Pizol, CH: 03/08/19

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Pizol, CH: 03/08/19

Postby jamesdeluxe » Mon Mar 11, 2019 10:44 pm

For my final destination trip of the season, I took advantage of a late November sale on United FF awards for 45K miles instead of the usual 60K and booked a trip to Zürich, which I've flown into so many times now, it's starting to feel like a European Salt Lake City for me. Weather reports were a bit all over the place so I decided to stick to higher elevation areas and the canton of Graubünden in southeastern Switzerland.

My flight landed an hour early, so it looked like I was going to get at least five hours of arrival-day skiing at Pizol an hour east of the airport, which had reported six inches the day before. Pizol is, along with Flumserberg just to the east, one of two decent-sized ski areas right alongside Autobahn #3. Both are less than five minutes from the highway exits, similar to I-70 ski areas in Colorado like Copper Mountain and very popular on weekends/holidays because they're both connected to Zurich public transport systems.


I was booted up by 10:30. The ski area, which is shaped like a horseshoe with a huge steep valley in between. When the valley runs are open, that's a 5,600-foot T2B vertical drop; however, due to the recent warm spell that took out the snow at the bottom, "only" the upper 3,900 verts were open:

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For the next three hours, I plundered all sorts of lightly-tracked low-hanging fruit only a few yards from the groomed trails. The snow from the previous day was just dense enough to keep me from punching through to the bottom but soft enough to sink bootcuff to calf-deep.

Now the bad news -- because I could see a massive cloud bank moving toward us, which would kill visibility at all terrain above treeline, I was too busy hurrying in turns to take decent pix. All I have are a few mediocre scenics. For proper photos of this beautiful ski area with the green valley below, I'll have to redirect you to one of many Alpinforum TRs from a couple years back.

The obligatory shot of the Swiss flag:
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As expected, by 1:30 the entire upper mountain fogged up to the point that you couldn't even see ten yards ahead, ugh. As anyone who's skied across the ocean can tell you, this is one of the big (and less pleasant) differences between skiing in North America with its comparatively high tree lines. After 15 minutes of brailling through the summit area, I headed into a cute midmountain restaurant for beers and, I swear, the best thin-crust pizza I've eaten in years:
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By 3:15, it was obvious that a clear-up wasn't in the cards and I downloaded to the base. Unfortunately, I learned later that the whiteout on the upper half of Pizol was a rogue cloud -- pretty much everywhere else in the region was sunny the entire afternoon. Oh well, three hours of low-angle powder on arrival day is better than sitting in an office, so no complaints here.
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