Saturday, May 5, 2007

18 March: The Sun Comes Out

The sun was out, the sky was blue,
The temperature read 42.

The snow was fresh and clean and white;

To view the slopes was quite a sight.

I was in Lake Tahoe with my family and friends when I penned these first lines of a poem for my 8th grade creative writing class. This description fit today’s conditions to a “T.” We saw Herr Traxl this morning on the way to breakfast (we hadn’t had a chance to introduce ourselves last night) and he greeted us like old friends. We enjoyed the lovely breakfast buffet (cheese, cold cuts, smoked salmon, eggs made to order, croissants, cereals and breads, fresh fruit, assorted juices, homemade jams, and delicious coffee), picked up our lift pass cards at the front desk, and hit the slopes at 10 am. It was warm (5° C) and brilliantly sunny; the sky was an absurdly deep periwinkle blue (as viewed through my polarized sunglasses). The snow quality was rather mixed – slushy and slow in places, a bit icy in others, with a few spots of reasonably good powder here and there. It was disconcerting to look down into the drab brown St. Anton valley, starved of snow.

We took it easy most of the day, looking for the easier runs. Unfortunately our favorite run from last year, accessed by taking the Schindlergratbahn lift to the “tippy top” as we call it, had some seriously icy stretches now and was not much fun at all. We stopped often to take pictures and enjoy the views – I kept telling John this might be the only day we could see the surrounding mountains! We took a lunch break outside at the Ulmerhütte, where we ate wurst and kartoffelsalat and soaked up a few rays. Later in the afternoon, when we were getting tired, we took the tram up to Valuga and then the little 6-person cable car up to the very highest peak in the area. (I insisted that we go today because it could be our only clear day.) The view was exhilarating, although the lack of snow in the valleys was even more evident from that high vantage point. On the way back we had to take the dreaded T-bar to get out of the dead-end crook of mountain where you are deposited upon leaving the Valuga lodge. We actually took another T-bar twice today, which was equally steep but not so hard to get on and off. We feel like we actually have the hang of it now, and I’ll almost admit that it is sort of fun to slide along uphill. Despite John’s boots giving him a lot of trouble (I thought we might have to amputate), we stuck it out and were among the last off the mountain, returning to the hotel at 4:30 pm.

After refreshing hot showers, we watched the first Formula 1 race of the season (Melbourne); Kimi Raikkonen won his first race for Ferrari. Alonso and rookie Hamilton made an impressive 2-3 showing for Mercedes. After the race we went down for dinner, stopping at the bar for a couple of kir royales. We tried to observe whether anyone was tipping the bartender because we can’t quite figure out how any of the waitstaff here get tips. We didn’t see anyone tip him and there was no tip jar.

Dinner (accompanied by a nice Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon) was lovely: Fresh white asparagus with pepper-garlic vinaigrette (quite good, but was served with half of a whole boiled crayfish that had been split right down the middle, which was slightly gruesome), chicken bouillon with tomato and chives, the salad buffet, steak with baby vegetables (leek, squash, corn, tomato) and pommes macaire (a mashed potato cake with bits of smoked ham), and chocolate mousse with fruit sauce. By the time we went to bed, the wind had picked up and it had started snowing. The long-awaited storm was moving in!

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