Saturday, February 4, 2012

Top of the world

Snow, snow, snow. That is what you get when you go live in the Alps for a while. Snow, and lots of it! Flakes in all sizes and weights. Thick, sticky ones, or small wet ones, where you are not sure if it's actually raining or snowing. But most of the time, it is a beautiful white shower which covers everything in a thick, powdery carpet. That's what I give a big like!
Snow in Chur means ... even more snow in the mountains around Chur. This, of course, means that I go out to the slopes just about every weekend. So far, in the 3 weeks that I have been here, I have visited Lenzerheide, Hochwang and Brambrüesch.

Lenzerheide is a 40 minute bus ride from Chur. The ski field is a tad more commercial than the others I've seen, but it has nothing from the fame that Davos has. The slopes are nice and easy, but a bit too crowded for my liking. The other fields I have seen so far (except from Davos) are also small, but very 'local' so not many people go there. But ahh, you need fields of all sizes and levels and I think Lenzerheide is a very good option - I'd definitely go again. There's also a few nice bars at the middle station, so an apres-ski - or should I say 'middle-ski'? - is always nice. Relax, face in the sun, gluhwein in hand. What do you want more?

Powder in between the slopes - Hochwang.
The week after, I went to Hochwang with a few of the Chur girls and my colleague. I had promised my colleague and another friend to try and teach them the basics of snowboarding - I say try because it is rather difficult to relate to other people what your body does. But hey, look at that! Both of them were off rather quickly. Victor - the colleague - even came down with us on the last run, turns and all, towards the bottom of the lift. How good is that? I felt rather proud - I taught him that. Maybe I might have the teaching gene after all? As I said before, never say never ...
Apart from teaching, I went up and down with roommate Claudia in the afternoon - and had so much fun with that! The slopes in Hochwang are very nicely groomed and are actually beautiful: above the trees with an immense view; in between the trees with thick packs of snow on all sides. The funny thing was that a thick fog was lying in the valley, so we constantly went from bright sunshine to a foggy soup. Exhilarating!
A mountain with a view - Hochwang.
I also convinced Claudia to go on her first powder side trip ever. In between the slopes there are heaps of untouched patches - or let's say, touched by people with the same state of mind as me - so it was the perfect time to get her to do it: short stretches in the powder, just to know what it feels like. Ohhh man, did she curse me at first :-). As you probably know by now, powder is very, very heavy to work through if you're not used to it. You constantly get caught in deep snow, and then it's a tricky matter to get yourself out of it without getting completely wet. Well, completely wet was a certainty in our case, so I just decided to laugh about it and try harder :-). In the end we finished a nice patch in between the fog and trees. I have to say - afterwards, Claudia had the widest smile imaginable and I even got a big hug. Again, a blast of pride rushing through my veins and a smile on my face. Teaching gene?

Just now, I went to Brambrüesch. This is actually a very specific ski field because it is the only one in all of Switzerland where the lift leaves from the centre of the city. Chur, to be clear. You basically just walk there, take the gondola to the middle station, then another gondola and poof, there you are. Easy peasy, no difficult car rides or annoying train rides. I really like Brambrüesch because it seriously reminds me of a true Winter Wonderland. Mini-Narnia, so to say. You arrive in between the trees and have to walk a little while before you get to the anchor lift. On this walk, there are a few houses scattered over the place, all covered in a thick pack of snow. How people live there, is a mystery to me, but the scenery is wonderful.
As by a miracle, the fog opened up as well and we witnessed a bright sunshine and blue skies. The cold front that has hit Europe, has obviously also hit Switzerland though, and at -20 up there it was rather chilly. But not to worry, we'd be up the lift soon.
Now, this anchor lift is something that I hate. I 'strongly dislike' the word hate, but hate it is in this case. For snowboarders - especially the solo ones, like me, and who are somewhere just above beginner but far under pro - these lifts are hell. They are inelegant, exhausting, stupid and difficult. You have to stick this anchor between your legs, which means your butt will be blue. When you are alone, like me, you have to do all you can to balance yourself on the thing, or it just jerks you right up, you lose your balance and you fall off. Usually with one leg still around the thing so you get dragged along for some 10 meters before you get the chance to shuffle to the sides. Sigh. But, as every day is learning day, today I learned to use it well. I actually succeeded to get to the top 3 times, and 'only' fall off 2 times. In one of those falls, though, I hurt myself and now I have difficulty to walk. But that's beside the point. ;-).
I thought this lift was way too much work for what the slopes are worth - there are not a lot, and most of them, though finely groomed, are not a real challenge - but then the chairlift to the top opened up. While my friend Linda kept on practicing on the lower slopes, I decided I wanted more out of my day and went up the chairlift (big sigh of relief). The freezing wind struck at once and gave me an immediate, hammering headache ... but then I got to the top. What - a - view. There is nothing up there except for the ski lift operator's tiny, tiny hut, and a gorgeous, amazing, breathtaking 360º view over the Alps. White carpets as far as the eye can see. It made me want to jump, run, turn, ... just play. Sadly enough, by then the battery of Linda's camera had frozen to death so I have no pictures of the view. But it is locked in my memory. So I think Brambrüesch is a perfect place both for beginners and pros. I think, once I get better, it would be awesome to get to the top and just fool around in this thick, thick powder. Only question would be how to get up to the top again, but that is a worry for later :-).

So that is how I spend my weekends. A day of snowboarding, sometimes bouldering, sometimes swimming, maybe a little run here or there ... And of course the beers on Friday night with the girls I met in Chur. Perfect!

Claudia and me on the slopes in Hochwang.

No comments:

Post a Comment