Tag Archives: snow

Disappointments and small victories

11 Mar

I was so excited on Thursday because I was ready to tick off one more item off my #40Before40 list. Unfortunately, the paragliding we had scheduled to do in Iquique was cancelled because the wind was too strong.

I was disappointed but obviously in the interest of health and safety it was the best thing to do. The guy whose company it was actually explained to us the reasons why and said he really wanted to take us up there.

As a Brit, I find it a little bit strange that sports get cancelled because of weather, particularly “a bit of wind”. I’m pretty sure as a teenager that I took part in athletics competitions in hail and I definitely played hockey in 2 inches of snow.

We will try again at the next available paragliding place on our trip.

The bitter taste of disappointment was sweetened a little when we went sandboarding in the evening instead. If you know my #40Before40 list as well as I do, you will know that one item on the list is to try snowboarding.

Although they are not quite the same, it’s given me a bit of an idea about what I am up against.

I wasn’t 100% happy with the lack of instruction that we were given. Everyone else in the group had snowboarded before and I think that it would have been good to be able to have some tips of what to do.

It was quite exhausting because you had to walk up the sand dunes after every run and re-wax the bottom of the board with a candle before going down again. Obviously you don’t have to do this with a snowboard.

Also there was no aprés-ski available – no small bar at the bottom of the hill where you can get a beer or two. I will never not admit that I am more of a social winter sports person than any sort of winter sport athlete!

Still it gives me a bit of hope that I should be able to enjoy snowboarding to a small degree when I finally take the plunge and try it. That will have to be next season now as the snow will have gone by the time we get back. Only around 8 months to wait…

World Snow Festival 2018

19 Jan

Today I had a day off and, rather than spending the day at home not doing very much, I decided to get out of the house and explore some of Switzerland. If I am brutally honest, I haven’t explored Switzerland half as much as I would like to. It was the perfect opportunity to start to rectify this.

Completely by chance, I saw what this week the World Snow Festival was being held in Grindelwald. So, I decided to head out to see it. It took quite a few train changes to get there but, as I had the whole day to myself, it didn’t really matter. The information on the website was that there were 14 international teams who would be entering. Their task was to make sculptures from snow. The public and a panel of judges could vote for their favourite.

I was quite surprised by how much snow there was as I was heading away from Zurich. Even though it was colder, it was still possible to see a small bit of blue sky poking through the clouds and by the early afternoon the skies were beginning to brighten slightly.

After finally arriving at my final destination, I was more than a bit disappointed. When you hear the word Festival, certain images come to mind, like activities to do and see as well as sights, smells and sounds. The Festival itself was located at the main bus stop next to the train station in Grindelwald. The sculptures were just dotted out where people were waiting for their bus.

And that was it. No more information apart from the information that the teams had written about what they had built and the obligatory plea to beg you to vote for them. It wasn’t clear to me where you could actually vote. No one from the tourist board or the team was there to give more information about the competition. Nada. Nothing. Zilch. So I didn’t vote.

The Slovakian team would have got my vote. Here is their entry.

Yes, it is Scrat, the saber-toothed squirrel, from IceAge who spends his life chasing after an elusive acorn; completely inspired choice of entry! I have no idea how they made it or how long it took but hats off to them.

It struck me that this was a real shame that something that is published on the official Swiss Tourism website isn’t a bit better organised and there aren’t any engaging activities for visitors.

Tonight is the prize giving for the winners so I would imagine that the atmosphere then is a lot different. It could just be that I went at the wrong time. Also it isn’t like Grindelwald is scrapping the barrel for visitors. People flock there every day because it really is stunning. See this photo that I took at the train station before I left to see what I mean.

The arrival of winter

9 Dec

Winter has finally arrived and not just because real Christmas trees are now being sold on every corner that you turn. It has snowed. I did snow a few weeks ago but only a light covering that started to come down early in the evening and had disappeared almost as quickly as it arrived. But it looks like the snow has finally decided it is going to stay.

Last night we were working in the office until late to hit our deadline for the last month of the year. I had had a bad feeling about it all week and when, on Thursday we had a technical issue that brought a 10 hour delay, I was fearing the worst.

However, we caught up and apart from a few hiccups on the way, we were finished around 10pm on Friday evening. I was over the moon, as I had expected to be working until about midnight or later. We had finally done it. The last month end close of 2017. Home before the witching hour. Yes!

But oh no! Having been firmly fixed on our computer screens for 15 hours, we had failed to notice that the snow had come down. I’m not sure if there is such a thing as torrential snow but this was something like it. Ok, I have my hat, boots and a big winter jacket (I actually call it my football manager’s jacket because can be found in the wardrobe of any self-respecting Premier League coaching staff member), I thought. I can do snow.

Then news somehow filtered into the office – I still have no idea how, as there were only 10 of us left in a building for eight thousand –  that there had been a accident and none of the trams were running from our offices into town. Great. This was not in the script. I was meant to be home in an hour. This was looking increasingly unlikely.

I left with the plan to walk to the nearest train station, get a train from there to the main station and then get my usual train home. I start walking and I see a tram drive past. Hang on, didn’t someone say that the trains weren’t running? But that was a tram and it was definitely running.

I jogged to the next stop to get the next tram that was making its way down the hill. I looked like Bambi on ice. I had to get a bit of speed up to make the next tram but I wanted to avoid falling flat on my face even though no one would be around to see my embarrassment. I made it! Great not long and I would be at the main station and I just have to wait for the train.

The tram didn’t move for about 5 minutes. Then the driver said that there were two other tram stuck in front of him and he didn’t know when we would be able to get moving again. He left the doors open so that anyone who wanted to get off could do.

I decided it could be ages before we set off again so I got out and headed on foot to the train station that would take me to the main station. I was glad that I did. Not only had 2 cars collided just next to the train station but there was also a bus that had managed to crash into a lamp post and was blocking all trams going up and down.

Luckily, the train arrived just as I was climbing up the steps to the station. I had to wait for half an hour at the main station but at least I knew I wasn’t too far from home.

By the time, I got home the snow was really deep. As most people were inside or already asleep, I had the privilege of being the first one to walk through the newly fallen snow. I love that crunch sound that comes from under foot and being able to look behind me to see the footsteps in the snow. It was clear that this snow was here to stay.

Today it has continued to snow. I’m happy that I don’t have to work or use public transport and I can watch the winter wonderland from the comfort of my home.

To ski or not to ski: that is the question

4 Feb

Apologies to William Shakespeare but my question is a little less philosophical. Now that the snow has fallen this is the question that has been starting to bug me. I realise that there are a lot of people who would give their right arm to come and ski in the Swiss Alps. But for one reason or another, they never end up doing it.

Let’s not put too fine a point on it but the main reason is money. It is fair more expensive to come skiing in Switzerland than it is in the nearby Austria, France, Italy or Germany. For example, a ski pass for a day in Austria will cost you around 35 Euros and this could possibly be valid for several neighbouring ski resorts. In Switzerland, you are talking more around an average of 70 SFr. which equates to about 65 Euros or 55 GBP. This is before you even think about money for hiring equipment as well as money for food, refreshments and hotels.

Because of this reason, I always seem to find myself being guilt tripped in going. For me, although a weekend skiing is expensive, it is comparatively cheaper than it would be if I lived in the UK. So far, I have avoided this guilt trip.

One thing that is nagging at me is that I invested in ski boots at the end of last year. Invested is a grandiose word. I bought them second hand from someone who advertised them on Facebook. They  had been used less than a handful of times and I paid a fraction of the price that they would have been new. Everytime I go down to the basement, it’s like the boots are looking at me and telling me that they want to go outside and up the mountains to feel the fresh air and the powdery snow.

The thing is that I am just not into it like other people are. I have friends who go skiing every weekend once the snow has arrived and they can’t get enough of it. I am not like that. Not with skiing. I am very much a fair weather skier – I am not afraid to admit it. I love the feeling of coming down the mountain and seeing the blue sky and feeling the sun on my face. It can’t possibly not put you in a good mood. The snow blizzards, the poor visibility, the freezing cold: No, thanks! You can find me in a ski chalet nursing a Kaffee Schnapps instead.

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Another issue is most of my friends are better than me. I end up not enjoying myself because I put pressure on myself to ski faster and to take risks that I don’t want to take. I’m more than happy to potter around on my own doing my own thing but I always seem to get persuaded into doing runs that are too hard for my liking and that’s when I end up frustrated, tired and wishing I was back at home with my feet up.

Having said all this, I do have a date penciled in to go skiing in March. Whether I go or not depends on the weather, visibility and where I can get a good Kaffee Schnapps!

Finally!

3 Jan

Finally, the snow has arrived! Of course, it was too much to ask for the snow to come between Christmas and New Year, when we were all sat at home with our feet up. Instead the snow decided to fall on the evening before everyone goes back to work. It’s been freezing for weeks with not a sniff of snow in the air and all of sudden it comes when you would really prefer it not to. But the day before the alarm clock goes off at 5.30am, the snow makes an appearance.

There was actually quite a lot of it. I only realised it had snowed last night when I was checking the weather app on my phone to see what the weather would be like on the first day back to work (and by that I really mean, how cold it would be so that I could already start to calculate how many layers I would need in the morning.) When I checked the app, it said that it was snowing. Even though it was dark , I checked outside and it was!

Back in England, I would have been tempted to work from home or just phone to say I wasn’t coming in because it was too dangerous to drive. That doesn’t work here. Last night they were already clearing the paths and gritting the roads and the pavements so that people would be able to get to work with as little stress as possible. At home, a light dusting covering the road surfaces will have people stressed out to the max or, even worse, driving on the road like a complete idiot.

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Brits complain every year that the country is ill-prepared for snow and winter weather but nothing ever seems to improve or even change just a little bit in the right direction. Un-gritted pathways can have you doing your best impression of Bambi on ice before you have even left the bus stop.

The good thing about having snow in the city is that it means that there has to be more snow up in the mountains. Good news. Many of the ski resorts are open but not completely and they can’t even produce “fake” snow to supplement the real stuff because it is too warm on the mountains for the snow to stay there and not melt. Not to mention professional skiing competitions that I have seen on TV where they seem to have piled all the available snow on the path that the skiers go down, with noticeable patches of green grass on either side.

Although I am not the greatest, nor the keenest, of skiers, I can imagine it is extremely frustrating for skiers and businesses alike who have been waiting for the last 9 months for ski season to start again. If more snow keeps coming (and it is forecast to do so), I might make the effort to head up the mountains and to put myself through the embarrassment and shame of my woeful skiing. Which I am only willing to endure because of the aprés ski!