Sunday, March 8, 2009

St. Moritz Ski Report

English first / 日本語は英語の後

My third destination was St. Moritz where the Winter Olympics took place twice, each in 1928 and 1948. It was a bit farther than Engelberg and Grindelwald, taking me 4.5 hours to reach the St. Moritz station. Despite the long train ride, views from the train window on my way to St. Moritz never bored me. During the ride from Zürich to Chur, I enjoyed a spectacular view of Lake Walen (or Walensee in German) in the background of mountain rocks with sharp and zigzag ridges which were covered with snow and lit up in the morning sunshine (photo 1). Take a left seat from Zürich or a right seat from Chur for this view. The train then ran through a peaceful valley. While I didn't completely notice, the train must've passed by Mainfeld that was the village of the very famous novel "Heidi". The mountain railway from Chur (elv. 1916ft, 584m) took me up to Preda (elv. 5900ft, 1800m) and then lost an elevation slightly to St. Moritz (elv. 5823ft, 1775m). Taking a right seat was really a good idea. The reason is, after getting out of a tunnel, I was amazed to see the railroad track almost vertically below the train, which was actually where the train ran on several minutes ago. Yes, this means that the train ran through a loop tunnel to gain a lot of elevation. I think I enjoyed this experience a couple of times before reaching St. Moritz.

The train arrived there 15 minutes later than scheduled. It was 10:13am, and so I ran up the road leading to the city center, which I soon realized was no a wise idea. Recall the city is located at 5823ft(=1775m) or above. Today's skis and boots were Atomic Race GS and Nordica. The price was 65CHF, the same as Grindelwalt. I got out of the rental shop in a little hurry to the street, where I ran into a long march of youngsters wearing regionally traditional cloths. A rental shop staff told me that it was a march to bring spring. Right. Despite that St. Moritz records colder temperature than any other ski resorts, today was really hot, probably more than 45F or 8C. After patiently waiting for the march to pass by, I again ran up the road, as totally relying on the google map. What I saw was, however, a cable car getting out of the tunnel. I asked a man taking pictures of the cable car about the directions to the base station. He kindly guided me to the station, which was really below from where I lost my way. What a mess of people who rushed to only two ticket counters. I even saw a woman sneak into the middle of these waiting cloud without ignoring other people's attention. It wad 11:15am when I got on the first cable car. I then transfered to the second cable car, and finally rode the gondola to Piz Nair (elv. 10030ft, 3057m). It was 11:50am. So, it was more than 6 hours since I left Basel with the 5:33am Inter-City train, and 30 minutes later than when I arrived at Männlichen in the Grindelwald two weeks ago, but I was actually standing at the highest point of the St. Moritz - Corviglia area (photo 2). So, it was good enough.

Now, let's talk about skiing at St. Moritz. Please look at the trail map:
First, I skied down course #16 to char W. I found out that my rental skis carved the snow really in sharp but needed quite a longer time to rotate their tails than I expected, which I feel became a factor of what I encountered 1.5 hours later. I rode the cair W to Fuorola Grischa and then cruised down on course 17 as enjoying the view of brown mountain rocks on my both sides, covered with white snow and clearly contrasted with the deep blue sky. I then got on char U, and ran down course 19 to chair V, which took me back to the Fuorola Grischa - Piz Schtattain peaks. On course 18, if I had taken right, I'd had reached course 30, the most difficult one where I might be able to enjoy skiing in deep fresh snow. But, whenever I tried to go right from course 18, I saw wind-smoothed solid snow like stripe-patterned dunes. So, I ended up with reaching the base of course 18, and decided to try it again. From the top, I saw two skiers traversing right, and thus followed them. As I took some pictures on my way, I lost them and had to keep traversing alone (photo 3). At the end, no more ski tracks. I began to carefully skied down on these snow dunes (photo 4). I finally saw them approximately 100+ yards or 100m ahead of me, but also realized there was a short cut to go back to course 30. I think I was standing near by the right portion of the mountain rock between courses #30 and #17 in the trail map (, This short cut starts from a very narrow corridor between rocks like the course Shu-san, Kato-san, Shinko-san, and I tried in Chrystal Mountain, WA, but it leads to a big open space after 3 or 4 turns (photo 5). The slope was very steep but still not so steep as the slopes I've been ever scared of.

So, after taking some pictures, I started to ski down on this exciting slope. The slope was smooth but still slightly stripe-patterned dunes. I cleared through this corridor, reached the open space, took a sigh of release, and tried to continue skiing down with short turns. But in my next left turn, I noticed that the skis didn't rotate but even caught the snow with their left edges. My upper body began to lean down to the valley side, and then fell down from my left shoulder. It was a strong impact. While I worried about my left shoulder, both of my legs rotated in the sky and quickly hit down on the slope, which of course released both the skis from my feet. Due to this momentum, my upper body began to get up in the sky and then fell down from my left shoulder again. I think I repeated this roll-down three times or so, and afterward I lay down on the slope as watching the sky. But this falling-down motion didn't come to the end. Now my body slid down from my feet and I felt the speed got increased. What? I saw a big rock ahead of me. I still was on the very right edge of this open space which might have been even leaning right toward rocks. "Hit the rock! Hit the rock! My feet may get crashed. Or am I dying?" This was the first moment to feel like I'm dying.

Luckily I saw the wall of rocks on my right side. Did I pass by the rocks? No. I felt my boots scratched probably by one end side of a rock. While I felt that I was still alive, the momentum resulted from this rock scratching now changed my body-sliding direction perpendicular to the fall line. As soon as sliding finished, my body began to roll down again but side by side, I hit my left and then right shoulders repeatedly. Quite fast spins I've ever experienced. I don't remember how may times my body spun on the slope. I felt that bones of my body would crash if this spinning motion lasted all the way to the base of this slope. I repeated in my mind: "I'm dying but I don't want to die." This was the second moment where I got scared of death.

Finally, I said in my mind "let me stop this spin!", and did some motion like extending my legs wide or grabbing snow with my right hand. This was something like a drowning man will catch at a straw. But it worked out! This spinning motion changed into sliding down from my feet again. I extended my feet straight and pushed the slope with my heels as shouting in my mind "stop! stop! stop!" The boots vibrated crazy and even repeated bouncing. It was a long natural slider. Suddenly, I felt the snow changing softer from solid dunes, which helped my boot heels dig the snow more in deep to stop sliding. I was totally in a big panic. While I should've checked my injury, I flipped around to see where my rental ski gear was left and even tried to search for it. But now a big pain attacked my left shoulder and I noticed my fingers were numbing. It was obviously impossible to climb up this steep slope as fighting against this strong pain. I saw some skiers on the other side of this open space, (i.e., course #30), but they were far away, probably more than 150+ yards or 150m away from me as if colorful small rice crops were sliding down on the slope. I couldn't shout. I barely managed to wave my right hand. 10 minutes passed. 20 minutes passed. 30 minutes passed. I began to feel tired of thinking what I should do. I even began to shiver. This was the third moment to feel like I'm freezing to death.

Meanwhile, a man in a red jacket approached from course 30 to me, as asking me "are you okay?" (He told me later that it was unusual for someone to sit alone in the middle of the slope where no one was skiing down.) He called a rescue team by his cell phone. Although it was a warm sunny day, I couldn't stop shivering any more. He took off his jacket and put it on my back. The rescue team came, checked my body condition, put a jello-like portable body warmer on my chest, moved my body on a warm-keeping sheet, and called for a helicopter. (I felt, too that using a sled would be out of consideration because of this steep slope.) As a helicopter approached, two rescue members covered me from big snow wind caused by the helicopter. I asked the man in a red jacket (actually no longer in his jacket) if he would need his jacket, but he responded that he was okay. A paramedic doctor came out from the helicopter, gave me a pain-killer injection, and tied him and me together with a rescue rope. The propeller sounded louder, the rope was pulled up, and finally the doctor and I began to move up in the sky. Since the rope spun, we spun in the sky, too, which amazingly gave me the most unforgettable panorama view in my life. I saw the corridor I challenged. It was actually much steeper, longer, and more dangerous than I thought, as if it said, "hey, loser, do you wanna try me again?" I replied in my mind, "not really." Oh, St. Moritz. I should keep this view in my life-time memory. I'll never forget this moment.

The helicopter arrived near by the base of chair U where all rescue member met together to help me get on the helicopter cabin and put all my belongings in the aft storage. At that time, I couldn't afford to check if the man in the red jacket, namely my life savor was in the group and so didn't have a chance of asking his name.

This is my St. Moritz ski report, which should be graded as "incomplete". Without any further action, "incomplete" will be "F".

By the way, how's my left shoulder? From the very initial x-ray, the ER doctor thought that I just dislocated my shoulder and put it back to the correct position. The x-ray technician took the post-treatment x-ray photos. I still recall that she opened her mouse quite wide and then covered it with her hand when I stared at her. Murphy's law: I dislocated my left shoulder, broke the joint of my upper left arm into three parts, and hurt some spines, causing numb from the shoulder all the way to the thumb, pointing, and middle fingers of my left hand. Day 1 finished at 10:10pm when I recovered consciousness after the 2-hour surgery. Day 2 was a repetition of nausea and pain. Day 3 made me aware of the seriousness of my injury and I cried for my left arm/hand/fingers, all immobile despite my intention to move them. In day 4, my life saver visited me in the hospital at Samaden, two train stations away from St. Moritz. He was not a rescue member but the director of St. Moritz Scweizerhof Hotel. He suggested me to visit St. Moritz again with my family, and I nodded my head to him (photo 6).

So, here are conclusions: (1) I'll come back again as promised; (2) no more pursuit for challenging slopes alone; (3) no more rental ski gear; and (4) I'll put on a helmet. To make them happen, I'll do my best for the rehabilitation until I can come back to my usual sports activity.

For more photos, please visit:


列車は、15分遅れでサンモリッツに着きました。10時13分になっていたので、市の中心街に向かって坂を駆け上がりました。しかし、これは余り賢い考えではありませんでした。町が標高1775mかそれ以上のところにあることを思い出すべきでした。今日のスキーと靴は、アトミックレースGSとノルディカでした。お値段は、65フランでグリンデルヴァルトと同じでした。少し急ぎ気味で貸しスキー屋から通りに出ましたが、この地方の伝統的な衣装を着た少年少女達の行列に出くわしました。貸しスキー屋の人は、春を呼ぶ行列だと言っていました。そのとおり。サンモリッツが他のスキー場よりも低い気温を記録するにも関わらず、今日は本当に暑くて多分7,8度以上はあると思われます。この行列が通り過ぎるのを辛抱強く待った後、完全にグーグルの地図を頼りに、再度、坂を駆け上がりました。しかしながら、私が見たのは、ケーブルカーがトンネルから出てくるところでした。ケーブルカーの写真を取っている人に、山麓駅への道順を聞く事にしました。彼は、私が道に迷ったところから遥か下にあるケーブルカーの駅まで、案内してくれました。2つしかない切符売り場に人々が殺到していて、混乱状態です。周りの人達の視線も気にせず、この群衆の中に割り込んでくるおばちゃんすら見かけるのでした。最初のケーブルカーに乗ったのが11時15分、2つ目のケーブルカーに乗り継ぎ、最後はピッツネイル展望台(標高3057m)に向かうゴンドラに乗ります。到着したのは、11時50分でした。バーゼルを5時33分発の都市間連絡列車で出発してから6時間以上、2週間前にグリンデルヴァルトのメンリッヘンに到着したときよりも30分も遅くなってしまいましたが、実際のところ、このサンモリッツ ー コルビグリア スキー場の頂上に立っているのですから、良しとしましょう。(写真2)

最初は、第16コースを滑ってWリフトへ向かいました。今回の貸しスキーが実に良く雪面を刻んで行くのが分かりましたが、思う様にテールに回転をかけるまでに結構時間がかかる気がしました。これが1時間半後に直面する事象の要因の1つであったと感じます。Wリフトに乗り、フオロラグリッシャと言うところに登り、第17コースをクルージングしました。両脇は、茶色の山々と岩肌が、白い雪に覆われていて、真っ青な空と対照的です。それから、Uリフトに乗り、第19コースを滑り降りて、Vリフトに乗り継ぎます。このリフトは、先ほどのフオロラグリッシャ ー ピッツシュタッタインの頂上まで戻ります。第18コースでは、右に進路を取ると、深雪を楽しめるであろうと思われる第30コース、最も難しいと表示されているコースへ辿り着くはずです。しかし、何度も第18コースから右に折れようとしても強風で滑らかにされた縞模様の砂丘状態の固い雪しか見当たりません。とうとう、第18コースの麓まで来てしまったので、再度挑戦することにしました。頂上から、2人のスキーヤーが右に折れて斜面を横切っているのが見てたので、彼らに着いて行く事にしました。途中、幾つか写真を撮ったりしていたので、彼らを見失い、1人で斜面を横切ることになりました(写真4)。最後はスキーの滑走跡も見当たらなくなりました。それで、この砂丘状態の雪面を注意深く滑り降りることにしました(写真5)。ついに、100メートル程度前方に彼らを発見。と同時に第30コースへ戻る近道にも気が付きました。地図(上では、第30と第17コースの真ん中にある山の岩肌の右側辺りに立っていたのだと思います。この近道は、両脇を岩肌で挟まれたかなり狭い回廊から始まりますが、3,4回ターンをすれば、大斜面にでます。多分、秀さん、加藤さん、信子さんとクリスタルマウンテンで試したのと同じ感じです。斜度は、結構きついですが、今まで恐怖を感じる程の斜面ではありませんでした。










photo 1: Lake Walen

photo 2: Piz Nair (elv. 10030ft, 3057m)

photo 3: Traversing right from course 18

photo 4: Solid stripe-patterned dune-like snow

photo 5: 1 minute before my injury

photo 6: Mr. Martin Scherer