Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Where Was That Saint Bernard When We Needed Him???

Prior to leaving Italy, Zurich Sister bandied about the possibility of our husbands taking a day-long ski trip during the course of our visit. Having some ski experience myself (and not really foreseeing another opportunity to hit the Alps following the end of our Italian adventure), I invited myself along. We three intrepid explorers left the warmth of Freiestrasse behind in order to make an early (but not the earliest) train out to the mountains on the second-to-last day of 2008.

While Zurich Brother-in-Law had schussed at several of the area’s convenient ski and ride locations, he had not yet been to Flumserberg. Together we discovered that it’s the Hunter Mountain of Zurich—very, very close to the city and thus very, very crowded. We took a train from Zurich’s central station to a gondola line where I believe we waited for nearly two hours in order to trade our paper tickets for electronic passes that skiers carry instead of lift tickets (if you keep the pass in your ski jacket pocket, readers scan it as you enter the gondolas and lifts). While waiting on this incredibly disorganized line based on a slippery staircase, it became clear to Trofie Wife that Switzerland’s reputation for efficiency is a total croc. Plus, for all you lawyers (past, present, and future) out there, according to Zurich Brother-in-Law, tort law is virtually non-existent in Switzerland, so they take stupid risks with people’s lives (like not salting stairs), since they won’t ultimately bear responsibility for falls, trips, slips, etc.  

After we finally got through that line and took the initial gondola to the mountain base, we waited another hour or so for skis and then entered another long line on an even more treacherous set of cement steps (with skis, poles, and snowboards dangling and flailing all over the place; I was especially leery of the snowboard grrrl in front of me, easily sipping from her glass beer bottle before noon, making it ever more possible that she could hit me with some of her equipment as she lost her equilibrium—this of course didn’t happen; she displayed greater balance with an elevated blood-alcohol level than I did totally sober). We finally loaded into the gondola and went up, up, up (with Trofie Wife’s stomach going down, down, down) in order to reach the top of the mountain and head down a bunny slope (importantly, there had been no rope tow area at the base where we could practice; I hadn’t been on skis in three Januaries).

Well, when we reached the peak, Martello and Zurich Brother-in-Law looked left and right, but neither way down was an easy slope. And there was no other way off the mountain, no ski patrol (or Saint Bernard) to be found. It was not a pretty sight watching me try to descend this atrocious mountain for the next hour. I first tried to take off my skis and just walk. That worked for a minute or two, but such an act would not get me all the way down an increasingly steep and slippery slope. The raggazi offered to pull/carry me, but I was even too scared for that. Eventually, through a painful combination of walking, sidestepping, sliding, and whining, I made it to a flatter surface. I thank Zurich Brother-in-Law and Martello for not abandoning me while I struggled with gravity. Upon arriving at the turnoff to an easier trail, Martello and I paused for a quick lunch while Zurich Brother-in-Law skied off  to conquer even harder trails (understandably, he didn’t think that he would be dealing with whining or crying on a day off from diaper duty). But he did admit on the way home that the initial descent was the hardest (or second hardest) slope of the day. On the easier slopes (we got in two more runs), Martello and I could enjoy the exquisite scenery, and I could actually enjoy skiing!

Of course my greatest disappointment during this whole ordeal was that there was no brandy-barreled Saint Bernard coming to my rescue (according to Zurich Brother-in-Law, you only find these gentle giants on the slopes of the Berner Oberland; what, folks from Zurich don’t deserve a cuddly rescue?)

We didn’t take a camera along (I know how much readers would have enjoyed seeing my expressions of horror throughout that dreadful hour), but you can visit this site to get a sense of the awe, beauty, and fear: http://www.flumserberg.ch/winter/en/fun/galerie/Winter+Impressions/Ski-Snowboard.htm

Upon arriving home, we were able to enjoy yummy kosher brisket that Zurich Sister and Brother-in-Law specially acquired for our visit; Zurich Brother-in-Law could throw down with Flay; he’s quite the chef! It was a warm and hearty way to end a frightful (yet, ultimately fun) day.

Baci e gelato,

Martello e Trofie Wife

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