A Real Alpine Experience
After over a month in Switzerland with no action, our skis, standing in the corner of our apartment, were starting to look a little abandoned and forlorn. We'd been checking the snow reports pretty regularly throughout December and nothing was looking very good. Apparently the weather in December was more like March usually is in Zurich. (Could have fooled me!)
We finally decided to go skiing, and chose the resort area of Davos, near St. Moritz in the southeast of Switzerland. We found a nice couple that are computer science students at ETHZ to watch Baxter, so that was all taken care of. SBB, the Swiss rail system, offers Snow'n'Rail packages that give you a 30% discount when you buy your train ticket and lift ticket as a bundle, so it's a pretty good deal. We picked Davos because it's one of the premier areas in Switzerland to ski and it's got several big resorts that are easily reachable from the town.
We took the train to Davos early Saturday morning, leaving Zurich at about 6:30 and getting into Davos around 8:30. We decided to ski the first day at Jakobshorn (pronounced Yakobshorn), which is purported to be the locals favorite. The beginning to our Jakobshorn experience was a bit like Disneyland...really long lines to get on the first ride of the day...in this case, a gondola, which was the only was up to the main part of the ski area.
The first thing you notice about true alpine (as in, in the actual Alps) skiing is that there are no trees! This means that the runs are instead demarcated by orange poles and there is a feeling of wide open space. The geography of the mountain peaks is different too. Unlike the US, where each mountain seems to give its neighbors some room to be a monolithic individual, the peaks in the Alps all rise shoulder to shoulder, which creates endless ridges in all directions. I think this must be why avalanches are a much more serious and prevalent problem here...there's just not enough room for all the mountains! Here we are on the slopes:
. After we were worn out by the day's downhill exploits, we headed down to Davos Platz, the town to catch the special funicular up to our hotel, the Schatzalp.
Brian picked the Schatzalp because it has a cool location above the town due to the special funicular and it looked nice in the pictures he saw on the website. However, once we stayed there, we saw that there were about a million other reasons that that hotel totally rocked. Among them:
- It looks just like the Overlook Hotel in The Shining...*just like* it. You seriously expect two little girls in pigtails to be waiting for you around the next corner and Scatman Crothers to come out of the kitchen.
They even have a "smoking room" which looks just like the place in the scene where Jack talks to the imaginary bartender.
- You can sled from the top all the way down to the town, which must be at least 5 kilometers. Furthermore, you can do this at night, after you've had a few drinks. There's only lighting at the bend, which makes it even more fun/insane.
- Our room was super nice.
- The view from the hotel over the town and ski resorts is amazing.
- It used to be a tuberculosis sanitarium.
- It featured in one of Thomas Mann's novels
- They serve an awesome five-course dinner that's included in the price of the room. Plus there is always a vegetarian option. The breakfast is also amazing and gets you nice and fueled up for skiing.
On Sunday, we decided to try Parsenn, the biggest of the Davos ski resorts. It was definitely our favorite of the two based on the larger number of high-speed quad lifts. We only had one t-bar mishap, so we considered the day a success. On the train ride home, we had to sit next to some Swiss punks drinking 40s and chain smoking and combination of substances, which wasn't the perfect ending to the weekend, but we realy couldn't complain too much!