Dan Treadway, Matty Richard and Damian Cromwell Take on Europe.
Words by Tan Treadway. Photos by Damian Cromwell
On a Rail
It’s been a tough start in the Pacific North West. Damian Cromwell and I decided to go on our annual pilgrimage to Switzerland. This time we’re joined by fellow Rossignol athlete Matty Richard. We have a plan: arrive in Geneva on the 31st and jump on a train to Verbier in time to give’r for New Years. As we circled Geneva airport waiting for the runway to be cleared of snow I realized that our plans might be thrown out the window before we even make it to Swiss soil. The plane erupts in disappointed travelers as they announce that we are turning back to Amsterdam as we are low on fuel. The only people cheering are the three Canadians ready to send it in Amsterdam.
We’re a bit weary as we jump on the train for Verbier. The only thing holding are heads up is the news that new years brought with it 40 cm of fresh to most of Switzerland. We spend the first few days hiking some of Verbiers classic runs like the 3,000 ft Banana in beautiful sunny skies. We had a great time skiing cold, dry powder to the valley floor. After a few days of getting after it. It’s time to move on.
It’s back on to Swiss rail, east bound to Engelberg. There’s nothing like traveling by train in Switzerland. They are always on time and spotless. It would be nice if they were a bit late sometimes, as they often give you short amounts of time to change trains. Changing a train means, dragging all your ski-bags, gear and camera packs off. Running down stairs or ramps with everything in tow and then back up to the next platform and finally trying to load everything back on the next train. The Swiss like things to run just like the watches they make so no matter if you and all your stuff is on, the train is leaving. They also want everything stowed properly. These sort of rules simply will never work with Canadians and the only thing that saves us is that there will always be another train leaving in an hour.
We checked into a newly reno’d hotel called the Ski Lodge. The place is a great hang out complete with outdoor sauna and amazing food. There was a storm forecasted to hit the day after we arrived but unfortunately it passed us by. So we did what every good Canadian would do, start drinking! Somehow we got ourselves invited to a night of fondue and hot tubing in the alpine with some very intelligent swedish girls. The place we are at sleeps 45 people, houses 2 hot tubs, dining room and is made entirely of snow and ice. The party ended with us skiing 2,500 ft of freshly groomed moonlit snow. Straight to another bar! After a few days of this sort of nonsense we realized that the storm really wasn’t coming so we need to find somewhere that has snow to save our livers.
Italy it is!
We’ve heard that just on the other side of the Swiss alps, it’s been dumping. Hard to believe as 5 km away it’s been clear and cold. Damian and I have been fooled by this before as often it warms up soon as the storm departs from Italy. Friends in Gressoney say that it’s been snowing for a week and is supposed to clear for a few days. So it’s back on and off the train and on and off again. We pulled into the 20 km tunnel at Grand St. Bernard as the sun was coming up, still no new snow. We arrived to a winter wonder land as we emerged from the tunnel. It was like we left Switzerland and came out in Alaska. The mountains are caked in fresh pow and there are spines formed on places that have been rock for at least the past 20 years. As we get closer to Gressoney the snow keeps staking up. We’re a bunch of kids running around the parking lot getting ready to board one of the many lifts that access the valleys of Gressoney, Champo-luc and Alanga. The snow is even better than we could have expected. Blower pow and some of the most diverse terrain I’ve ever seen. We planned to spend a day or two here but the snow is way to good to leave, so we stay and ski! Hopefully not to ride the rails any time soon.
About the author:
Shay Williams is the Managing Editor of Freeskier Magazine. He loves cheeseburgers, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Sweden. He's likely on a plane right now—first class only.