Adelboden was in the news recently with the undiplomatic outburst from the US Ambassador to Switzerland, but last weekend the town got a different reception when over 30,000 raucous Swiss watched the FIS Slalom on the Chuenisbärgli.
This is one of the toughest races on the circuit at the best of times, with a steep bottom section that catches out even the best racers. Conditions were particularly challenging however with temperatures as high as 15 degrees, the rain falling and thick cloud enveloping the course. This didn’t prevent Austrian Marcel Hirscher extending his lead in the Slalom standings; the guy really is at the top of his game. Frenchman Alex Pinturault (with “Je Suis Charlie” on his helmet) came second, and Henrik Kristoffersen from Norway came third.
For skiers in the Alps, things are looking up as we head into next weekend with temperatures dropping and the precipitation falling as snow over the next few days. However lower runs are still pitifully light on snow with lots of icy patches and off-piste is tough. The SLF reports that considerable avalanche danger will be encountered in some regions and snow drifts require caution. At the weekend, Sunday looks the more promising day to see some sunshine, particularly in the more Southern resorts.
Adding to everyone’s favourite (well, my favourite) winter sports blog, www.alpinewinterblog.com aka www.oatridge.co.uk/nic/, comes a facebook page and, hopefully, via RSSGraffiti, also comes regular updates from the blog on facebook.
The blog is now in its sixth year and contains dozens of snippets about winter sports, mostly focusing on Switzerland. I have been a keen skier for many years, and when I moved to Switzerland it seemed a dream come true to have all these resorts on my doorstep. There was a little matter of Mrs Oatridge being pregnant, a couple of teenagers to help assimilate and a toddler to look after, so it took a while before I got to go to the slopes. But one fine day I got in the car and headed off in the direction of the distant peaks with a vague notion I would hit a place called Engelberg. Anyway, I took a wrong turn and after driving aimlessly in our car which we got at these used cars ottawa and we ended up at a resort called Meiringen.
I have been to both many times since (and rarely by car), but the ins and outs of where to go, how to get there and where to stay – either with the family, alone of with friends – led me to start recording what I had learnt, and then came the blog, and then the web sites. Currently there are two related web sites in addition to this blog: www.swisswintersports.co.uk and www.snowandrail.com. There is also a Dutch language version of the principal web site at www.swisswintersports.nl and what I hope to make into a multi-language portal at www.swisswintersports.com.
I don’t have a goal in mind other than to maintain the currency of the current sites and continue to make them the best sites of their type on the Internet, but I also hope to expand the scope, redesign to make them as mobile-friendly as possible and even make some income… oh, yes, and do plenty of research!
The Swiss Cableways Association recorded a dismal start to the 2014/15 season with a decrease of 28.2% in lift use and a decline of 12.9% in revenue in the period to 31st December. The season started brightly in November but the warm conditions in much of December meant many lower slopes were not even able to use their snow cannon and some lower resorts delayed the traditional opening in time for Christmas, reports Andreas Keller, the Assocaition’s Head of Communication Division. Not surpisingly, higher resorts in the Engadine and Valais fared best. However Keller is upbeat about the prospects for the rest of the season, with improved conditions leading into the New Year.
By region this was the picture for the early season compared with the same period last season in percentage terms:
Vaud & Fribourg
The resorts of Eastern Switzerland did the worst, probably from a combination of a lot of low runs in these resorts and the allure for many Zurchers of seasonal shopping as an alternative to being in the mountains. Ticino’s unexpectedly upbeat position is simply a reflection on how dismal thigs were last year when many lifts were closed early in the season and avalaanche risk was high.
I have often heard it rumoured that in the Engelberg valley lurk many hidden stashes of lift-served back country off-piste. From Titlis itself there are several areas of off-piste, the Laub being the most famous. There is also one route off Klein Titlis itself down towards Trübsee via the Steinberg some friends of mine have skied, although I have not tried it myself.
I know you can ski from the top of the Fürenalp cable car – again I have not tried it, but I know there is a trail back down to the valley floor which I guess presents at least one option. The lift company identifies a 1000m toboggan run, a 1500 winter walk and snowshoe trail as well as ski touring options at the top. There is also a restaurant. One to add to the list for sure.
Anyway, I came across an article at Worldcrunch which finally addressed the rumour. Apparently there is a lift, Sesselbahn Brisen, which ascends the Haldigrat below Engelberg to provide access to a large unprepared area of snow from 1937m.
The owner of the lift, Kurt Mathis, is quite famous, apparently, and the lift is possibly not as obscure as I had thought – even featuring in a film and having its own website. The lifts operate 9am-4pm at weekends and on public holidays in the winter season. Kurt’s wife, Antoinette, runs a restaurant and guesthouse at the top. A webcam is here. To get to the Haldigrat by train, take the Engelberg service from Luzern and get off at the request stop Niederrickenbach Station, just after Dallenwil, then take the cable car to Niederrickenbach itself and take a sign-posted 30-minute walk on a broad and well-maintained path to the valley station of the chairlift from Alpboden up to the Haldigrat. There is parking at the bottom of the Niederrickenbach cable car. Although there are no recorded fatalities or significant avalanche risks, the ski area is not only unprepared but also unpatrolled.