26 Februar, 2020

There is only one way I can describe last weekend…. FREAKING AMAZING!!! Julie took off work for a couple of days, so we traveled down to the Swiss/Italian Border. We stayed in a little town called Zermatt. Zermatt was a town I had heard of, from my youth. I did a lot of skiing in my younger days, so any time the Wild World of Sports had winter sports, I was watching. What I did not know, until I moved to Switzerland, is that Zermatt is at the base of one of the best known mountains in the entire world, the Matterhorn.

View of the Matterhorn from the river downtown Zermatt

Zermatt is an incredibly interesting town. For one thing, there are NO private “Autos” allowed in the town. I have the word Autos in quotes, because in some ways that isn’t true. What is true is that other than emergency vehicles there are almost ZERO gasoline powered vehicles in the town. There are however battery powered vehicles everywhere. Since Julie and I do not have a car, we are getting used to walking everywhere. Outside of Zermatt, I have never feared for my life as a pedestrian. In Zermatt, there are very few sidewalks, and the roads are narrow. At one point, I saw one of the buses come about 6 inches from a pedestrian and I swear less than an inch from a wall. It was crazy. When you were walking you had to always be on the lookout for one of psycho drivers. I believe there are probably more accidents caused by the vehicles than by the ski slopes! I was also surprised there wasn’t more night life. Well, or that the nightlife in Zermatt is like a college town, where things don’t get started until 11:00 PM or later. We were out every night past 10:00 for dinner, and we only saw one nightclub that was active that late at night.

I will say the restaurants we tried were incredible. The worst place we ate, I would give a 7 out of 10. At that restaurant the lower quality food was made up by the wonderful conversation we had with a couple from Hawaii. The couple was having a really hard time trying to figure out why there were so many kids around in February. So we explained that it was Spring Break for the Schools. It really isn’t the Spring Break here, but I didn’t know how to explain that. So I used terms that were well known. The schools here operate on a different time line than back in the US. Since the mountains are such a big part of the culture here, the schools get off two weeks in February, so everyone can go enjoy the mountains. Which for many tourists was kind of a bummer this year.

I know that you cannot make any scientific observations off one data point, but the winter of 2019-2020 has been unusually strange here. For example in Zermatt, they have not had any snow since Christmas. Not only is there not much snow in Zermatt, but it is the same everywhere around here. In fact, on the train ride back home, I was reading about how french ski resorts are having to airlift snow in by helicopter to keep the ski runs open. The day I went up to the Matterhorn Glacier ski run I really over dressed. The weather was supposed to be -2 Celsius but the wind was predicted to be blowing about 30 KMPH. We get all the way up to the top, and it is maybe 0, but there is no wind. By the time I stopped skiing that afternoon, I had taken off my coat, two layers of shirts, and even stripped down to my drawers so I could take the long underwear off from under my ski pants. I was still dripping with sweat after taking off all that clothing. On one of the chair lifts I rode up with a man from Germany. He normally skis at a resort very near the German/Swiss Border. The place he skis only has 50% of the runs open, so he decided to come the extra distance to Zermatt, because he thought the snow would be better. Even at Zermatt, they had warning signs up everywhere cautioning people to stay on the groomed runs because of rocks. Normally there are many people skiing “off piste”. This year, there were only a couple of areas you could safely ski off the trails. The picture below shows some of what I am trying to describe. From talking to people that have been here before, on a normal winter, from this viewpoint, you would see two lines of rocks and then one at the very top of the mountain. Instead you see the rocks peeking through the snow everywhere.

Well, I have to get going for today. We are having 5 college students that are studying in London visit this weekend. I have to start getting the apartment ready for the invasion. I will post some of the pictures from our weekend now, and then some more later this week. I took the GoPro out with me, and made one quick video Sunday night, over the next week or so, I’ll get a longer video made as well.

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