Follow the Neon Poles

I went to Interlaken, Switzerland all the way back on the weekend of February 20. It seems like such a long time ago now. However, it was and still continues to be one of my favorite weekends abroad. Getting to ski the Alps while I was abroad was at the top of my list to do and before I got here I didn’t think I was going to be able to go. I haven’t met many people at school that can ski or better yet ski well. I was ecstatic when I found out that a handful of people on my trip could ski and wanted to go to the Alps.

We went with the tour group FlorenceForFun, the same company I went with to Budapest. They had a promotion early on with a discount if you booked two weekends so it worked out well. We left late Thursday night and took a bus to Interlaken. The bus ride was pretty miserable until I got innovative. Normally I have no problem falling asleep on the bus. I owe this to Western Tour. I can sleep upright in the aisle seat. However, I could not fall asleep if my life depended on it on the trip there. It got to the point that I threw my jacket down in the nasty floor and slept there. I probably was a fire hazard and would have gotten in trouble but I was desperate. Early in the AM we finally arrived at the Funny Farm Hostel. It was half hostel, half hotel. Luck was on my side and I ended up on the hotel side. Thankfully I haven’t had to experience any of the stereotypical European nasty hostels.

the view from my hotel window

the view from my hotel window

Friday morning we got up really early, and yes 6:30AM is early, to catch the first bus out to the slopes. They first took us to get all of our rental gear. I had to rent literally everything. I was anticipating getting cheap, old, gear like you would get a WinterPlace but what they gave us was the farthest thing from that. Everything was high quality and the same stuff they sold in their store. I wanted to ship the boots home with me. They were a lot nicer and more comfortable than the ones I already own.

After gathering up all of our gear, we headed up to the mountain. One of my friends on this trip is a hardheaded boy that was determined to ski in the Alps. This same boy has only skied once at Sugar Mountain and lets just say that one time didn’t end so well for him. I think you can imagine what might have happened. We finally get to the top of the mountain after a little detour caused by headstrong boys that are “never wrong.” I stepped in my skis and was ready to go enjoy a great day skiing the Alps. Long story short, the first run took almost an hour. Trying to teach a tall boy bigger than me how pizza down the mountain was so difficult. Thankfully he had a good attitude about it and the rest of us got some good laughs. He decided to get a lesson and that was definitely the best decision for all parties involved. IMG_5682

IMG_5708The rest of the day was amazing. We skied right into the chairlift every time. They had a really smart way of checking lift tickets. Instead of having to have a sticker connected with a metal hook to your jacket, they had a card that you stuck in your jacket. It would scan as you went through a turnstile to get on the lift.

On one of our final runs of the day I had gotten a lot of speed going down the mountain. Little did I know I was about to catch a lot of air on a drop off. One of my friends was at the bottom of this little drop off and got to watch this go down. Unfortunately he didn’t catch the good part on his GoPro. I’m not one to do all of the jumps and go to the terrain park when I ski so when I landed my accidental jump I freaked out. My eyes were closed the whole time and I honestly thought I was about to hurt myself. I was in such shock when I landed on my feet that I squatted down and leaned back on my skis, basically sledding down to my friend. Looking back on it, I wish I would have landed it and stayed standing to make it seem like I was that skilled and did it on purpose.

We had decided to skip lunch and just eat when we were done for the day. I had been told to try the mac & cheese at the restaurant in the tepee so I did just that. For some odd reason, they served applesauce with all of the pasta dishes. IMG_5693

That first evening, FlorenceForFun had arranged a swiss chocolate tasting. I’m not a huge chocolate person as it is but I loved almost everything I tried, including the dark chocolate. When he came to hand me a piece I told him I didn’t like dark chocolate and he told me I was just eating it wrong. I guess you are supposed to suck on dark chocolate and not just bite it like a Hershey bar. I thought he was nuts but it worked, I liked it. Our final piece had alcohol in it. We were expecting a liquor flavor in the center not an entire liquid shot. Everyone’s faces were priceless, I wish I would have been able to get a picture.

IMG_5705

Saturday only three of us went out skiing. We decided to go to a different mountain to try something new. It was all blue skies and sunny on Friday but that was not the case on Saturday. It was foggy, cold, and windy. After the first run I had to get goggles or I was going to be miserable the entire day. Besides the elements, I liked that mountain better. We found a lot of good runs. After lunch we had decided to do a new run. I had seen this run as far left as you could go. I was expecting an Alps version of Wood’s Run at WinterPlace. After about 400 meters into it, obviously too late to turn around, we had to climb up a baby mountain. On the trek up we passed people in cross country skis and thought we were really in for it. Turns out we were but that was the only uphill adventure. Thankfully we saw some other skiers soon after so we knew it was an actual slope. This run was so bad all we could do was laugh. Probably 45 minutes into it we took a break to just laugh and reflect on how insane they were for saying it was an open run. We had to ski around grass, boulders, sticks, mud and the rest of nature on a completely ungroomed slope. IMG_5713

15 minutes later and still seeing no end we decided to pull the map out. That was when we realized we were a few miles away from the bottom of the mountain. Thankfully when we finally came up on the end there was a bus that took us to where we needed to go. One would think that would have been enough of an adventure for the day but the stories continued.

The elements had gotten much worse at this point but for some stupid reason we decided it would be smart to take the gondola back up to the top to ski one last run. By the time we reached the top, there was so much fog I could barely see my friend beside me. The runs were outlined with these tall orange poles that had neon tips. Both of us knew that no matter what we stumbled upon, we could make it to the bottom in one piece. Thankfully after a few lucky guesses and skiing right beside the neon poles, I was able to recognize where we were and we safely made it to the gondola to take us down.

Saturday continued to get better. We went night sledding. A group of probably 50 of us were given a plastic version of a Flexible Flyer and taken up to the top of a mountain. This mountain had zero lights so all the light we had came from the stars and a red flashing gadget they put on our backs. This was a highlight of my time abroad. I hadn’t laughed that hard in a long time. We would take off down the mountain and end up in a big dog pile because steering the thing was really hard. Sounds kind of dangerous but it was so much fun.

Sunday morning we had some time to kill and got to go explore Interlaken. We took a “20 minute” walk to a lake with one of the guys from FlorenceForFun. Even though the walk was about an hour, it was well worth it.  This isn’t photoshopped, the water was this blue. IMG_5720

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