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In all the COVID-19 madness since I returned from my Switzerland trip last Thursday (I was on United's final plane back to the States before the travel ban began), I neglected to post anything from my arrival day, March 5. The overnight flight out of Newark was on my birthday so it was great to get the quasi red-carpet treatment from the airline, which upgraded me -- economy class was 3/4 full; however, business travelers were definitely staying home, so there was plenty of open real estate in the middle of the plane. Four different flight attendants offered birthday well wishes and kept an eye on me throughout the night ("anything you need, birthday boy?"), which was a nice touch.
As mentioned in previous seasons, from a logistics standpoint, Zurich remains my preferred gateway airport from the States. It's shocking how quickly you get out of the building: immigration, baggage, and rental car pickup took less than 20 minutes end to end. As at virtually all non-U.S. airports, large sturdy luggage carts are free, and ZRH's have special parking brakes so you can bring them fully loaded on escalators (an interesting balancing trick with a ski bag perched on top packed with two pairs of planks).
I always try to hit a ski area no more than 90 minutes from the airport for at least a half day of turns, if for no other reason than being in the cold air helps stave off jet lag. For this trip, I decided to hit the largest and most popular ski area near Zurich, Flumserberg (pronounced FLOOMZA bairg), not even an hour from the airport and just off Autobahn 3.
Its proximity to the metropolitan region (including accessibility via the public S-Bahn/suburban train and a gondola that brings you to the bottom of the lift-served terrain) means that Flumserberg is not a place I'd go on a weekend or holiday period; however, on non-peak weekdays, it's almost deserted. With 40 miles of marked trails, Flumsi (FLOOMZY, as locals call it) is considered only medium in size for the Alps; however, it's pretty extensive/almost four miles across: about the size of Park City and Deer Valley combined.
I was looking forward to stunning views of deep blue fjord-like Walensee (Whale Lake) crowned by the Dolomite-esque Churfirsten peaks (check out these pix and this video on a clear day); however, it was not in the cards. I'd arrived on a foggy storm day: velvety-soft conditions with five inches already down and heavy precip throughout the day, but poor visibility above treeline. I made a point of skiing as much of the terrain as possible, just to get a feel for Flumsi's expanse, but it was tough going. I had to braille my way through many of the trails above mid-mountain using the occasional piste markers for orientation whenever possible -- didn't even bother to pull my camera out to take pix.
The final two hours, I tried to stay below treeline as much as possible, where conditions were really nice. That's when I ran into a fun feature that I always enjoy: themed glade areas. Designed to introduce kids to the joys of skiing in the trees in the winter and for the enjoyment of hikers/mountain bikers during the summer, this one is called Häxäwäldi: Swiss German (with the extra umlauts) for "Witch's Woods." With several narrow pathways that wind through the pines, they've built "stations" with fun explanations. Seems like something that'd be perfect at a place like Magic Mountain, VT -- haven't been there in ten years/do they have one?
"Watch out! When you pass through through this gate, a curse will be cast upon you!"
Funhouse Mirror: "You brought this on yourself! You ignored the warning and ventured into the Witch's Woods. Your fate has been sealed. Eenie meenie miney mo: you're cursed!"
"There's only one way to escape from the witch's curse: follow the enchanted animals through the forest; they'll lead you to the magic mushrooms -- just a quick touch will reverse the spell. Psst: don't let the witch who watches over these woods catch you!"
I did three runs through the trees here/wish I'd taken more pix. With bootcuff-deep fluff and decent visibility, it was the highpoint of my day.
Thanks for these trip reports - we can live/ski vicariously through your good times over there! Glad you made it home before things were shut down. How are they dealing with the C-virus over there...keeping things open or shutting down as they have done here?
Everything closed down in Switzerland a day or so after I left. France was the last Alps holdout, leading to this mess on Sunday:
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