Saturday, January 26, 2013

Project 365: Day 337

Today was my first full day in Europe, and it was spent on the slopes.
We could NOT have asked for a more beautiful day on the mountain. There was not a cloud in the sky and it was all I could do not to just take photographs the entire day.
The thing about the alps is that the tree line is much lower than in the rockies, so where in Colorado the tree line is something between 10,000 and 11,000 feet above sea level here the tree line is something like 5-6,000 feet above sea level (about the height of Denver) so the entire ski mountains are completely open bowls.
 It is a totally different experience then skiing through heavily wooded areas, and offers some spectacular views because there are no trees blocking your views!
(check out these awesome little hammocks at the top of one of the lifts!)
The great thing about skiing in Switzerland (from my own perspective) is that it's really not about the skiing, its about the experience. While the American way is get as many runs in as possible, the Swiss way is just to enjoy the mountains, and if that means stopping mid-mountain for a coffee and schnapps every hour or so, then that's what you do!  
my colleagues and I taking a break for lunch
After a full day of skiing we headed back down the mountain at about 4pm and had one hour to shower and change and make it back to our meeting point for dinner. My colleague, Thomas, who organized the weekend, had told all of us that we would need snow boots for our "event" on Saturday night. So, I went back to my room, showered, did my make-up (including mascara), put on my skinny jeans and snow boots with a cute sweater, and my nice jacket and headed to dinner.
I showed up at the meeting point and about 85% of my colleagues were all still in their ski gear! Turns out, the plan for our "surprise" event was to snow shoe ONE HOUR up the mountain to a mid-mountain restuarnt to have fondu for dinner. All of the conversation throughout the day had been in German so while everyone else figured out the "surprise," myself and my Australian colleague were completely unaware that this was the plan, and thus completely under-dressed!!!!
I was a little upset about the whole thing, figuring I would freeze my butt off, but at this point it was too late to do anything about it, so I just went along for the ride. We all took the gondola up to the mid-mountain station and then strapped into our snow shoes, and we were off!

We were seriously hiking in these snow shoes, walking UP down-hill ski runs, so I actually was pretty warm for the hike. It was a good thing too, because I spent the first 15 minutes of the hike (until i warmed up) plotting how I would get Thomas back for this "surprise!"  In the end I guess I had the perfect ammount of clothing on for the event and I really enjoyed the hike (and it's always nice to feel like you're really earning your dinner!).  The best part of the entire trip was watching the full moon rise over the alps - it was one of the most beautiful sites I have ever seen.
When we got to the top, we had swiss fondu for dinner (talk about cheese overload!) accompanied by lots of wine and of course schnapps for dessert and then after a couple hours, we made our way back down the mountain.
Once we made it back to the Gondola we had the option to ride the gondola back down or go sled riding down to the bottom! Now, being an american, I haven't been sledding since I was about 10 years old, but here in Switzerland it is a very common thing for ski resorts to have groomed tracks for people of all ages to go sled riding!  Of course, never being one who wants to miss out on anything, I grabbed a sled and set off! 
Let me tell you, this was not the sled riding of your youth! This was ~1,200 vertical feet and 4 kilometers long! It twists and turns all the way down the mountain and all you have is your feet to steer you along the way - these things can get some SERIOUS speed!  Thankfully the 30 minute hike down from dinner had us all relatively sobered up before the ride, because it was absolutely insane. Some of the turns were so sharp that people were running right into them and bouncing off the embankments. There were about 4 lights along the entire run, so we were lucky for the full moon, otherwise we would have been sledding in complete dark! it was crazy. Even with the moonlight there were plenty of bumps and dips that we couldn't see coming, so we all just braced ourselves and held on tight!
I was screeching and yelping the entire way down and having a blast all the while. But whereas it really was OK to be wearing jeans for the snowshoeing, it was NOT ok to be wearing them for sledding! Snow was shooting up from under my boots (as I was steering and breaking) and landing all over my jeans and piling up in between my legs.  I literally had a popsicle for an ass by the time the whole thing was done, my jeans were completely soaked my crotch was absolutely FREEZING!!! There were several times when I actually had to stop and scoop the snow out from my seat because I was so cold - and 4km is quite a ways to go on a sled!!!! But, it was completely worth it!
It was definitely one of the most amazing and ridiculous things I have ever done! What a great way to top off the perfect day in the Swiss Alps!

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