Helvetian Holiday

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Altogether now: “We’re all going on a..”.

No, can’t see that catching on.

Anyway, we were in Switzerland last week. We being me and the kids. TBH was stuck at work, due to Lancashire and Cumbria opting for different half-terms.

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We were staying with my brother, who lives in Wetzikon near Zurich, and skiing with him and my niece and nephew.

On the first three days of our visit we skied at Atzmännig. First on the nursery slopes…

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Which proved to be the perfect place for us to get reacquainted with skiing after several years’ absence.

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Behind A here you can see what we progressed to next….

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A rather steep button lift with a short steepish red run beside it and a much longer, gentler and more enjoyable blue run curling down the hillside and back to the nursery slopes.

I had a bit of an incident on the button lift when the cord on ones of the ‘buttons’ snapped, depositing me on my behind, sliding head-first back down the hill. This made subsequent rides on the lift pretty nerve-wracking. (I should warn you that comments regarding pies, and the identity of the person who ate them all, can be easily deleted.)

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This is from our third day, when we’d moved on to the chair-lift. The views were excellent, but unfortunately the top of the runs here were steep, icy and bare in places and most of the group found them intimidating. We split the party in two, some returning to the more friendly runs, whilst I stayed with the boys who after a tentative first descent, recovered their gung-ho approach and managed to squeeze in several pell-mell runs. (Inevitably perhaps, it was actually me that injured myself in the end, making an error of judgement and coming over a slight rise much too quickly for my moderate skiing ability).

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The boys also relished these small ramps which somebody had built close to the nursery slopes.

With the snow deteriorating at Atzmännig, we decided to venture a little further afield.

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Brunni is around an hour’s drive from my brother’s and feels decidedly more Alpine in character than Atzmännig, which is in the rolling hills of the Zurich Oberland.

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As you can see, I was very taken with this view of the Haggenspitz and the Kleine Mythen.

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This photo…

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..is taken from slightly further downhill and shows the parlous state of this piste, although fortunately, the rest of it was delightful.

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Generally, after skiing, the kids wanted to play video games or watch films. But on this occasion they all settled down to draw together. They were so absorbed in their art, I couldn’t resist a picture.

The following day brought torrential rain, or heavy snow at higher levels. We went to Satis Park, a sort of swimming pool. There was a wave pool, a heated outdoor pool (it was quite surreal, swimming outside as it snowed), a cascade ride and eight different slides. Obviously, the kids loved it. At one point I found myself on a slide on which I should have been seated on a rubber ring, but wasn’t – I fell off at the start. This was OK to begin with, although a bit rough, especially since I was already quite bruised from the skiing. OK that was, until the point where jets of water under the rubber ring drove it up a small slope. Without the rubber ring I didn’t go up the slope. The jets were remarkably effective at removing my trunks however. Fortunately, the slide was in an enclosed tunnel. Sadly, this section, and only this section, was transparent*. I managed to get to my feet, and retrieve my trunks, hopefully not in that order, only to be knocked down when the jets fired again. Eventually I managed to walk up the incline, narrowly avoiding being mown down by another slider, who was probably quite surprised to overtake me in the tunnel. It’s possible that I’m too old for this kind of thing.

Anyway, the fresh snow was most welcome and the next day we returned to Brunni for what would turn out to be our best day of skiing of the trip (but sadly also our last).

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The Kleine Mythen  and the Haggenspitz again.

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The Grosser Mythen.

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The Haggenspitz and the Kleine Mythen. Yet again.

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On out first visit we’d stuck to the two Haggenegg T-bar lifts. This time we took a ride up the cable car to Holzegg, which gave us an opportunity for a closer look at the Grosser Mythen…

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And, after a little exploration of the area around Holzegg, a delightful run back down to the valley through the trees…

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My brother has recently become the proud owner of a 7-seater VW California Beach**. Since there were seven of us, this proved ideal and we travelled in style.

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The views during the drives were superb, especially on the way to and from Brunni. I was also constantly entertained by the huge number of Buzzards and Kites we saw during every journey.

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Zurich See.

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On the Sunday we had a lazy day, before our flight home, although we did manage to fit in a very pleasant stroll around Wetzikon in the sunshine.

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*At least my shorts didn’t disintegrate completely, which is what happened to our old friend Uncle Fester many years ago on one of the slides at the outdoor pool in Chamonix.

** I’m not jealous. Not remotely. Oh no. Not even a little bit.

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Helvetian Holiday

Skiing at Ghöch

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Once upon a time, a small band of hardened nutcases drove (usually) or ski-trained (once, I think), or even, latterly, flew, once a year, to the winter playgrounds of the Alps. Everything was organised to accommodate maximum time on the pistes – 8 days skiing minimum; first lift in the morning; last lift in the evening to the highest possible station. Après ski wasn’t part of the deal. The aim was an Everest’s worth of descent every day. Single-minded stuff: ski, ski, ski.

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Now, for me at least, priorities changed several years ago. You might be able to guess why! The last time I went skiing, A was a toddler, B was on the way and S was just the proverbial glint. This is all fine, but when the rest of the boys come back from their annual trip, you could maybe forgive me a slight pang of jealousy. (Well, okay, a period of deep green, unbridled envy). Not so this year – we’ve been skiing!

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It was a bit different from Mottaret: we did almost all of our skiing at Ghöch. Mottaret, part of the Three Valleys has hundreds of kilometres of pistes, Ghöch, similarly has hundreds of metres of piste. Well, with one lift and one run shut, as it was that week due to a shortage of snow, leaving…one lift and one run…, maybe a hundred metres, but probably not.

But, as it transpired, this was the perfect place for the kids to learn. The people operating the lift couldn’t have been more friendly and accommodating, although they were a bit non-plussed to have tourists visiting. (“So, why did you come here?”). The sun frequently shone (and when it didn’t, the local swimming-pools were almost equally entertaining), we enjoyed our piste-side meals (picnics), and we managed to squeeze in a little sledging, snowman building, snow-angel making etc. The slope was gentle and wide, the other skiers more children learning and their parents and the queues for the lift were always short. (And if you were little, you were often rewarded with a sweet whilst queuing.)

All this was possible due to the hospitality of my brother and his family, who live in nearby Wetzikon. That’s him doing the ‘I’m a little teapot’ pose in the photo above. As well as putting us up, he was principal chef, and our ski instructor for the week.

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When the kids were all feeling more confident, we did branch out for a day trip to Arvenbüel. The weather wasn’t great, but there was a longer lift (a T bar – which did cause some difficulties) with a run down either side.

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Great fun.

Incidentally, the photos here were all taken by TBH, which is why she doesn’t feature in any of them, except this one….

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…if you look closely. She won a prize for this one – in the Village Show. Fifty pence I think. She’s probably saving it to put it towards our next ski trip.

With the option of Arvenbüel or Ghöch for our last day, our kids unanimously chose Ghöch. S was put-off by the T-bar at Arvenbüel (it was never his fault he fell off it apparently, his companion always pushed him off, whoever that was – I went on it with him, longest 5 minutes of my life, he skied every which way but the way we were going, sometimes two directions at once, one with each ski). A wanted to go back to brave the wee jump which the boys had been enjoying most of the week….

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After the vagaries of the T-bar, the boys were affecting a very nonchalant approach to the simple drag at Ghöch.

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A final view of the mountains…..

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It wasn’t just our kids who learned to ski that week; their aunt, my sister-in-law, having lived in Switzerland for 7 years without being tempted to try downhill skiing, joined us on the nursery slopes, stuck to it with admirable determination , and was skiing confidently by the end of the week.

The kids, needless to say, are hooked. I just need to get them to work on their mum when we plan next years’ holidays. Hmmmm, how many organs will I need to sell to finance a week in Mottaret?

Skiing at Ghöch