Greetings from Andermatt!

PICT0020, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

We've had a great time the past few days. We arrived in the afternoon on Saturday, and just took it easy that day, acquainting ourselves with the layout of Andermatt, a village of 1,500 inhabitants. Andermatt once saw much more traffic than today, because it lies just below the pass of Oberalppass, once the only way to go from this part of Switzerland to Italy to the South. Nowadays, there are tunnels that shorten the trip, so those who do venture up to the higher altitudes do so for adventure, not necessity. A Swiss military base in Andermatt closed a few years ago, taking with it 500 soldiers who had previously contriubted quite a bit to the local economy. So Andermatt is in the process of redefining itself as an out-of-the way tourist destination and Mecca for snow sports enthusiasts. The people here are very friendly, and most of them understand (or even speak) a bit of English. I've had the opportunity to practice my German a bit too, which has been a bit frustrating, but fun too.

Sunday Matt and I joined a guided off-piste tour of the mountain's backcountry areas. It was exhausting but lots of fun. We found several slopes of untouched powder snow during the day. We were going with a bunch of guys who were quite good, so it was challenging to keep up.

Monday was a so-so day, with uneven snow conditions. We took the train up to Oberalppass at one point, because the top of Gemsstock was closed and we wanted to find some places to ski. But unfortunately, the lifts at Oberalppass were also closed due to poor visibility and high winds. So we sat in the bar there and had drinks with a bunch of IBMers who also happened to be there. Oh, that's an interesting thing about this trip. For the second time this year I have by coincidence booked a trip privately that was the same trip as one I could have booked through the IBM club. It happened in February when I met a bunch of IBMers at Kittelfjäll, and it's happened again here. My former colleague Maud is along with the IBM gang too, and it has been fun to catch up a bit with her.

Yesterday I joined a bunch of the IBM folks for some of the best skiing of my life. It had snowed all night the previous night, so there was a good meter or so of fresh soft powder covering the whole mountain. We went off-piste the whole morning, and were able to find untouched fields of powder snow by traversing across the valley. The sun came ouf around midday, and we captured some excellent photos. It's amazing how much more fun it is to ski when you can see where you're going!

It's been windy and rainy this morning, so I don't think the skiing will be as good today as it was yesterday, but we'll make the best of it. Matt, Lisa, Lotta and Johan are already up on the mountain, so we'll use walkie-talkies to try to meet up with in a few minutes.

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