Lenk, Switzerland 4/13-16/01



Over the past month I had nearly given up on my ski house in the village of Lenk. The snow this year in the Berner Oberland has been a huge disappointment. So for nearly the entire month of March and beginning of April I was shunning my home base for the snowier slopes in the southern region, near to Zermatt and Sion. We were heading to the ski house this weekend mostly to see friends, go to a few season's end parties, and to clean out the rental house. Then something happened. It started to snow during the week. We heard reports of "the best snow of the year" What?!? It was on. <BR> <BR>Friday morning was a bit cloudy. We were able to find one lift that was poking through a small hole in the cloud cover. So we quickly took some laps in the sunshine as we were rather sure that the miracle would be over quick. There had been little snow in the previous two days so we took our opportunity to ski some steeps that we rarely find snowy enough or safe enough to attempt. Later we kept chasing the sunny spots but the snow was getting a little heavier in the spring air. By the end of the day the clouds had cleared enough that we could see down to the valley floor and to the village where spring was definitely taking over. The greenest green of spring grass gave way to a winter blanket of white at an even elevation up and down the valley. <BR> <BR>Saturday turned out to be the best day of the weekend. The temperature had dropped a bit, a few centimeters of snow had fallen over night, and the sun was strong. We went directly for the best spot on the mountain, IMHO. A deep and steep set of valleys which is protected from the direct sun that was turning everything into glop. The Americans call it Wally's, which is a bastardization of the Swiss-German, Wallis, for The Valley. I and the two friends I was with managed 1st, 2nd and 3rd tracks in the deepest valley. I call this valley "Cathedral Wally" for the 100 meter vertical, loose stone, buttresses which form an uneven wall in the valley and can remind one of the inside of a giant cathedral. On the next run we followed up with 4th, 5th and 6th tracks. We were ecstatic and kept lapping until the snow got a bit heavier and we thought it best to leave the steep terrain. Before departing we found the time to be very near to 4:20 and decided to stop in a safe place to soak up some sun. Heavy snow and loose rocks ware sloughing high up in the cathedral sections and we had a good show. It was the best snow of the year. It was the best of times. <BR> <BR>The snow began early on Sunday morning and we woke up to a complete white cover over the village. We said it seemed more like Christmas than Easter as all signs of spring had been snowed over. It was dumping, and we knew that we needed to stay out of the risky terrain. So we decided stayed to the low angle stuff near to the village. We arrived at the parking for the gondola to find about 20 cars. It was incredible. Snow was puking out of the sky at just below 2000 meters. I decided to test the powder on a short slope between two pistes. I took several turns in thigh deep powder. It was swirling around me. I could help laughing until I swooped over a small roll and a plume of snow shot up into my mouth and started to choke. Plutttt....... I spit out the snow and continued laughing. It was crazy. We finished our run at the midstation of the gondola and went back up for another. This time we ducked in the woods to plunder first tracks on one of our favorite lines. It was sinful. After about mid-mountain we found the snow to be a bit heavier and the snow stability to be down-right scary. The old snow that was left on the low slopes had frozen hard during the cold night. The 6"-8" of new heavy snow on top of that slick base was sliding with easy. The most benign cow pastures were sliding as we rode over the steep sides of the rolling terrain. This extreme condition only existed for 100 meters or less and as we continued down to where there had been no snow the previous day all was fine again, albeit mashed potatoes on fast grass conditions. It was wacky. It started to snow harder. <BR> <BR> <BR>Monday was the worst. It had snowed all night long and was still snowing at 8:30 when I got out of bed. We knew that it was far too dangerous to go up into the big mountains so we stayed close to the village again. There was only one significant problem. There was too much snow and it was too heavy. You could not ski down hill unless the pitch was very steep. Our great tree run from the day before was completely unskiable. I would say at least 4 feet of an interesting, powder like, substance had collected in some places. We found one run where a snowboarder must have fought to ride down a black rated slope. The boarder had carved a single 2' deep troth straight down the fall-line. It was actually possible to ride down that troth and dive into the deep snow to check some speed and then jump back into the troth before you sank. We made two runs like that and called it a day. I never thought it would be possible. We quit early on the deepest powder day of the year because it was too deep. It was a cruel joke.