Thursday, March 3, 2016

Relaax @ Flims Laax Falera

Flims Laax Falera is in the Graubunden region in southeastern Switzerland, about 12 miles away from the small city of Chur and 84 from Zurich.

It's actually three villages in a row–F-L-F–and on March 2, 2016 I left on the gondola from the first one, Flims Village, which sits at about 3200 ft. or 1100 meters above sea level. The vast and breathtaking Laax terrain goes all the way to the Vorab Glacier at 9900 ft. or 3018 meters.

Skiing down the "moonscape" or terrain below the glacier
From a flat forested area named Plaun (nearby a cool nordic track, btw), I took another chair to Crap Sogn Gion, a station at 2228 meters (7309 ft.). A bit of background on the word "Crap" on the trail map, which I heard some Brits chuckling about. Crap is a Romansch word for stone or rock, so these are "holy rocks" or sites named centuries ago when the Romans had strongholds (or strangleholds, more like) in the Alps, as in St. John's Rock. At least according to a Swiss friend with roots in Graubunden. Cool, huh?

The weather was better than expected, so I wanted to make sure I took a "marquee run" from the area's high point, before I left. That took a powder run down to Alp Dado, and then another chair to Crest la Siala at 7600 ft. From here is a nice run down to Fuorcia, where a small cable car called a bergbahnen hauls the skiers to the bottom of the Vorab glacier.

Take the t-bar up and ski the glacier from 9900 feet
The bergbahnen takes you over what I'd describe as a snow-covered lava field or moonscape; enigmatic terrain that was downright spooky when it was enveloped in mist the day before.

Not today. The sun was fairly strong on the slopes, through wispy clouds.

From Vorab, a t-bar takes you to the top of the glacier at about 10000 feet. The ski down is easy, a kind of blue piste that kids can do safely. Yet off to the side I found plenty of powder to augment the desire to ski an alpine glacier.

But I wouldn't venture too far, because glaciers have crevasses, even "civilized" glaciers like this one. In fact, a glacier doesn't know whether it has a t-bar and a groomed piste on it; it just does what glaciers do. Just including this so skiers and riders don't go too far in their glee.

The skiing was even better going over that "lava field," a kind of rolling, high plateau covered in untracked powder. It felt nice to silently swoop over that unusual, low-angled terrain. The off-piste near Crap Masegn (2477 meters or about 8130 ft.) was also very good. Then I ended the day by skiing all the way back to Plaun (pronounced like "brown"), a leg banger which made the stange (the beer), outdoors in the sun at Plaun, taste all the more savory.

Flims is a busy cluster of chalets and hotels but quiet, when I was there
For someone who'd never skied at any of the uber euro resorts like Verbier or Ishgl, I'd say for the American skier, Laax is definitely a skier's mountain. Get a clear day and you can cruise wide open alpine slopes surrounded by miraculous views. The place has to be seen to be believed, if you catch it in the sun.

There are thousands of acres of fresh tracks and bowls and mountain flanks to challenge any skier or rider. You can ski all the way back to Flims dorf, or the villages of Laax or Falera, if that's the way you want to cap off your day.

About half a meter of snow was forecast for the week I was there; snow is likely to be plentiful, even though it might appear as rain in the towns.

One more thing. For the overnight I made a last-minute rez on booking.com and got a pretty good deal at the Hotel Adula, with a great included Swiss breakfast and "sauna garden." These are different sauna variations followed by a cold room with a spray; it's a great combination for the banged up athlete. Talk about "chilled" and uber relaxed!