Alpspitz (1943m)

The avalanche risk is at "considerable" level, so I settle for a quick and easy snow shoe trip at low altitude with a Southerly approach. Most everybody else is away skiing, making this a solo trip. I drive to Vaduz, the capital of Lichtenstein, and head up the Alpspitz. You can take the car almost two thirds of the way up the mountain, but I consider that cheating and start all the way down in the valley. As a result, I have the entire trail to myself. I reach the summit around noon. My original plan was to continue along the ridge to the neighboring Helwangspitz. I make it half way there before a sign stops my progress: this is a wildlife refuge during the winter months. I knew this going in, but on my map it looked as if the protected area would start below the ridge instead of right on it. Ah well. I briefly consider continuing North along a different ridge, but that is a much harder trail, much steeper and more exposed and the early afternoon snow is dangerously soft and slippery. Turn around time. Still a very nice trip and a good start of the season - really looking forwards for the weather to improve and to start the climbing and mountaineering season in earnest ;-)

~17km, ~1400m up and down

Säntis in the distance.
Cool hut with a cool tree house...
...and an even cooler view!
Alpspitz summit.
Vaduz in the Rhine valley.
I had the summit all to myself.
Mine are the only tracks...
...and this is why. Too dangerous to continue in bad snow.
Looking back along the ridge to the Alpspitz.


Skiing in Laax

We followed up our day of sledding with three days of skiing. Anyone can enjoy sledding from day one, but skiing requires some practice. So the group split up based on their experience. We had the full range of skill represented from "Never stood on skis in my life" over "Skied once as a teenager" to "Going heli skiing in Alaska". The three "ski bunnies" Anita, Anke and Sarah took beginner's lessons with a private instructor. According to my cousin Anton, leading the group of "Crazy Canadians", if you've seen one groomed slope you've seen them all. Consequently they headed off piste with the very first lift up the mountain. Most of the rest of us tried to keep up with them.

The gang: Torsten, Richard, Anselm, Volker, Sören, Tor, Anton, Tracy, Liv.

This was my first powder and off-piste experience on a brand new pair of skis to boot. The best I can say for my skiing is that I survived. Any considerations for style went out the window as I tried to stay upright. It was a total blast! I can absolutely see the appeal of powder skiing off the beaten path. I still need some practice though... Following Anton, Tracy and their kids was quite impressive. Where any sane person avoids tree stumps, boulders and cliffs they'd just see them as another opportunity for stunts and head straight for them. This was some of the steepest skiing I've done and the "neon devil" kids were completely fearless. Once Anton decided that "it goes", Tor would just rush past him.

Meanwhile the ski bunnies advanced from the baby slopes in the valley to proper blue runs up on the mountain. All three of them were having a good time, so the seeds have been planted ;-)

Thank you so much everyone for staying on after the wedding and making this a truly memorable week!

Cousin Roland enjoying some powder.
Torsten, stranded on a cliff, considers his choice of line.
Neon kids throwing themselves into the action.
Tracy still thinks snowboards are the better skis. I don't know what's wrong with her either.
"Just follow the kids. If they can do it, you can!" Erm. No.
Seriously, don't trust anyone with choosing the route who spends most of his time in the air.
Anita on the race track!
Just before the final run down to the valley. It was a black mogul run, icy and with a warning sign about adverse conditions. We had it entirely to ourselves - bliss! ;-)
Above the sea of clouds.
Figuring out where to go.
Torsten laying down some turns.
The "ski bunnies" Anita, Anke and Sarah.
During three days of skiing we kept optimizing our morning routine. This is the "Brötchenstation" where we have parallelized making sandwiches for the day.
Anton, always in search of untracked terrain.
"I'm sure we can get down here!"
Me. "Excited" about heading into the forest.
Ugly, ugly, ugly. Not to mention overcrowded. Seriously, why would anyone want to spend time here? I don't get it.
Cousin Anselm.
The gang at the top of a black run on the very top of the mountain. Of course the run was deemed boring, so we headed into the terrain instead.
The photo doesn't do it justice: this was a truly magical moment with the sun making the snow sparkle and glitter while we were tracking lines through virgin powder.
A rare moment of relaxation.
Cindy's Diner - best road side stop after a long day in the mountains! Thanks Ralf for the tip!
Down time entertainment.
We were too many for a table in the restaurant, so we got to sit in the club area instead. Nice.
Swiss raclette at our place.


Sledding in Laax

Quite a few friends and family stayed on after our wedding. We turned our apartment into a camp and commuted to Laax for sledding and skiing. "Schlitteln", as the Swiss call it, is not your grandparent's sledding. You take a chair lift up the mountain and get to enjoy a run of several kilometers. We've reached top speeds of almost 50 kilometers an hour (I was carrying my GPS device). While this would be pretty unremarkable on skis, it is quite an exciting ride on a sled. You barely control these things and every bump in the track smacks you around. Landings after some voluntary or involuntary air time are quite brutal. I think everybody ended the day happy but bruised ;-) Good times!

The crew: Anita, Fiona, Gundula, Richard, Sarah, Anke, Susanne, Volker, Christian, Sören, Anselm.
Torsten and Fiona. Fiona was very skeptical at first, but then requested a ride with each of her three brothers. Success! ;-)
Stupid tourists. Blocking the road.
Videos to come...