Klein Matterhorn, Switz. and Cervinia, Italy, Feb. 11, 2014

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Klein Matterhorn, Switz. and Cervinia, Italy, Feb. 11, 2014

Postby Tony Crocker » Sun Feb 16, 2014 3:29 am

With clear blue skies the Diamond Dogs got out early and took the bus to the Klein Matterhorn sector’s gondola base.
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The gondola goes through stations at Furi, Aroleid, Schwarzsee, Furg and finally Trockener Steg. View there:
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From here we took the Klein Matterhorn tram. Its upper station is drilled into the pointed peak at upper left in this picture.
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Skiing in this area is done on the Furggsattel chair at right or T-bars at center. This is glacier skiing and tends to be fairly flat. This is the area were Zermatt brags it can offer skiing 365 days a year, and so was one of Patrick’s stops in summer 2012.

Close up of Klein Matterhorn peak with cement top terminal. You walk through a long tunnel to the piste on the other side.
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The top of the Klein Matterhorn tram at 12,736 feet is Europe’s highest ski lift, just shy of the 12,804 of Imperial at Breckenridge. View towards Plateau Rosa and Italy from there.
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Summer T-bar and wind blown snow near the tram.
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We skied to Plateau Rosa and were surprised to see the trail into Italy closed despite fairly benign weather. It was cold, maybe 10F early in the morning, but the wind mostly abated below the tram. So we skied next to the very flat T-bars down to the Furggsattel chair.

With lots of people skiing that chair waiting for Cervinia to open, it got tracked out very quickly.
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That new snow was very light and dry, similar to Utah or Colorado, but you had to be aware where the slope flattened to bail out to a piste. From the top of Furgsattel we looked off the back into Cervinia.
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We could see people unloading from the next-to-top chair but the top chair was not running. Second time up there we saw groomers working the top piste. From the same spot, a view up to Plateau Rosa, which has a restaurant and a tram coming up to the highest lift served spot 11,414 feet from Cervinia.
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With no activity on our third chair we skied a longer run down to Furgg.
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Returning to Trockener Steg it was almost 12:30 so we decided to take the T-Bar up and go to the Gandegghutte refugio for lunch if the runs into Italy remained closed. View when T-bar stopped of Klein Matterhorn and 13,658 foot snow-capped Breithorn at left.
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Ambitious AT skiers can skin up there before skiing the Schwarz glacier on the other side.

We observed people disappearing over Theodul Pass while riding the first T-bar and so continued up the second one to Plateau Rosa. Liz at finally open border.
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I traversed right from the top of the piste to this view. :drool: :drool: :drool:
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Below the rollover the powder was thigh deep for 1,300 vertical, the deepest lift served snow I have skied since Fat Tuesday of Iron Blosam week in 2011. Views on the way down.
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And back up.
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With a rollover and uncertain slog out, Liz declined to commit to this, but she thoughtfully took some pics.
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There was a moderate traverse to a fairly long but crude plowed road.
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The road had flat spots but let’s just say that the reward to grunt work ratio was about 5x that of Catherine’s/Patsy Marley at Alta.

The road led to the designated lunch meeting area at Plan Maison. By this time nearly all of the Diamond Dogs had given up on the border opening and skied back down toward Zermatt. I texted Liz and it turned out the piste from Plateau Rosa led all the way down to the town of Cervinia at 6,700. While she was coming up I rode the Plan Maison chair.
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Italian view of Matterhorn at left
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And a few more tracks in the bowl I skied below Plateau Rosa.
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I skied the piste to Chalet Etoile, one of the world's top on mountain restaurants where reservations are often needed. But the delayed opening had resulted in many people not getting there from Zermatt, so they said they could seat me in 10 minutes. Liz arrived 5 minutes after that, and we were soon indulging in another gourmet feast. Liz and I shared black pasta with squid and jumbo prawns and a pumpkin, prosciutto, asparagus and cheese risotto. We were well through those amazing dishes before thinking of the camera but I did get a pic of the crostata dessert.
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It’s safe to say I’ve never skied THAT quality of powder and had THAT kind of lunch in the same day before!

Sundeck outside Chalet Etoile.
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We started lunch at 2PM but the waitress informed us that last chair out of Plan Maison to go back to Zermatt is at 3:45. There are 3 chairs in total. Only the top Bontadini chair is steep enough to ski powder.
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There were also a few other creative lines people skied from Plateau Rosa.
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We crossed back into Switzerland at 4PM and soon had this classic view.
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Monte Rosa in opposite direction
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Zoomed view to Gornergrat and Hohtalli
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We got down to town below Furi at 5PM. 20,300 vertical. As for the 5K of powder, even Utah powder princesses would have been wowed by its quality.
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Re: Klein Matterhorn, Switz. and Cervinia, Italy, Feb. 11, 2

Postby jamesdeluxe » Sun Feb 16, 2014 5:24 am

Tony Crocker wrote:let’s just say that the reward to grunt work ratio was about 5x that of Catherine’s/Patsy Marley at Alta (...) As for the 5K of powder, even Utah powder princesses would have been wowed by its quality.

Nice. And that's why on an apples-to-apples basis, there's nothing like it stateside. What does Kingslug have to say?
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Re: Klein Matterhorn, Switz. and Cervinia, Italy, Feb. 11, 2

Postby Tony Crocker » Sun Feb 16, 2014 9:54 am

I never skied with kingslug. He was staying with Jackie, the trip organizer, who is an intermediate.

Once you get separated from a group in place like this, you will never find them again without cell contact. This day was a perfect example. Surely the whole group was around that Furggsattel chair for the first part of the morning, but we hardly saw anyone. While we were there I was concentrating on getting Liz some powder mileage, as it was mellow terrain with high quality fluff. She says she has never skied as much fresh snow on one trip, and that includes last year's B.C. road trip.

Most days I had a ski (and sometimes lunch!) agenda, based upon weather/conditions and advice I had received from Fraser Wilkins. Kingslug had not done as much independent research and tended to stay in the sector where he started the day. On the bad weather days he was mostly in the Patrullarve area which has trees. I'm sure there was lots of powder in there Friday, but it's sort of obvious and thus more packed down between storms. I've been corrupted by admin and company and thus was looking for more pristine sectors.

Wednesday was the day some people hired guides. Kingslug was with an off-piste guide that day, skied a lot in the Hohtalli sector where we skied 2 runs Sunday and one Friday. But on Wednesday we were with a touring guide WAY off-piste on the Schwartz glacier.
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Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
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Re: Klein Matterhorn, Switz. and Cervinia, Italy, Feb. 11, 2

Postby jimk » Sun Feb 16, 2014 10:01 am

Sir, you do get around! Thanks for sharing. Always enjoy your reports and photos.
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Re: Klein Matterhorn, Switz. and Cervinia, Italy, Feb. 11, 2

Postby kingslug » Sun Feb 16, 2014 6:30 pm

Tony..funny thing is...I only skied with Jackie the last day...but we seem to have had a similar experience..although you got into Italy and scored much more pow..We tried almost every day to get into Italy but couldn't. no complaints though..I scored more powder runs in a week than I do in a whole season...I did find it a somewhat confusing journey..the area is so vast..but..wow...I could spend a winter there...broke..but happy.
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Re: Klein Matterhorn, Switz. and Cervinia, Italy, Feb. 11, 2

Postby Tony Crocker » Sun Feb 16, 2014 9:43 pm

A few people had lunch at Plateau Rosa Tuesday and thus noticed the border was open when they were done. I was somewhat surprised that Italy opened midday Wednesday considering the winds we experienced at Klein Matterhorn that morning. I would never have tried to go up there in Thursday's snow or Friday's overcast considering that both earlier days' experience and Fraser's comments indicated that Klein Matterhorn/Cervinia have more severe weather than Rothorn/Gornergrat. I was very surprised to hear that some people got into Italy on Friday. We skied a couple of powder runs on Schwarzsee on Friday but never considered going higher in that sector.
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Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
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Re: Klein Matterhorn, Switz. and Cervinia, Italy, Feb. 11, 2

Postby jamesdeluxe » Mon Feb 17, 2014 4:37 am

Tony Crocker wrote:She says she has never skied as much fresh snow on one trip, and that includes last year's B.C. road trip.

Not sure if you're done posting TRs -- were you milking the leftovers from one major storm or did you get several precip events?

kingslug wrote:all I kept saying day after day was " if this was Alta, this would all be tracked out in an hour"..we had new lines every day.

Glad to see other people confirming my mantra about the lack of competition for powder in the Alps vis-à-vis the States. Tony and Kingslug -- do you think it's due to far more available acres of off-piste, comparatively less people leaving the groomed trails, or something else?
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Re: Klein Matterhorn, Switz. and Cervinia, Italy, Feb. 11, 2

Postby Marc_C » Mon Feb 17, 2014 9:28 am

jamesdeluxe wrote:
kingslug wrote:all I kept saying day after day was " if this was Alta, this would all be tracked out in an hour"..we had new lines every day.

Glad to see other people confirming my mantra about the lack of competition for powder in the Alps vis-à-vis the States. Tony and Kingslug -- do you think it's due to far more available acres of off-piste, comparatively less people leaving the groomed trails, or something else?

I think sheer size is certainly one factor. Consider that Alta is ~2200 skiable acres (out of a total boundary to boundary area of ~2600 acres) with 7 lifts and 116 on-map runs (many of which could be considered off piste) with a vert drop of 2020'. If you search you'll find Zermatt is usually stated as having 60 runs and 394 acres, however that is strictly the on-piste acreage. According to one site I found, the total skiable acreage is about 97,400 acres, with 74 lifts providing an uphill capacity of over 50K skiers per hour and a vert drop a bit over 7200'. This obviously does not include Cervinia, where Tony got a lot of powder as well. IOW, Zermatt is significantly larger than all the Utah areas combined and greater vertical than if you put Alta on top of Powder Mountain.
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Re: Klein Matterhorn, Switz. and Cervinia, Italy, Feb. 11, 2

Postby Tony Crocker » Mon Feb 17, 2014 12:45 pm

jamesdeluxe wrote:Not sure if you're done posting TRs -- were you milking the leftovers from one major storm or did you get several precip events?

Hopefully I'll get the other 3 TR's done today. Tuesday was very photogenic, lots of pics to sort through.

There was probably some snow up high Saturday. The Sunday morning powder between the blue pistes on Rothorn was fresh. Monday was predicted 6-10 inches but snowed very little in the Gornergrat sector we skied that day. Clearly it snowed at least that much on Klein Matterhorn/Cervinia. Thursday was the converse of Monday: It was supposed to be heavy overcast but in fact snowed most of the day. Friday turned out to be the most powder skied of the week, but in terms of quality that Plateau Rosa run Tuesday was the standout.

jamesdeluxe wrote:do you think it's due to far more available acres of off-piste, comparatively less people leaving the groomed trails, or something else?

Yes, the size is a key factor. But there are others.

I've read that skiing participation is wider but more casual in Europe. Thus a higher proportion of visitors stay on the groomed. I think skier density is higher on many groomers in the Alps than in most resorts in western North America. Euro groomers can easily get slick spots and moguls from traffic, which I noticed frequently in the Arlberg last year. There are only 2 trails into town at Zermatt, which I suspect could be unpleasant during a busier time if it hasn't snowed in awhile. But the 2 access trains and one gondola can be downloaded if lower conditions aren't good.

With regard to Zermatt:
Where to Ski and Snowboard wrote:For a resort with such good and extensive slopes, there's a remarkably high age profile. Most visitors seem to be over 40, and there's little of the youthful atmosphere you get in rival resorts with comparable slopes, such as Val d'Isere, St. Anton and Chamonix

James and I both noticed that ungroomed slopes were more likely to get tracked out at St. Anton than at Lech/Zurs, which has a similar upscale profile as Zermatt. When I had an uncontested powder day on the Parsenn at Dovos/Klosters last year, I thought, "Well, it's mostly an intermediate mountain, may not attract the powderhounds so much." But Zermatt has great advanced terrain, and we didn't even ski its most touted Stockhorn sector that I think was closed all week.
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Re: Klein Matterhorn, Switz. and Cervinia, Italy, Feb. 11, 2

Postby jamesdeluxe » Mon Feb 17, 2014 2:50 pm

Tony Crocker wrote:skiing participation is wider but more casual in Europe.

This is a key differentiator from North America. You notice it within minutes of arriving.
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Re: Klein Matterhorn, Switz. and Cervinia, Italy, Feb. 11, 2

Postby kingslug » Tue Feb 18, 2014 4:40 am

It was pretty simple..Almost ALL the skies I saw there where narrow to midfat and a lot of racing ones. ALmost no one had powder skies..the ones I saw where on...people not from that area. Almost anyone I talked to with large powder skies where from England, Australia..or surprise...the states...The groomers where more like icy toboggan runs covered with hundreds of people. A weird experience for sure.
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Re: Klein Matterhorn, Switz. and Cervinia, Italy, Feb. 11, 2

Postby Tony Crocker » Tue Feb 18, 2014 10:10 am

kingslug wrote:The groomers were more like icy toboggan runs covered with hundreds of people.

Then you might want to be careful about where you ski in Europe. With the frequent snow refreshing, the groomers were probably much better than normal. In my limited experience Davos Parsenn was the only place I saw better groomer skiing in the Alps than last week. But the point is well taken. The attraction of the Alps is the vast uncontested skiing off the groomers. If you have a GPaul groomer fixation, you're much better off in North America. Except for the scenery and the food of course.
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Re: Klein Matterhorn, Switz. and Cervinia, Italy, Feb. 11, 2

Postby jamesdeluxe » Tue Feb 18, 2014 11:12 am

Tony Crocker wrote:The attraction of the Alps is the vast uncontested skiing off the groomers. If you have a GPaul groomer fixation, you're much better off in North America.

Don't forget that you were there during the peak Euro vacation period, which should be a no-fly zone unless you go to an off-the-beaten-path ski area -- not sure why Diamond Dogs booked the trip then at a marquee region like Zermatt?

As you witnessed, even during high-traffic mid-February, most of the off-piste is a wide-open feeding trough; however, if you're uncomfortable with crowded groomers on the way back to the lifts (I certainly am), go no later than the last week of January.
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Re: Klein Matterhorn, Switz. and Cervinia, Italy, Feb. 11, 2

Postby Tony Crocker » Tue Feb 18, 2014 12:35 pm

Only 2 days were sunny, so on the other days people tended to cluster on the pistes with better visibility. From my pics you can see there weren't many people where we we were skiing. :mrgreen:

Actually for Zermatt we were not there during a busy week. We had no liftline issues whatsoever. We were told that the ensuing week would be the first one impacted by holidays. Fraser said this week is the British school holidays.

jamesdeluxe wrote:however, if you're uncomfortable with crowded groomers on the way back to the lifts (I certainly am), go no later than the last week of January.

It's not quite as simple as that. You have to investigate which resorts are popular with which nationalities and when those holidays are. I've read about Austria/ eastern Italy being impacted by Russian holidays in the first half of January and Polish holidays in late January/early February.

The ones we should be most concerned about are:
British holidays mid-February and Easter Week.
French holidays the last 2 weeks of February and first week of March
Southern Germany and a few other places get the week that contains Fasching (Mardi Gras), varies between mid-February and mid-March.
The Brits aren't the only ones who get Easter week. I would really avoid that due to sloppy lower slopes/possible downloading queues. Otherwise I think the higher places in the Alps like Zermatt and Val d'Isere could be great in early spring.

So in most places you're OK through the first full week of February and after the first full week of March except for Easter Week or the occasional very early or late Fasching. And of course the worst weeks will be when some of the holidays overlap.

The Euro school holiday periods unfortunately cover the core of the season when snow is on average most reliable. So I'll refer people to Fraser Wilkins' analyses of snow reliability http://www.weathertoski.co.uk/ to choose relative high snowfall areas like the Arlberg or Portes-de-Soleil for before the holidays or high altitude, north facing places after the holidays.
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Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
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Re: Klein Matterhorn, Switz. and Cervinia, Italy, Feb. 11, 2

Postby jamesdeluxe » Tue Feb 18, 2014 1:20 pm

Tony Crocker wrote:It's not quite as simple as that. You have to investigate which resorts are popular with which nationalities and when those holidays are. I've read about Austria/ eastern Italy being impacted by Russian holidays in the first half of January and Polish holidays in late January/early February.

Of course, you have perform due diligence before committing to a trip across the pond, but most mere mortals aren't going to do an extensive investigation of individual countries' national holidays and their effect on what may or may not be their favorite resorts. My point was: if you go before the first week of February or even the first week of February, in all likelihood, you'll be in good shape and not plagued by on-piste traffic jams.

I think Tony would also agree that it's important *during* the visit to be mindful about such issues as a) lift closing times and b) wearing appropriate clothing to guard against frostbite after hiring a guide to take you to high-elevation terrain where you may experience bitter cold and high winds.
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