January 31 – February 11, 2018
Is the latest thing to do with your closest friends. Why make it a romantic beach getaway, where you don’t know anyone, when you can get your closest friends to join you on an epic snowboarding trip to the Swiss Alps? That’s just what we did!
January 31st, seven of us (three couples and Francesca) loaded four snowboarding bags, six backpacks, one suitcase, one tactical bag, Cesca’s toy bag and a stroller into two vehicles and headed to the Seattle Airport. We checked-in and visited the Delta lounge for a few cocktails and snacks before boarding the plane. Our departure was on-time, and we had a quick layover in Amsterdam before we headed to Zurich, Switzerland. Francesca was a trooper and didn’t fuss the entire trip. She entertained herself with coloring books, movies, random bouts of howling and across aisle visits with our friends and traveling companions: Claire & Brian Rosenlof and Andrea & Rod Scherencel.
Once we were in Zurich…
We discovered several of our bags were missing. Oh no! All of our snowboarding equipment and my backpack, containing Francesca’s and my clothes, they all failed to make the connecting flight. It was a bit of a blessing since our snowboarding equipment was delivered to our door a few hours later. We didn’t have to carry the massive amount of gear on the train and through the streets of Zurich. However, at the end of the day we were still down my pack so the daunting task of finding clothes to wear for Francesca and I awaited us in the morning. We hoped the airline would find our bag so we didn’t have to replace our whole wardrobe for the next year of travel.
Once settled in our Air B&B we strolled the streets in search of food. We had lunch at a restaurant the next street over from our apartment. Switzerland is not a cheap country; our lunch was about $225 and the meal was mediocre. We hoped to keep our restaurant eating to a minimum while here but we did have a few dinners out planned and expected them to be a bit pricey.
In the morning there was still no word about our lost bag so we needed to find a few things to wear. We stopped at a few places and picked up a couple outfits for Francesca and me. There was good news when we arrived at the flat, the bag was found and would be dropped off sometime that day. Good thing because we had no warm clothes or snow gear and couldn’t afford to replace them.
Since someone needed to wait for the bag we split off for the afternoon. Andrea, Francesca and I waited for the bag to arrive. Brain and Claire explored the Zurich history museum, while Rod and Daniel scoped out the train route to Verbier. After our bag arrived we had drinks at Ebrietas, the bar next to our flat, and chatted with the owner Phil. He told us a lot about his life in Switzerland a how he owns and help run several bars in town. Cost of living is high but so are wages, dish washer start around $28hr. It’s always interesting to hear about life outside the US.
The evening past fast, we had a nice Italian dinner and headed back to the flat to prepare for our next day travel. We had a lot of stuff and needed a strategic plan to make sure we successfully made the three train transfers to Verbier. Traveling in a large group definitely attracts a lot of attention especially when your baggage takes up twice a much room as the group does. The boys had a fabulous system of getting the bags on and off the trains. The girls made sure we had seats and all of our belongings Francesca did a headcount every time we made a transfer. It was cute to see how concerned she was making sure everyone was accounted for, she didn’t want to lose anyone.
Once in Verbier we found our Chalet, a nice three bedroom two bath apartment mid-way up the mountain side. We had easy access to the bus line and the Savoleyres mountain lift. We settled in and prepped our snowboards for our epic week of riding. We ate dinner at Le Shed a burger joint in downtown Verbier. Remember how I said Switzerland is pricey? Our burgers were $25 to $30 each. That’s right just the burger, fries were extra. The burgers were amazing, at that price they better be, and so were the fries but… Ouch! our pockets felt it. Good thing we had our own Chef Daniel to make us amazing meals for the rest of the week.
The owner of the Chalet, Marc, offered his guide services for a day, at a discounted price of course. So in the morning he came by for coffee and breakfast before everyone hit the slopes. Francesca and I stayed home since she is a bit to young to ride. We walked into town looking for a few things we needed for dinner and climbed the steep mountain back to the Chalet, man what a workout that was! When we return Daniel was waiting at the door, we were surprised to see him back so early. He proceeded to tell me the story of his morning.
To give a bit of background the night before when we met Mark he seemed to be a very nice man but he was a name dropper, you know the type. Told us stories of how he had guide some big name Stars, I don’t remember which ones because I didn’t really care. Told us about how his ex-wife was an actress that left him for some actor. How the piano in the Chalet belonged to James Blunt and he wrote some famous song on it. Lots of stories that he thought would impress us. They all may have been true but we not the type of people who really care who you once met. We’ve met lots of cool people, some considered famous some not. To us being famous doesn’t make you a cool person.
In this mitts of his story telling he said he could guide anyone with the disclaimer of he doesn’t snowboard. So when the group got to the slopes Mark took them off pist where the snow pack was icy and riding was choppy. They proceeded to a traverse so they could cross from Savoleyres to Verbier, some of the group thought it was a bit of a sketchy ride. When they realized there had been an avalanche so they had to hike across it. Once on the other side they made their way down to the coffee shop for drinks and a rest. When Daniel removed his helmet a river of sweat poured from his head, everyone was quite concerned. Mark suggested he take the rest of the afternoon off; Daniel had already made the decision to head back to the Chalet.
Exhausted, annoyed and frustrated Daniel headed to the bus stop when he hit a patch of ice and fell twisting his snowboard behind his shoulder. Now, on top of it all he was hurt. Not the first day on the mountain he was hoping for but we did get to spend the rest of the afternoon together cooking dinner and playing with Francesca.
The first day wiped everyone out so we all hung out at the house most of the morning and late in the day Andrea, Claire and I got a few runs in. The mountain was gorgeous and the runs were epic. My second time boarding in almost three years went much better then my Mt. Baker experience. We started on the Verbier side and then finished on Savoleyres. We closed the mountain down and on the last run I took a nasty spill and twisted my knee, the rest of the ride was not so fun. I had a hard time carving turns and spent most of the run on my heel edge. When we got back I iced my knee and rubbed some Young Living essential oils on it. I hoped with a bit of rest I would be able to ride again and I did!
Daniel and I had a day with Francesca, we nursed our injuries and took it easy while everyone else spent the day on the slopes. We took Francesca down a bunny hill on a child sled. She enjoyed every minute even the crash; little lady had quite a bit of forward momentum which cause her to flip forward landing in the snow when Daniel tried to stop her. It was one of those oops moments parents have when the didn’t calculate the situation correctly. We played in giant snow banks and made snowballs. It was a great family day in beautiful Switzerland.
Every morning Marc invited himself over telling us some story about some famous person; he had experienced a lot over the years guiding people around the mountains. Every day our group bought him coffee and lunch, as it is customary to do with your guide. He made reservations for us at a place call Chez Dani, it was a restaurant on the mountain side that you rode a snow cat to. Then you got to sledge down, for those that don’t know what a sledge is it is a sled with brakes. Marc told us the sledge was supplied and when we got there we learned otherwise. This sent Brian over the edge, he was already annoyed with Marc and how oblivious he was, the guy invited himself to dinner with us. Brian couldn’t take any more and expressed his feelings and left before dinner was severed. Marc stayed apparently not even noticing the tension at the table and didn’t even offer to help pay for the expensive meal.
The owner of Chez Dani, Latte, was a bit concerned that we had a toddler with us and had to hike down the mountain side at night. He offered to take two of us and the baby down on his snowmobile. So after dinner Claire, Francesca and I hopped on the back for a night time ride down the mountain while Andrea, Rod and Daniel were given flares to light their way. Latte drove us to the bottom of the mountain and then we piled in his truck then he took us back to the Chalet. When everyone else arrived home they mentioned Marc saying something about coming by in the morning.
We tried to get out of the house before Marc made it over in the morning but we failed. Rod tried to explain the situation to Marc and Claire told him we were going to have a family day on the mountain. We left the house and made our way to the bus, as we waited guess who came down the road trying to catch up with us? Yup, Marc. On the bus Rod proceeded to explain further that we didn’t want to ride with him today and that he upset Brian. He was oblivious and Rod had to spell it out for him. Finally we were able to shake him and the tension in the group was lifted. Now we were ready for an epic day on the mountain.
We bought the 4 valley pass, the sky were overcast and visibility wasn’t that great until you reached the very top of Verbier. When we passed through the cloud line it was epic blue sky, it looked like you were floating on an island in the clouds. We rode the gondola as far up as we could. The view from the highest peak was absolutely breathtaking! As I watch the skiers take off down the mountain side I just giggled, there is no F’in way I was going down there. The run was completely out of my skill level and a recipe for a helicopter lift to the hospital. So we got back on the gondola and rode it down.
As we made our way through the 4 Valleys we came to the largest mogul ski runs in Europe, if not the world. The group looked at me and said “this is the only way to ski to the other Valley, are you up for it?” I reply, “ I don’t know, lets see.” As I start to make my way down I discovered I wasn’t ready for this extremely steep mogul field. I fell back losing my balance and proceed to slide down the side of the mountain on my butt. Brian and Rod raced down either side of me trying to help stop my speeding decent on the bumpy mountain face. I was laughing at myself, praying that I wouldn’t break my arm and feared that I would tumble forward and summersault down the mountain if I tried to stand up. I could see myself turning into a giant rolling snowball like in the cartoons. Luckily that didn’t happen! The boys helped me stop, we got a big laugh out of it and a learning experience on how to stop. Then continued onward to the next mountain run.
As we descended our visibility decreased due to the low cloud coverage. It was hard to see the cliff edge or gauge depth but that didn’t stop the boys from jumping of anything they could or speed down the mountain. At the bottom we would catch the lift back to the top riding through the clouds to the picture perfect view and beautiful blue sky. It was quite the experience to ride the Alps!
The week was coming to an end quickly. Daniel got a gorgeous blue bird day. Not a cloud in the sky. The group got ready, grabbed their gear and made their way to the slopes. It was a short walk to the T-bar lift and the first time Daniel ever using one. Brian and Rod guided him through the steps of getting on and off then gave him some tips for success. Daniel waited in line strapped up and ready to go, feeling confident he could do it. As a line of people formed behind him patiently waiting. When it was time Daniel glided forward to grab the bar with a smile on his face he giggled with excitement. As the tension on the T-bar became taut he was pulled forward with a quick jerk and ‘BAM’… face plant. Laughing at himself and cursing in multiple languages he laid on the snowy ground looking at all the people watching him, waiting for him to scoot out of the way. Back in line for the second attempt with a few more words of wisdom from our snowboarding coaches Daniel grabbed the bar and off he went. Success!
Onward to Mont-Font, as the group descended to the bottom Brain pointed out a short steep mogul field that he would have to conquer to ride the epic runs on the other side. Daniel looked up at the field and said “you gotta try to succeed.” Before they attempted the treacherous mogul field they would ascend in a gondola that held 90 people. After the 20 minute wait for the sky chariot to arrive they squeezed in with all the other eager riders. They peer out the window at the beautiful scenery.
Once they disembarked the gondola they opted to climb up the mountainside another 100ft using ropes and metal spikes that had been secured to the frozen ground. The climb was definitely tricky but once at the top they gazed upon the mighty Swiss Alps. A breathtaking view, an ocean of mountains in the sky basking in the sun and to the south the tip of the Matterhorn peaked through the distance clouds. The air was crisp and cold as the wind sweep across the snowy peaks. After enjoying the spectacular view they made their way down and grabbed a hot cup of coffee before making their way to the mogul field.
At the edge of the steep sloped mogul field Brian and Rod gave Daniel instructions on how to control his decent and the easiest path to take. Daniel successfully rode down the bumpy mountainside and once at the end of the mogul field the real fun began. High speed riding down a lovely groomed run, at times reaching speeds that made you feel like you’re about to lose control. Desperately trying to avoid the catwalk by maintaining the needed momentum to clear the flat stretch and hill at the end. Luckily a freshly waxed Never Summer rides like a dream and glides across the snow with easy.
At the end of the run another T-bar adventure awaited them. This time the mount and ride to the top was flawless however the dismount was less graceful. When Daniel released the bar the tension propelled the bar into the air barely missing a sign. Rod laughed out loud and expressed how lucky Daniel was that bar had missed hitting him. As they were winding down the day and continued toward home they took an off pist ride. Daniel slipped and landed on his tail bone knocking the wind out of him, it’s always the last run that gets you. They made their way home reminiscing on what a beautiful day it had been in Verbier.
The last full day in Verbier Brain, Claire and I wanted to get a few more runs in so mid-morning we made our way to the gondola at Savoleyres, the oldest lift on the mountain circa 1970. The slow moving gondola is on the list to be replaced but has experienced several set backs due to a lawyer protesting the build. She didn’t want the lift relocated to her backyard, who could blame her. Once at the top we noticed a ton of people with all types of sleds. As we made our way down down the mountain we came across a toboggan course. All those people with sleds had started at the top of the mountain and rode down a super winding steep course. We were surprised they didn’t wear helmets as they sped down the slope barely making turns and crashing into snowbanks. It looked like a lot of fun and a bit more dangerous then snowboarding.
Our last evening had arrived and the packing had began. We had to get all our gear dispersed between the bags and coordinate our ride back to Zurich. We decided to hire a driver instead of taking the train, the cost was about the same with a lot less hassle. Rod and Andrea had decided to head to Amsterdam instead of continuing on with us to our next destination. Since the three of us were not heading back to the US everyone offered to help take our gear back to the States. Our friends are amazing, thank you for helping us and taking care of us!!! We love you!
In the morning when we woke the snow was falling, it look like it would snow all day. We were all a little annoyed that we had to leave and were going to miss fresh snow on the mountain. As we waited for the sprinter van to arrive Francesca played in the snow catching snowflakes on her tongue. It was a little more then three hour ride back to Zurich, the van was not so comfortable and cold. When we got to the airport we stored our snowboarding bags in longterm luggage storage. Checked in for our flight and had our last dinner together. We didn’t know the next time we would see our dear friends but were so grateful for the time we had spent together. We hugged and kissed our friends goodbye and made our way to our gate, excited for our next adventure.