It’s mid-November here in Chatel and there is still no sign of the long awaited snow. A lot of people here are getting quite edgy about this but as I keep pointing out to them, I arrived about this time last year and it didn’t snow meaningfully until the start of December.
|my piste. mine.|
In a bid to beat the Movember blues (and the tragic-ness that is my moustache attempt), Irish Matt, French Miche and myself took a day trip to Saas-Fee on Friday as we had heard that conditions were good. Additionally, it was a day off in France for Remembrance Day but crucially, not in Switzerland as they don’t celebrate it, so we were sure of the place to ourselves.
What a day it turned out to be. A 6.30am start in Chatel as well as a few stops for coffee, fuel and breakfast, meant that we were heading up the familiar lifts to 3500m by 9am and we were greeted at the top by fresh powder lines and immaculate pistes.
As is my style, I took the wrong equipment and was struggling to get my GS skis to float in the flatter sections of pow, so I couldn’t hit the fresh snow like my snowboarding mates but we were still having an absolute ball nevertheless.
The only issue at Saas-Fee when you are up on the glacier is looking out for crevasses that have been covered up with new snow. I was feeling a real sense of foreboding the times that I was skiing off piste and I didn’t stray too far into the deep. I’ve learned to recognise and listen to my 6th sense on days like this.
I thought that we would be skiing the glacier all day but it turns out that snow had fallen all the way down to 2500m and that you could ski all the way to the middle station. The pistes were in incredible condition and at the sort of gradient that you could really get your carve on. I was now loving my skis, using them for their true purpose but by the end of the day, I was skiing back with cramp in both legs after making the most of the super grippy snow. You can really feel the difference between real snow and snow cannon snow when you’re trying to get everything out of a stiff ski.
We went for a total of about 5 hours in the end with only a short stop for coffee (CHF27 for 3 Irish coffees – wow!). The lift ticket is steep at CHF68 but with the instructor licence, it was only CHF41 for me! It takes about 1h45m to get there from Chatel and is only a 5 minute walk to the lifts from the car park.
We had a short moment at 11am to remember those who died making our way of life possible for us all and when I think back to how I used to spend the 11th day of the 11th month in the UK, a day enjoying fresh snow in Saas-Fee strikes me as a much better tribute.