Tuesday, February 23, 2010


The snow forecast suggested that we'd get a flurry, perhaps 1cm. It snowed solidly for 36 hours.. an Andermatt flurry, perhaps. Saturday it was still snowing, and the visibility was largely zero. The Gemsstock lift was shut for the morning due to avalanche danger, which cuts off most of the free riding, and there was a peculiar feel around the slopes - those that had ventured out were sort of hovering in expectation, waiting for the lift to start. Some people were actually skinning up from one of the lower draglifts up towards the ridge delimiting the Giraffe bowl. They were either supremely experienced and confident, or very foolish given the amount of snow that had fallen. The top lift opened about 10, and everyone tried to get on. Visibility was still zero, but we managed to get some good runs in. Sarah's contracted some fever and bad throat, and was feeling a bit shakey, so we retreated to the single slopeside restaurant for a Gulash soup and to warm up. We got some choice conditions for a couple of runs down the runnels of the middle bowl. Towards the afternoon the visibility improved, and we finished on a great run down Felsental.

Krister's back in Andermatt with a bunch of Swedes, and we met up in the Apothek for a beer and to pour over maps and to pick his brains about other tours in the area. The weather forecast for our last week is for more snow showers and generally variable conditions. Not ideal for touring, but hopefully we'll get a chance before it's time to head off.

Sunday was pretty perfect - blue skies, snow during the night, -10. Unfortunately, we were clearly not the only ones that had noticed this, and Andermatt was at its busiest so far, with all the locals and not-quite-so locals making the effort to get out of bed. It took us an hour to get to the top of Gemsstock. We took the traverse around the side, and went down the Giraffe bowl, which was in nearly pristine nick, at least the bits that count. This run is the business. We poled out along Avalanche Alley and suffered another uplift, not quite as busy as in the morning, but still painful. This time we dropped off the back, and booted up to the Guspis col - again to find it as nature intended on the other side. The main bit further down felt wind-polished on the traverse in, with some rocks showing, but as we slid onto the main face it was just perfect, probably one of the best runs we've had so far. We ambled our way down the valley, looking for a spot to sit and eat our sandwiches, but it seemed impossible to find somewhere both in the sun and out of the wind. In the end we sat ourselves down beside the pole-out track most of the way down to Hospental. We made it back on the train to Andermatt for about 3pm, and our 'enthusiasm' for the lift queues got the better of us, and we bailed for the day, as we walked past our flat on our way from the train station.

Monday - mostly nice day, and the place is empty again, the locals clearly having gone back to work. Sarah's illness abated over night, and she found her ski legs again. A local pocket of visibility seemed to have parked itself over Gemsstock, with Felsental, Guspis and also the Giraffe bowl seemingly cloud covered. We picked line after line of perfect powder down the main bowl. It's curious how the place seems to regenerate over night, even after busy days. All of the bowls seem to catch any weather going, and fill in with even the smallest amount of wind, even when there has been no fresh snow fall. Apart from the upper part of Guspis and parts of the Giraffe bowl, everything also seems to be mainly in the shade, and never really hardening from freeze-thaw. We caught the last gondola to the top, and had a nice run down Sonnenpiste and Felsental (complete with epic face-plantage).

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