Saturday, 3 March 2012

Hangtime Swiss Style

My last weekend could be summed up in two words- shredding and chocolate. For those of you who think I am implying that I shredded cheese all weekend, guess again (although my brother did give me Nona - , the cheese shredder woman, as a Christmas gift one year and I do enjoy putting her to use every now and again). Alpine snow is what I was shredding and tons and tons of it. As I was explaining to the man at the ski rental counter- approximately once every year I get the opportunity to go skiing thanks to my father having medical conferences scheduled in the mountains. It's a childhood memory of mine, to be on the slopes over winter break (and always having a few runs where Dad was absent because he had to run to a meeting). Details of the general memory always follow- indoor/ outdoor pools and hot tubs, getting severely lost with Peter two years in a row, and coming home with a new stuffed animal beaver as a souvenir that I dubbed "Beavey" forever and always. All those things are beside the point though...what the point IS is that THIS year, my annual skiing took place in the Swiss Alps! After countless Colorado runs and a few days in Canada's Whistler- the views off these lifts were all new to me. Gimmelwald is the name of the small farm town nestled on the mountain that was my home for three days. The Mountain Hostel, specifically, is where I rested my head at the end of each long day. I met a group there of 35 people that were all there for the Weekend Student Adventure hosted by Andy Steves (Rick Steve's son for those of you who are informed on the popular travel books). I met a few really fun people out of that entire group, but found that this trip for me was going to be more about the outdoor adventure than the discovery of lifelong friends. And to be honest- that was okay! It gave me a chance to breathe in the fresh mountain air, soak in the beauty of each moment, and reflect on where I'd been thus far. But before I get too ahead of myself let me just start from the beginning...

Here's Katie and I in the Dublin airport, fresh off the 8am bus!

Several hours, a plane ride, and two train transfers later we had arrived in Interlaken, our home for the night. We were greeted by snow and quiet streets and a hostel bunk bed that offered us quite the view the next morning...

After another train ride, a BUS ride, AND a gondola ride later- Gimmelwald was introduced into my life. 

This is the view I had skiing down. This is maybe the most crowded any run would be- right at the top before people disperse onto different trails. 

The next few photos are from the VERY top of Mt. Schlithorn where we were skiing. Miles and miles of mountains...

This is the man who snapped the above photo for me and eventually he and his friend helped me get back to the part of the mountain I needed to be on at the end of the day. We met in a moment of desperation when I was knee deep stuck in powder on a slope. I had my skis over my shoulder, hiking back down to where I could actually ski, and this man's friend was watching me. I yelled down in the most pathetic tone, "I'm stuck!". Well he thought this was hilarious, started mocking me in his accent, laughing, and then turning his camera onto me trudging down the snowy mountain side. I started to laugh as well and told him I'd really appreciate if he DIDN'T capture this moment on camera and he said, "Ah no big deal, you will make it!". He's a prophet cause I did and upon my arrival to the base of the slope, we watched THIS man in the photo hit an insane jump (which is really why the video camera was out in the first place). I ended up skiing down with them, riding the lift with them and ending my day laughing and whizzing down the mountain with these crazy men who called themselves "Saints on Snowboards". A little overdone, but I'll give them the credit- they did point me back in the right direction.  

above: view outside the Mountain Hostel
below: about to ski down the tip top of Schlithorn - an Austrian friend explained to me that in the Alps they try to make ALL the runs doable for a variety of ages so that the old and the young can still experience the top of the mountain. In that way they differed from the Rockies where it takes a pretty good level of skill to get down the bowls and what not you'll find at the top. Here, although steep and narrow, skiing from the peak is definitely manageable. They throw their 6 years olds out onto these runs. If they can make it, I can make it. And so could you.

The guys I skied with the next day were all about pulling over to jump off huts and what not. I eventually got tired of always stopping and went on my own way- but I DO have this captured on video and it is pretty great.

Back to the train station and on to Interlaken for Sunday afternoon before our evening flight back to Dublin. 

Mama! Now I know where you got the cuckoo clock!

You can't see it, but I'm holding a Bailey's Truffle from this chocolate shop. Dear Lord in heaven did I consume a lot of chocolate that weekend...

(the sign says "Sweet Kisses")

And some final photos of Interlaken- a beautiful little town...

A wonderful trip all in all. Any chance I have to see the mountains I will take. It is a humbling and refreshing feeling to find yourself in the valley of something so vast and magnificent. It's an absolutely perfect reminder of how insignificant some problems we create actually insignificant WE actually are. Not in a self-depreciating way, but in a way that just says never stop taking in all the people that are around you, all the pasts they have lived and the futures they hold because yours is most certainly not the only one. I love that lesson, and the mountains have away of teaching it to me every time. 

Love you all,


p.s- countdown is at 1 WEEK for a visit from Peter and 2 WEEKS for Gage!! Unbelievable!


  1. Another reminder of why I love you so much Laura Wetzel. I was smiling the entire time that I read this blog post. Keep it up.

  2. I was skiing alone - in colorado - just a few hours from you and felt the same beauty and magnitude of the mountains. Lets go skiing together in Switzerland some time. Love you!! P.