by Maarten Wilbers
Full disclosure No. 1: The Interregio to Brig departs Geneva at 06.30 hrs. That is the one tiny drawback to our intrepid tour guide Jonathan Frerich’s well-laid plans for this wonderful annual event in the snowbound slopes of the Valais. The starting time is 06:30 hrs in the morning. It is non-negotiable. We tried.
We did all make that early train and most of us settled into our compartment and closed our eyes, trying to catch a few winks before we made Montreux. But we were thwarted in our efforts by a few chirpy characters who clearly got to bed too early the night before; the minute the train pulled out of Cornavin, they started sharing their copious breakfast wares with their sleepy neighbours in an obvious ploy to engage us in conversation … When did they have time to make breakfast, one wonders? Why can’t they just look out the window or read the newspaper and leave us to prepare ourselves through dreamless slumber for the major physical challenge that lies ahead?
Full Disclosure No. 2: The term ‘Effortless’ in our ‘Effortless Valley Ski Outing’ was coined by our tour guide Frerichs; who we all know has never been known to participate in anything that is ‘Effortless’.
Jonathan builds up the tension as we get underway: ‘Look out for the Bauer-Moore guys to come on board in Nyon. If they don’t make it, I fear we won’t be seeing them for a long, long time; ‘Now when we get to Brig, we have to make a dash because we only have 21 minutes to get out of the station and make it across to Gleis 11 for the connection to Oberwald. ‘Listen up all. Gleis 11 is tricky to find. It is in front of the station, but tucked away on your right.’
With very effective pulling and prodding, Jonathan did manage to get us all to Oberwald, the Bauer-Moores included.
All of us at the head of the piste. Some old hands like Ralie taking it upon themselves to help out the very new. Patricia, Mari and Gaku had never been on skis before but they took on the challenge with great bravery. Johanna and her boys stayed together to the end, even in the face of equipment failure. Jonathan lead a group of super skiers to blaze through a piste that was far from effortless. A small group, mostly those from warmer climes, decided to forgo the skis and walk the scenic route.
And at the end of the trek, our usual rendezvous at the Restaurant Augenstern, where we could rest our weary limbs and enjoy the offerings of roesti with Speck, cheese or egg toppings; or throw caution to the wind and go for the roesti Augenstern which features all of these – in one dish!
The skiers straggled into the restaurant, one by one or in small groups to the applause of those already there. But the warmest applause was saved for those three brave souls who had survived their first experience on skis … an unbelievable achievement given the slippery nature of this substance called snow! They too were rewarded (or punished) with heavy plates of roesti Augenstern.
Straining under roesti-fueled gravitational forces, it was downhill from there on to the tiny little train station of Unterwald. Our little red train trundled through the narrow Vallée de Conches, with stunning views of pink mountain tops backlit by the last of the day’s sunrays. Then through the vistas of the beautiful Valais, with a dead-on-time arrival at Cornavin – just as had been promised by our most esteemed tour guide and the ever-reliable Swiss Railways …
All back in Geneva. Tired and happy and looking forward to the next adventure. Thank you Jonathan and see you sometime in March next year at 06:29 hrs ! Or maybe a little later this time? Always worth a try I guess …