Ski Trip: Verbier (1)

This weekend just past saw Steph and I in Verbier to buy a pair of custom ski boots for me enjoy a romantic weekend away. We found a great deal on a hotel (more on that later) and enjoyed some fabulous pistes.

For those not in the know, Verbier is located in the French side of Switzerland, though it’s also rather close to Italy. It’s a very posh little town accessible via a winding mountain road, or via gondola, from it’s rather poorer cousin Le Châble. Unfortunately, since things on the French side never work as smoothly as they do on the German side, our train was 7 minutes late to Lausanne and we missed the train to Martigny by two minutes, meaning the trip took a whopping 6.5 hours (rather than just over 4 as planned). Following that, we managed to get stuck in the last train – our door didn’t work, the girl in front of us moved to the next, we followed, she slipped out before they shut… and the train door locked as it pulled into it’s overnight parking spot 100 meters away. While a night locked in a train alone with a beautiful woman isn’t the worst thing in the world, the conductor found us during his final inspection and let us out, at which point we’d missed the last bus up and had to grab a cab.
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The last leg of the trip was on the St. Bernard Express, which included this cute little map on the table at each seat.

The St. Bernard Express
The St. Bernard Express

The resort was gorgeous, and a plethora of shops awaited to take our money. Surprisingly, we found the prices to be very competitive – I got a pimp new hat for 60 bucks, and Steph got a cute little helmet for 120. The hotel, while a bit on the noisy side, rang in at just 340 bucks for 3 nights, and lift tickets were maybe 60. The biggest cash outlay, of course, were the SureFoot custom-made ski boots that, while completely incidental to the purpose of the trip, just happened to be the first thing I looked at Friday morning. While I’m not overly keen on the look of the boots, they’re alright, and the fit is unbelievable. My skiing improved 10-fold over the old Head boots I was wearing before. If you’re doing a lot of skiing, look into them – they run 3-4 times the price of off-the-shelf boots, but they’re well-worth it.

Evening 1 in Verbier
Steph overdoing the ice for my drink again....

The slopes themselves were great, though the people in that region are completely incompetent at marking pistes. Red bars would, halfway down a slope, be replaced with either blue or black. Super-steep very long pistes full of bumps would be marked as red, while a mildly steep 20 meter piste somehow received a black designation. Even better, one slope changed from a red to a blue between Friday and Saturday.

While I did some of my own skiing, I mostly stuck with Steph, helping her to improve her skiing. By the end of the day, she’d even done her first black piste, though I imagine it will be a season before she does another!

Ski trip: Flumserberg

On Saturday the girlfriend and I went to Flumserberg, a more or less local ski resort that’s quite popular with the Zürchers. It’s pretty close – takes about an hour by train, maybe 45 minutes or so by car, traffic dependent. It was about 70% open, and the weather while poor in the morning was gorgeous in the afternoon.

This is a mountain that I know well, as I’ve been there many times. The first time was back in March of 2006, I think, with a few classmates from the HSG. I went snowboarding there with my friend Rana when she came out from the States, and I typically go there at least 3 or 4 times per year.

Flumserberg with the Heidner girls
Flumserberg with the Heidner girls

This time I went with Steph and her family. Well, Denise and Gitte were missing, but we had the addition of Michelle’s boyfriend Anders. Bendt (her dad) is the one taking the above picture. We didn’t ski much together, as Anders and I were more practiced than the rest (though, to be fair, I wasn’t skiing that well, likely due to some poorly-fitting boots that are getting replaced in 4 days), and Michelle hadn’t been on the slopes in quite some time.

The most fun I had, though, was guiding Steph down one of the steeper reds with pretty serious bumps. That’s at about the outside edge of her skiing ability, but with a little guidance, she made it just fine. She gets more practice in Verbier this weekend; by the end of the season, she’ll be doing the black pistes with me. 😉

Chicago gone Swiss