It snowed consistently in Lausanne during the first two weeks of December. To me, this suggested that it was time to head up to a local mountain for some skiing. After a bit of cajoling, I convinced Katie to accompany me on the train to Verbier via Martigny. We had done this trip before over the summer, so this meant that main difficulties of the trip would be limited to figuring out how to lug all of my ski gear with us in the cramped 2nd class cabins, as we had already mastered the “navigation” component.
So, we packed lunches the night before and arose at the ungodly hour of 5:05 am to complete darkness. We carried gear down the “hill of death” to the Ours metro station and rode the subway down to the main train station, where we waited outside in the cold amidst panhandlers, late-late-night clubbers on their way home on the commuter trains, and (eventually) a smattering of skiers and snowboarders showing up on the same platform. The train left at 7:20 am, as advertised, and we were on our way to Le Chable, total trip time 1 hour 37 minutes. The transfer in Martigny to the private rail line involved some jostling for seats with a large number of ski-dudes and dudettes in their late teens and early 20′s. Fortunately my beard was somewhat intimidating : ), and we were able to get decent seats.
We soon arrived in snowcovered Le Chable, where we proceeded to wait in line for around 30 minutes to buy lift tickets – a full day pass for me that was included in the online Snow ‘N Rail package that I had purchased the day before, and a 15 chf round trip pass for Katie to ride the valley gondola up to the village of Verbier proper, perched at around 4500 feet above sea level, or about 1800 feet above the train station. Katie’s big right toe nearly froze while waiting in line, but recovered once we arrived to the heated seating area / lounge at the top of the gondola.
With Katie comfortably knitting / reading and drinking hot chocolate in the “lounge,” I headed up the Medran lift to the upper mountain, quickly realizing that I had very little concept of the layout of the mountain. I rode a series of gondolas and lifts to the top of the area that was open for the day (still quite early in the season), and then headed off to the edges of some runs to find some untracked snow. I ran into a British guy on my second lift ride who guided me to a quality run, after which I unexpectedly was accosted by a colleague from work, her husband, and a few people that I had met at an EFPL happy hour or two.
The five of us spent the rest of the day cruising around the resort together, exchanging ski technique pointers and information about the layout of the mountain. The sun came out for awhile, and then we headed back to Verbier to have our sack lunches and chat with Katie. After lunch we headed back out but there were many general casualties of motivation, some of which had to do with tired legs not yet used to ski season, and the frigid temperatures that set in as the sun gradually disappeared behind high flung, diffuse clouds that presaged an oncoming storm.
At around 4:30 pm (or 16:30, as you are required to call it in Europe), we headed back to the village once more and split up for the day. Katie and I rode the gondola / cable car back to the valley and waited for the train in Le Chable, which was late, possibly due to an avalanche or snow of somesort obstructing the tracks further up Valais near Brig. On the way home we were treated to a veritable procession of acquaintances at each train platform and 2nd class rail car that we briefly inhabited. These included our sublettor / landlord of one month from the summer with his new wife, several guys from the nanobiophotonics lab at EFPL that I had met at a few SV happy hours, and perhaps others … Eventually we arrived back in Lausanne to a dinner of tortellini and a 3 hour skype conversation.
Until next time,