Thursday, March 19, 2009

Clouds (gasp!) Come to Wengen

Thursday, March 19

Yes, it’s true; the three day run of sun came to an end on Thursday. While not heavy Pacific Northwest clouds, they were adequate to block most of the sun and create occasional flat light conditions. More challenging they left the snow hard packed in many areas and only the lower mountain softened. But we should complain?

The group has a wonderful spirit and attacked the slopes with cautious vigor. During the afternoon adult beverage call some did switch from cold drinks to hot to deal with the lingering chill in the air.

It was not a big day for group news. Most of the skiers were on the slope; many after a day off on Wednesday. Some of the non-skiers took the train to a delightful rail side restaurant on the hill where they met with a contingent of skiers. That way everyone could enjoy the hill, despite the light clouds. (To be fair, there were times when one could see a faint shadow while skiing.)

On past trips Hawaiian or Mexican themed parties have been held creating memorable scenes in the hotels. This year the theme was “Swiss.” It was perhaps a bit tamer than past years but a good time was had by all and, once again, the Mo and Bob opened up their extra large room for the party.

The Swiss Party: Bob Dixey, Rich Smith, Larry Geist, Tom Naden, Stephen Turnovsky

Ron and Lenore’s ears must have been ringing as trip veterans recounted memories of past trips with the Lyle clan. Some recall their first Jaeger tea with Ron in Austria. Others remember the time Lenore encouraged a hillside bar in Cortina to reopen at the end of the day so she could introduce her 12 followers to grappa, an Italian specialty. As a result of the stop her group nearly missed the last tram down from the slopes. Ah, the memories.

Which leads to the Question:

I’m often asked, why do you go to Europe? Isn’t the skiing just as good or better in the U.S.?

In my opinion the skiing and much of the scenery in the U.S. is superior to Europe. But that misses the point.

Europe offers skiing, scenery and much more. It is a chance to travel with a wonderful group of people who share a common interest. You are exposed to people, languages, customs and food you would never see at Seattle Ridge in Sun Valley. Maybe it’s that indescribable thing, atmosphere.

Today I rode the chair with Swiss, British and Dutch skiers. We managed to converse! I had a Swiss dish at lunch that I can’t get in Utah. Every restaurant on the hill is a bit different.

And, oh by the way, the skiing is pretty good too. Where in the U.S. do you take a train to the slope? When was the last time you rode a funicular in the Rockies?

In a way, comparing U.S. skiing to European skiing is not a fair exercise. If you just want to ski, stay home. If you want to immerse yourself in a different culture, come to Europe and ski.

I hope I answered the question, why ski in Europe.

Early in the trip it appeared this would be a spoon rich environment. Not so. This group is careful and competent.

There were a few minor T-bar incidents; nothing major. Ed Meyer was assaulted by an aggressive soap dispenser and nearly missed a train trying to wash it off in a sink with but a trickle of water.

But the prize went to Eva Sabo. On Wednesday Eva joined a group headed for the “Top of Europe.” When they arrived at the train station, a 10 minute walk from the hotel, she found she had forgotten her lift pass, which gives free access to most trains. Not wanting to be left behind she purchased a single ride ticket. That oversight alone might have been spoonable.

But when she arrived at the second train to the Top of Europe she received the real shock. If you had a lift pass, the second train was about 50 francs. If you didn’t have a pass the ticket cost 149 francs. It was a costly lesson but it kept her with her friends and earned her the spoon from John Powis who was anxious to pass it on.

Perhaps Thursdays skiing will provide more material.

No comments: