For my third and final Alps trip of this season, I'm heading back to Switzerland for a couple days solo an hour east of Zurich and then my wife lands Monday morning and we'll drive two hours south to the Jungfrau region for the rest of the week. The weather has not been helpful thus far. I've apparently walked into the dreaded Föhn effect, which western Europeans (especially German-speakers) know intimately; however, the rest of us don't so take a look at this helpful summary from the Weather to Ski site.
As I left in my brand-new Peugeot rental (the second time I've gotten one at Zurich airport), it was warm and raining lightly but steadily the entire way to Ebenalp, a local's-only ski area. Once again, the only reason I know about it is thanks to a mouth-watering trip report on Alpinforum, where this guy hit the jackpot with a bluebird day right after a storm and snow down to the valley floor. You'll see that I didn't have his luck.
You drive through the hilly, low-elevation agricultural region of Appenzell, known primarily for its cheese:
And cross a small creek into the parking area. With the gloomy skies and rain, I honestly was wondering whether I should just bail; however, a couple dozen small kids as young as five, all with Leki ski poles (we know what that means), were heading into the tram building so I figured how bad could it be?
From there, you take a cable car about 2,000 verts up:
Then you hike a couple hundred feet uphill (definitely not Sno-approved):
No complaints from this little kid waiting for his mother behind me:
You then traverse a few minutes into a bowl with cliff bands on both sides:
And take a t-bar to the top:
Interesting how they attached the top bullwheel to the cliff:
While the sky was no less gray at elevation, the rain was barely spitting and the snow was nice soft sugar. So while this was definitely not a day for awe-inspiring photos, the skiing was actually pleasant and 100% natural snow is always nice. There are a few ways down through the trees to the lower t-bar, about 1,500 verts:
Around noon, I headed up to the mountain restaurant for lunch -- gotta walk or skate uphill for this too so stop complaining!
Check out the timeline in this close-up: first built in 1861, newly renovated in 1927 and 1955, electric light was added in 1939, etc. They've been doing this mountain-hospitality stuff a lot longer than we have!
It's a shame that I couldn't ski down to the village, about 3,100 verts from the top, and then take the train back to the tram (included in the lift ticket), but despite the gloom, it was an educational, if not enjoyable half-day visit, and only cost $30 -- and I can always look at the Alpinforum report and think about what might have been with better timing. Even more annoying; the ingrate who wrote it actually complained!
Insgesamt hatte ich mir etwas mehr erwartet (...) Das Skigebiet selbst bietet auch nicht all zu viel Abwechslung. Ein halber Tag reicht hier vollkommen aus. ["On the whole, I was expecting more. (...) The ski area doesn't offer much variety. A half-day is more than enough."]