All of my destination road trips -- usually a bunch of one-day stops so I can experience as many ski areas as possible -- feature a particular place that I'm especially looking forward to. Even though I was psyched to ski Obersaxen, Brigels, and others on this itinerary, Heuberge (pronounced HOY bare gah) was the one that looked really unique.
I'd been introduced to it via, where else, a recent TR on Alpinforum, when some guy hit it on the most perfect day imaginable. Take a look at those pix because as you'll see below, I didn't have his weather luck.
Heuberge is one of those "hiding in plain sight" locals areas, on the same access road as the Davos resorts; in fact, it could easily be connected to well-known Klosters via a tram. You can tell that it's a small non-corporate ski area because they don't spend money to include their trail network on Google Maps. All you get is a red dot similar to Tschiertschen to the southwest. Translated directly, it's "Hay Mountains," but more liberally you could call it Haystacks, which would be visually fitting.
As you leave Route 28, this billboard gives you the overview: "A seven-mile-long (!) sledding trail: open. We bring you to the top; the sled brings you back down."
You drive up 800 verts and arrive in Fideris. Clearly, not optimum weather:
It was a Friday and they were having a midweek deal: $20 tickets (includes the ride up to the base lodge and down, if you don't want to ski or sled it to the valley) instead of the usual $33. No public vehicles are permitted on the four-yard-wide unpaved road, which is legally a sledding trail but shuttle buses that belong to the ski area are allowed! The buses, which leave every half hour or so, are the only way up the 3,400 vertical feet to the base area, which is a couple of small hotels.
Buckle your seat belts is good advice on this kinda hairy drive; there are no guard rails and one slip-up on the snow-covered path would send the bus down the mountainside. Of course, the drivers can do this shit in their sleep.
The rules are: sleds always ride on the side of the valley; buses always on the mountain side:
Here's one sledder (actually two) avoiding our bus. Seriously, could you imagine the legal releases people would have to sign in the U.S. to allow sledding on a mountain road with active bus traffic?
25 minutes later, we pulled into the base lodge area:
Lift-served is approx 1,300 verts and skinning the additional 1,000 verts to the ridgeline is very popular. The valley run is obviously very truncated on the map. In reality, it's a long way down.
Unfortunately, whiteout visibility from the previous day persisted. This was the only photo where I could see more than five feet ahead. I skied pretty much all of the marked trails over the next 90 or so minutes, despite vertigo issues. Such a shame knowing how beautiful this place is on a sunny day, as you can see in the Alpinforum pix.
Late morning, I stopped for the requisite coffee/cake break and met a local couple in their late 60s/early 70s. We got chatting and they asked if I wanted to join them for the "valley run." Great luck for me as I wouldn't have felt comfortable doing it on my own. As we buckled up, the bearded husband turned to me and said with a smile but rather seriously "Mithalten bitte and keine Fotopause!" (please keep up and no photo breaks!"). Got it, no f-ing around.
It was nonstop knee-deep pow all the way down except four or so places where we had to cross the sled path: treed, but wide open skiing/some of it meadow skipping, other sections pretty damn steep. I definitely had to push myself to make an effort to keep up with these hardcore retirees. I would've stopped at least a dozen times.
Back in the village, I hung out at the atmospheric bar in the bus pickup area, The Sawmill, for a beer. Nice decor, complete with rails through the middle of the room and all sorts of woodworking instruments on display:
A Sledding 101 guide: you can see from the final item that they allow night sledding -- bring your own headlamp! Once again, legally unfathomable in the U.S. due to some of the major dropoffs right alongside the path. You gotta respect how Europe treats you like an adult.
On the way back to the car, this pooch came over and said hello.
Love those teeth:
So while the lift-served skiing itself was a disappointment due to visibility issues, that badass valley run and hanging out in The Sawmill afterward were great. I'll definitely go back the next time I'm in the region on a good-weather day.
There are so many ski areas, it's cool when skiing is a national obsession.
Yep, that's why I go. Having gotten stuck on I-70 traffic snarls in Colorado several weekends this season, it's great that from a major city like Zurich you can drive in every direction except north and hit dozens of ski areas. That really helps disperse traffic.
Arrived back in EWR last night. With Global Entry, I was through immigration in 45 seconds and customs in 20 seconds. There was absolutely no COVID19 screening of passengers or crews or orders to self-quarantine -- allegedly that's supposed to start today.