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TR: Zermatt and Chamonix - May the Pow Be With You

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The 09/10 season so far:


Wales - Between a Rock and a Soft Place




Upper Bavaria, Germany




Another family funeral, another trip over from the States for my brother Matt, and another chance to play as Matt looked after my Dad for the long weekend.


I'd been following the snow reports coming in from France, Switzerland and Norway, and with around 1.5m of fresh falling the previous 7 days plumped for Zermatt and Chamonix.



DAY 1: FRIDAY 15 MAY 2010


Flew from Cardiff to Geneva via Amsterdam with KLM on Friday afternoon under clear, sunny skies.



280.00 UK pounds r/t

327.00 euro r/t

404.00 US$ r/t



Got to Geneva at 21.45 and took a leisurely stroll to the train platform in Geneva airport for the journey to Montreux.



20.00 UK pounds o/w

23.00 euro o/w

28.00 US$ o/w



I was staying with Kath Lyon who I'd worked and lived with in Niseko, Japan back in 07/08. She's a teacher in an international school just out of Montreux.


Got to her lakeside apartment around midnight and after a bite to eat and a few drinks, we decided on Zermatt for Saturday and Chamonix for Sunday.






Early start to make the train to Zermatt. Got some looks as we walked in ski gear to the station.



80.00 UK pounds r/t

94.00 euro r/t

116.00 US$ r/t



Kath sorting through her gear on the platform.






The train ride was smooth and the valleys Swiss green






Got to the base of the cable car just before 10am to be told that only the t-bar and the 6-man chair were open and visibility was negligible.


The lady in the Tourist Info Centre quoted us 54 CHF for the lift ticket, but at the window we were charged 83 CHF for 4 hrs of operation.


I can understand 83 CHF for a day pass during peak season when everything is open but charging full whack when such limited terrain is open for just half a day is taking the piss at the very highest level.



51.00 UK pounds 4-hr lift ticket

59.00 euro 4-hr lift ticket

73.00 US$ 4-hr lift ticket



The snow underfoot was great with soft pistes and boot top pow just the other side of the piste markers.


I rented a pair of 170cm Atomic Race Ti skis (126-70-110). Fantastic skis.



20.00 UK pounds

23.00 euro

28.00 US$



It was great to be skiing again - despite having next to no visibility - and I'm glad that we went to Zermatt. But I'll never return based on being fleeced this time.


I skied Engelberg in May 06 and had much more skiing for less cost, so will go there if the opportunity for May turns arises in the future.



View of Zermatt on the way down. Best visibility of the day






Yours truly in the cable car






Kath in the cable car



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That looks like the cable car up to Rothorn.

Was it only that area that was open?


I quite liked Gornergrat and Cervinia, but visibility and lift operation was often compromised while we were there. (obviously the gornergrat train kept on going - but we lost a cub and a papa unintentionally off piste over there one day due to the visibility.)

Rothern saw the most of our ski miles also.


Did you have any of the fabulous Swiss meals while there? The chocolate shoppe in the main street has some of the most amazing handmade choc ever!

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I'm amazed at high the snowline is already, appears to be mostly above 2000m. Here at the moment there's still a reasonable cover down to about 600m!

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Originally Posted By: MikePow
Thanks all.

Here's the area that's open.


Unfortunately the top cable car was closed. Which limited the terrain a great deal.

Just had a quick pastis before getting the train back to Montreux.

WOW! You are pretty much just up there on the Glacier! That snowline has indeed receded. I am gobsmacked. I kinda had it in my head that it always had snow down to the village...but of course it doesn't.
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DAY 3: SUNDAY 17 MAY 2010


Set off from Montreux at 7.30 am, Chamonix bound. Great drive over and got in to town at 9.


Picked up a pair of skis, Salomon Lord in a 177cm. The guy in the store was trying to get me to take at least a 185cm and almost had apoplexy when I asked for a ski similar to what I had in Zermatt the day before - an overshaped slalom ski in a 170cm.



COST: 22.00 UK pounds

26.00 euro

32.00 US$



Met Kristy, an Australian friend of Kath's who's been living in Chamonix for a couple of years, at the base of the Aguille du Midi cable car, and with a little bit of brazen queue jumping past a group of Indian and Japanese tourists we were at the top by 10am.


COST: 30.00 UK pounds

36.00 euro

44.00 US$



It was socked in when we first arrived, so we decamped to the cafe which was full of skiers and boarders waiting for a break in the weather.


Anticipating some blue we made our way down to the start of the arete and clicked in.


Kath and Kristy at the Aguille du Midi station






Kristy had suggested the Couloir des Cosmiques and we were more than happy to follow her down the arete and around. By all accounts being able to ski the arete was far better than walking it. The snow was soft, light and stable. The visibility great as we set off and it didn't take us long to get over to the entrance to the couloir.


A couple of groups had got in before us and one was in the crux rappeling down as we got our stuff together.


Kath and Kristy at the entrance to the Couloir des Cosmiques






Looking down into the couloir and the group ahead







We edged our way in one by one and we were all happy sideslipping, jump turning and skiing the upper section without the need to rope up. In comparison with pictures of the couloir I've seen the conditions were excellent. Very little rock showing through. I'd anticipated more exposure at the top, but the depth and quality of snow made it a very comfortable negotiation.


Kath edging her way through the rocks






Yours truly waiting on the group below






The rocks safely negotiated, Kath was ready to ski






By the time I'd put my camera away, the mist and fog had descended and the couloir was socked in. This was the theme for the descent. Wait around for the mist and fog to lift, ski a section, wait, and repeat.


Kath in the mist






Kristy finding untracked






Kath hitting sunshine






Kristy off exploring






Kristy got rocked out, but sent it, landed it and skied out smiling
















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Kath getting in on the action










From whence we came






There's a great pic of the Couloir des Cosmiques in its entirety in this link






The turns were great, with up to knee deep and face shots where it hadn't been tracked. The weather held for the traverse back to the Aguille du Midi mid-station. The track put in was excellent.


We'd traversed from right to left in this picture and there's an avalanche above and to the right of Kath






Kath and Kristy at the mid-station cafe






Kath doing her best King Kong with the Midi cable car






Took the cable car down, packed up the car and drove in to town for lunch in the sunshine.


Kath and I at the end of a fantastic day in Chamonix






Drove back to Kath's and enjoyed several gin & tonics on the balcony.


The view of Lake Geneva and the surrounding mountains from Kath's apartment in Montreux






Many thanks to Kristy and Kath. Chamonix delivered. If you're nearby, get the weapons of choice out and enjoy the fantastic conditions in Chamonix.

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Shame about Zermat. I won't go there either if I ever make it out that way now. Chamonix looks excellent!! Nice to hook up with a couple of cool chicks for some steep turns too, eh?

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Originally Posted By: muikabochi
All reminds me of winter!

Can't see any snow round here now Go Native. Haven't been able to for some time now.

Can still see plenty of snow around here, there's still drifts right down to village level. But we don't have any of the fresh snow that Mike got. Oh to have mountains that big around here....
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