Since the first four of my ski days on this visit had been to decent-sized, generally well-known (at least amongst the Swiss) ski areas, I wouldn't have been living up to my reputation as a "Mountains Less Traveled" kook if I didn't go somewhere a bit odd for Day 5, so early Monday morning I reviewed the situation:
-- Final outing of my inaugural 2017-18 ski trip: my legs were a bit fatigued; I didn't require top-shelf terrain or hundreds of miles of trails.
-- Had to be at Zurich airport by mid-afternoon for a 5:15 pm departure, didn't want a long drive back to the city
-- 6-8 inches had fallen overnight in addition to the previous days' accumulations.
-- Forecast called for more heavy flurries and low clouds; I needed a low-elevation joint with top-to-bottom trees.
The answer was Atzmännig (pronounced AHTS-MENNIG), not even an hour east of Zurich -- a comparatively tiny ski area for local families with 1,200 verts, old lifts, a pile of summer activities at the base (swimming, mountain carts, ropes course, camping), and a handful of cut trails through the woods. Basically about the same size as Plattekill, maybe a third again wider. To state the obvious: given the competition, this place is not on any ski tourist's itinerary, especially someone from overseas, but all I needed was enough pitch to keep me going through the fresh snow.
Driving there from my hotel in Amden was, uh, sporty. About four inches of slippery snow on the roads, a few steep inclines and switchbacks, a narrow road that went right through people's garden's and barnyards, and absolutely no signage (zero, and I kept an eye out) indicating that a ski area was nearby -- thank god for GPS.
I pulled in at 10 am to see... five cars in the visitor's parking area:
Looking uphill from the base was a 46-year-old double chair moving VERY SLOWLY (once again, similar to the double at Plattekill) and a t-bar. Unfortunately, they were only running the chair; I'm sure the drag lift would've been faster.
A full-day lift ticket is $35 and they offer three convenient half-day options for $25 -- I went with the midday variant. I asked the ticket lady how many people were on the hill; she held up four fingers on each hand.
The 13-minute uphill ride gave me plenty of time to consider the graphics on my topsheets:
And then I enjoyed three hours of a private-ski-area experience where the most difficult thing was finding people to use as photo subjects. Just like the previous two days, great visuals weren't in the cards -- this is what it looks like with moderately better sight lines -- but great conditions were: bootcuff-deep untracked on the groomers, knee-deep offpiste.
Due to conditions, my pix are nice and blurry, the way Harv likes 'em:
Between the total quiet, the lack of other people, and getting into a nice rhythm of gliding down non-technical double-blue trails with no interruptions, it got pretty zen at times:
I arrived at the airport by 3 pm, quickly packed my bags in the rental-car garage, and drank a couple beers while waiting for my flight. While only one of the five days had the grandiose panoramas that one hopes/expects from the Alps, four straight days of powder is a great way to start the season, and way better than what I would've gotten had I gone forward with my planned Wasatch trip -- this bollox is what I would've been skiing.
How much English is spoken there? I imagine a fair bit around the larger areas, but around EuroPlatty.....
Good question. Even at a ski area catering only to locals, people will be able to speak decent English; in fact, given how laughably difficult some of the regional Swiss dialects are to understand -- I sometimes barely get half of what people are saying if they can't switch into more standard German -- you're better off with English!