, it was raining steadily early on. My walk to Central Sport was solitary. Even the early morning dog walkers had called a halt on the day.

The rain turned to snow, or maybe sleet, mid mountain, but the sky was a solid block of battleship grey. The few people on the cable car disappeared quickly.

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Above Holenstein, mid morning

The weather deteriorated further later on as our old friend the foehn wind turned up and closed the Honegg and Eigernordwand lifts.

Oddly though, it could have been worse.   The visibility was good despite the cloud, some lifts were still open and more than three people at a lift station constituted a major traffic jam.

So, a melancholy village and a wind swept mountain, but it was okay in fact.  As with most days, it was worth turning up.

A surprisingly enjoyable day brought 8,339 vertical metres in 19 lift rides and 47 kilometres travelled.

For one day only

There are days which exceed expectations.  The weather forecast and the locals were pretty gloomy about today.  The sky would be grey; the snow would be poor. In fact, it would be gloomy.

So it was with some relief that the Idle Skiers woke to a clear sky and cold temperatures.  For one day only, it was still winter and the skiing was about the best the season has had to offer.

In the afternoon, the clouds did roll in for a while, but the sun fought back and the day ended as it had begun.

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Towards Murren; clouds gathering 

The Idle Skiers had been away early this morning, Mrs IS for Scheidegg and me for Mannlichen. We didn’t have the mountain to ourselves, but that corner of the season I mentioned a week ago has been turned without doubt. It will be quiet now until the end of the season.

There are bigger things going on in the world at the moment of course, as always,  but the rhythm of life here doesn’t seem to have changed that much. There are fewer tourists for the Jungfraujoch, and I suppose for the railway that is a big thing, but for the rest of us it means only that a seat on the train is easier to find.

A short ski yesterday and the full version today brought 16,201 vertical metres in 37 lift rides and 80 kilometres travelled.