Spring has finally sprung and sadly ended the shockingly surprising sunny weather and replaced it with severe storms. After an extraordinarily warm and bright February the premature summer season has reverted back to the snowy and windy season accustomed to winter and hopefully the change will bring some snow with it. It’s been a long powderless month out in the Swiss alps with dumps of snow being few and far between, and the mountainous ski slopes had been suffering. Icy mornings have been melted into moguly slush by the end of the day, whilst off piste the snow has thinned and disappeared in parts being replaced by juts of rock.
Today, however, the storms returned. Howling gales screamed through the mountains and tornados of snow ripped through the valley. Trees struggled for support as the weather bashed against them and the newly arrived children battled to not fly away as they stepped off the bus. As inhabitants of the Swiss mountains they should be acclimatised to the adverse weather but this current climate was no ordinary mountain breeze. As they had lunch the view out of the window was a miserable one as the end of the world looked near. Views of swirling snow hurricanes alternated with a view of nothing when thick fog blew down the valley, only momentarily before it was fluttered further on. It was no surprise at all the villages slopes were closed due to the manic conditions, so we ventured further up the valley with the groups of kids to find open lifts up the road in Saas Fee.
A brisk bus ride dropped the sixty strong army built of mixed ages at the other end of the town from the pistes. The blue sea in their matching school ski uniform overran the streets as they struggled down the roads. Carrying ski gear is always a challenge for young kids, juggling the long weights and poles in all manner of bizarre techniques. Some go over the shoulder, some hug and some pretend they’re a forklift, but in gale force winds the exhausting endeavour multiplies in difficulty. As we crossed the bridge over the exposed river the full force of nature was unloaded on the scrambling children. Screams and cries were carried away by the wind as they laboured down the streets to the shelter of the ski room. All that effort turned out to be a waste as we revealed to the drained classes that every single lift on the mountain was closed and over the disappointed, disgruntled moans explained that we had to return through the apocalyptic weather to the bus stop.
The original trek had evidently drained the kids of energy and enthusiasm, resulting in the return leg being an increasingly drawn out and complaint filled journey. A couple of the more grown up girls generously took it upon themselves to bear the burden of their friends skis, relieving the smaller kids weights from the shoulder. My original admiration of the charitable act slowly wore away after the longest, slowest walk back to the bus ensued. Although the benevolent carriers had the heart, they massively lacked the physical ability to carry two pairs of skis through town. After multiple stops, drops and dawdled rearranging, patience and praise had dissipated to the point that the good deed was just a frustrating pain. The glacier moved quicker through the valley and I’m surprised the week long storm hadn’t passed by the time we finally stumbled back to the bus station.
At this point the higher powers had been gifted sufficient time to reorganise the small remainder of the day and we limped onto another bus with the destination of yet another ski resort. Further down the valley in a shielded lower area lies a ski field that had the potential to salvage some ski time. Once again the hoard of discontented kids piled into the bus and set off on an adventure with a vague hope of jumping on their skis. Down in Saas Balen the solitary button lift whirred into life. The drowsy attendant who had opened it especially for us looked on as the swarm clipped in to their skis. One by one the groups ascended only to get to the top of what was effectively an ice rink with an incline and come to the realisation that the adverse weather had rendered it a terrible idea, teetering on dangerous. By the time my group had slid their way to the bottom the plug had been pulled and the day had been called. After multiple bus trips and a rough reenactment of “The Revenant” all that we could achieve was one short, atrocity of a slope before giving up and building parachutes for eggs. I miss the sunny, spring skiing.