Lately I feel that most of my free time is spent working (worth noting, since anyone reading this blog or my Instagram might understandably believe my life is all snowy slopes and frothy beers), so spending a Saturday snow-shoeing was a welcome break from routine.
Our school offers as one of its extracurricular programs the Duke of Edinburgh International Award, an experience that features outdoor “adventurous journeys”, asking students to learn the knowledge required to navigate mountains and forests using a compass and map, plan and pack the necessary food required for nutrient-rich meals (that can also be prepared over a small stove), essentially be self-sufficient in nature, all alongside ongoing work with service projects that span the whole year. Teachers volunteer to chaperone and help out throughout the year; we’re given a group of students and are responsible for checking in with them to see they’re fulfilling their goals and service work, checking their routes when they’re planning their journeys, and going along on the journeys themselves as support.
Niki, who organizes and runs the program at our school, planned a team-building hike for chaperones, which was how I ended up at Wirzweli with a pair of snow shoes strapped over my hiking boots.
If I had it my way, I’d be outside every weekend doing cool, adventurous things, but I’m not great at planning excursions on my own these days (a combination of feeling exhausted by work all the time and spending my weekends doing work). So when Niki wrote to us with a detailed itinerary and our sole job was to show up at the school parking lot, I was in.
We drove from Basel to Wirzweli, about an hour and fifteen minutes away, under warm sunny skies; outside, it was above 50 degrees, though my MeteoSuisse app promised up to 50 cm of snow in the mountains we were heading towards.
We packed into a gondola and were shuttled up to the top, where our snow shoe trek began beneath an archway with a straw hedgehog at the top. We carried the snow shoes for the first part, until we reached a grassy field puddled with clumps of snow and ice. From there, the way was a bit snowier, though everywhere we went, you could see patches of green or muddy rocks. At some points, as we ascended through the forest, there was no snow at all on the path; it’s an odd thing, clambering up rocks and roots wearing snow shoes.
Still, it was a nice day. I wore my underarmor top and a puffy vest, hiking pants, hiking socks, and a pair of gloves, though the gloves came off after about 30 minutes. I’d packed along an extra pair of long underwear, socks, two long-sleeve shirts, and a down jacket in my backpack, and didn’t need any of them. While it was comfortable and enjoyable to hike in the sunshine, never feeling cold or uncomfortable, I worried a little about whether this is normal for Switzerland: so little snow, not very cold, and in the middle of February.
In any case, it was a lovely Saturday. We hiked for about 4 hours, half of it uphill with stunning views of the mountains on either side (Rigi, Titlis, Engelberg). There was chocolate to reward our ascents, I learned a little about reading a topographical map, and we ended at an Alpine restaurant that served hot Alpenmacron with sweet apfelmus on top (and tall beers, too).
We arrived back at school around 5:15, and I hopped on my bike with Jo to head home. This is all part of the joy of living in Switzerland: being able to reach the mountains in a little over an hour, and being able to bike from your home to your job in less than twenty minutes.
[Fun Fact: Wirzweli seems to be associated with witches or magic; from the cable car station having a huge painting of a witch on its one side, to local businesses changing “Herzlich Wilkommen” to “Hexlich Wilkommen”, there’s some kind of backstory here. I’m not quite sure what it is, exactly, but the tourism website says something about Lizi, a herbal witch bewitching the mountains.
Nicole sounds like you had a nice time . 50 in Switzerland in February sounds strange . We’ve had 60’s then 30’s . No snow , can’t remember a winter with no snow.it’s all over .Enjoy those trips up to the mountains and around ! Love you !🙏🏻❤️🥰🤗
Maybe it’ll be a late-season snow! Fingers are crossed for you 🙂