I am off to Switzerland on 28th February, the weather in Mumbai is 27 degrees centigrade and I am going to an alpine resort with temperatures in minus something. But I am excited, I love the snow and the magic attached to it. I am especially excited about the various winter activities I will be trying, snowshoeing, snow sledging and skiing. It puts me in a childlike mood of snow fights, snowmen and snow ferries. I cannot help but smile in excited anticipation as I pack for my Swiss trip.
Located at about 2 to 3 hours away from Geneva and Zurich respectively, these twin towns of Crans-Montana have much to offer, including an impressive view of the chain of mountain peaks from the Matterhorn to Mont Blanc and a particularly wide programme of activities all year round.
In winter, the green and white fern trees separate the earth and sky, standing as the keepers of secrets, of many generations, ready to whisper to the ones who would listen. It is a perfect place between heaven and Earth. The White hills, green trees and brown chalets sprinkled to perfection with powdery snow, look like a giant patisserie; I am transported to another world.
Today we are off on a ‘Snowshoeing and Gastronomy’ tour, we were told to wear comfortable shoes and dress warmly. I wore my sneakers with a double layer of socks, thermals, bubble jacket, woolen bonnet, gloves, sun glasses and I was all ready for my adventure of the day. As I walked to pick my gear, I heard myself thinking proudly, “When you are prepared snow can be fun,” I was pleased with my preparation… until then, until then, being the key phrase. We started walking with our snow shoes and poles in hand. It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining, there was light snow, the vistas were beautiful and I was warm and comfortable, I was living a dream. Suddenly my feet started to feel cold and I wondered why? Only to realize that I was walking ankle deep in soft snow and my shoes were not water proof; Oops! I couldn’t walk 7 kilometers with wet, cold feet, nor was I prepared give up.
I brought the matter to our guide, Andre’s attention; Andre, a local from the region in his mid fifties, was a hardy outdoor guy, you could tell from his tanned skin and sturdy hands as he helped us with our snow shoes, without wearing any gloves. He had a heavy French accent “If you have a question or you are tired or uncomfortable, just told me, I am sorry my English no very good but you told me and I help you.” He was our ‘go to’ person for the next 4 hours. On learning my situation he rolled his eyes and after a moment of thought, with a big mischievous smile he said, “Don’t worry, we fix you.” He managed to get garbage bags, which I wore over my shoes and wore the snow shoes over them, pretty ingenious! No prizes for guessing who won the award for ‘best dressed’
We stopped at a cozy mountain cafe, and were instantly greeted by the sweet aromas of freshly baked pastries and comforting cloak of coffee and warmth. We were served a huge slice of the best blue berry pie; it was thick, juicy and crumbly with generously layered sweet and sour blue berries. At first I thought it was too big for me so I served myself half the portion, I regretted it the moment I took one bite of this piece of heaven, after I devoured my piece I shamelessly went for the seconds. Being a self proclaimed foodie, I was now looking forward to the rest of my Gastronomy part of the tour with anticipation.
We took a gondola to reach the middle of the mountain, and began our 4km walk. Listening to the snow crushing below my feet, the sound of winds in the trees, while marvelling at yet another spectacle of nature, it was an experience like none other. We waved at many friendly skiers and snow boarders on our way, some as young as five or six years old, it was heartwarming to see families bonding outdoors in this virtual and digitalized world. Yes there is hope!
“Don’t look down, just look where you are going” this was the best advice I could have gotten from Andre. Walking on snow is no walk in the park; it takes a little while getting used to the foot gear nearly three times your shoe size. It is a light and simple equipment to increase the surface of your foot to help you walk in the snow, without sinking into it; you have two poles to help you in the process. It is best to walk slow and easy and not worry about how the snow shoe really works. We were a group of 12 people so sometimes we had to wait for the ones behind us to catch up. At one instance as we waited for the rest of the group, there was a sudden shower of snow, I let out a small scream only to realize that Andre was shaking a branch of a fern and grinning from ear to ear, to restore my pride I made a ball of snow and threw at him, others joined in enthusiastically.
At the end of our four kilometer walk we were ravenous and were rewarded with a spectacular four course lunch at Le Mont Blanc, a Michelin star restaurant housed in Le Crans Hotel and Spa, a luxurious 5 star mountain hotel with 15 rooms. The meal was delicious, innovative and beautifully presented, we ate Veal tartare with burrata cream, olive and tomato jelly, French scallops with coconut and eggplant caviar, a tangy caramelized pre-desert to clear our palate and a beautiful tangy, nutty and chocolaty signature dessert… Yum!! It took me some effort and a lot of will power to get into my snowshoes again for a walk of another 3 kilometers in the cold wet snow after such a delicious meal and warmth of the hotel. But once we started walking I was engulfed in the freshness and beauty around, and felt fortunate for this experience; I found myself smiling… to no one in particular.
Snowshoeing is a great way to enjoy the magic of snow in an active way for non-skiers.
Clothing tips – Water proof shoes/ boots with a good grip on the soles, ski pants or water proof pants, gloves, woolen bonnet, a warm jacket, reasonable fitness levels and a child’s heart.