Monday, December 20, 2010

Weekend in Zermatt

To celebrate the completion of Luke's Masters Degree program we headed to Zermatt for the weekend. We woke up early Saturday morning to catch our 6:17 train which we made with 0 seconds to spare. As it was, we were running late to the train station and didn't arrive until 6:10. Then, we had to get the stroller, our snowboards, boots, bags, etc out of the car and run to the platform. When we got there it was 6:15 and we were out of breath. Luke asked if I had my keys and I said no, I thought he still had them. That is when we realized my keys were sitting on top of our car in the parking lot because he thought I had picked them up. Luke took off running to get our keys and 30 seconds later our train arrived. I thought for sure we would be sitting in the snow for an hour waiting for the next one because there was no way Luke would be able to run to the car in back during the 1-2 minutes the train was stopped at the station. But, sure enough Luke came running back and we jumped in the train right as it was ready to leave. We met up with Luke's coworkers in Bern and at 9:00 we were in Zermatt. We headed to the hotel right away and the guys got ready to go skiing while Jack and I got ready to go sledding. By 10am everyone was ready and we walked to the station to buy tickets and just as I was about to buy our sledding ticket, I noticed Jack was down for the count:

That left me with an hour or so to explore the town of Zermatt. It is a really nice town situated right at the base of several mountains.
The train dead ends here and it is a car free city. The only vehicles allowed in Zermatt are these little electric busses.

On clear days you have an awesome view of the Matterhorn. This is the last city on the Swiss side and once you cross the alps, you will be in Italy.
Once Jack woke up, we rented our sled and headed out
Unlike the ski resorts in the US, Zermatt is not limited to skiers/snowboarders. Many of the pistes (runs) are open to sledders and hikers as well. Jack and I took the gondola up the mountain to one of the sledding runs.

As you can see, skiers and sledders use the same run. In fact, on our way down the mountain we were passed by several skiers, snowboarders and we past a few hikers as well.
The sledding adventure turned out to be a terrible day. I thought that we would be able to sit on the sled and ride the whole way down the mountain, but that was not the case. The majority of the sled run was flat so I had to pull Jack. It took forever and before long he started getting cold, then he started to cry and scream so I had to carry him while pulling the sled all the way down the mountain. What I thought would be a 30 minute ride down the mountain ended up taking several hours. It was miserable. In fact, the guys finished their day of skiing before Jack and I got down. After Jack and I warmed up in a small restaurant, he was able to sit on the sled again while I pulled him, but then he started falling asleep.
So I ended up having to carry him again, and pull the sled all the way back to the hotel. I was ready to collapse. Next time, I will make sure to ask if the sled run is actually "rideable" I will not go on another one where I have to pull the sled, where is the fun in that!?

Later that night we headed out for some good food.
Sunday morning was my turn to hit the slopes, while Luke watched Jack. We headed right away to the top of the mountain. I have to mention the terrifying gondola ride up the mountain though. We loaded into one of these huge gondolas that can carry hundreds of people and the driver has a steering wheel at the front of the gondola. At first, everything was normal. But as we started to go higher, the gondola began to sway. A little bit at first and then much more. The wind was so severe (80 km/hr) that the driver was worried it would blow us right against the big stations as we passed. So every time we reached one of the stations he would stop the gondola and we would be suspended mid air swaying back and forth until the swaying was almost at a minimum and we could inch by the tower hoping a gust of wind wouldn't blow us right against it. A few times a big gust of wind did come and I was waiting for the crash and then to fall thousands of feet to the ground below. Needless to say, by the time we reached the top I was shaking and it wasn't because of the -30 degree weather. They closed the gondola after we got off.

Our first run of the day was right at the foot of the Matterhorn
It was an amazing view. There is a run on the Matterhorn but it was closed due to the severe winds.
The runs seemed much shorter than those in Colorado or even Mammoth. But, then again half the mountain was closed due to severe weather so it is hard to say

It seemed that everything was geared towards skiers though. Many of the runs had long, straight parts where snowboarders (and even some skiers) have to walk. And most of the lifts are gondolas so you have to take your snowboard off completely. I spent most of the day taking my snowboard on and off. Next season I will ski!
Down in the valley is the Zermatt
I loved going through little villages where you could stop for some food or a beer

Here is a picture of one of the huge gondolas that carries hundreds of skiers, snowboarders, hikers, etc.
And a picture of me, just to prove I was there :-)

I loved all the different forms of transportation used on the mountain. We rode on a huge gondola, a 4 person gondola, regular chair lifts and trains.
C'etait une bonne journee
Here is a map of the mountain showing half of the runs (or more) closed due to winds
Back in town ready to see my guys again
We grabbed all our stuff then headed out for the 3 hour train ride home. Thankfully Jack had lots of people to keep him happy.

We arrived home safe and sound, but completely exhausted. Now we have two days to rest and then it's off to Barcelona for Christmas. Good thing too because I need a vacation ;-)

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