We did get a bit of good weather in Switzerland, but most days were stormy and the avy danger never modulated. So we had to make do with lower angled backcountry skiing tours. Such can still be fun, and if you’re adventurous you can sometimes find a few extra turns by pushing through the storm and straying a bit from the beaten path.
|We took a cable car up to the Sunnbuel area from the historic Swiss resort and village of Kandersteg. Once there, nice to do our map prep in a gasthaus instead of a snow cave. With it being a weekday and stormy, the European crowds were missing — once on our tour we only saw two other people. Another day in the crowded Swiss backcountry…|
|Yeah, it doesn’t look like much from this angle, but it worked. The terrain up here is actually pretty big, though this bump known as Unders Tatelishore was sort of like doing a sub-peak on a Colorado 14er. We’d have gone higher via a good ridge route, but the day was mostly whiteout backcountry skiing so this highpoint seemed like plenty.|
|Much of the south facing snow was corned up and avy safe, though frozen and hard to climb. I whipped out my trusty B&D ski crampons, which I’d already adapted to my Dynafit bindings, and the uphill was a breeze. I’ve been working at testing the B&D wide crampon offerings from Bill Bollinger, they’re a great compromise between strength and weight, but one of his previous prototypes seemed to bend too easily when walking across rocks. So Bill made me another set for this trip, with a shorter throat in the cutouts for the teeth. I gave them a good test and they seemed quite a bit better.|
|This tour has some tricky maneuvering to avoid cliffs and avalanche slopes (the safe route is at times only a few hundred yards wide when the slide danger is high). We didn’t have a GPS track for the way up, but the light was good enough to Sherlock a route. To prevent worry about the return we “gyped” with our Garmin and we’re ready to track back at any time. Peace of mind, especially when responsible for the whole family.|
|Ethnic food at the summit? Anyone know who DJ Bobo is? I sure didn’t ’till our Swiss friends educated us.|
|Another visit to God’s pingpong ball, something He created special for backcountry skiers to enjoy.|
|Lower down the light got better and some of the skiing was actually quite good. We were in a small forest where one could do a few laps — but it wasn’t THAT good. Better to just head back before we got too wet and cold.|
|Checking out the tube mustard at the gasthaus, after is was properly used for Louie’s wurst. In all, the day worked out fine as the clouds lifted a few times and we got some views along with the turns. This part of Switzerland is of course such a major skiing center you get an almost supernatural sense of the glisse that’s gone on here seemingly forever. Tours don’t have to be anything major. You just get out in it and the vibe is great. This day was like that.|
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.