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post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
Some of you know that my wife and I are going to be in Zermatt, Switzerland, in about three weeks. (I'm going to ski for a morning while we're there. )

I mentioned this to a longtime friend yesterday. She was recently widowed after 55 years and is just a great friend. She started reminiscing about a ski trip she and her sister took to Zermatt in April of 1950.

She was 20 and her sister was 22 (and both VERY good-looking, I've seen the old photos). The two of them traveled by train from Italy to Zermatt and stayed in a hotel for several days. While there, they had a skiing guide (Arturo) who would take them up the train each day and they would ski back down to town. I believe the train they took was probably the Gornergrat, which rises up out of the town of Zermatt to the end station at around 10,000 feet.

From there, they would ski down, have lunch at one of the mountain huts, and then ski the rest of the way to town. This was in April, which is pretty late in the ski season. According to her, the two of them were the ONLY Americans and the ONLY two young women in the town of Zermatt. They were constantly wined and dined by the local guides and just had a wonderful time.

Can you imagine skiing Zermatt in 1950? I'm sure this meant leather boots, cable bindings, wooden skis, and absolutely no grooming of any kind. I'm sure it meant wandering about in the mountains and the glaciers, skiing whatever route the guide selected. She said they had wonderful powder skiing with almost no other people around.

Doesn't that sound cool?
post #2 of 11
It does sound cool Bob.

I was in Zermatt in 1983 in May, as part of my honeymoon (long since divorced btw.)

I wasn't a skier then, and we hiked up these paths past shephards with their sheep, stopped in a lodge and the guy opened up to feed us.

Later on I realized what I was hiking on was ski trails and that lodge a ski lodge.

We were in Zermatt about 4 days and never saw the Matterhorn which was behind clouds the entire time, very disappointing.

Awesome town though!

Have a great time!
post #3 of 11

Go in the afternoon

Have a fabulous time!

I skied on the glacier above Zermatt (Kleinmatterhorn?) in late July of '91. There might be fresh snow when you go. If not, consider going later in the day to give the surface some time to soften up.

I proposed to my wife on that trip... thanks for reminding me of it.
post #4 of 11
Imagine Middle class folks being able to afford real estate in areas like Jackson Hole with the desire to live there year round!
post #5 of 11
I was in Zermatt in the 70,s. I like the climbers graveyard in the middle of town. Is it still car free?
post #6 of 11
Hey Bob,
I don't know about the 50's, but I was able to spend two consecutive 4th of Julys in Zermatt during the 80's ('84 & '85). Billy Kidd offered racing camps there on the glacier during that time period and since I was stationed in Germany at that particular time I made it a point to be in Zermatt to partake of the abundance of American girls there, as well as be able to make a few mid-summer turns. It was very cool overall, and if I recall correctly, the Klein Matterhorn tram serviced the highest lift served skiing available in the world at the time. I didn't score as well with the girls as I hoped, but I was introduced to Dynamic skis,which were totally unheard of in Idaho at that time and are still are unheard of (probably for good reason on both accounts)! Also, I remember getting off the tram at the top, walking through the upper terminal tunnel and being amazed at number bees and other flying insects spread across the snow (I had no idea of thermal updrafts at that particular time). I enjoyed it then and think I would enjoy it now, especially with my son Dane, who is becoming quite an accomplished skier these past couple of seasons ( he was born at St. John's in your neck of the wood in '97). I can only hope to win the lottery, in order to be able to find out if this is actually the case!
post #7 of 11
I couldn't imagine skiing Mad River Glen in the late 40's.
post #8 of 11
Bob, you paint such a picture.
I must say, I got lost in the moment while reading your post.

I am so happy for you and your lovely bride. Have the utmost fun!
post #9 of 11
Thread Starter 
Thanks, tc.

It was a real treat to watch her face light up as she remembered that time from over half a century ago.

It's just fun think about the circumstances that would lead to two young American women arriving at a ski resort in the Swiss Alps so many decades ago. She and her sister were from a reasonably wealthy family (obviously, otherwise how would they have been able to afford to go there?) but she's one of the most down-to-earth women I've ever known.

She was engaged at the time and would be married that following June. Her parents took her and her sister to Europe as a sort of final family outing. They rode a cruise ship across and back and spent nearly a month traveling Europe. The two girls had skied a little tiny bit in the US and wanted to go see this famous Swiss resort they'd heard so much about, so they got on a train in Rome and went to Zermatt.

She describes the town as tiny and beautiful and incredibly charming. The owner of their hotel fixed them up with Arturo the ski guide and they spent several sunny days skiing the surrounding area.

They probably weren't very good skiers but that's not the point. Think of the sense of adventure and the solitude of skiing at a time when practically no one in the entire world did! That's passion for the sport.

She describes having dinner each evening in their hotel. Arturo had fallen madly in love with her sister and he and his friends would follow them everywhere. She and her sister got postcards and letters from him for decades afterwards.

After returning from that trip, she would marry her Marine lieutenant. After he returned safely from Korea and left the service, they would continue their shared love of skiing and raise a wonderful family of skiers and ski racers. I met them in the late '70s in Jackson Hole and became lifelong friends and I respected him more than any man I've ever met. He was one of the founders of the Jackson Hole Land Trust and was deeply involved in helping preserve the scenic beauty of thousands of acres of this valley.

It's just such an evocative idea - two girls traveling halfway across the world half a century ago to go skiing. It's just great.
post #10 of 11
I bet that chat with her got your juices flowing!

On that note: Imagine how much more these women would experience today if they had that kind of adventure back then.
My Niece is living my grandma's dream. You would love to be a fly in the wall while the two of them chat about her aspirations.
post #11 of 11
Originally Posted by Idahojef View Post
...It was very cool overall, and if I recall correctly, the Klein Matterhorn tram serviced the highest lift served skiing available in the world at the time. ....!
Here ya go -- my daughter in March. Unfortunately we didn't get the views on this day, but we did the next day (I posted some photos in the gallery thread).

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