Switzerland trip, February 17-26, 2006

A friend of a friend organizes a ski trip every year, and this year it was to Zermatt, in Switzerland. It's about a four hour train ride east, then south, out of Geneva. The whole group was 16 people. Including myself, we had five people in our tagalong group.

Some items possibly of interest:

Map of Switzerland
Map of the Italian side of the ski resort
Map of the Swiss side of the ski resort

I could not find any good maps of Zermatt online, but if you stop by the tourist office right next to the train station in Zermatt, they have some good ones they'll give you.

To see just the panoramas, go here, but they're below too.

Click on any photo for an enlargement. Enjoy!

Breakfast at SFO before departing.


Dur and his seat companion for the next 11 hours.

Layover in Frankfurt. When in Rome... I mean Germany...


Are we there yet? It took 27 hours door to door to get to Zermatt from home.

Downtown Zermatt. More accurately, the main drag.


Zermatt random photos while trying to find our place


Ahh, finally.


View out our front door towards the main drag

A river runs through it :)


A cemetary, the members of which all supposedly died while trying to climb the Matterhorn.


Daybreak. Overcast, no Matterhorn in sight.


Looking towards the main drag


Some folks' ski bags didn't show up in Geneva with their other baggage, so we didn't ski the first day. Here's the whole group at Breakfast at Restaurant Du Pont.


Ryan with the largest cup of coffee we could find in town

There was an ice hockey rink there


Out at night

This is Grampi's on the main drag, which turned out to be our usual hangout for most of the coming week


The main drag, walking to the Coop, the main grocery store in town. On Sundays, it's only open from 4-7pm.


And the Coop is total chaos! Seriously, it was amazing to see. (BTW, we never did figure out if it's "Co-Op" or just "Coop" like chicken coop.)


It's snowing!


The sledding hill... some other guys in our group rented some sleds and we went down this hill a few times. heh. Check out the videos:
sledding1.avi (8 MB) -- sledding2.avi (14 MB) -- sledding_bus.avi (7 MB)


Looking down from the top of the hill

Ryan gets ready for his turn



Walking around town at night

Amy with alien eyes, haha. Go flash.


Our luggage arrives! Lane expresses his love for his bag.

It's the abominable snowman! Really!


Morning, day two. Gorgeous day.


The ascent begins. Most of the lifts from town are via gondolas that hold 125-150 people, so the movement is bursty. Everyone stands around for 10 minutes, gets impatient, then the gondola arrives and it's a friggin' free-for-all.



Looking back down at Zermatt from the top of the first gondola.


Looking further uphill towards the summit

A view into Italy from near the summit. There was a run that I did at least five times the first day, and this is the view at the top.

Looking down that run. Zermatt is in the background.

Go team!


The Matterhorn almost emerges.


Looking towards the summit. The gondola goes right into that sharp peak. No kidding.

The lift on the first day's most frequented run. It must have been a 2 mile long run, at least 500 feet wide. Enormous.



Time to eat. We stopped at Furgg for some sausages and soup. It was somewhat satisfying.

Amy was sitting next to this oven thing. It had hot water in it, and occasionally one of the servers from the eatery would come out and take a bucket full. Not sure what they did with it.
Check out Amy dancing to the euro music (19 MB).


Now we went to the very top. From there you can hike up these stairs to what would normally be a great view. It was overcast, and very, very cold, so I didn't bother.

Ryan waiting at the base of the stairs for Dur to come back down. He said he couldn't see anything, so I felt good, having saved myself a bunch of stair climing at 12000' in ski boots.


From here, it's 7 miles down into Zermatt via ski trails. This is the top.

Some very thick ice exposed near the summit


Ryan's happy


The ice was very blue, it was quite pretty


Looking around while waiting for someone

The Matterhorn emerges at the end of the day. This is the view from Zermatt at the base of the gondola.



This is the view out the back porch of our condo place.


Early morning Matterhorn.


First light Matterhorn. During the course of the trip, we all took too many Matterhorn pictures.


Skiing again. This is the view of the Matterhorn from the Swiss side of the resort - also the side that gets the sun in the early morning.


A panoramic view of the resort at the top of the second gondola.

We were nice and early on the second day - the crowds were really bad on the first day, so on this day we were at the top by 9:00 am. We got just about the first run down. Check out that grooming!


Here we go!


The wind made interesting patterns in the loose powder. Just like sand dunes, but snow.


A panorama from the lift.

Lunch time at the top of gondola two. Looking towards the Matterhorn as the Gondola to the top and the Italian side begins it's ascent.


Towards the end of the day, taking the gondola back into town. There are two ski trails into town, one really flat and annoying, and one steep but groomed. On this day, the steep one was closed due to avalanche warnings.

A panorama from the top of gondola 2 looking towards Zermatt.

Hard to see, but we could actually watch the ice crystals grow on the gondola windows on the way down.


Almost to Zermatt

Ryan and I, tired after a full two days of skiing.


Zermatt had a lot of these old shacks/houses on stilts that looked very uninsulated. We never really did look into what/why those were, when they were built, etc.

One of the runs into town has a bar about 2/3 of the way down. This is it :)


Almost there

Back in town


The main church in town.


Time for a beer


They seem to have a thing with elephants too, which we didn't quite grasp either.

Only in McDonalds in Switzerland would you find a painted mural of McNuggets blowing on alphorns.


Walking around town


Someone was using this plastic penguin for stability while they learn to skate. It was funny to watch.


Night out at the downstairs club. It was "heaven and hell" night, so many folks were in costumes. Was a great time.



Groupies getting their groove on


It was cold on day three. -6 C to be exact (about 20 F).

Ryan and I took a train ride for a ski break on Wednesday. We wanted to check out the Glacier Express, but later research would tell us reservations are required, and that it would be a better trip in the summer. Nonetheless, we went to Visp and checked things out there.



Visp seemed like a ghost town. It was really strange. Obviously lots of people lived there, but nobody was around.

Walking around old town Visp. There were some cool buildings and streets.


And the door fixation begins (stay tuned).



They take their doors pretty seriously here. I like it.


Visp elementary.


A sign in Visp that gave distances to places in terms of time - both walking and driving.


We found another cemetary. It was on a scenic overlook.


So close, but not quite :)


Waiting at the Visp train station to go home. The railway from Visp to Zermatt is a narrow gauge line with occasional cogged sections. Amazing engineering.


Some Swiss billboards


The uphill climb to Zermatt begins, and the cogs noisily engage.

Some road bridges



Back in Zermatt, the group gathers for dinner. MMMm tacos.


People share photos


Had to take one picture in sepia...


Back at Grampi's


This guy was great. Check out some of the videos:

Entertainer 1 (13 MB)
Entertainer 2 (22 MB)
Entertainer 3 (18 MB)

Daybreak Thursday


We went straight to the Italian side this day. This is the gondola to the top. At the top, we walk through a tunnel bored through the mountain and ski down the back side. Craziness.

A helicopter drops off supplies at a ski lidge. This heli was in the air all day every day, running errands, dropping people off, and dropping occasional avalanche control bombs. Check out the takeoff video (17 MB).


Looking down into Italy

No joke - to get back to Switzerland from Italy, you had to take this rope tow a good way of the distance back to the top.

The scenery is amazing. This is on the Italian side still.

The mountain ridge looks like it's steaming. Must be windy up there.

We ended up skiing to the base of the Italian side (Cervinia). This is looking towards that direction.

Finally a decent lunch! Spaghetti and bread, with oil & vinegar. MMMMmm

Another panorama with the Matterhorn towards the right.

The Matterhorn from the Italian side



The runs on the Italian side were great! Much less crowded, much more powder, very open.


Almost to Cervinia

Panorama of Cervinia, Italy

They had these really old lift gondolas on the Italian side that looked like soda cans. We rode one up.


Back at the summit, where you choose your destiny.

The outcropping in the mountain is where the gondola enters the mountain at the summit. It looks like something out of Star Wars.


Heading back to Zermatt.

Back in town once again.


These electric vehicles are the only "cars" allowed in Zermatt. Most of them are cabs, and they are really, really expensive. A five minute ride from our condo to the train station (about a 15 minute walk) was 18 Swiss Francs - about $15 US.


The first person to ascend the Matterhorn

The church


More buildings on stilts

Lane convulses after trying some Kirsch - a swiss alcohol I saw everyone buying at the Coop that I thought we should try. It was awful.


The ice rink lit up at night

We try some rum now. That should be OK, right?


No, it wasn't. Something was wrong about that too.



Off to another night on the town


This time, we found an English pub, with normal prices. yay!



The trip back to Geneva begins. The reservations for our room in Zermatt ran out one day before our scheduled departure, so we stayed in Geneva for one night.


A castle on Leke Geneva we passed on the train.


Lane lugging a bunch of stuff off the train.

Never seen a door with such an ornate "Cave" sign on it before...


Looking out our hotel window in Geneva. We stayed at a place called the Bernina, just across the street from the train station.


Walking around Geneva. The Los Angeles Cafe - just want we all wanted.

Looking towards the lake.


The Jet d'eau

From the Pont du Mont-Blanc bridge

Walking towards the jet


This stupid swan refused to pose for me.


The Jet d'eau up close. Check out the videos. That's a serious stream of water.
Jet 1 (5 MB) -- Jet 2 (5 MB) -- Jet 3 (3 MB)



Walking towards old town Geneva.

Looking at the Jet d'eau from a park in old town



They like big door knockers too. Cool.


An outdoor cafe. There were lots of people out despite the cold.




An old church


The organ in the church. It was quite impressive.

Outdoor chess in a park. The figures were made of hollow plastic and were very light. We debated having a mock fight, throwing someone into a heated game, but decided against it.



A V5? Tell me how that works...



What a bunch of tourists! :)




We tried to check out the UN, but we showed up too late.

We did agree on some stuff though, so that was good.



Lane has a flaming dessert. I had one too, it was goooood.


I got up early on our last day to get some coffee. We found a Starbucks the day before, but of course I couldn't find it this morning. I walked to the lake and back instead.


The sun looked very cool rising over lake Geneva's overcast sky.



Seeking out breakfast, unsuccessfully.


Checking out of our room in Geneva. The hotel elevator was really, really small.

Geneva train station


Finally some food at the airport! Another $12 plate of pasta.

Ryan finds his namesake's airline.


The wonderful view from the Munich airport.

Leaving Munich. Check out the plane's shadow in the clouds.


Flying over Greenland. Check out the contrails video! :)
contrails video (3 MB)


Northern Canada. The flight home was 12 1/2 hours.


All images copyright Rich Prillinger, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013
Please ask for permission before use
web at richp d0t com