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Switzerland snowboarding powder tour - january 2013

My father Tony called me up in late 2012 and told me of an upcoming trip that his friends were planning; to ski their way around the Swiss Alps in a loop, spending each day in a different resort, before finally returning to the original.

Sounded like a great adventure, riding a whole host of different resorts with great weather providing the perfect conditions - the only drawback being that you had to carry a sizeable pack as you rode, in order to do so...

However, adventure-planner/guide Colin Andrews had come up with a plan to minimise carry-time and maximise backpack-free riding, so everyone could enjoy themselves as much as possible.

Day 1:   Chamonix - Geneva - Aigle - Leysin

Tony and I returned his hire car to Geneva and met Colin at Geneva Airport, then caught the train to Aigle where we transferred to a classic rack-and-pinion "cog" train up the mountain to the adventure-base of Leysin.

Unusual architecture at Aigle station

Unusual architecture at Aigle station
The chateau at Aigle

The chateau at Aigle
The rack-and-pinion 'cog' train

The rack-and-pinion 'cog' train
Leysin station - note the toothed rail to retain traction on the steep angles

Leysin station - note the toothed rail

The lovely, spacious flat in Leysin that was to serve as adventure HQWe were installed in a lovely spacious, victorian style accomodation adjoining Colin's flat, where longtime family-friend Martin Pope joined us to complete Dad's Army late that evening.

The plan was to acclimatise for a day at Leysin, and enjoy the powder there as the first ski area on the trip.

Day 2:   Leysin

We met Chris, the fifth member of the team, and took the lift up to be greated by the revolving restaurant that adorns the entrance to the Leysin ski area bowl under the famous blunt mountain faces.

With powder lines to be had all over the bowl, we were riding down the face into the freestyle park underneath. The occasional cloud meant Tony and I both had near misses with an unfenced c-rail nestling at the bottom of the off-piste - but we both came away unscathed so all ended well :)

Getting ready to ski by the revolving restaurant by the Leysin lift

Getting ready to ski by the revolving restaurant
Tony and Colin survey the cloudy backdrop to the powder face

Tony & Colin survey the cloudy backdrop to the powder face
Lunch at an atmospheric restarant under the blunt-faced cliffs

Lunch at an atmospheric restarant under the blunt-faced cliffs
Tony cutting lines down the powder face...

Tony cutting lines down the powder face...

Day 3:   Leysin - Les Moses - Rougement - Lecheres

We left Leysin early morning, taking a taxi to Sentiers-Raquettes by Les Mosses where we were to skin up (or in my case snowshoe) to Mt.Chereuil so we could ski down the other side to catch a bus to Chateau D'Oex.

The journey up was an utter slog, unaccustomed to it as I am, and when we reached the top the exhaustion accompanied by the heavy packs meant it was hard going down the far side evading ditches and mogals.

The group, all kitted up, double-checking the hiking route prior to starting out

The group, all kitted up, double-checking the hiking route
Chris and Tony hiking up the track at the bottom of Mt.Chereuil

Chris and Tony hiking up the bottom of Mt.Chereuil
Nearby dam walls exposed by the unusually low water level

Nearby dam walls exposed by the unusually low water level
Tony on the run down the far side of Mt.Chereuil

Tony on the run down the far side of Mt.Chereuil

As a result we missed the connecting bus, and had to catch a taxi into Chateau D'Oex - which was having a balloon festival with ballons floating skyward as we entered!

Martin had to go, so we dropped him at the train station then drove to Rougement where we could leave the packs and ski the powder pistes before grabbing them again and skiing over to a restarant/gite by the "Chalberhoni" lift station at the bottom of the piste, where we were to stay the night.

Chateau D'Oex in the distance - note the balloons!

Chateau D'Oex in the distance - note the balloons!
Balloons inflating for the Chateau D'Oex ballon festival

"Balloons inflating for the Chateau D'Oex ballon festival
Our 1st night's accomodation by the Chalberhoni lift station

1st night's accomodation by the Chalberhoni lift station
Sleeping with the lads in traditional wooden bedrooms

Sleeping with the lads in traditional wooden bedrooms

Day 4:   Lecheres - Gstaad

Leaving Chalberhoni chalet we skied down the piste to the Eggli station at Gstaad, within sight of the new fairytale-design hotel there. Gstaad is a very expensive town, where people come to see and be seen - where every other shop is a designer outlet, and celebrities mix with the rich & famous. And us ;)

Colin shows the route across Gstaad to the next leg of the journey

Colin shows the route across Gstaad
The new fairytale castle-style hotel in Gstaad

The new fairytale castle-style hotel in Gstaad
Boarding the train in Gstaad

Boarding the train in Gstaad
Fully kitted-up on the piste in Gstaad

Fully kitted-up on the piste in Gstaad

We caught a bus across town and caught the lift up the other side to the pistes, to find a netword of pistes with powder-a-plenty, and most skiers apparently sticking to the pistes... Their loss, our gain! After a few run, we decided on our accommodation - a super-plush hotel on the piste; chandaliers, big fire, ensuite-wetrooms, the lot!

Coffee shop made from old cablecar

Coffee shop made from old cablecar
Our pisteside chalet accommodation

Our pisteside chalet accommodation
Top-class ensuite bathroom with wetroom-style shower

Top-class ensuite bathroom with wetroom shower
Balconies in perspective into the distance

Balconies in perspective into the distance

We dumped our packs and spent all day following Colin - finding powder lines all over the mountain, with some great off-piste through trees and down valleys, down to our hotel at the bottom!

Colin, Chris and Dom riding with full packs

Colin, Chris and Dom riding with full packs
Tony and Colin in a rare on-piste moment

Tony and Colin in a rare on-piste moment
Colin carving through the powder

Colin carving through the powder
Tony skiing down to join Colin and Chris on the next hill

Tony skiing down to Colin & Chris on the next hill

Day 5:   Gstaad - Stockli - Lenk

Skiing down from our hotel through the trees, we suddenly came to the bottom of the piste and had to pick up way across fields, down tracks and snowed-in backroads till we reached the trainline and could walk along to Stockli station, where we caught the train into Lenk.

First lines down the mountain from the chalet

First lines down the mountain from the chalet
Chris making tracks through the deep powder

Chris making tracks through the deep powder
Riding down over the snowed-in summer roads

Riding down over the snowed-in summer roads
Tony enjoying the morning's fresh powder - check the flower-pot hat!

Tony enjoying the fresh powder - check the flower-pot hat!

The snow sitting on a barbed-wire fence as we ski through the fields

Snow on a barbed-wire fence as we ski down
Skiing down to the valley floor along a snowed-in road

Skiing down along a snowed-in road
Picking our way through snow-covered trees

Picking our way through snow-covered trees
Self-portrait as I carve through a field

Self-portrait; carving through field

Mountain bottom - unstrapping in a farmers field

Mountain bottom - a farmers field
Chris reaches Stockli station

Chris reaches Stockli station
The GoldenPass train dropped us at Lenk station

The GoldenPass train at Lenk station
Adelboden-Lenk ski area pistemap

Adelboden-Lenk ski area pistemap

We took a cable car up to the pistes, and dropped our pack off at the restaurant where we were staying for the next 2 nights. The Lenk-Adelboden are is fairly large, but we decided to ride the Lenk side mainly, and concentrate on the untouched powder fields there first.

Relaxing at a lengthy lunchbreak in AdelbodenMixing powder fields with tree lines and tree stump pillows, we spent the day finding loads of hidden areas and the best spots - then rode them out till we where exhausted!

Chris took a hard faceplant at the bottom of a steep powder face, smashing his sternum down on a hard ice outcrop, he was lucky to get away with heavy bruising - a few inched more and it could have been his face...

Day 6:   Lenk/Adelboden

Our second day riding the Lenk-Adelboden area, and we were faced with the effects of bad visibility. Barely familiar runs provided some issues in the total whiteouts, and although rideable it meant I couldn't take pictures.

We went straight to the far side of Adelboden where we had not been before, and quickly found that the powder was good up high, but lower down the consistency was very heavy and sticky.

We stayed high and Colin & I kept in to the trees in order to catch the best snow, and for lunchtime, Colin took us to an ancient traditional mountain hut still using the old rooms originally seperated into areas for the hay, the animals and the family - it was tiny, but the food was great!

Dad and me - good times :)

Dad and me - good times :)
Lunch in a tiny traditional wooden hut - this was it!

Lunch in a tiny traditional wooden hut
The homemade barrel-construction hottub - note the submerged stove with chimney

The homemade barrel-construction hottub
An oasis of heat in a snowy landscape

An oasis of heat in a snowy landscape

Tony and Chris took it easy, leaving Colin and I to search out the steep slopes and the hidden caches before coming back for an evening in the homemade-hottub heated by a submerged wooden stove with chimney..! So hot I spent half an hour shovelling snow in to cool it down!

Day 7:   Lenk - Les Diablerets - Leysin

Leaving the hostel at Lenk first lift down, we took the train all the way back to Gstaad, and caught the connecting bus to Les Diablerets.

The Glacier pistemap for the Col de Pillon, Les DiableretsThere was a glacier at the Col de Pillon that we could ride at, but it was very warm and cloudy meaning almost total white-out, with virtually no visibility at all.

We saw the rollercoaster that Bernie Ecclestone has built there - it's currently broken and looked ghostly hanging over the edge of the moutain in the cloud!

The cables that the cablecar runs on - cross-section and example lpiece

The cables that the cablecar runs on
The top cablecar station - indicating the weather conditions that day

An indication of the weather conditions to come
Bernie Ecclestone's rollercoaster hangs over the edge of the mountain

Bernie Ecclestone's rollercoaster hangings over the edge
Ice Express to the Glacier - not wrong!

Ice Express to the Glacier - not wrong!

The run down the back is quite long and steep, and no visibility at the top meant no reference points to determine speed or pitch - a very odd sensation.

The Col de Pillon is well known for its huge folded strata, folded back on itself 180deg in some place, on the valley walls as your backdrop when you ride down the glacier.

It was slow work, and we only got about 4 rides down before leaving and getting hot drinks in this super traditional chalet at the bottom. the owner was great and gave it a very hearty atmosphere :)

Dad and I grab a quick break in the weather

Dad and I grab good weather for a piccy
Colin and Chris at the top of the glacier

Colin and Chris at the top of the glacier
Check the folds in the strata on the mountain peak

Check the folds in the strata on the peak
A warm greeting in the restaurant at the bottom

A warm greeting in the restaurant at the bottom

We caught a taxi back to Leysin, for an early start back to meet CJ at Geneva Airport the next day - and our return to the powder riding in Flegere, Chamonix valley.

It was a great holiday - we covered a lot of ground, saw a lot of places and rode a lot of skiable terrain that I may never ride again. It was an interesting experience moving from chalet to chalet, but hard work carrying the pack on your back, limiting your abilities on-piste.

We managed to link everything up with the minimum of fuss thanks to the route devised by Colin, so thanks to him for planning the whole trip.