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April 29th, 2010 @ 9:17 pm
Every year at the end of the ski season St Anton hosts what has got to be one of the most insane ski races on the planet – Der Weisse Rausch. The race is one part of a three part ironman type of challenge – The Arlberg Adler. Not being much of a runner I don’t bother with the alpine marathon and so far haven’t been bothered to get my bike up to St Anton for the bike race, but the skiing bit I can do. I’ve competed in the Weisse Rausch three times before which was more than enough up until race day when I decided that, just for the heck of it, I ought to do it one last time.
The race starts almost as high as you can go in St Anton, the top of Valluga. The start is quite a sight to behold as about 200 or 300 skiers all start at the same time in a so called ‘mass start’. From the top it is a very shot schuss down towards a T-bar, but before getting there the racers need to head right and run up the hill to the Valfagehrjoch (just below the top of the Schindlergratbahn). Once this run has been completed (depending on fitness that could be a couple of minutes or more) the actual race starts as the participants head straight down to the Ulmerhutte, around and then down Happy Valley (Steissbachtal), past the Mooserwirt and finally down to the bottom of Galzig. Depending on the year, the bottom stretch could have an obstacle course built in just to make things a little harder. It should probably be pointed out that this all takes place after 17:00 with the snow having been exposed to the hot spring sun all day as well as having been bashed around by all the skiers going up and down the whole day. Suffice it to say, this race is not for the faint hearted!
As I mentioned earlier, I hadn’t intended to do the race so hadn’t signed up in advance, however it’s almost always possible to get a start number on the day because so many people don’t end up turning up (especially when volcanic ash prevents air travel). So I headed to the Wellness centre and picked up my start number on Saturday afternoon. The usual nerves started to set in and only got worse as the afternoon went on and we headed up to the start. I had companionship from Iain who was doing it on a board and Brendan who was skiing it with me. Brendan had his helmet cam with him so has put together some fantastic first person footage of the race (at least from his perspective) which you can see by clicking this link. Becky had told me in no uncertain terms that I was not to injure myself during the race so I decided I would make getting down in one piece my objective and not worry about getting down amazingly fast. Even with this in mind it is a tough race as your legs are destroyed from the run up the hill and the snow is so heavy that it requires significant energy to move them even slightly. The moguls just add to the fun as you hurtle down the hill, never actually sure that you’re going to be able to make the next turn or land the next jump. Once down at the bottom there are a huge number of people out supporting and cheering, which is a nice feeling and gives that little burst of energy needed to take off the skis and run across the finish line.
Once you’ve caught your breath again it’s time to celebrate with a nice refreshing beer. Thankfully Becky had been parked at Base Camp for the duration of the race, so beer was easy to come by. The results are posted online almost immediately by Datasport. As expected my time was not great; 18 minutes, but at least I got down in one piece 279th out of 412 competing male skiers. Race over for another year, I’ll have to seriously think about whether to compete again next year or not….
April 28th, 2010 @ 8:17 pm
So after the warmer climes of Miami we headed back to Europe where it was most definitely still winter. Due to a scheduling mistake when planning the original trip to the US (I had not realised that 5th April 2010 was Easter Monday and therefore a public holiday) I ended up with a six hour lay-over in Frankfurt before being able to get back to Zurich. Thankfully Frankfurt’s Welcome Lounge made that wait a great deal easier once I’d had a shower and a full breakfast!
Once I’d finally made it back to Zurich (Becky had arrived earlier that morning) it was straight off up to St Anton. Becky still had a week left of half term so the intention was for her to continue her skiing while I was at work. Thankfully the weather was, on the whole, beautiful, so it wasn’t too hard being stuck at work. Unfortunately Becky was not feeling at her best so didn’t get too much skiing done, but did enjoy the end of her holiday as far as I could tell!
February 2nd, 2010 @ 7:01 pm
After the mammoth effort getting to the UK for Christmas, we managed to get back to Zurich with only a short delay. We had decided that it was going to be far too difficult to get to St Anton on the evening we landed (30th) so instead would wait for New Years Eve before heading up. That gave us just enough time to go out and see Colin, Gwen and Rick at Paddy’s for a bit of an impromptu engagement party. Also a conveniently good time to ask Colin if he would be my best man – although considering the state of all of us by the time we left, I think I’ll need to double check he still remembers that conversation!
So we headed up to St Anton on the 31st, arriving just as it started to snow making it a little treacherous getting there. At one point we were headed sideways down the road towards a sharp bend, would not have been an ideal start to the New Year (falling off a cliff rarely is) but thankfully the tyres caught and we could continue on to St Anton – admittedly quite a bit slower than before. Dermot had organised dinner at Robi’s Rodelstall, a restaurant at the end of the sledge run from the top of the mountain, so we headed up there to meet everyone else. The meal was very good and the restaurant is nice and authentic. After that it was straight off to Cuba for their Back to the Future NYE party. Unfortunately we had been previously informed that it was going to be a Mardi Gras theme so our fancy dress was unfortunately useless, but it was a good party nonetheless and we got to see in both European New Year and British New Year before needing to head home.
We spent the next couple of days up on the hill before Becky decided it was time to give skiing another go. So on Sunday she rented some skis and headed off to ski school while I headed up to give the DannyCam its first outing. A couple of years ago we had discussed picking up a helmetcam but never actually go around to it, but Danny had seen one that he was impressed with so bought it as his Christmas present to himself. We had pretty good (if cold) weather and some lovely powder that had come down the day before to give it a proper test. If you’re curious the footage can be seen by clicking here. After Becky having elected to join the absolute beginners group she managed to get promoted the next day and seemed to be taking to the skiing quite happily! In the meantime I was unfortunately back at work so couldn’t partake, but Becky happily kept putting what she’d been taught into practice.
On Monday we had a visit from Ariel and Tania over from Moscow for Russian Orthodox Christmas. They only stayed one night unfortunately but it was great to see them and we had a very nice meal in the Museum on Monday night. Nathalie had also come up on Monday and so headed off with Becky on Tuesday morning to get some skiing done. Since the weather on Tuesday was spectacular and it was a night sledging day, I booked us into the Rodelalm (halfway down the sledge run) for dinner and we headed up to give Nathalie and Becky a bit of an introduction to night sledging. It was great fun, and our places in the restaurant were literally on the side of the fireplace which made it really good fun – although as usual I was defeated by the Schweinhaxe which is just too much for one person!
The rest of the week was much of the same with none of the predicted snow arriving leaving us with only what was left of the snow that came down the previous weekend. That did not prevent us from having a bit of a ski around and the weather was beautiful on Sunday allowing Rick, Danny and I plenty of opportunity to stretch our legs on the longer pistes around St Anton.
April 19th, 2009 @ 6:44 pm
To complete our Easter skiing holiday we headed up to St Anton early on Saturday morning. Having checked the weather forecast in advance, we decided not to head up at the crack of dawn and had a bit of a lie in instead. Leaving Zurich just after 9 and arriving in St Anton just after 11. Since the weather was not particularly nice (rain/snow) we decided not to ski on Saturday and instead went for a drive over to Lech so that Becky could have a look around (not having managed to ski there so far).
One of the main reasons for our trip to St Anton was to look at potential apartments for next season and we had already lined up several viewings for Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately the first place was quite depressing so we had fairly low expectations for the second apartment which allowed us to be very pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be pretty much exactly what we were looking for! Despite being pretty sure that was the apartment for us, we continued to check out a couple of other places that afternoon, returning periodically to Bar Cuba for refreshments and debriefing sessions with the staff. Once we have signed for an apartment we’ll post more details – we don’t want to jinx anything by jumping the gun and posting details too early!
The evening continued in much the same vein, drinks in Bar Cuba, dinner in Bobo’s, a quick look at Postkeller closing party and then off to bed. It seems we had one or two drinks more than intended, and as a result did not manage to actually get up as early as planned. However having spoken to those who did, it does not sound like we missed much! Since we didn’t get up until around 11 we didn’t bother skiing on Sunday either (great ski weekend!) and instead headed up to the Mooserwirt for a spot of lunch. Thankfully the weather had improved dramatically by this point so we had a nice meal in the sun. We had originally planned to view a couple of apartments on Sunday afternoon too, however we cancelled those appointments so that we could return to Zurich at a reasonable hour – we’re pretty confident that we’ve found the place for us as it is!
A short drive later and we’re back home to get some well needed rest before going back to work (at least for me that is). Very kind of Zurich to organise a half day for my first day back in the office to ease me back into the work routine.
April 19th, 2009 @ 6:21 pm
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We got up verrrry early in the morning on Thursday 15th April to make our way from Crans Montana to Zermatt. After an hour and three quarters, we arrived in Taesch to catch the shuttle train from Taesch to Zermatt. As Zermatt is a car free resort, we had to leave our car in Taesch. On arrival in Zermatt, we were confronted by some very grey skies and rain – quite a contrast to the last couple of days in Crans Montana!
Above: Our hotel and the impressive woodwork on the ceiling of our room.
We dropped our things off at the hotel and made our way up the mountain, using the Gornergratbahn, a train which takes you up the mountain. Despite the miserable weather, Zermatt itself still looked beautiful, with lots of little chalets all clustered together. We imagined that the view from the train must have been stunning but all we could see was white, as the rain turned to snow and the sky was the same colour as the ground. This made skiing and snowboarding a bit tricky as you couldn’t see the snow (and due to the amount of snow I collected on my board, I also couldn’t see my board or my feet!). Due to this weather, the skiing was day was shorter than normal and at around 3 in the afternoon, we made our way back down to the village in the cable car. By this time, it was snowing heavily in the village and looked very ‘Christmassy’ (!) not what we expected at this time of the year!
Above: ‘View’ of the top of the Gornergratbahn, and from our hotel balcony.
We went back to the hotel for a quick rest before heading out for apres ski in a couple of bars and finding a lovely place called ‘The Pipe‘ for dinner (handy that it was right next door to the hotel too!). Then back to Sparky’s bar for a few more drinks (and to check the weather forecast for the next day).
After going to sleep with snow everywhere, we awoke to a thick layer of snow and stunning blue skies, so headed up on the cable car to see what the place we’d been to yesterday actually looked like. We also got some lovely views of the Matterhorn, which we hadn’t previously been able to see.
Above: What a difference a day makes. view from our hotel balcony on Friday morning, us in front of the Matterhorn (yes, we could actually see it and everything!!)
Above: Another shot of the Matterhorn, different angle this time.
We had a great day exploring the mountain and I finally was able to turn all of the way down any red or blue pistes – quite amazing after how long this has taken, but a good way to end the season. Next season, I’ll be trying to turn on black runs!!
Above: Me actually turning!!!!! Believe it or not.
For more photos of our skiing holiday, check out our photo gallery.