Lugano - October Grey clouds over a lake, surrounded by mountains.

For a bit of a break, and to celebrate the end of Jules' busy season we headed down to Lugano for a weekend of relaxing in Ticino

We took the train down on Friday night, and were a bit surprised to find that there was no restaurant car, which necessitated a quick dash to a shop for emergency victuals on the journey. It's been a long time since I drank sparkling wine out of a plastic cup, but I feel we were up to the challenge...

Arriving at the hotel Villa Sassa we found the room to be alright, but more like a serviced apartment than a hotel suite. The sofa wasn't particularly comfortable to relax on, and the room was pretty stark and functional.

The weather wasn't very kind to us for the weekend. Saturday started quite overcast and wet, but after breakfast we took our umbrellas and went for a walk through town and did some (quite successful) Christmas & handbag shopping. We had a very pleasant, light lunch in town and bought some local cheese from the market, then made our way back to the hotel. In the afternoon we retired to the hotel spa. Jules had a massage and we used the pool and the excellent saunas - nice and hot, and pretty empty.

We dined in the hotel, not fancying a trip out in weather that had deteriorated into a proper storm. The restaurant at the hotel was very good, with excellent service, a very tasty mushroom ravioli, and a rather special salt roast sea bass.

On Sunday we had a gentle breakfast, and then with the weather forecast continuing pretty poor we headed back to town.

Cycling Denmark - September

For a bit of a longer trip away, and looking for an excuse to see Kirsten, Niels, Jamie, Emma (and of course Alfie) I headed off for four days cycling along the Ochsenweg from Hamburg to Horsens.

Narrow track along a grass path, through trees

After a slightly more complicated start than one would hope - caused firstly by getting the final destination wrong, necessitating some last minute replanning, and secondly defective toilets in the train (a bit rubbish given the price of the ticket) I set off for Hamburg to start 4 days of cycling to Ry Horsens.

After a reasonably good night's sleep on the train, I set off out of Hamburg. The start was a bit varied - the Old Fish Market seemed quite trendy, but was interspersed with old docks and ru down industrial areas

Pretty soon I was out of town, and heading along a nice riverside route along the Elbe. I turned north at Wedel, then followed a mixture of quiet agricultural roads, and semi-paved and gravel tracks. The wind picked up a little in the afternoon, and was blowing steadily by the afternoon. By Uetersen I was reliably following the Ochsenweg, and had come to recognise the signs en-route. The route continued steadily north, and by Itzehoe the landscape was very agricultural, with a surprising number of tree nurseries as well as the more usual crops. One surprise was the thatched cottages (I thought a typically British affection), but clearly popular around Seesteraudeich and with distinctive crossed wooden slats at the apex of the roof painted white and black.

The penultimate section of the route before the final run into Hohenwestedt was through forest tracks, practically turning into fields at one point. Still - that was easier going than the broken concrete on the semi-paved tracks!

I arrived Hohenwestedt in the middle of the afternoon, having pedalled for almost exactly 6 hours, covering 122 km with a nominal 300m of ascent / descent. From there just a short run to the hotel Am Boxberg. My Fratello did a great job as usual, getting me through the slightly mixed surfaces and the first day safe and sound. After freshening up I retired to the Restaurant Am Boxberg for a well earned beer, and an excellent dinner of grilled salmon.

After a good nights sleep and a hearty breakfast, I headed off back to Hohenwestedt to rejoin the Ochsenweg. The route continued on very quiet and agricultural roads, winding through farmland and villages. I made good progress on the gentle breeze and sunshine to Rendsburg for a cup of tea and an Apfelkuchen.

Departing Rendsburg the route entered woodlands, and the surface turned into somewhat annoying sand sections before Kropp - I must confess that there was some muttering going on, particularly on the sections that necessitated pushing my bike. Fortunately there wasn't much more than 10km of bad sections, and less than 3km not really cyclable before the surface and the sense of humour improved again.

I stopped in Schuby at a nice little Backeri for a late lunch and then continued, on forest tracks and quiet country roads with hardly any traffic which resulted in very pleasant cycling.

I noticed that my front tyre was slightly flat just as I arrived in Padborg, and combined with a chain so filthy with sand and dust and twigs (unrecognisable from the pristine state from two days previous) that I decided a bit of maintenance was in order. After a shower and a bite to eat I headed into town to pick up a cloth and some oil to assist with the maintenance. Finding the puncture and cleaning the chain took most of the evening before dinner then I retired to the restaurant for a good steak dinner and another well earned beer.

Pretty white church

I woke up on Wednesday to find both tyres still fully inflated - I was very happy about that - and after being reminded to to reconnect my back brake about 150yds down the road I headed off into Denmark. The roads continued to be a mixture of tarmac and gravel, all cyclable and winding through gentle countryside.

I stopped for a mid-morning break & snack at Rødekro, after about 40km, and then for a light lunch at Vojens at the 70km mark - this was a bit earlier than I planned, but it was the last convenient town. I also found an LBS in Vojens, with a friendly owner, for a replacement inner tube, some more oil for my chain, the loan of a pump, and a chat about the weather and cycling routes.

After lunch it was an easy run to Vejens, with the mythical tailwind appearing, and well tarmac'd roads. I almost missed the hotel, it was only the name on the side of a van that made me look more closely at the building, although I do confess that I was distracted by the steep hill and the anticipation of my 100km minor-celebration.

I decided to do a little more bike maintenance - cleaning the chain and gears and reoil everything then after a shower and a shave retired to the bar, to sit in the sun. Dinner was a rather good lamb dish in the restaurant along with a perfectly acceptable glass of red wine.

Bicycle with red panniers leaning against the steps to a house.

I woke up early and decided to set off promptly in the morning. The cycling was very picturesque in the early morning mist partially obscuring the fields and woods. Conditions brightened up later in the morning and I arrived in Vejle in the sunshine at about 10am. Slight headwinds, and some rolling hills, but otherwise very pleasant cycling.

After a sandwich and a coffee, I headed off on the final leg of the trip. The route to Horsens started off along the coast before turning inland. The coastal section wasn't that great for cycling - discretion was the better part of valour a couple of times and I pushed my bike past the technical parts. It wasn't long before I was back on good roads, and I made fairly good time to Horsens. From there it was a short run to Kirsten's to finish off a lovely trip. On no, I got back on the bike and headed out to pick up some essentials (beer, wine) and dinner. Then it was the end of cycling and the start of a weekend with Kirsten & Niels, Jamie, Emma & Alfie.

Overall the cycling was about 470km in 4 days, mostly flat, but with a few rolling hills.

Walking Engstlenalp - August Hills and cliffs of the high Melchsee-Frutt plateau

For a slightly longer trip, Diana, Luis, Jules and I headed off for a two day walk through the lovely scenery of Melchsee-Frutt, over the Jochpass and down to Burghubel. We stayed overnight in the Engstlenalp hotel, nested in the valley next to a very pretty lake bearing the same name.

We headed off on Saturday and had a fairly hassle free journey to Stöchalp. We elected to take the gondola up to save our energy for walking up in the mountains. We started with a slight detour to see the Blausee (it turned out not to be the famous one, but pretty nonetheless), and after a quick bite to eat in the Fuchs- und Hasenbeiz hutte we headed off. We took the long route to Tannenalp, going via the Balmeregghorn, and then dropping down the ridge. Low clouds meant the views weren't quite what they could have been, but they occasionally lifted to give tantalising views of the surrounding mountains. We were amused by a rather badly behaved herd of cows, which seemed to take delight in doing exactly the opposite of when their cowherds were intending (one of them took a liking to yours truly and wanted to walk with me - clearly I reminded it of a Swiss cowherd), and we saw half a dozen marmots, which was a lovely surprise. We stopped at Tannenalp for a quick refreshment and then decided to press on to Engstlenalp rather than do any more detours. The last section was a bit intimidating in places (Jules was very brave), but we made it safe and sound to the hotel in good time. After a shower, a well deserved beer and an excellent Rösti we walked out to the very pretty Engstlenalpsee to help settle dinner before retiring to bed.

Overall the day was 13.5km, with 500m/600m ascent/descent and it took us about 3 hours 30 of actual walking. The GPX plot of our route is here.

View over beautiful blue alpine lake, framed by peaks

On Sunday we set off at a leisurely pace after a good breakfast. The climb up the Jockpass was fairly steady, easier than the ascent the previous day and we arrived at the top in perfect time for a late morning coffee. En-route we saw a small kestrel gliding on the ridge lift about level with us, which was very pretty indeed. After a home-made ice-tea and a coffee, we decided to walk down to Berghubel, but then take a decision on the last descent to Engelberg proper. The first part of the descent was pretty steep, and it felt as though we went down a lot further than we had climbed, but in actual fact it was about equivalent. We arrived at Burghubel in time for a light lunch and then decided against walking the rest of the way down - probably a good decision given that it was significantly further and higher than the first section. We arrived by gondola at the town centre to finish a lovely weekend walking

Overall the second day was 6.5km, with 400m/475m ascent/descent and it took us a little over 2 hours of walking. The GPX plot of our route is here.

Summer Holiday Cycling Alsace - July

For the second part of our summer holiday, Jules and I headed off for a week long cycling trip, starting and finishing in Freiburg and taking in Strasbourg, Colmar and the Alsace wine region. The weather was hot and sunny for the first 5 days, then a bit wet and stormy for the last two. Pretty villages, Flammkuche, Choucouterie, more vineyards than anyone would credit...

Overall it was very pleasant cycling, on very quiet roads through very pretty countryside. Upon reflection, we would probably have preferred to stay a bit longer in some places (packing up and moving every day gets a bit boring after a week), and if we did a similar trip again we would probably just do the Strasbourg - Freiburg leg, on the French side. That would allow a couple of days staying two nights in the wine villages, and to spend a bit more time seeing the surrounding areas.

View along the cycle path beside the river Rhein

Sunday: Freiburg
We arrived Freiburg after a slightly more hectic journey than planned, but still pretty stress free and easy overall. We checked into the perfectly acceptable Hotel Minerva, then went for a wander around the town. Freiburg was bigger than we expected, with quite a few shops (all closed on Sunday, mores the pity). We took a wander up the Schlossberg, down the worlds shortest (and possibly slowest) bergbahn and to the Münster, with suitable refreshment at the appropriate opportunities, best of all being the hilarious Weinbär (Jules was not impressed)

Monday: Freiburg - Endingen
After a morning spent buying running shoes (don't ask), we headed off on the relatively short leg to Endingen. This was about 32km along mostly traffic free roads and cycle paths in glorious sunshine. The navigation was slightly more challenging than it might have been - our planning didn't extend as far requesting the GPX route from the travel company - and therefore yours truly was trying to read paper maps and written instructions en-route, to the amusement of Jules and the terror of other road users. However we arrived in good time, with only one U-turn, and were pleasantly surprised by the very pretty and well kept village centre of Endingen. Unfortunately we finished getting checked-in and changed just in time for all the restaurants to finish serving lunch and therefore had to resort to a picnic in the town square. The GPX plot of our cycle ride is here.

Suitably fortified we set off for a circular route taking in the nearest hill, the Katharinenberg. This turned out to be a nice stretch of the legs in the afternoon - a total of 5.5 miles, with 1,200 ft ascent descent which took us just shy of two hours plus a short break at the top. Nice views from the top and on the way down, through the vineyards. The GPX plot of our walk is here.

We had a lovely dinner of smoked trout salad in Zum Allen Wagenmann in the centre of a Endingen, then failing to find a nice bar or cafe for a digestive we picked up a small bottle of white and headed to the under-loved but very peaceful hotel garden to finish off a successful first day of cycling.

Tuesday: Endingen - Rust
After a slightly delayed start - Jules elected to sleep in through breakfast owing to someone snoring overnight - we set off for the epic 34km to Rust. The navigation was a little easier (and we were a bit less fussed about following the exact route described) starting out through the field planted with small crops of maize, corn, apples, cherries and plums, plus some occasional peas, raspberries, and strawberries.

We joined the Rhein shortly after Sasbach, and followed this until Weisweil, battling a fairly . We stopped for a very respectable Thai lunch in Niederhausen before completing the journey to Rust. We managed to avoid going to the Europapark, and instead had a relaxing beer (yours truly) and a run (Jules). The GPX plot for the cycle ride is here.

Flowers by the river in Strasbourg

Wednesday: Rust - Strasbourg
After a good night sleep in the upgraded room (someone wanted another bed to which to escape in case the snore monster returned), we headed off on the longer leg to Strasbourg. It was a day for navigational challenges (starting with heading out of Rust the wrong way), and including a detour along the wrong part of the Rhein. Basically nil points for the navigator. However we bravely pushed on against fairly strong headwinds and over gravel for most of the journey (fortunately Jules discovered “drafting”, which made her day a lot easier). We made fairly poor time for the 60km, but arrived in Strasbourg in the early afternoon.

We wandered into town to enjoy the afternoon which included a surprisingly good lunch near the Ponts Couvert, a visit to the non-existent Foie Gras shop, lots of shops that didn't sell belts (or didn't sell the right belts), and a trip to the local cathedral. Exhausted, yours truly collapsed in a local cafe for a refreshment or two, purely in the name of fortification, you understand... The GPX plot of the cycle ride is here.

Thursday: Strasbourg - Obernai
After a slightly amusing/farcical breakfast (very French service), we headed off from Strasbourg, following the river and then canals heading west. We stopped for a coffee and a cake for Jules in Soultz-les-Bains, and to pick up a baguette for the Foie Gras and cheese that we'd bought in Strasbourg the previous night. We saw what we convinced ourselves was a small European Beaver along the canal - quietly chilling out eating some shoots before getting scared of us. We continued on through the vineyards and very pretty medieval villages of Traenheim and Balbronn before stopping for our picnic lunch in Dinsheim. From there it was a fairly short leg via Rosheim to Obernai. The GPX plot of the cycle ride is here.

We arrived in Obernai and decided that a trip up the Mont Sant Odile was in order, but this turned out to be a b it harder than expected! Jules took the smart option and went by taxi, whereas yours truly decided to cycle it. It was only 3.5 miles as the crow flies, but 14km including switchbacks and an enforced one-way system round the top of the hill! Still, we were rewarded by lovely views at the top, and a nice cool breeze in which to relax. The descent was much easier and yours truly arrived back in Obernai for a well earned beer. For dinner we had the local pork knuckle, with sauerkraut. After dinner we went for a wander and found a cafe serving crepe and beer. Perfect! The GPX plot of the route up and down Mont sant Odile is here.

Friday: Obernai - St. Hippolyte
After a relaxed start we headed out of Obernai , and into the rolling hills of the Alsace. We stopped for a rather well received tea/coffee in Barr at the rather well appointed 5 Terres before heading onwards. The route wound through lovely villages - all superbly kept, and obviously well benefiting the wine trade - and the surrounding vineyards. It was a day of gentle cycling and rolling hills in bright sunshine. We stopped for a light lunch in Châtenois before the final leg to St Hippolyte, timing it fairly well to arrive a little before the storm broke in thunder and lightning. After the rain passed we headed down to Sylvia Fahrer et. fils to sample the produce of the fields we'd been cycling through all day.

Dinner was tapas on the balcony, washed down with a bottle of Riesling, then watching the thunderstorm hit. The GPX plot of the day's cycling is here.

Pretty village square - medieval houses and flowers in boxes

Saturday: St. Hippolyte - Colmar
With the weather overcast and the promise of rain in the air, we set off on the relatively short leg to Colmar. We had intended to arrive in time for lunch, but spurred on by the rain we arrived about midday - well before our bags, and before our room was even ready. Unperturbed we got changed and headed into Colmar to see the sights and to have a bit of lunch. Colmar itself was very pretty, but quite touristy after the small villages we'd become more used to since Strasbourg. The GPX plot of the day's cycling is here.

We had a very pleasant dinner in Colmar, at Brasserie de la Bahamas, including a really excellent creme brûlée, then chilled out in the hotel a bit tired from all the sightseeing.

Sunday: Colmar - Freiburg.
We headed off promptly on Sunday morning with 60km to cover and an early afternoon train to catch. The route out of Colmar was slightly technical, owing to the one-way systems blowing through the carefully laid plans of the day before. Regardless, we made it out of the city and headed off through cornfields towards the Rhein, and then on to Freiburg. We stopped following the proposed route from the tour and instead stuck to the locally signed cycle routes which took us to the town centre on a more direct (but probably less scenic) route. We arrived in Freiburg for about 12:30, to complete a full week of cycling with a good Cordon bleu in the Restaurant Schwarzer Kater. The GPX plot of the last day of cycling is here.

Summer Holiday New Forest - July New Forest Ponies grazing by the roadside at sunset.

For the first part of our summer holiday, Jules and I headed to the New Forest for a holiday with my family. The weather was fantastic for the whole trip - high twenties every day, and bright sunshine. No raincoats or jackets needed!

After a slightly convoluted journey (train, flight, taxi and eventually a lift) we arrived in Brockenhurst on Saturday late afternoon. The location was great, just on the edge of Brockenhurst, past the Balmer Lawn hotel, on a quiet street with the New Forest over the road and stretching out in the distance.

It was a relaxing and enjoyable week. Highlights included a hack for the ladies, plus a riding lesson for the kids. Jukes and I managed to get out for a walk along the spit to Hurst castle, and a ferry ride back to Keyhaven, followed by a very forgettable crab salad in the Gun Inn (not sure we'd recommend the place to anyone we liked). We also had a wander around Lymington with its pretty old high street, and the obligatory pint of bitter in a pub in Brockenhurst (the Huntsman was the choice).

We had a rather successfully (we felt) afternoon tea at the Balmer Lawn hotel, the kids very restrained in the face of the stack of cakes and sweets... We had a family trip to the very pretty beach at Mudeford, and Dad and I braved the arduous trek back to Brockenhurst - the 15 or so miles made somewhat more challenging by the 30 degree heat, topped off with lots of short walks and adventures around the cottage.

Lermoos - June View of the Zugspitze from the balcony at MOHR resort Lermoos

For a well deserved trip away, Jules & I headed to Lermoos in Tyrol, Austria for a long weekend of relaxing, eating, walking and general well being in the MOHR life resort.

The drive was fairly easy, we decided to set off late morning to avoid the worst of the crowds, which was a successful strategy. We arrived mid afternoon at the rather special MOHR life resort in Lermoos. After a glass of sparking and cake to recover from the drive we wandered into town to have a look around before retiring to the spa for a quick swim and a sauna before dinner.

The food was wonderful for the whole weekend, tasty and well portioned courses, although the temptation to go to the buffet too often was an ever present risk. In particular the ham was delicious (sliced yourself), and the dessert buffet on Saturday night, with a variety of Strudels was particularly special.

On Saturday during the day we walked up the Grubigstein (passing on the very last ascent to the peak, which is a climbing route), and a very pleasant walk from the hotel. On the way up, Jules assured herself that the wild alpine strawberries weren't yet ripe, but otherwise it was an easy walk with good views over the Zugspitze and Sonnenspitz/Wamperter-Schrofen. We had lunch at the Grubighütte, before heading down a slightly different route via the Wolfratshäuser hütte. We decided to take the gondola down from the middle station to Lermoos, but still managed 9 miles, with 3,500 ft ascent / 2,300 ft descent, 3 hrs 45 + breaks and lunch. The GPX plot of our route is here.

Jules standing in front of the very clear waters of the Blindsee

On Saturday afternoon we retired to the spa, to build up our appetite for another 5 course meal. After the meal we were treated to the annual Bergfeuer Zugspitze  Arena, with fires being lit on the mountain-side (some on actual cliffs). The eagle was the most impressive from a distance, but the Edelweiss was also very pretty and some of the crosses seemed to be in very hard-to-reach locations…..

On Sunday we checked out of the hotel, and drove a short distance to Bieberwier, to do the recommended 3 lakes walk, taking in the Weissensee, Blindsee, and Mittersee. The Blindsee was particularly pretty, with turquoise waters clear enough for groups to be scuba-diving. Jules took the opportunity to assure herself that the alpine blueberries weren't yet ripe - which wasn't a great surprise, as they weren't even blue. That was a gentle but pleasant walk, of 5.7 miles with 850 ft ascent/descent which took us a shade over 2 hours. The GPX plot of our route is here.

Overall it was a lovely weekend. We were very impressed with the hotel, the service was excellent and the standard of food and facilities was exceptional. We'd happily go back, having only scratched the surface of the opportunities there, from more challenging walks, riding, diving/swimming in the lakes, kayaking and possibly even learning to fly-fish.

Schwarzwald Weekend - March Misty, snow covered field, framed by trees

Keen to get away for a bit, and in search of some sunny weather, Jules and I headed to Titisee in Schwarzwald for the weekend.

The drive up was pretty easy and uneventful, punctuated by a trip to a couple of garden centres to try to replace our balcony table (a casualty of the winter storms that hit Zurich). We arrived in Titisee mid afternoon, at the very pleasant Seehotel Wiesler, and went for a short wander around town for a stretch of the legs. The weather wasn't so brilliant, so we retired to the spa for the afternoon before sitting down to a rather good meal in the hotel.

On Sunday we started with an excellent breakfast - possibly the best spread that we've ever seen in a hotel - before heading off on a nice circular walk around the local hills. The weather started out misty, but the sun quickly burned through and it turned into a lovely early spring day. The GPX plot of our route is here, and it was a fairly easy 5.5 mile stroll, with no major hills or climbs taking in the rolling hills of the Schwarzwald.

Arriving back at the hotel, Jules decided that she did (after all) want to try out the local loipe at Hinterzarten so we headed back there for a quick loop of the 5km route to finish off the weekend before heading back home. All in all it was a very pleasant trip away, good fun and with very little fuss or hassle.

Skiing St Anton - February

For my main skiing holiday of the season, I headed to St Anton am Arlberg to meet up with the Gileys for a week of skiing. There was a good base of snow down, but not much recent snowfall so it was mostly on-piste skiing and cruising around as the weather permitted.

View over snow covered mountains and valleys

I stayed at the Hotel Goldenez Kreuz on Dorf Strasse in St Anton. This is a very pleasant and personal family run hotel on the Main Street in St Anton, about 200 yds from the Nasserein lift. In particular the home made muesli for breakfast was very good, and being able to buy the lift ticket direct from the hotel, rather than queuing up in the morning was very convenient. All in all, everything was pretty well run and hassle free, and I'd happily go back there.

Before the Gileys arrived I had the chance to spend a great weather day cruising around St Anton. The better snow was to be found up high, a bit refrozen in places in the early morning. There was good snow up in Albona, but with only a slow two man chair to use those runs I didn't spend very long there. I headed back to St Christoph for lunch, good soup and a plate of chips at Hospitz Alm. Afterwards I tried skiroute #66 down the front to St Christoph, but that turned out to be full of awful refrozen lumps that looked soft from a distance. The best snow of the day was between the pistes heading down from little area above Albona, which is worth remembering and a bigger area than it looks if you're prepared to drop back down into St Christoph. In total I skied a a fairly respectable 41km for the day, including 8.5km vertically. In the evening I met up with the Gileys after freshening up, and had a couple of beers before retiring for a tapas dinner

Skiing together, we spent the day cruising around St Anton and everyone getting their ski legs back. We went over to Stuben, and Albona, but it was quite cold in the wind on the slow two man chair. We pottered around for the morning and eventually ended up at Gampen for lunch where Giley and I shared an enormous Schweinhaxen (honestly, I might never eat again). After rolling out of the restaurant we cruised around on the St Anton side of the mountain, where we found the snow to be best under Osthangbahn Chair. We finished up at our favourite Rodel-Alm bar under Nasserein lift for a cheeky beer before heading down to meet Steff and Shane for proper apres.

Feeling a bit more adventurous, we headed off to do the Weisse Ring entirely on skis, from Nasserein. The weather was very kind to us, and we had spectacular views for the whole day as we progressed round the loop. Generally the queues were ok, despite being a lovely day. We had to wait a bit above Zürs at both the main chairs out of the valley and the slow 2-man Madloch chair, but after that they were ok for the rest of the day. Wendy was particularly brave taking on the top of #139 (black skiroute) in busy conditions. We declined extra runs in Lech, as we planned to come back later in the week, and instead stopped for an excellent lunch at Rud-Alp. Spinach knödel for me - good goats cheese salad for Woo and excellent burgers & chips for Giley. Suitably fortified we headed off up the main gondola and looped back to Zürs before taking the gondola back to St Anton. We had a cheeky hot-chocolate in the bar at Galzig Before heading over to Rondel-Alm for a little sundowner. The run of the day was voted #200 into Lech by Wendy - wide open pistes and hardly anyone else in sight. All in all it was an excellent day in fantastic weather and well worth the prompt start.

Giley in front of the Weisse Ring sculpture

Feeling a little tired from the long day previously, we had a slightly more relaxed day - all our legs a bit tired and conditions not so great - light a bit flat and cloud on the upper slopes. We decided not to head up to Rendl (not much point) and instead skied above St Anton in the morning. We stopped for a hot chocolate in Gampen bar, which would have been very good if there had been any spare seats - we weren't the only ones with that plan! For lunch we headed down to St Christoph and back to Hospitz Alm (the Gileys wanted to try the slide). The restaurant was very pleasant inside, and we had a good lunch followed by the biggest Kaiserschmarm - proper type 2 diabetes on a plate! With conditions slightly worse than the morning, we decided to ski back to St Anton and then him the rest of the day skiing in favour of going shopping in town.

With pretty poor conditions locally, we drove to Lech in the hope of better weather, but were disappointed. The very low slopes were clear, but there was a thick layer of valley cloud which covered most of the skiable mountain. We did a few runs up to the top in fairly bad conditions, only breaking through the cloud just below the very top of the highest lift. Feeling not very inspired (and in some cases a bit dizzy), we headed down to Ober Lech for a hot chocolate. We then discovered the Run to Avoid (#212) followed immediately by the Chair to Avoid (Schlosskopf), all in a single run! Not really feeling it we headed back to Rud Alpe for a very good lunch to get our spirits lifted a bit. With the weather clearing slightly we did a few more runs low down in Lech, then headed up to do a couple of the higher up runs under Rotschrofen and Hasensprung lifts. We decided to leave Lech (rather than do the run over to Warth) and instead headed back to St Anton to pick up Jessica-monkey after her lessons. We headed up to the top of Gampen for another hot chocolate before skiing down run #27 to finish the day. In the evening we all headed out to Maximilian's's for a perfectly acceptable grill dinner.

With much better weather we headed off for a tour of the sights of St Anton. It took a couple of attempts to get up Valluga - the queues indicated that we weren't the only people with the idea - but had an excellent run down on skiroute #86 once we made it to the top. We lunched in St Christoph in Arlberg Thaja, then headed off to Reidl in the afternoon. The runs were in quite good condition on the Reidl side, and we were particularly pleased with the black #5 which started us on the run back into town. We stopped briefly at Base Camp before heading up Kappell for the last run down to finish a very good day, much helped by the bright blue skies and lovely views. We were feeling pretty virtuous by the time it was beer o'clock, having helped two people get their skis back on - one lady on the black skiroute at the top of Reidl, and one guy on the black #52 back to Nasserein.

For the last day of the holiday, we decided to spend a relaxed day skiing all together. We started with a few runs at the button lift at Nasserein, then headed up the gondola for a few runs at the buttons at the top. Headed off with the Gileys to do a run down Kappell, then stopped for a hot chocolate before heading down the slope. Stopped for lunch at Heustadl (not very impressed) and said goodbye to Steph, Shane & Harriott at the base. Did one more run down black #52 with Woo then said goodbye to the Gileys to finish off a fun week skiing.

Skiing Flims - January Car covered in snow in carpark

With some heavy snow falling during the week, and more on the way, I headed down to Flims to try to get in a full weekend on the slopes.

I decided to rent some powder skis, which was zero hassle after a useful conversation with the guy in the shop at Flims dorf , and suitably kitted up headed on up the slopes. I started with a run down Stretch (it's traditional), including playing the in areas off to the sides of the main run. I felt I got the hang of the skis fairly quickly - they floated much better in the deep snow than my slalom skis, and were even surprisingly good en-piste, the only difference being that they take a bit longer to roll edge to edge.

Suitably warmed up, I met up with Jay & Izzy and we did some cracking runs down the  some great runs under Mutta-Rotunda between route #73 and #16 in lovely conditions. After a morning of playing in all the powder we could find, we stopped for a good lunch at Plaun - an excellent soup and a tartar ciabatta. In the afternoon we did managed an interesting run down #83, but declined the route through the trees (not that confident on the new skis yet), and finished up playing in the powder above, around and down Stretch a couple of times.

Thoroughly exhausted but happy we retired to the Arena hotel for beers, and to await Jules' arrival. We went for dinner in Bellevue, which was OK, but frankly a bit late in the evening and a bit heavy - with hindsight a bowl of pasta or a pizza at 6pm would have been better than a mediocre steak at 9pm...

We stayed at the Hotel Cresta, just making it back before the doors locked, having tactically left the room key inside. After a good nights sleep and generous breakfast, I headed back to the slopes whilst Jules made full use of the spa.

Unfortunately after the heavy snowfall over night, the only lift open was Foppa, which broke down shortly after I bought my ticket (but fortunately before I got on) and was stationary for 30 minutes. However, once we were up and running again we had a good time doing loops of #4 & #10 (even Narus was closed) with Jay & Izzy and Mazda & Family. I was feeling my legs a bit, so cut the day short and headed off back to town in daylight tired but happy.