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.
We 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 :)
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.
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.
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 ;)
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!
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!
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.
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.
Mixing 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!
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.
There 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 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 :)
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.