|Summer Skiing is something that has
always appealed to me as a concept, but the
practicalities of skiing in sludge and ruining my edges
on bald patches has always outweighed the pose-factor of
being able to say "Been there - done that".
On the other hand, when somebody else does all the hard work of organising it (Ralph and Sandra - thanks guys!), and Hobbsy has spaces to spare in the tardis-like Sharonmobile - it's too good an opportunity to turn down. The date was set for
My only previous trip to Saas Fee had been at the end of the season (April 26/27) and I was not impressed.
We arrived on a Friday night, and spent the next morning waiting for the lift to start (it was snowing); the afternoon skiing very on limited piste in mist - irritatingly we could see great clear runs further up the mountain that they were saving for the summer.
That evening we visited a local night-club here we were ripped off by some local yobbos who pinched one of the balls from our pool table - goodbye CHF50 deposit - no doubt this was split between them and the barman later... On the plus side, the hotel we stayed in had a great Parrot. We didn't bother staying on for the Sunday.
We had booked The Hotel Berghof - avoid them like the plague, they rate three opinion points, but more of that on the opinion page...
Summer skiing starts early - ideally you want to be at the bottom of the lifts at 8am, as the skiing after lunch gets pretty wet. We nearly managed it, and by about 9am we were on the glacier.
One of the first thing to be aware of is that there are relatively few resort staff about - like virtually none. Considering the amount of people using such a small amount of piste (comparable to high season skiing) I can't see how the resort operators justify charging the same sort of pass fees as for the winter season, where you get ten times the ski area, and the resort is fully manned.
There's probably less than 10km of piste in all, and the snow conditions are variable. There had been a recent fall of snow, but this was too warm to be anything other than a hindrance, and as the morning progressed the snow underfoot got heavier and heavier. I was playing cautious by staying on skis, but if you can stand getting wet a snowboard is far better for these conditions.
The crowd up there were a mixed bunch - a lot of international teams train there - honing the traditional skiing skills of arrogance and behaving like arseholes, but on the whole it's a pretty cool/young crowd, with lots of boarders.
Simon Hobbs got the award of the day for a massive wipe-out on a steep powder bank - I think he's OK; if they've found him yet I'll ask. He also pioneered a new sport later in the day - uphill snowboarding on your back, for which you require a T-bar, a large Ralph Pyne, and a high tolerance for pain. Full mark for the on-lookers who watched from the (unattended) bottom station ignoring his screams to stop the lift. True sportsmen.
I also had a funny incident - I wiped out bizarrely in a fast tuck along a slushy trail - I don't think I've ever been so low in a wipe-out before, and I got a real crack from my left ski as it came off, up, and over my knees. So I'm lying there - not moving - bleeding, feeling for broken bones, and in a pretty stunned state. A couple of meters behind me my ski is lying right across the middle of the trail. And a couple of walkers are coming towards me. Did they ask after my health? Did they move my ski? Was the good Samaritan lucky not to get mugged in Switzerland? Funny people.
Another bizarre aspect is that after leaving the valley in the cool of the morning, we returned - in our winter ski-gear - to a blistering 24°C; a whole new way of losing weight fast!
There's lots else to do in the area apart from damaging yourself - Dorina found some great walks, and there are some grade 3-7 climbs a few hundred meters from the car-park that we checked out. Ralph took his mountain-bike along as well, but he was to scared to use it.