It’s the one thing that everyone says we should do. Followed by “It’s the Alps, for God’s sake!”
So, even though we come from the flat lands of the Midwest and have gone downhill skiing a combined total of 3 times in our entire lives, Mark and I did it.
We went skiing.
IN THE ALPS.
The Alp we selected was Kandersteg/Oeschinen, a picturesque Alpine town in the Bernese Oberland. It’s just a little to the southwest of Schilthorn, where the kids and I took Mark’s brother and sister-in-law when they visited.
Every parent that I spoke to about our plans would get a faraway nostalgic expression and then sigh, “Ah, Kandersteg. Our kids learned to ski there. It’s a wonderful place for beginners.” That was pretty great affirmation given that I have ZERO experience in selecting skiing locations.
And it’s beautiful.
We intended to get the kids right out the door and on some skis, but failed because we forgot that stores in Switzerland usually close between noon and 2pm for lunch. This also extends to all the ski rental shops. So instead we started gently by hauling the kids up the mountain and pushing them down it.
Kandersteg has a wonderful 3 kilometer-long sledding run. You go over the skiing runs (sledding and pulling the sled) until you get to the start. The start is a gentle slope that fools you into thinking this is going to be easy. You even pass by a little cute chalet/restaurant that beckons you in for a hot chocolate or a last meal.
But we bypassed that because we didn’t know better.
And even the next stretch is gentle and lovely. It was so flat we had to get off for a bit and pull the kids behind us. Then we found a nice slope so Mark got on behind H and I got on behind E and we pushed off.
We were all smiles and full of delight at the beauty around us. As I went down the first hill I thought, “This is soooo much easier than hiking down the Matterhorn!”
That’s when we realized the sleds had no steering wheel.
And there were lots of turns.
The majority of those turns were necessary to make or you would just fly over one of the many sheer drops off the side of the mountain. In a rare show of safety mindedness, the Swiss had actually put up bright orange snow fence to prevent us from plummeting to our deaths. They also put cushy bumpers over the wooden posts of the bridge we had to slide across.
There was even a snow fence cleverly placed in front of a creek that prevented H and I from plunging head first into icy water on our second run. Well, actually, we hit a boulder first so I think we would have been good.
The most important turn was where a choice between “blue” and “black” runs presented itself. Or, as I have labeled them above “easy” and “certain death.” The “easy” run included a huge 35% slope with signs that read “LANGSAM!/SLOW!” Which is hilarious because you are fighting gravity and inertia while on a device created to minimize friction and having no brakes. I was sure that I was going to burn a hole in the heels of my boots from doing the Flintstone drag for almost 700 meters. I never did try the “certain death” path because my will isn’t up to date.
In one thrilling moment E and I whipped around a corner on the 35% slope doing about 40km/h, E yelling, “I’m too young to die!” the entire way.
H and I reenact this in the pictures below. Right before we DID IT AGAIN!!
As I said above, the run is a total of 3 km long. With crashes it can take you about 30 to 45 minutes to get all the way to the bottom. The run takes you from the top of the gondola all the way to the bottom of the mountain.
Then you jump on the gondola and ride back up to the top!
Don’t want to pack a sled in your car or on the train? No worries! You can rent one at any of the ski outfitter places in Kandersteg.
Need a break before you attempt to hurl yourselves to your death? There is a great flat area right off the gondola where you can throw snowballs at each other and a cafe, also right at the gondola, that serves some of the best hot chocolate ever.
Even if you don’t want to ski or sled go up to the top. The gondola ride is worth it just for the view.
Kandersteg also offers guided snowshoe hikes! We intended to do that, but we got swept up with skiing and never got around to it. The slopes were so lovely even I, who am guaranteed to wipe out in spectacular fashion, rented skis. (Not without trepidation, as I mentioned in this conversation with Shaun.)
See? It looks so gentle and fluffy!! What could happen??
Plus we look good.
Find out how we did next time! (With, I hope, videos!)