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New tracks in Europe ❄️⛷❄️

Breuil-Cervinia, Italy and Zermatt, Switzerland; Saas Fee, Switzerland; Baqueira, Spain

On the road again! It was hard to leave Kristin’s yet again in the beautiful French Riviera, but we were excited to ski in Europe. Both of us have skied for most of our lives but never outside of North America. We drove through all the amazing Italian tunnels again to Turin, site of the 2006 Winter Olympics and picked up my sister Tara and her husband George, then headed up the mountain for Hotel Bijou in the village of Valtournenche.


Our first destination was Breuil-Cervinia, a large ski area connected to the Zermatt ski resort in Switzerland. You can literally have breakfast in Italy, lunch in Switzerland and dinner back in Italy. The star of Zermatt is of course the famous Matterhorn, which is very impressive, even to us that grew up next to the Canadian Rockies and now enjoy Colorado’s Rockies. We were able to ski all sides of the Matterhorn, here is the Italian side:


And the Swiss side (see more a bit later):


The combined Breuil-Cervinia and Zermatt ski area is huge, we discovered new areas to explore every day. We did our best to cover all 322km/200 miles of pistes! They could have used some fresh snow, but they do a good job of keeping the snow in good shape with lots of grooming. Not to mention that we took full advantage of the reasonably priced lift pass, only $80CDN/$60USD....heck of a lot cheap than Vail or Whistler and over 51 lifts to choose from, almost more rides then Disneyland!


There are many different types of ski lifts - every vintage George said - from Pomas and T-bars to high speed trams and ski trains, with everything in between. The most spectacular was the tram from Trockener Steg to Klein Madderhorn. It was like someone pointed at one of the many high peaks and said, let’s see if we can build a tram to there! It was not for the faint of heart at 2939m/9642ft, the highest 3 cable car in the world. It’s first class all the way, with heated seats designed by Pininfarina (same designer as Ferrari sports cars) and Swarovski crystal studded logos on each car.


The view from the top, windy but worth it!


There is a ski train from the town of Zermatt up the mountain, we got on halfway up.


We had a wonderful celebration for George’s retirement at Chez Vroney, a very special restaurant in Zermatt with an outstanding view of the Matterhorn. The setting was spectacular, and the food was amazing, congratulations George!


Starting at the top: Raclette, Charcuterie board, Alper Rosti, Vrony salad with chicken, Veal Rosti and assorted desserts.


Our next ski destination was Saas Fee, Switzerland, so we dropped off Tara and George for their flight back to Calgary and headed north. It was great to see them as we missed them last summer when they were cycling in Germany. We enjoyed the visit and the skiing. Thanks for coming!

The Swiss and Italians seem to be pros at tunneling, and the car-train transport through a mountain on the way to Saas Fee did not disappoint. It cuts off about 3 hours off the drive by going through the mountain vs around it - of course, who wouldn’t think of that? Built in the early 1900’s, the Simplon Car Train takes 20 mins to get from Iselle, Italy to Brig, Switzerland.


It was fun to arrive in Saas Fee, this town perched at the base of the ski resort is completely car free. You park in a large parking garage outside of town, and the hotel comes to get you and your luggage in a small electric vehicle (like Phil’s Gator in Kenton, but completely enclosed!) Our next home away from home was the Amber Hotel, which was right next to the slopes, with our own jacuzzi tub in our room!


Skiing in Saas Fee was wonderful, higher than where we had just skied, so better snow and although there was no Matterhorn, it was spectacular in a different way. The glaciers and ice fields were all around you, with large scary looking crevices. You could hear the ice shifting at times as well. Very cool.


All types of lifts here too, including a funicular train:


Of course, being in Switzerland we had to go for traditional cheese fondue. We found a restaurant that specializes in fondues called “du Saas Fee”. It was quaint and cozy in a log home on stilts and “finger lickin’ good!” (not as good as Bernhard’s but still amazing!)


There is an amazing revolving restaurant at one of the highest points of Saas Fee of the mountain, yes really. We forced ourselves to have a wonderful Swiss lunch there while rotating 360 degrees sitting in our chairs enjoying the views.

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On the last run of the day, at the highest point on the mountain, I had a little tumble and to make a long story short, ended up with a torn collateral ligament on my left knee (runs up the ringside of your knee, connects your thigh to calf). I will be fine, 4-6 week recovery through rest, ice, elevate and physical therapy. Brought my European ski vacation to an abrupt stop. The exciting part of the story is getting down off the mountain - sadly there was no Saint Bernard with a cask under his neck! But there was a very capable ski patrol medic team who put a splint on my leg and got me down to the revolving restaurant on a snowmobile (a bit of a bumpy steep ride but I just hung on, gritted my teeth and practiced my Spanish numbers...uno, dos, tres...). Then into a wheelchair and down the funicular train that goes through a mountain to the top of a gondola station. Then down a large gondola quite a long ways, transferring part way down onto a smaller gondola, which took us to the base in town. Then onto a Gator taxi to the ER. Phew! The care was excellent, I think those Swiss docs have seen many a knee injury come off the mountain and are pros.


We decided to skip our next planned ski destination (Les Arcs, France) and head back to Spain, where we have our primary healthcare coverage. On the way we stopped in the Spanish Pyrenees at Baqueira ski resort so Dean could do a few turns and I could relax by the fire at the beautiful Casa Irene Hotel and Spa. The hotel was the perfect place for me to relax, recover and eat very well!


They offered “half board” which means breakfast and supper included, way more food than I needed given my level of activity, but Dean loved it! (Pics: great bottle of Spanish Ribera, house salad, baked monkfish, roasted pork and desserts - crunchy crepe stuffed with plums & Armagnac, caramel pear pastry with toffee and cream, hazelnut velvet with apricot and yogurt):


Dean loved skiing here, he said it reminded him of the frontside of Breckenridge in Colorado. Baqueira is known as the "jewel" of the Pyrenees with 160km/100miles of pistes and 29 lifts to move you around the hill. Dean was fortunate to ski with a very experienced mountain guide both days he skied. Hannah was a young lady from York, UK and worked for a ski company called Moga, which was owned by Eva Moga who skied in the 1988 Olympia's in Calgary in the Giant Slalom and Slalom for Spain. Without Hannah, Dean claims he would never have been able to see the entire mountain and many of the runs that are usually skied by the locals. Thank you Hannah! We will definitely return so we can ski this gem together!

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Didn’t meet too many dogs on the slopes. We did meet a Canadian expat retriever named Cleo in Saas Fee though, her dad from Toronto works for Nestle in Lucerne. She was so excited to meet us, as I think she understood what we were saying and was relieved we weren’t speaking in Swiss German or French! And of course, we met a Saint Bernard with a wine barrel under her chin!


Posted by margofiala 03:08 Archived in Switzerland Tagged #skieurope #breuilcervinia #zermatt #baqueira #saasfee #livinginabeercommercial

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Great pics and story although the ending is a bit said. We had a super time skiing with you; thanks so much for everything. Next time we stay longer!

by gundesen

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