Or: the Trials and Tribulations of an Uptown Girl with a Boyfriend from Old Europe

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Location: Basel, Switzerland

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Tour de Suisse, Stage 2

A grey, dreary smear of sky greeted us Saturday morning in Bern. Outside it was chilly, but apparently not cold enough to transform the light drizzle into magical fluffy powder. Nevertheless, Swissy Pie and I decided to head for Grindelwald, about 45 minutes away. We hadn't skiied all year, and we figured it would be our last chance to go before spring set in with a vengeance.

The rain provided us with a chance to play with our new car's window wipers, which has a setting that magically detects spray on the windowshield and scrubs only when necessary. When it's drizzling lightly, the wipers swipe very infrequently; when the rain comes down harder, the wipers speed up. Swissy Pie loved it, of course - he's a gadget freak. But even I thought it was very cool!

But we fretted about the weather all the way to the mountain. I thought it would probably be snowing higher up; Swissy Pie pointed out that even if I were right, it isn't much fun skiing when you can't see where you're going. That was when I remembered that not only was I late to the sport - I didn't really get started until about 5 years ago - but that it's been 2 years since the last time I've gone. Back then, I was at the point where I could make it down pretty much anything, though it often wasn't pretty. But now, after 2 years... I started to worry.

Things started looking up once we got to the Grindelwald area. As we climbed into the mountains, the raindrops began swirling, and then transformed into snowflakes. Then, when we got to the parking lot, the snow was starting to give way to blue sky. The other Swiss had evidently given up on winter, so we were able to park about the same distance from the lift as when we'd come the first time, back in August. And despite five busloads of visitors from Alsace and Germany, there wasn't much of a line.

We got our day passes, which turned out to be magnetic cards that we'd need to swipe every time we got on the lift. Swissy Pie put his in his jacket pocket. Since it's not optical, like a bar code, it doesn't have to be pulled out: you can just ski up to the gate, do a little twist to pass it by the reader, and go on through. For some reason I had trouble with the card in my pocket, but it wasn't until after lunch that I hit upon a solution: slipping it into the zip-up compartment of my mittens.

Surprisingly, the Swiss weren't very orderly when queuing up for the lifts. (Or perhaps it was the Germans making trouble, I'm not sure.) People unabashedly shoved past to cut ahead. Some even used their children as weapons. Who's going to yell at pint-sized kids who barely come up to your knees? And it's difficult to figure out who the kids belong to, until those evil parents surge past in their childrens' wake. Standing in line, I often found myself contemplating alternative uses for my ski poles.

Aside from those for the gondola up and down, the crowds weren't bad. And by the time we got to the top of the mountain, it was a gloriously sunny day. Though a few banks of clouds did sweep through, by and large it was brilliant: warm, with good snow (though it got icy toward the end of the day) and lots of untouched powder.

Not that I could take full advantage of it. My skiing has definitely gone downhill with lack of practice, and all my worst habits were on full display. I even caught an edge on a very flat portion and went flying. (This is why I need a helmet!)

Still, at the end of the day, I was happy and exhausted. Some of the rhythm was coming back to me. I could identify what I was doing wrong. Even Swissy Pie's dour observation - "Next year we'll have to get you a proper Swiss instructor" - couldn't dampen my mood.

Come next winter - watch out on the slopes!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I went skiing when I lived in Germany and let me say the German people were very disorganized when it came to queuing--pushing, shoving, the works. I was actually gald I left my skis at home and was renting b/c most individuals had no problem with skiing over or knocking into others skis in the queue! At least I can say the skiing was great and the scenery beautiful!

March 16, 2007 at 5:17 PM  
Anonymous ale said...

you're just living it up eh! good work! where are the pictures of the beer you guys drank?? (fine, or wine, if that's how you are :)

March 16, 2007 at 9:18 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

I don't know but I think the non-line thing is general around here. I've been skiing with Germans and Swiss who've made fun of the British and Americans for trying to make a line for the lift (or the lift tickets or anything else that we would normally have a line for - like boarding an airplane). Anyway, it seems that if you can get yourself to the front, you can get on the lift (or the plane) and nobody thinks twice about it.

March 17, 2007 at 12:00 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

Looks great! I went through the same thing last year when I skiied for the first time in 10 years. Let's just say it was a rough day all around.

And Germans and Swiss do not queue. Ever. Pushy and rude but the funny thing is I don't think they even notice it or get made and I'm ready to take a swing. My boyfriend calls it 'active queueing'.

March 17, 2007 at 8:21 PM  

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