My company’s ski club has planned a ski trip. So a group of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation journalists, video producers, accountants, and I are all on a train chugging through the Simmental valley south of Bern. We’re on our way to spend a weekend at Lenk, a big resort in the Oberland.
Things are considerably mellower than my first corporate ski journey. My father had brought me along on his company’s annual trip to a place called Little Gap Ski Area, near Philly. He had plopped me down in the front of the chartered bus and disappeared into the back, where there was music and flasks. I knew things were rowdy when the driver handed a beer out his window to a passing truck on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. It was the best time a sixth-grader could ever have.
Today, en route to Lenk, it’s different. There’s no booze. No music. And no ass cheeks out the window. But tameness aside, this trip is going to be epic. It’s been puking for two days straight. As we climb past towns like Boltigen and Zweisimmen, the farmhouses wheeze under snowdrifts two stories tall. My coworkers and I will soon be bonding over blower.
My wife, Heidi, and I drop our bags off at the hotel and check the forecasts: sunny with a high of 20 and no wind. A bluebird powder day! I rush over to the bar to meet the others and figure out where we should go first.
“Wie geht’s?” I say, offering a German What’s up? to a colleague, a man in his late 40s. We’ve never met but his furrowed brow tells me something’s wrong.
“It could be difficult out there,” he sighs in German.
Oh no. Avalanches must have shut everything down. I ask him about it.
“What? No,” he says. “It’s been snowing so hard they haven’t been able to groom the pistes.”
Another colleague hears the news and steps up.
“You mean, the runs won’t be—prepared?” she gulps.
“I suggest we have a nice, long breakfast and go up later,” he offers helpfully. “That might give them time to fix it.”
Fix it? I look outside to make sure I’m still in Switzerland. Maybe I didn’t hear that right. The snow depth is ein meter. Nicht präparierten Skipisten. No confusion there.
I am shocked. The best day of the year is upon us, a smorgasbord of silky, safe, and virtually bottomless turns right under the lifts, and people are worried the slopes won’t be “prepared.” The ski-culture divide has never seemed so vast.
And what a wonderful feeling that is. It’s like I am the only serviceable male on an island of pent-up princesses. I have a hunch plenty of others will be taking their time to get on the mountain, if they come at all. I’ll probably have a solid four-hour romp before even the townies pry their fingers from the cheese wheel to waddle up to the lift. Fifty lifts. More than 100 miles of marked trails. Mine. I am so excited I hardly sleep. When morning comes, a thin crack of sapphire splits the horizon into pastel pinks and a flood of brilliant blue. I throw on my ski clothes and race outside. The snow is so light and fine it lingers like fumes when I flick it into the air. I hightail it back to the room, gingerly open the door, and tiptoe in: Heidi and our infant daughter, Evie, will still be asleep.
“Powder day!” Heidi screeches when I step in. She is dressed and ready to go with her freshly waxed Sugar Daddies by the door.
“But, but…” I stammer. “Who’s going to watch Evie?”
Then a wave of guilt sweeps over me. Heidi has given up so much to follow me to Switzerland and so far she’s skied only three runs on icy groomers, a tough thing for a Montana girl baptized by face shots. We couldn’t have asked for a better winter, we are in Europe, yet so many times she could only watch out the window as Evie joy-boobed and I raced out of the apartment with skis.
She should have today. I’ll take Evie to the bunny slope, strap her to my chest, and do a few mellow runs till she gets hungry. We’ll both come meet Heidi for lunch. As she dashes out of the hotel, she kisses me and promises I can ski in the afternoon. I refuse and tell her to take it all for herself. This could work to my advantage.
If a powder day like this one can’t convince her to spend another winter in Switzerland, nothing can.
Tim Neville moved to Switzerland to live the dream. His column is appearing in our magazine in six parts. For previous installments, visit skiingmag.com/sunnyswitzerland.