February 08, 2009
Ski Day in Klosters (next to Davos)On Friday evening, David returned from a week of business travel 6,000 miles and 9 hours' time zone away, and already the next morning he was ready to take the family on our second ski day! I was so thankful that he suggested it, as I am eager to explore the different nearby resorts and make the most of our new location so close to the Swiss Alps. You can see more of our Klosters ski photos here.
We packed up our rental skis, boots, poles, and all our ski gear, some water and snacks, and
headed out at about 9:30am towards Davos/Klosters. You know, Davos in Graubünden, where they hold the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum - this year's was just last weekend. Did you know I once worked as a secretary/gopher for a few weeks one summer at the WEF in Geneva? I got good at typing the word "international" really fast :-)
On the 1 hour and 35 minute drive there (and on the way back), we saw license plates from 25 of the 26 Swiss cantons (only missing Valais, VS), along with 15 foreign countries (B, CZ, D, F, FL, GB, GR, H, I, L, LT, LV, NL, P, PL). It helped to keep David (the driver) awake, I figure, enlisting his help spotting these. :-)
We drove through five Swiss cantons (Zürich, Schwyz, Glarus, Sankt Gallen, and Graubünden), and 14 different tunnels.
We ended up trying out the Madrisa area of Klosters, which is right next to Davos. Nice, plenty of soft snow, hardly any other people, hence no lines at all - just ski right up and get on the lift every time. Also, warm - we skied part of the time with our jackets open. No hand warmers considered (though I had them in my pocket in case, having experienced a great need for them at Engelberg last time we skied, on January 10th). It was peaceful. The kids enjoyed more T-bars. They got so comfy on T-bars together that Jason started them slaloming back and forth and stuff. I opted for David and me to go in front the next time, so I didn't have to watch and foolishly/fruitlessly worry anymore! Ha.
When we arrived, it was nice and sunny, but then various sets of big puffy clouds floated over and around us, so part of the time we were in total whiteout. As in, we couldn't see where the slope ended and the fog began, or anything else. And with no one in front of us, we couldn't see when the slope suddenly got very steep. Exciting. Emily and I were on our own part of the time, while the boys skied higher up, and I was so thankful for the fluorescent orange poles marking the trail every so often, with even more useful arrows on them saying which SIDE of the pole we should stay on. Because there would have been no way of telling. Occasionally another (faster) skier would emerge from the fog above us and then just as rapidly disappear into the fog below. We made it just fine to the chairlift at the bottom, but it did remind me of the time as a child that my family got lost in a snowstorm skiing. My dad truly did fall off a cliff and land okay on his skis, and shouted up to us not to follow him. My brother led us another way down.
After that seriously foggy episode, Emily was getting exceedingly tired and thirsty, and had a cough, so we headed to a restaurant to eat some late lunch and let her rest. Jason had a great time doing his first solo skiing, while the other three of us got something to eat (he wasn't hungry and was enjoying the slopes, and he's 14 now and very responsible, as well as a good, confident skier). Emily drank some water, took off her ski boots, and promptly lay down on the bench seat and fell asleep for almost 2 hours, right in the middle of the noisy restaurant. David and I enjoyed some Saucisse de Veau, Alpenmaccheroni (hard to Google for; many different spellings; macaroni, diced potatoes & toasty cheese), applesauce, and lettuce with corn & beets and a French dressing. Jason joined us later and happily tasted some of everything. Then the boys skied some more together, while I hung out with the sleeping sick girl and looked at the view, prayed, and tried unsuccessfully to get the internet access working on my iPhone. David later showed me how to reboot it (which fixed the problem).
Thankfully, Emily didn't need to ski any more, as we could just take the cable car down the base village of Klosters. Anyway, it was too warm to ski any lower on the mountain - getting slushy. We got back in the car, and as soon as we turned out of the parking lot onto the main road (one narrowish lane each direction), we noticed the cars going farther up the mountain were stopped dead. We merrily drove downhill, and soon saw that the traffic on the other side of the road must have been stopped for quite some time, as there were plenty of people out of their cars (smoking, chatting at other car windows, walking upwards to investigate, getting water out of their trunks), and others reading at the steering wheel. We got the benefit of seeing a lot of license plates (many from Germany, Liechstenstein, Netherlands, France...), and started to pray for the stopped cars...because the traffic went on, seriously, for 17 kilometres (that's 10.5 miles). I felt so sorry for any cars with young kids in them, or people who might need to use a toilet soon...or might even run out of gas eventually (though of course people's motors were off). We never figured out what was the cause of this most impressively long traffic jam ever.
Later on during the drive home, as Emily slept (glad we brought those pillows) and Jason fine-tuned his Humanities essay on whether the WWII atomic bombs were a good idea or not (with arguments for both sides), we passed within five minutes of Liechstenstein (and about 19 minutes from Austria). David promised me he will take me to this new country (FL) some other time, when Emily is not ill, and we have all our passports in hand. After all, it's only an hour and five minutes from home (1h20 to Austria). He's wise.
My favorite town name that we saw on the trip: LACHEN. This, in German, means "Laughter."
January 11, 2009
Skiing in Engelberg/Titlis - Funny and WonderfulYesterday it was more of the same pea soup fog and overcast skies here that we have had for weeks.
But we drove for one hour and five minutes and emerged from beneath the clouds into the super-bright sunshine of the Alps, to ski at Engelberg/Titlis in the canton of Obwalden! It was our first family day trip to ski since we moved to Switzerland. Prior to this, we had only skied the one other time with our friends in Verbier in November (for 3 hours only, on the opening weekend). I was happily surprised by how little effort it was to get ready, since we had already gotten the season ski rentals and accounted for all our gear for that other trip. We just had to assemble everything by the front door, put the ski rack on, and load up. Not staying overnight means a lot less to think about.
Five Funny things about the Excursion:
1. When we arrived at the resort, and were kitting up, everyone put their boots on, and only Emily had trouble buckling hers up, since they are difficult to close even though they fit comfortably. David helped her. Then we walked to the lift, got the tickets, rode up in the gondola, and went outside to put our skis on. But my boots kept falling out of my bindings, and Jason couldn't fit his boots into his skis. David and Emily got their boots properly into their bindings. But we soon realized that actually David was wearing my boots, Jason was wearing David's boots, and I was wearing Jason's boots!!! It was hilarious and unbelievable. We had all been comfortable and hadn't given it a thought...so then we had to do a three-way exchange while standing on one leg at a time, and when I gave Jason his first boot, I forgot to take my orthotic out so he said it felt funny, and we had to take care of that step as well...finally we got sorted out. But it seemed like a scene from a slapstick movie, not something that could happen in real life. It was amazing to think we have a child old enough for this to even remotely be possible. Jason has also been fighting over using our snow boots, so I guess that should have been a warning! Funny, too, that Emily was the only one who had any trouble putting her boots on at first, and she was the only one with the correct boots. We're going to have to do something to mark whose boots are whose...they are all non-descript black/grey rental boots.
2. Back in November when we skied at Verbier, the kids and I had had exceedingly cold hands and wished for hand warmers...so when I saw a ski shop on our way to the first lift yesterday in Engelberg, I stopped in and they had exactly four pairs; I bought them out. Boy was that a great decision. Our hands were already freezing because it was -11°C even in the parking lot (that's 12°F), so we put them them to use right away. Except for David, who doesn't seem to get cold hands skiing like the rest of us. A bit later, the handwarmers being already too hot, I removed them from my gloves and popped them in reserve in one of my coat's seven pockets. When my hands got cold again, I reached in...to find that I had randomly picked as a storage place the very pocket where my Lindt chocolate ball was also waiting for the right moment...oh dear. Melted chocolate everywhere. I discovered this on a lift, and had chocolate on my hands (which I licked of course), and had to sort out messy pocket, hand warmers, dripping chocolate wrapper and all before getting off the chairlift. Another comical moment out of a movie.
3. I always hated T-bar lifts growing up skiing in the Alps. I had bad memories of difficulty tackling the ride up. I have visions of my dad being pulled up next to me with the bar behind his knees instead of under his seat like it's supposed to be. I haven't seen any in Colorado where we used to ski when we lived in the U.S. But yesterday they had one on the Titlis. I dreaded taking it. I worried about Emily being able to do it. I proposed that I go with her to be helpful...and David more or less said that was crazy, and that the people more alike in height should go together. We went with that, and Jason and Emily went up together in front of us. And wanted to do it again 3 more times! They loved it, and never had a hitch. Wow. I should keep listening to my husband. He's really smart. Plus this meant I got to ride up with him and chat and take photos of the kids in front of us with my iPhone and post them live on Facebook... ;-)
4. Listening to the kids chant almost the complete "Hit me on my iPhone" song on the chairlift - I had no idea they knew all the words. Funny song, and funny kids. Funny mommy who was snapping photos left and right and posting them...I'm breaking in my iPhone at high altitude (great reception way up there, by the way).
5. When we got back to the car and stripped our outer gear, several of the party's well-exercised feet were steaming in the -10° temps...and their ski boots were too. Mine weren't. My feet stay fairly chilly while I ski. I have to keep the toes wiggling. But the steam rising from other people's feet was impressive and amusing.
Nine Wonderful things about the Excursion:
1. The sunshine (an answer to my casual but hopefully prayer). We hadn't seen any for a long time, it felt like, and the contrast with the cloud cover over Zurich and Zug was stunning. We broke through into the endless blue sky and breathed deeply of it all day long. Then back down into the pea soup that evening (see it in the valley in the photo? And extending all over the plains). But we arrived home with plenty of sunshine stored up until our next mountain day trip...
2. The rotating aerial cable car - I had rested my skis against the window, but then the window started moving to the left...along with the rest of the entire circular windowed wall. Actually, it was the floor that was rotating to the right, in the end, and we made a 360° rotation by the time we'd reached the top. So everyone got a share of all the gorgeous views.
3. Speaking of that, the mountains were spectacularly breathtaking. We must go back in summer to hike at Engelberg.
4. The answers to my fervent prayers for zero injuries and us all getting home safely and hale and hearty, despite the few inconsiderate and reckless skiers zooming past.
5. The short drive - only an hour and 5 minutes from our house. Amazing.
6. The restaurant at 3200 metres of altitude (10,000 feet). Not crowded, no line at the self-service buffet, and a table in the non-smoking section by the window over the peaks and birds flying below. Good food atop the Titlis Mountain. There is a glacier up there (upon which we skied), and apparently an ice cave which sounds fun to visit (maybe we can see it in the summer if we go back).
7. The success with which David and Jason went down a "yellow" slope - supposedly for experts only. Of course I prayed them through that, while Emily and I took the cable car down (the only other way down, oddly enough).
8. The ability to take photos with my iPhone and post them directly, real-time, onto Facebook, and get instantaneous feedback while still skiing on the mountaintops, from old friends halfway around the world enjoying the view vicariously. Wow, what a world we live in these days. Mind-blowing.
9. At the end of the day, David volunteered to carry my skis back to the car. I was so pleasantly surprised, and I immediately turned and offered to carry Emily's skis, giving her David's poles. Of course Jason just carried all his own stuff - he's in training to carry his wife's skis later :-)
Naturally I could have schlepped my own skis, and had been expecting to, but David knows many ways to my heart. Seriously, that's really romantic to me, carrying my heavy skis at the end of a long ski day, along with his own. What a guy. So many ways to love him.