The title pretty much sums everything up, it was simply awesome. The Swiss Alps are stunning, the town of Saas Fee was charming, and the snow was plentiful for the time of year. Now that I have that out of the way, let’s get down to how I ended up lucky enough to be in Switzerland in October.
Mid-September I received a call inviting me, along with a few other retailers, to attend a trip to test some K2 prototypes in Switzerland, and who says no to that? This summer was particularly warm, warmer than most, and I’ve been itching to get back on snow since last season ended but with that level of excitement I completely underestimated how unique of a trip I had waiting in front of me.
Saas Fee is exactly what you want in a European mountain town. As we arrived I quickly realized that cars were not allowed in town, but relegated to parking structures at the end of town. While pedestrians ruled the streets, small electric vehicles took care of delivering luggage and supplies to the hotels. The town was made up of cobblestone roads lined with buildings that are older than many North American ski areas that really gave a feeling of culture that had existed for 100’s of years. To complete the old world charm, there was a fortress of a church at the center of town, whose first bells rang at 7am, making it the most pleasant alarm clock I have ever had.
It was quite the adventure getting from town to the snow. We started by hiking to the first of two gondolas, a tunnel, and then an underground train. Once we emerged from underground we were met with a sea of snow dotted with skiers and snowboarders from every walk of life. There were Race and Aerial teams from dozens of countries as well as a huge array of Freestyle athletes throwing down in ways I could only dream of being able to. There was a very distinct energy to the whole mountain with all these world class athletes in such close proximity.
Now for the most important part of the trip, the skiing. We were testing all mountain skis with a focus on hard packed performance. This ended up being perfect as we had flawlessly groomed runs to start out each day and with all the racers confined to their courses no one to contend with for space. It was run after run of letting the skis run loose and laying down carves with a smile from ear to ear. I was expecting to start my season 6-8 weeks later and couldn’t help but smile the whole time. There were a few occasions where I had a hard time remembering to stop and take notes, I just wanted to hop back on the t-bar and keep lapping. After testing followed by a little freeskiing I was pleased to find out that the Saas Fee Après tradition was the same as at home, good beer and fries.
Each ski day was followed by ski test debriefing and industry discussions. After all, we all had to convince our bosses that this really was work. It’s a tough job sitting around drinking beer and deliberating ski technology and who’s got it best.
As the trip came to a close we had our fill of good skiing, quality lager, and a startling amount of cheese. Driving down the valley watching the snow turn to green pastures and vineyards gave me time to reflect on how lucky I am to be part of the ski industry and to have been skiing not 2 hours earlier, in October, in Switzerland.