I was back home on Thursday night with enough time to have dinner with my family before getting an early night (a relatively easy thing to do after a busy week in Soho). I was out of the door at 5:30am on Friday to get across to Grindelwald for the Gümligen Engineering team’s annual ski day.
I changed trains in Bern. And yes, there is a suburb of Bern called Wankdorf, which does indeed cause endless amusement to Brits.
It was a little before 7am by the time I got to the Gümligen office, meeting Nenad, Martyn and Adrian: Martyn had kindly offered to drive the other three of us to Grindelwald.
We arrived at the temporary car park for the new V-Bahn terminus in Grindelwald.
Right now the V-Bahn has functioning gondolas heading up to Männlichen, but at the end of 2020 the other side of the “V” will open up: a direct gondola to the Eiger. (Right now there’s a train that goes there from the Grindelwald Grund station which takes about 30 minutes.)
The whole group (at least those who could make it) assembled there at around 8:30am, ready to take the new gondola to the top.
The new gondola is really cool, and apparently a huge improvement over the previous one.
Arriving at the top, we saw the Trojan Cow (not the official name, but hey).
The view was magnificent!
It was a lot of fun hanging out with the Gümligen Engineering team: they’re really a fun bunch. They’re currently part of the Autodesk Construction Solutions (ACS) division, and have interesting information on how our various construction-centric technologies are being integrated into the company’s product and service offerings. This is the second year I’ve come along to their ski day – the last one took even more work – and I consider it a privilege and a really good way to get to know my local colleagues.
As was the case last year, I was the only snowboarder of the group. Which wasn’t such a big deal – we have much bigger diversity challenges at Autodesk to deal with. :-( :-)
We stopped for lunch at the base of the Eiger’s North Face. We were really comfortable there, sitting in the sun: some of us stayed longer than others (the more motivated hit the slopes while we sat there enjoying the view).
As the afternoon progressed we headed back across to retake the Männlichen gondola.
At the top we stopped for a final drink before skiing down either to the middle station (for those with sense ;-) or to the bottom. The last stretch was both very bare and slushy, so I was happy I bottled out and took the gondola from the middle.
After a great day of skiing, we headed to a restaurant near Spiez where we – according to tradition – ate pizza. The view across the Thunersee was just as spectacular as it had been from the top of the mountain.
My family joined us all for dinner at the restaurant so we could head off to Adelboden for our week’s holiday. Many thanks to Andreas Boos and his team – Freddy, Simon, Philipp, Tobias, Nenad, Peter, Misha, David, Adrian and Hanspeter – for such a great day. It was really a lot of fun!
As usual, our family skiing break is up in Adelboden, which is about an hour’s drive from Grindelwald. From chatting with the members of the team while up there, I realised it was a good opportunity to do something my family had never done: take the train to the Jungfraujoch. This is the highest railway in Europe, and is pretty incredible.
On a somewhat morbid note, the main reason for the timing being interesting is the impact being felt throughout Switzerland (and the world) from the COVID-19 coronavirus: tourism has tailed off so significantly – especially from China – that there are various offers available to encourage more people to visit this otherwise-very-crowded tourist destination.
As the pistes had been getting hard over the last few days – we were really overdue a fresh snow dump – Monday was a good opportunity to go up: the weather was due to deteriorate from Tuesday onwards (with snow coming!), and not being the weekend also makes it less busy.
The views of the Aletsch Glacier were amazing. It was a touch windy, when we got to the top, but we were still able to make it outside for some snaps.
Back inside we visited the ice palace, which was also fun.
In the gift shop it’s clear the merchandising has been adjusted for current times. A facemask with the Eiger on it, anyone?
On Tuesday we were back across in Adelboden, with friends visiting from Neuchatel.
As it was more than a little windy, a few of the chairlifts were closed, which meant more traffic on the main piste. One of our friends was involved in a collision, and ended up having to be airlifted across to Interlaken for medical assistance. (She’s fine: it ended up being a contusion of the lower back rather than a displaced/fractured/broken vertebra, thankfully.) Most people I know who spend time in the Swiss mountains sign up as members of the Rega, the Swiss Air Rescue service. It’s relatively inexpensive: we pay 70 CHF – which is also 70 USD – per year as a donation, which is a very modest cost for such a fantastic service. Of course you never want to have to use the service, but it gives you major piece of mind when you’re on the mountain.
Today the snow finally came, after several weeks without. It was still windy, but I headed up with my two sons to enjoy the relatively empty pistes.
The snow was fantastic, so I’m really glad we went for it. It’s looking good for the coming few days, too, which is great news.
Next week I’ll be back at work, with a couple of days being spent at the Geneva Motor Show: Autodesk Research has a project we’ll be unveiling alongside one of our UK customers there. My colleagues from the UK asked if I’d step in and participate in the media briefings, and there was really only one way I could answer that question (i.e. “yes, please!!!”).