Skiing & Snowkiting in the Swiss Alps

Europe, Europe 2012, Switzerland — By on April 2, 2012 7:03 AM


If I ever have children, I will put them on skis as soon as they can walk!

This was the vow I made as I struggled to make it down the mountain, an endeavor that thrilled and frustrated me simultaneously.

Before my eyes were a glistening lake, surrounding me were the gorgeous Swiss Alps. We were at Flumserberg, a mountain Thomas would later admit was not a good choice for someone who had only been on skis three other times in her life! The slopes were very steep, and when combined with a very narrow pass, I chose to either slide down on my bum or walk. I can turn, but not necessarily when I wanted to, making the chances of me flying off the side of the mountain likely. The conditions were also not ideal, as the weather was warmer, turning the snow to mush. This was the last weekend the slopes would be open. I was happy to have arrived just in time to get a small taste of a Swiss winter, which was just enough for me as I prefer warmer weather.

I called my parents to give him a hard time, telling them how embarrassing it is to be schooled by small children on the ski slopes, wishing they had taken me skiing when I was a child. In my parent’s defense, growing up in the south did not afford me many opportunities to play in the snow, much less to ski down mountains, as there were no ski resorts nearby. Instead we often spent vacations on the beach in Florida, my body now acclimated to warmer climates and high humidity.

When I moved to California, I decided I must learn a snow sport with the mountains of Tahoe within driving distance. I gave snowboarding a try for a season to no avail, switched over to skiing, which I found to be easier. Or so I recalled, but nothing felt easy about skiing down the Alps. I was last on skis two years ago, ending on a great session on a wide open slope in Tahoe, having progressed to “blue”. In Switzerland the equivalent skill level slopes are “red”; however, I swear some of them had to have been black per other slope standards!

“Elegant!” shrieked the laughing teenagers, who’s feet dangled from the lift passing above me. Thomas waited until I confirmed I was okay before he let out a small laugh that I know was bursting at the seams. “That crash was quite spectacular, given how slow you were going!” he praised as he retrieved my right ski which had landed 5-meters away from where I did. I struggled to get up, my arms ached from riding four hours on the back of his motorbike the day before.

“You are the clumsiest girl I know … it is unbelievable!” Thomas teased me, knowing I know he finds my ability to stumble on solid ground endearing.

I made it down the mountain three times, probably taking three times as long as the average person. Children raced past me, making it look so easy. By the end of the day, I was doing “better”.

The following morning, the alarm clock beeped at 7 am. I could hardly move. My entire body felt stiff and sore, my head ached from one too many beers at the bar. But it was the last day of ski season, and I had to make the most of the little time I had left with the snowy Alps. The day’s agenda was snowkiting, the destination was Brambrüesch, a great spot Thomas and his kiter buddies had discovered a few weeks prior.

Tom getting big air off kicker ... Photo credits to Stevo

We stopped at a cute bakery to buy croissants (I love when Thomas says this word) and sandwiches for later, as we planned to stay at the top of the mountain until sunset.

Random guys on the T-lift

Once we were suited up, we made our way to the lift, Thomas casually informed me this lift was “a little different”. When I saw a “T-Bar” pass by us, I was clueless. My first instinct was to grab onto the bars with my hands, but this is not how it works. After having to let about four lifts pass us by, we finally got into place. The upside down T hit under my bum, I sat on the right, Thomas on the left. Our feet stayed on the ground as the lift pushed us up the mountain. About 200 meters into the journey, Thomas exclaimed,  “to the right!”. Before I understood what was happening, we both fell off the track, tumbeling together into a ditch. “‘I’m sorry!” I said as we both cracked up, lying together in the snow. The only option was to ski down to the end and try again.

“What took you guys so long?” Dave and Kim inquired who were basking in the sun at the top of the mountain on grassy spot damp from melted snow. We plopped down beside them and told them of the perils of the lift. We were all bummed that there was no wind. We would have to wait, and hope the wind would pick up in the afternoon. Anja and Stevo joined us too. The view from 2200 meters up was breathtaking, the air less dense.

In the meantime, the light wind was perfect for two para gliders to leap off the top of the mountain.

Before us was a steep incline, leading down to a wide open plateau, behind which was a kicker allowing for big air tricks. The wind reader fluctuated between 4-7 knots, we would need at least 10 knots to inspire anyone to pump up his biggest kite. There were a few foil kites out, but the kiters were having a hard time keeping them the air.

Kim was the first to decide to give it a go, we watched as he struggled to keep the kite in the air, the wind was too light. Finally about 3:00, the wind reached 10. Thomas pumped up my 12 meter Cabrinha Switchblade and strapped on his snowboard. I was so excited to finally see him snowkite for the first time and to see how this works in comparison to kiting on water. My first thought was that these guys should be wearing a helmet, as the ground has got to hurt more than a water crash.

Given my challenges on skis and the light wind speed, I decided to be photographer for this session. I absolutely HATE not being able to do something well, and I am determined to improve my skills on the slopes! Next year I go to ski school, with all the little kids. Mom and Dad, I will send you the bill! 😉

To see more photos of the Alp, CLICK HERE.

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3 Comments

  1. April says:

    Well, at least you looked cute…..

  2. Sue says:

    I think riding on a T-bar is more difficult than skiing! Some sadist must have invented this bizarre way to get up a mountain.

    • Kelly says:

      This makes me feel so much better! If an expert skier like you think this is difficult, then maybe I am not as big of a klutz as I thought 🙂 Thanks Sue!

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