by Elizabeth Moore & Paul Prentice
We enjoyed the SCoM trip to Cervinia, of course — it was great to see everybody again and have a fun time together. But for me there was no escaping my feeble return to skiing, two years after my ACL injury at St Christoph, and my general reluctance and timidity which meant I only skied four days out of six. So, in an attempt to reclaim the situation and get some oomph back, I decided to ‘get back on the bike’ and have another skiing holiday. As it also happened to be our thirtieth wedding anniversary, Switzerland was to be the destination, no expense spared*.
As we have a campervan, we drove down via France (picking up a full compliment of Sahara sand while overnighting at Dole, in the French Jura), and headed for Zinal, the highest village in the Val d’Anniviers. In 2010 we’d walked the Haute Route, Chamonix to Zermatt, and stayed a night in Zinal, and thought it would be nice to come back and ski there sometime. We stayed in the same hotel, Le Trift, old, wooden and somewhat basic, but with good food.
The skiing in the Val d’Anniviers is spread over several characterful villages: Zinal, Grimentz, St Luc/Chandolin, Vercorin and Valloire, all separate but linked by bus (or between Zinal & Grimentz, a cable car). We started in Zinal — nice area, good snow, if soft, and plenty of skiing. Next day we drove to Grimentz — a bit livelier, but still very quiet, good snow, nice skiing. Then, following a recommendation from club member Ronnie Maclean, we drove round to St Luc on a precipitous narrow road, and found a charming and completely empty ski area there. The fourth day we went to St Luc again, but from the top went over to Chandolin. However, the snow was much icier there, so we came back over to the St Luc side, and ended the day skiing from the top (nearly) back down to the bottom via a pleasant if occasionally tricky run which ended up at the apres-ski venue of choice from where a bus ran every ten minutes back to the village.
The only downside of these otherwise lovely small ski resorts is that there are lots of drag lifts. Some were long and steep, and unpleasant, but after four days I was beginning to feel quite relaxed on them. But then, near the end of the last day, on the last lift up ready for the last run down, as the lifts were closing, I managed to fall off the drag lift about three-quarters of the way up on a weird downhill bit. Thankfully there was an itinerary run nearby and we managed to get back down to the bottom of the lift, which had officially closed but was still running, and were able to go back up — otherwise it would have been a long hike.
The next day we left the Val d’Anniviers and headed north to the Jungfrau ski region via the Lötschberg tunnel, one of several tunnels where a car transporter train takes you through under the mountain when the passes over are closed in winter. We camped the night at Kandersteg, right next to the ski piste down to the village, and spent the afternoon walking up to Oeschinensee, a frozen lake that you could walk across — amazing! We then went to Lauterbrunnen and got the train up to Wengen to stay a couple of nights with friends there, and do some more skiing in the most scenic resort in the Alps (in my opinion; other preferences may apply).
Generally, on this holiday my skiing was much better; I didn’t have that feeling of dread first thing; and apart from stupidly falling off the drag lift I was much more capable and confident, and am now looking forward to future ski trips. We also had several lovely walks in the snow, which was why we went to Switzerland in the first place (to do other snowy things if the skiing didn’t work out).
The Val d’Anniviers wouldn’t really be the place for a club trip — too spread out, and not enough skiing in the individual resorts for the piste-eaters, but there is (in a good snow year) lots of good off-piste, and very few people. Also, Switzerland is super-expensive, or so we thought. *But surprisingly our eleven-day holiday actually worked out cheaper than the ‘great deal’ eight-day club holiday in Cervinia (if we discount the cost of replacing a wing mirror that we unfortunately smashed driving onto the Lötschberg tunnel train). And driving to Switzerland is probably quicker than flying from Manchester to Tignes, judging by Tony’s account in the last newsletter. And we didn’t catch covid in the airport queue. We’d certainly consider doing it again.