Other enjoyment options include walking along the paths that are usually only available in summer. This year with much sun, has revealed the summer paths already behind Wengen. And what a delightful series of hiking paths there are, for example the Gemsen Weg. Gemsen are Chamois or goats who live up in the rocky parts overlooking Wengen.
Taking the path out of Wengen at the end of the village, turn right and past the Cinema /Kino and head for part of the Gemsen Weg. The Gemsen Weg proper, zig zags up under the Männlichen cable car to the peak. However there is a round path that also brings you back through the forest and into the village.
Or left at the end of the village towards the reformed church with its fabulous views of the Lauterbrunnen Valley steeply below. Then continue along the path, after the Hotel Bellevue veer to the right towards Hunneflue. At the Hunneflue, you are looking down toward Zweilütschinen and Wilderswil. From here it is possible to also choose the route via Leiterhorn or a round trip that includes part of the Gemsen weg back into Wengen. There are seats along the way that are needed to take in the spectacular views.
The Männlichen Cabelcar set a technical record in 1957 as the longest single-cable gondola in Europe with a length of 6.2 kilometers. Total journey time was around half an hour and gave one time to eat a picnic lunch in winter to get ready for the afternoon’s skiing. It is faster now.
In 1978, it was also the first gondola lift to have so-called rubber band accelerators, which enable comfortable acceleration and deceleration of the gondolas in the stations.
Now, one can sing one’s way to the top in one of the 2 Karaoke Gondolas!
The website says, “The greatest music hits of all time are waiting to be chosen and can be performed together with the other gondola guests. And of course there are soothing Ricola sweets available so that you can make the most of your singing potential.”
With the cooler December months come Christmas markets and Mulled wine, or Glühwein.
Glühwein literally translates as "Glowing Wine", the name being derived from the time when hot irons were used to heat the drink. If you have not tasted it, then you can make your own. It is a hot beverage consisting of red wine that is gently heated with with various spices such as cinnamon, anis, cloves, cardamom, and citrus fruits. A non-alcoholic mulled wine is called Kinderpunsch.
1.5 liter red wine 2 bottles 75 cl each
4 oranges untreated
3 Cinnamon Sticks
3 star anise
75 ml rum or brandy (optional)
100gr brown sugar if you can get Belgium Rock Sugar
Slice two oranges and juice the two remaining oranges.
Add the red wine, orange slices, and freshly pressed orange juice and spices in a pot. Gently heat the mixture at a low temperature. Do not let it boil! The ideal temperature is 72°C/ 161 °F. Anything over 78°C/172,4°F and the alcohol will evaporate. You can best check this with a cooking thermometer.
Optional Step: leave the Glühwein to sit for an hour or two and then reheat. This will allow for the spices to fully develop their flavour.
I don’t add sugar, as a good wine can speak for itself. But if using a cheaper wine, add some sugar. The right amount of sugar will depend on your personal taste.
For an extra warmth factor, add in some brandy or rum.
To serve, strain out the orange slices and spices and serve the wine hot.
You can also make it in a slow cooker or crock pot so that it will keep warm for your outdoor Grill Fest or BBQ in the crisp winter air.
Just an hour and a half by car (or 2 and a half by train) on the other side of the Breithorn, the tallest peak that you can see from the balcony, is the village of Lötschental.
Do you dare to cross the mountain? At Carnival, these Tschäggättä masked figures will appear in the Lötschental. These bestial creatures are in fact locals from the valley who wear old clothes inside out, with the fur facing outwards. They are covered by two pieces of sheepskin or goatskin, held together by a leather belt with a cow bell ("Trichla") usually hanging down from their leather belt.
Hiding behind their handmade wooden masks, they run alone or in groups through the narrow streets of the mountain villages and frighten those around them and play pranks. This tradition sometimes became so reckless that the Church repeatedly had to prohibit it. Today, the Tschäggättä chiefly roam the valley on "Dirty Thursday",(Shrove Thursday) and hunt down and frighten anyone who is still out on the streets. There is a masked parade in the village of Wiler on the Saturday prior to Ash Wednesday.
The remote valley in the canton of Valais has only been connected to the outside world by a paved road since 1954. And so customs have survived here that are no longer known elsewhere. The Tschäggätta are the most spectacular proof of this.
In the mountain village of Blatten, the last town in the narrow valley, holidaymakers can see the best mask specimens. The "Maskenkeller" is a small museum and houses particularly impressive masks. https://www.loetschentalermuseum.ch/tragmaske-6/
No one really knows were the custom originated. However a story of the shady side of the valley with even poorer inhabitants is also often told: In order to be able to steal a few groceries from their more affluent neighbors on the sunny side without being recognized, they are said to have disguised themselves and thus established the custom.
You can do a mask carving workshop for 49CHF
The Carnival in Lötschental is from 03.02.2023 to 21.02.2023
Tschäggättä-Procession from Blatten to Ferden: 8pm 16. February
Carnival masquerade in Wiler: 3pm 18. February
Being able to control your speed is the most crucial secret. Ripping down the Schilthorn like James Bond is not going to impress anyone if you fall and take 3 people with you breaking bones and worse.
Position and balance are connected to controlling speed and choosing your path down the slope.
• Keep your weight on the balls of your feet.
• Stay balanced over the centre of the skis.
• Keep your body in a stable ‘ready position’ over the middle of the skis. This means all of your skiing joints (ankles, knees and hips) are ‘flexed’ (soft).
• Keep your hands in front of you and relaxed. When your hands are in the correct position, you will be able to pole plant using only your wrist. If you need to reach forwards with your arm or shoulder, your hands are too far back.
• Look where you want to go.
Staying flexed allows your joints to be shock absorbers without damaging your joints. Do not stiffen or Set your muscles.
Try and keep your body at a 90-degree angle to the slope and stay over the centre of the skis. You will need to move forwards with the increasingly steep terrain, otherwise you will be leaning back.
Finish a turn with your weight balanced over the outside (or ‘working/downhill’) ski. The inside edge of the outside ski has the best grip to the snow.
A short turn will help control your speed. Make it a quick short turn. You can always skid at the start of your turn to help slow yourself down until you get more confident.
To make your ski grip early in the turn, think about putting more weight on the outside ski earlier in the turn to give it more pressure and then it should make a more rounded turn.
The longer your skis face down the slope, the faster you will go. So make many short quick turns and look where you are going.
Sometimes the temperatures have been so cooooold at night and the snow grading machines having been hammering away, that by the time you reach the start of a run at 8:30, it is hard packed and icy. Often the machines makes ridges in the snow with their caterpillar feet. These be an edge catcher on a cold morning.
Also at higher altitude when the snow catches hot afternoon sun, like at Wixi or Eiger Nord Wand, it will thaw and freeze overnight when the temperature drops. Another factor to consider is that after a windy storm the loose snow is blown off exposing very hard or icy surfaces.
We all know that shearing sound, like fingernails on a chalk borad. Then ensing muscles and the pain of a fall as if on concrete. If your ski edges are dull, rusty or dinged, they are basically ‘blunt’ and it will not helpy out to turn or stop on ice or hard packed snow. So stay tuned!
If you’ve been skiing a lot of icy runs, look your edges over daily and file the burrs off.
We love our Ski workbench that is also in the ski storage room,, so easy to check edges everyday.
Now you have sharp edges, you still need to adjust your body position to help hold your edges and keep your skis from slipping out from under you. On ice, you want more of your body in the centre and over the centre of your skis so as to keep your edges gripping.
Do this by lowering your hips and, bending from the waist, lean your upper body down the fall-line. This movement helps keep your body weight more on the inside edge of your downhill ski all the while leaning your feet and ankles into the hill for edge grip.
The best body position for controlling your skis on ice depends on the type of skis you are on - twin-tip, fat, the amount of sidecut, ski length and your body-weight distribution. With all these variables it's necessary to practice on a less steep icy slope until you find that comfort zone.
• If you ski with skis close together separate your skis a little more on ice for better stability - but not so far apart that it is difficult to position your weight over the downhill ski.
• If the icy area is just a small patch and you see soft snow downhill from the ice ski across the ice maintaining balance and then turn in the soft snow.
• When coming to a stop on ice don't try to stop suddenly by digging your edges into the ice. Instead, begin the stop by side slipping to a gradual stop applying gentle pressure to the ski edges. You will hear that prolonged scrapping and know you have side slipped well.
• Be confident to plant your poles firmly, otherwise timing, weighting, balance will be lost.
Great early quality snow in December!
Powder places to ski are still fresh to be found.
Spindrift seen here on top of EM & J.
For snow, Spindrift, is defined as fine grained snow being carried by wind or falling. In practice it is usually used to describe the frequent sluffs of snow that fall down steep slopes, gullies, and faces. This occurs frequently during snowfall or warming, but may occur at other times and for other reasons as well.
The reason very steep slopes have less of a slab avalanche danger is because the snow tends to fall off frequently enough to avoid an accumulation, in the form of spindrift avalanches.
Climbers on steep routes during storms often encounter spindrift at regular intervals. They can even anticipate the next one by keeping an eye on their watch. The intervals will depend on rate of snowfall, winds up above, density of the snow, etc
While it can be windy up on the peaks, the ski slopes can be well sheltered. This photo shows the Wixi ski run accessed from Kleine Scheidegg. A popular intermediate run with lots of options and also a choice in white out conditions for its predictability and position.
We all know that slight rubbing that we try and ignore. We hope it will go away. We think maybe it’s just wrinkle in our sock. But we want to ski another run before making a detailed and time consuming inspection that will steal from our precious skiing time. Alas, during our delay, a bubble has formed.
Our skin consists of several layers that usually interlock with one another through fine structures. The upper or outer skin is called the epidermis. Underneath lies the dermis, in which the hair roots and sweat glands are located. The lowest layer, which is still counted as part of the skin, is subcutaneous tissue which contains the blood vessels, among other things.
Whenever something rubs repeatedly, along with warmth and humidity, the interlocking skin layers loosen after a while and tissue fluid flows into the newly created spaces. Voila a bubble is born.
When deeper layers of the skin loosen, blood can also flow in.
Although the liquid now protects the deeper skin layers from even more pressure and damage, the pressure in the tissue is increased. This triggers the “pain” signal to the brain. So avoiding friction of any kind is the best prevention.
1 Footwear must fit well when feet are warm to hot and have swollen. That means no pressure points. And no slip points, such as heel movement. When buying ski boots, if you cannot get a specialist boot fitter, tya and spend as much time in your boots before buying them. An hour in the store is not long enough. Some stores will let you take them home so you can wear them for 6 hours while binge watching Netflix.
2 The right sport socks – the best friends of your feet and they can prevent blisters by keeping the foot dry.
Sock size must fit perfectly with no creases. Socks including merino wool improve the water absorption and still feel dry to the touch. No cotton socks! Running, hiking and skiing socks are simply designed differently.
Special “anti-blister“ socks have a double-layered, which means that the inner and outer socks can move in opposite directions so that the sock rubs against the sock and not on the skin. Clever idea but I haven’t tried them. People say an under sock such as a compression sock can help. I prefer 1 layer as my feet swell and I like a tight boot fit.
3 Foot conditioning can help. Do you wear bare feet at home? That can help to firm up the skin. Ensuring toenails are clipped short will help reduce pressure points.
4 Using Tape in areas you know will blister can help. Ensure no wrinkles when you tape onto clean dry skin. Better to regularly get the best fitting boots. If you ski hard more than 20 days a season, then you need new boots every 2 years. Forget second-hand boots, you’re feet are worth more than that. I did that when I was desperate to ski and I skied in jeans so I could afford to buy my lift ticket.
Here are some ideas for reducing the risk of ski and pole theft while you are enjoying a break inside a cosy mountain side Café.
Also called “Glade Skiing”, it is simply, skiing through trees!
In the 1960’s we skied trees when we yawned over the lift queues and had limited choice for ski runs in our low mountain region. No helmets then, but helmets are a must, so too are googles, no-one wants a poke in the eye by a stick!
Maybe it became popularised in the USA after the 1969 film release of the James Bond’s “On Her Majesty’s Service” that was filmed in the Jungfrau region and specifically around the Schilthorn of course !
In the 1960s, some USA ski resorts included “glade’ runs. Réal Boulanger, who is said to be the father of this trend was recalled to cut a few trees out of a slope that he knew would be in the way, let people ski it for a season, then, “every tree that has blood on it, I’m going to take out.”
Of course it’s dangerous and off piste. But it’s quiet, mystical and exciting. It’s another world.
-Don't use pole straps and you can reduce potential shoulder injury
- Look ahead, trees do not grow evenly spaced, find a 'lane' or line of sight down hill, ski that, then traverse to find another 'lane'. You are looking for spaces, a bit like basketball, don’t look at the trees (or you will ski into what you look at)
- Be decisive and make a solid pole plant
- Understand the terrain and where the slope ends and be sure that the snow cover is solid. Be wary of 'bumps" as they may be tree stumps or rocks. Try and look at an area as you ride a lift if it is a new run
- Exaggerate your edge pressure in the midpart of your turn, reduce your speed. Make yourself a bit smaller by crouching a bit to improve your centre of gravity over your skis. “Go slow, stay low”
-Side slipping confidence is a must as often you don’t have enough room to make the next turn
- Be careful of other people’s tracks or you can get stuck in their ruts
- Carry an accessible whistle, cell phone already loaded with the Air Glacier ski rescue service number Tel: +41 33 856.05.60 and space blanket and make sure your insurance covers off Piste adventures
- Be careful of "tree wells" — a space of loose, deep snow that can form around tree trunks. They are most common around evergreen trees and can be deeper in heavy snowfall years
- Don’t make it your last run of the day or late in the day
-ALWAYS ski with someone you trust to look out for you and always know where each other is at all times
- Don’t try it with one ski like James Bond who ended in a face plant pictured above
See James Bond Ski chase through trees:
While it is usually called Cross country skiing, Skating or Langlauf, it feels like gliding.
In Lauterbrunnen there is a beautiful 12 km track that is flat and for non-skiers, this is a great way to enjoy some skiing in the quietness of the snowy winter landscape. Glide by the White Lütschine river, listen to the snow crisp under your skies and finish at Stechelberg Hotel for a hot chocolate, Schnapps or hearty Rösti.
Completely stress free and it feels magic to glide and slide without the terror of speed if you don’t like sledging or tobogganing downhill at speed.
Where: The Lauterbunnen trail starts from the Sportanlage. The brown sport hall that you can see left from the dining room window.
Cost: Free with the Lauterbrunnen guest card (in your welcome basket). Usually it is 6CHF per day.
How: The equipment can be rented at the Alpia Sport in Lauterbrunnen.
Opening times: Depending on snow conditions, it trail is not always open, you can phone +41 (0)33 856 85 68 to check or ask at the Tourism office. After snowfall, bad weather, or similar It may be that the track is not immediately prepared again. You can also see yourself if there is sufficient snow. If it is closed there will be a round red border sign with white in the middle. This means closed.
Note: you cannot walk on the trail. It is only for cross country skiing. If you walk on it, you will damage the surface with your boots and cause potential injury to users as their skis will get stuck in the foot tracks.
There is also a 1 km long cross-country ski track on Grindelwald-First called “Gänsböden”,
The use of the trail is free. However, the cross-country guests need a valid ticket for the Firstbahn (gondola ticket, ski pass, etc.)
The trail is about 15 minutes on foot from First Bergstation (via Winterwander- und Schlittelweg Nr. 50) in the Gänsböden (Above Adi's Skibar) to about 2,300 meters above sea level.
See map below with green cross X.
The cash register Firstbahn can / will provide information about the current trails.
There is still plenty of winter snow fun here in Lauterbrunnen and the Jungfrau region.
Sledging means speed and power in the bends. Whizz down the mountain on fast runners and stamp through snowy landscapes.
For non-stop sledging, including at night, on the steep Eiger run below the Eiger North Wall. In the shadow of the Eiger with a dash into the valley, the Eiger Run is a spectacular sledging run by day with a gradient of up to 36 per cent. However, the 3.5 kilometre stretch from Alpiglen to Brandegg is even more exciting at night. The Wengernalp Railway chugs its way up to the start to Alpiglen at night as well, and as the journey takes just five minutes, with the sledging ticket you can ride the run as often as you like. The burned calories can be quickly regained with a fondue in the Alpiglen or Brandegg alpine chalets, where you can stay up all night – right next to the illuminated sledging run.
Eiger Evening trips (Illuminated sleigh fun)
Daily from 26 December 2018 to 5 January 2019
Thursday to Saturdays from 10 January to 9 March 2019
"Big Pintenfritz", the longest sledging track in the world is the tour over the Faulhorn, from Grindelwald-First by foot and then a 15 kilometre descent into the valley.
It takes about two and a half hours to pull your sled behind you before you can try "Big Pintenfritz", the longest sledging run in the world. The start on the Faulhorn (2680 m above sea level) is only reachable from First (by Cable car from Grindelwald) on foot. The ascent is long but the hair-raising run into the valley is fantastic: The bravest sledgers run the 15-kilometre distance in about 30 minutes. Provided you do not leave the trail, for example, for a stop at the Bergrestaurant Bussalp.
Take the nostalgic cableway from Isenfluh to Sulwald and the start of your descent through the snowy winter wonderland. And off you go – sledging along the long, gentle road through the forest, or the short, fast mountain path, back down into the idyllic village of Isenfluh. Take a moment to warm up in the Sulwaldstübli at the top station before your next ride and admire the spectacular views.
1. Sulwald–Isenfluh (forest route, 4 km)
This gentle route begins at the Sulwaldstübli and descends past the Sulsbach waterfall before arriving in Isenfluh.
2. Sulwald–Isenfluh (mountain path, 2 km)
If you like fast, adventurous descents, then this mountain path route is for you, beginning at the Sulwaldstübli and ending in Isenfluh.
3. Isenfluh–Lauterbrunnen (old road to Isenfluh, 3 km)
Providing there is sufficient snow, the toboggan run from Sulwald to Isenfluh can be extended further. The toboggan route continues along the old Isenfluh road from Isenfluh down to Lauterbrunnen. Keen tobogganers can then take the Postbus back up to Isenfluh for another run.
Post Bus (opposite the bus stop for Stechelberg at Lauterbrunnen rail station) from Lauterbrunnen to Isenfluh
You wouldn’t go skiing without insurance for accidents on the slopes would you? Be sure that you ski insurance covers off piste snow in case your friends lure you in that direction as it is becoming popular.
Also check if you insurance covers air lifting off the slopes. In the unfortunate situation that you do need to be airlifted, Air Glaciers’ rescue helicopter will fly you down to the Lauterbrunnen Doctor and the fly you on to the Interlaken hospital. Air Glaciers offer a membership for airlifting you off without charge if you are injured. While it last the whole year, for 35CHF it is really cheap insurance, especially if you ski off piste. Air Glaciers also provide Heli-skiing.
You can walk down the road to their office | Email [email protected] | Tel : +41 33 856.05.60
Do you know all the rules of the International Ski Federation?
You often see them on a sign board while waiting in a lift queue but then you could also be looking uphill at where you want to ski next.
1. Respect for others
A skier or snowboarder must behave in such a way that he does not endanger or prejudice others.
2. Control of speed and skiing or snowboarding
A skier or snowboarder must move in control. He must adapt his speed and manner of skiing or snowboarding to his personal ability and to the prevailing conditions of terrain, snow and weather as well as to the density of traffic.
3. Choice of route
A skier or snowboarder coming from behind must choose his route in such a way that he does not endanger skiers or snowboarders ahead.
A skier or snowboarder may overtake another skier or snowboarder above or below and to the right or to the left provided that he leaves enough space for the overtaken skier or snowboarder to make any voluntary or involuntary movement.
5. Entering, starting and moving upwards
A skier or snowboarder entering a marked run, starting again after stopping or moving upwards on the slopes must look up and down the slopes that he can do so without endangering himself or others.
6. Stopping on the piste
Unless absolutely necessary, a skier or snowboarder must avoid stopping on the piste in narrow places or where visibility is restricted. After a fall in such a place, a skier or snowboarder must move clear of the piste as soon as possible.
7. Climbing and descending on foot
A skier or snowboarder either climbing or descending on foot must keep to the side of the piste.
8. Respect for signs and markings
A skier or snowboarder must respect all signs and markings.
At accidents, every skier or snowboarder is duty bound to assist.
Every skier or snowboarder and witness, whether a responsible party or not, must exchange names and addresses following an accident.
When you have that one precious week a year to ski, it is even more important to get your body ready for it because you don’t want to be on the sofa after over doing it on your first day out and now nurse a broken something for the rest of your week. No fun, experience says.
Being ski fit will give you confidence to pick up where you finished on your last ski trip and not take you the whole week to make progress. Here are some doable exercise to get your started from the Body Works Clinic. http://www.thebodyworksclinic.com/getting-ski-fit-how-to-avoid-injuries-on-the-slopes/
Aim for 3 sets of each exercise, three times a week. Try and do a couple of cardio sessions a week too for stamina.
Heel Drops to Prepare Your Legs.
This move strengthens your calves, glutes and ankles.
Stand with your heels hanging off the the edge of a step
Lower your heels until you can feel a stretch in your calves. Hold onto something if you need to
Pull your bellybutton in.
Lift your heels up as high as you can, your heels should be higher than your toes.
Lower back down to the start position for 1.
Do 15 reps
Lateral Towel Jump for ski fitness
You do not need to go this high for this exercise to be effective!
Lateral Jumps for Faster Reactions
This helps you learn to keep your feet apart letting your legs do the work while keeping your upper body stable.
Get a rolled up towel and place it on the floor
Stand with feet hip width apart next to the towel
Jump from one side of the towel to the other as fast as you can
Keep your feet hip width apart (that’s the tricky bit!)
Make sure you land with your weight on both feet.
Do this for 1 minute
Crossover Lunge for Ski fitnessCrossover Lunge for Injury Prevention
This helps prevent falls by building stable joints.
Stand with your weight on your left leg.
Bend your left knee as deeply as you can while pushing your right leg behind and to your left.
Keep the right leg straight
Keep your chest and shoulder UP and facing forward.
Tap your right toe to the floor
Breathing out, push through your left heel as you stand up to complete.
Repeat 15 times then switch legs.
Side lunges for ski fitnessSide Lunges for Smooth Turns
Build strength in your legs for quick weight shifts on the slopes.
Stand with feet wide apart
Bend your left knee, keeping your right leg straight.
Transfer your weight over so that your right knee is bent and your left leg is straight.
Keep your back straight and your chin up
Keep your belly button in
Repeat 20 times
Squats to Avoid Thigh Burn
Stretching your thighs and stabilising your pelvis will boost your endurance and technique.
Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width and knees slightly bent.
Squat down as far as comfortable.
Clench your buttocks to push yourself back up.
Remember to always keep your chest and eyes UP so you are using thighs and buttocks.
Toes slightly out (if you have stiff ankles) or feet straight – both are fine”
Repeat 15 times.
At some time, your favourite comfortable Ski boots will need replacing. A sad but true necessity. A necessity because sloppy soft boots or any poor fitting boots where your feet have too much movement, will mean that you will not be able to manage your ski edges and control your skis well. It could be dangerous. This will be particularly noticeable on steeper slopes, icy places or that sugary or slushy stuff we surf through in late afternoons.
My 8 year plus boots were OK in the morning but by noon I could not tighten them enough and my skis wobbled constantly. The boots were old and soft. So I hired a pair from Crystal Intersports in Lauterbrunnen for 2 days. Wow oh wow. No wobbling skis, more confidence and better skiing. The hire boots were new Tecnica Mach 1 105 a good boot for women since the heel was narrow so my feet didn’t lift up. And they were so lightweight! The hire person said that if one skis a lot, then one needs new boots every 2 years.
Not having CHF449 I needed to think of another option, though the hire shop did say I could purchase them for CHF350 since they had half a season’s use. Something to ponder on.
In our attic were an ancient 12 year old pair of men’s boots that I had skied in earlier. With a wide foot, I had bought second hand men’s boots that had worked reasonably well. But when I re discovered them, oh my, I could get the top part tight enough but not over the foot and with too much movement my skis were messy and I felt unsafe. So I visited Molitor ski shop in Wengen. There are 3 ski equipment shops in Wengen but I think Molitor offer the most diverse and personalised service and are ever so helpful. One can also buy ski boots there as well as hire. https://www.molitor.ch/en/ Molitor offer an amazing boot fitting analysis and service. https://www.boot-doc.com
They can analyse your feet since most pairs of feet are different in themselves and then custom fit each of your boots to each foot correctly.
The technician was able to retro fit my ancient boots with a neoprene sock to reduce the space and movement in the boot for CHF39. I was invited to ski and try it before paying for it! What great service. Boots that are too big are bad. When buckling up, the technician told me that in a properly sized boot, the buckle clip should be somewhere near the beginning of the buckle ladder or catches.
Ski boot shells are made in different widths and experienced skiers will opt for a narrower boot although the wider boot can be more comfortable around the calf of the leg. The closer the plastic of the boot is to the foot when it is narrow, then the boot has better contact with the ski and so hopefully performs better. The width of the boot is called the "Last" with sizes such as 95, 98, 100, 102, 104mm.
The "Flex" index refers to how stiff the boot is in the forward position. A 98mm last boot in a 100 flex will be stiffer than a 120 flex in a 102mm lasted boot because of the last since the wider the last, the softer the flex will be. The range for flex can be 70 -120. Flex index above 100 are highly responsive and generally offer greater sensitivity for those who ski with confidence, speed and challenging slopes. The ratings are only comparable within each brand. When trying boots in store, they will have a softer flex at the warmer indoor temperature. Cold temperatures stiffen plastic so store your boots off season buckled up and not in a cold place. Also make sure that they are completely dry and clean including dry liners.
Ski boots may have their size printed on them, called Mondo point e.g. Mondo 26.5 women's is about shoe size 9.5 US 41 EU 7.5 UK. Also the boot sole length in millimetres will be stamped near the heel. This is useful for adjusting bindings or trying out skis.
I decided that buying second hand boots is just not an option. Finally I bought some little used ex-rental Dalbello boots (199CHF) that were a size smaller than my old boots! Thanks to the correct fitting by the Molitor technician they are warm, comfortable, so light and I can feel the snow through the skis. Even only 2 weeks skiing a year deserves comfort, ski control and confidence that I think only new hire boots or your own correctly fitted boots can provide.
p.s. If you are hiring or buying ski boots, take along your skis, the socks you would ski in and cut your toenails.
Last month I wrote “yes under your helmet” referring to wearing a thin woollen hat.
Some folks have said to me that a helmet is not essential and can reduce one’s vision and ability to hear. They also said that people can feel artificially safer and so ski/board more recklessly. Also it was said, that having skied for so many years, now in these sunset years why bother?
Head injuries can occur as a result of collision, or impact with the snow. Often at high speed. Research published in the British Medical Journal shows that wearing a helmet reduces head injuries by 35 per cent.
In some regions, wearing a helmet is compulsory. While in France and Switzerland there are no rules, although the ski schools strongly encourage it but in Italy it’s compulsory up to the age of 14.
So why haven’t the Swiss made it mandatory when their culture is typical safety orientated?
The Swiss Council for Accident Prevention say the average ski related head injuries is 17,000 per year. After several prevention campaigns "Enjoy sport – protect yourself" their 2010 report noted extensive research into the increased use of helmets and the effectiveness of wearing a ski helmet. From the available results of the studies, it is impossible to determine whether primarily light or severe injuries can be prevented. Nevertheless, no precise details on the protective effect of a helmet can be given as the results achieved differ according to the study design.
They note that, “It is important that the helmet fits as snugly as comfort allows and that the chin straps are always tightly fastened. The protective effect is strongly dependent on the impact speed of the head against an obstacle or the ground”.
The study noted some useful recommendations such as ski rental companies supplying a helmet free of charge and aerial cableway companies could ensure that only advertising in which snow-sport participants wear helmets is shown in their snow-sport areas. “The message to young people should on no account be that not wearing a helmet is cool.”
Dr Mike Langran, president of the International Society For Skiing Safety, says “But all the people who have looked at the data realise the risk of serious injury is too small to make them mandatory.”
According to the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA),there has been an associated 50% reduction in head injuries for those wearing helmets.
The Swiss expect people to take responsibility for themselves and have the freedom of choice while acting sensibly.
Personally, there are enough silly people waving their ski stocks around and inappropriately carrying their skis on their shoulders, to ensure that I put my helmet on around the train station as well as on the slopes.
Image Credit: mape_s
A Polar bear’s coat has two layers of hair: an outer layer, made up of long (5-15cm) clear guard hairs that are hollow core filled with air; and a thick undercoat, made up of shorter hair. When sunlight shines on Polar bear outer guard hairs, it causes a reaction known as luminescence and makes them look white but their hair is clear and the skin is black.
Not saying you need to wear clear clothes like the story about the Emperor’s new clothes, just referring to the layers. Your base “undercoat” close fitting layer needs to wick away moisture e.g. wool or thermal, then a middle layer to trap body heat e.g. a thin down jacket or a thin merino wool jumper. And an outer layer totally waterproof and breathable to protect from the weather (this is totally the most important layer). Repeat for the legs.
Waterproof Gloves or Mittens are a must. Always have a spare pair with you. And thick socks are better than 2 thin pairs that will bunch and scrumple and give you grief and pain. There are even heated versions https://www.ellis-brigham.com/brands/therm-ic
A woollen hat (yes under your helmet) or head scarf on hot sunny days, is also important to reduce your moisture loss and keep your brain functioning. A buff or neck scarf is also a good cold stopper. Always have one with you. And of course eye protection, googles and glasses.
1. Snow is Not White - it is clear and colourless.
“The complex structure of snow crystals results in countless tiny surfaces from which visible light is efficiently reflected. What little sunlight is absorbed by snow is absorbed uniformly over the wavelengths of visible light thus giving snow its white appearance.” (National Snow and Ice Data Center)
2. 12% of the earth’s surface is ice or snow. 80% of all the freshwater on earth is frozen as ice or snow.
3. All snowflakes have 6 sides.
“The oxygen atom has a particularly strong attraction to the electron clouds of the two hydrogen atoms and pulls them closer. This leaves the two hydrogen ends more positively charged, and the center of the “V” more negatively charged. When other water molecules “brush up” against this growing snowflake, strong forces between the negatively charged and positively charged parts of different particles cause them to join together in a very specific three-dimensional pattern with a six-sided symmetry. Each water molecule that joins the snowflake reflects this pattern until eventually we can see its macroscopic six-sided shape.” ( Learner.org)
4. Identical? "it is indeed extremely unlikely that two complex snowflakes will look exactly alike. Nano-snowflakes can be exactly alike. Small snow crystals can look alike.Larger, complex snowflakes are all different. (www.snowcrystlas.com)
5. Snow is a mineral, just like diamonds and salt.
6 At the center of almost every snow crystal is a tiny mote of dust, which can be anything from volcanic ash to a particle from outer space. "As the crystal grows around that speck, its shape is altered by humidity, temperature, and wind; the history of a flake’s descent to Earth is recorded in its intricate design".(http://discovermagazine.com/2008)
7. Freshly fallen snow is typically 90 to 95 percent air, which is what makes it such a good thermal insulator.
8. Don’t eat the yellow snow but also don't eat red snow, either: “Watermelon snow,” ruddy-tinted drifts that smell like fresh watermelon, gets its color from a species of pigmented algae that grows in ice. The snow tastes great, but eating it will give you the runs.
9 Too much snow can drive a person crazy. Pibloktoq, a little-understood hysteria seen in people living in the Arctic, can cause a wide range of symptoms, including echolalia (senseless repetition of overheard words) and running around naked in the snow.
Do you know some other cool things about snow?
1. Start training. If you work a desk job and don’t exercise as often as you would like, use the stairs as often as possible and do squats and some basic exercises indoors at home. Doesn’t have to be at a costly gym to prepare for your ski holiday. It’s doing little things that get your heart rate up that will really make a difference.
2. As Kleine Scheidegg is at altitude ie over 2000m, be sure to pace yourself upon arrival. If you push yourself or do not hydrate or eat adequately during your first couple of days, you may not be able to maximize your skiing experience. Carry water with you while you ski. You will see many skiers with a camel pack.
3. Every day while you are here, check the weather daily (there are great weather cams on https://www.jungfrau.ch) and dress for it. Layers work well. It is easy to add or remove articles of clothing as the temperature rises and falls. Ski with a small back pack.
4. Cover the basics. Wear 30+ sunscreen (and reapply it often), even if it’s overcast as well as proper eye protection. Always have a pair of googles in your jacket or backpack. Additionally, when considering purchasing or renting boots, take your time. This will make yourskiing much more comfortable and pleasant.
5. While skiing, make sure that everyone in your group is skiing at his or her own level and pace. Not everyone can or wants to ski black runs. This will make for a better experience for all. And there is so much variety from Schilthorn, Mannlichen, EIgergletscher, Grindlewald, plenty or long runs for every level.
6. Start out simple and move to more complex runs. Even World Cup ski racers and X-Games athletes start on the easier slopes, jumps, and rails and build up. A great freestyle mantra is: “Pre-ride, re-ride, free-ride.” Keep this in mind as you check out your snow playground opportunities. Starting out on more basic blue slopes, you’ll be more likely to avoid injury and can continue advancing to more difficult black slopes as you familiarize yourself with the weather, the changes of weather through the day, where it might get icy and at what time, ask people on your lift ride. Each day, get a feel for the snow, the groomers are active all night, consider the weather and choose a ‘where to ski plan’ for each couple of hour so you can decide whether to advance or hold off for an extra day.
7. Have you got kids with you? Consider lessons for them too. With instructors, your kids are likely to complain less and to learn and explore more. You will be amazed at their growth in confidence through a week of lessons.
8. Be sure to ski on Day 1. That way, you'll start getting to know the runs and rhythm of the trains and lifts right away. If you decide you want a bigger challenge and need some guidance, go with a pro, take a lesson. It’s always good to take a few lessons every year, you do want to improve don’t you?. An instructor can help you with your technique, suggest the appropriate runs to practice on, challenge you, and show you around the mountains.
9. Many Swiss skiers seems to take a mid-morning break and if it’s sunny, they will enjoy an extra-long lunch on a balcony somewhere to soak up some rays. So make the most of skiing when everyone else is in a food queue.
10. With Jungfrau ski tickets, you can get great discounts on line when you buy at least 21 days in advance. You can also get ski passes from the tourism bureau in Lauterbrunnen.
Big fluffy flakes have been flying and floating all day past the window. We can still see the Staubbach tumbling down, though with less water in winter of course. But snow....Big ones, small ones, always a curious thing.
Snow itself is not actually white and has many designs but always seems magical. Even when trudging through a snow storm holding onto a rope can have it's hidden memorable moments of solitude and magic.
Snow , a book written by PD Eastman and illustrated by Roy McKie in 1962 that I fondly remember from my childhood. As book number 27 in the Beginner Book series, I could recall it all, along with scenes such as the snow fort, the dog sliding down the snow on his tail, the melting snow man and most importantly, the attempt by the children to save some snow in their refrigerator.
“Snow! Snow! Snow! Come out in the snow. Snow! Snow!
Just look at the snow! Come out! Come out! Come out in the snow.
I want to know If you like snow. Do you like it? Yes or no? Oh yes! Oh Yes!
I do like snow.
Do you like it In your face?
Yes! I like it any place.
What is snow?
We do not know. But snow is lots of fun We know.
What makes it snow? We do not know.
But snow is fun To dig and throw.”
Looking for some outdoor fun when it’s too cloudy up top or you want to rest your wallet?
Snow shoeing delivers some soft powder feeling along with the freedom to go where you want. Usually it is uncrowned and all you hear is the snap of ice breaking off trees or the hush of snow slipping in the sun.
Prepare your ego to be overtaken by the 70+ crowd and remember to soak in the quietness and stunning views. Take a thermos of hot liquids and water bottle as you will use more energy than you think along with water and sweat , so replenish your body fluids regularly along the way.
Numerous Pink signs point to some trails behind Wengen.
A fun thins is to test yourself and try running downhill in untracked snow with your arms out wide. It is a real thrill, but keep our eyes open.
Of you could take a walk along the farm road past the Staubbachfall and count how many waterfalls are flowing in winter.
When children are unfamiliar with the cold and snow, a walk in a snowy winter wonderland can be a disappointment rather than a Christmas card joy.
Naturally you will know the temperament of your kids well and whether they have the capacity to persevere with a little hardship such as walking through soft snow. Sometimes staying on a well packed snow trail is a better choice. Let them wander at their own pace.
First important factor is, the cold. You already know about dressing in lots of layers and this applies for your children too. The first layer should be a thin long sleeve and leggings. Items made from merino wool or polyester are the best choice. Avoid Cotton since it absorbs a lot of moisture but does not dry well.
A fleece and another pair of trousers, such as sweatpants, work as a second layer. Then the outer layer of a snowsuit or snow pants with a matching winter jacket is essential.
Also carrying a spare warm woolen jumper is also a good tip, as is a spare pair of mittens. Thick mittens are better than gloves as the fingers help to keep each other warm. I prefer mittens myself over the top of thin under gloves.
Threading a piece of wide ribbon through the sleeves inside the jacket and then attaching the mittens loosely, can help children from losing these essential hand protectors. Their tiny hands get cold super fast.
A proper winter hat , not made of nylon, and a woolen scarf will help keep out the cold. Footwear must be waterproof, warm and breathable such as Gortex. Simple gumboots do not work and feet will freeze very fast. Choosing something with a good gripping sole is also key to being able to help drag a sled and walk uphill. When trying out footwear, get your kids to run in them, since that’s what they will want to be doing in the snow.
Next is the weather and time of day. Think about where the sun will be. In our beautiful Lautebrunnen valley, a walk along the farm road to Stechleberg mid winter is best during the middle of the day. Direct sun will be around 10:00 to 13:00 due to the 300 m high cliff walls on either side. The 5 Km to Schilthorn Cable car station along the road will take you those 4 hours. Then you can take the bus back. There is a toilet at the cable car station and some benches to rest on along the way. Of course you can walk another hour onto Stechellburg and catch the bus back from there as well.
A day up at Wengen will give you more sun time and a chance to toboggan down the slopes and go for a walk through winter forests and other paths away from skiers. Make plan to catch the train down before the skiers finish around 16:00 so your tired kids will not feel overwhelmed by skiers. Walking down the steep hill to Lauterbunnen will take a few hours and the safety depends on the snow conditions and depth. If the path is well packed, there will be enthusiastic skiers buzzing down and it is not the place to be since it is so narrow and steep.
You can always ask at the Tourist offices who will know what is a suitable track to match the snow conditions. The Staubbachfall can be seen from below but the track to behind it's gallery is closed in winter.
After saving up for your holiday , your skis and your clothes, you don't want to have your skis stolen while enjoying a coffee.
It is annoying enough that people stomp over your skis in a life line, I hate that. The chances of having your new skis nicked while stashed in a rack, could be slim, but that's not the point.
If you park your skis next to more expensive skis, in the hope that the thieves will steal the more expensive ones, that is not always the case. The thieves may choose the less costly ones as it is less obvious. Since bindings are so easy to adjust, it#s not hard for thieves to ski off in a new pair of skis.
I'm wondering when someone will invent a mini GPS for skis. When you've skied on well designed or custom made skis, it is such a wonderful experience, you understand why prole want to steal them.
Here are some ideas for reducing the chances of ski and pole theft while you are enjoying lunch inside a cozy mountain side Café;
• KRYPTO GRIP locks by KRYPTONITE Some say that the combination types are easy to break into, whereas these have keys.
• Put skis in the rack next to a pair of brand new Skis
• Separate your skis with a friend
• Write your name or email address on the skis or use an engraving pen. Write in Chinese!
• Paint your skis so that they look less lovely to would be thieves.
• Record the serial numbers and brand of your skis and photograph them and your poles
• Sew a cloth name label into the loops of the ski poles. Decorate your poles with some coloured insulating or holographic wrapping sticky tape
• Don't take them off, keep skiing.
Where dreams begin for outdoor adventures in the inspiring Jungfrau region