Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Dashing through the snow...

This weekend we decided to take advantage of the good weather to take Lydia tobogganing at Aminona, near Crans-Montana in Valais. Having barely seen the sun in the last couple of weeks, it was a good opportunity to get some fresh air and do something fun.

The timing of our trip was perfect weather-wise with glorious sunshine and clear blue skies, but unfortunately it was also a Sunday during half-term break, which meant a lot of other parents had the same idea as us. Parking near the tele-cabin wasn't too bad, as a free multi-storey car park is very nearby. Sadly, getting a ticket was much harder.

There was a large queue lined up en masse in front of the ticket office, with only two guichets open to serve the waiting throng of people, and doing so at an incredibly slow pace. I'm not sure if it was due to language barriers - I heard all sorts of different languages in the mass of people around us - but it often took up to ten minutes for some people to buy their tickets, in what is normally a pretty simple process.

This meant that we waited for about an hour to finally buy our tickets for the tele-cabin and sledge rental, which meant we had to keep Lydia busy the whole time. You can't realistically expect a nearly-two year old child to wait patiently for this length of time, although she did well to last about twenty minutes before getting a bit grumpy.

I managed to keep her occupied for most of the hour, before the eventual bout of tears (possibly tears of boredom) just before we got to the front of the queue and bought our tickets. For information, our total time in the queue was sixty minutes, and only two minutes at the desk to actually buy the damn things.

We quickly grabbed two sledges and jumped in the tele-cabin to get up to the top of the mountain. We only purchased one trip in the tele-cabin, reasoning that we didn't fancy doing the queue again.

Lydia enjoyed riding in the tele-cabin, looking at the view and pointing at various items of interest such as trees and people skiing down the mountain.

Picnic lunch at the top
When we arrived at the top we made our way out to the piste, and sat down out of the way of the skiers and tobogganers for a picnic lunch. Eating our fill of bread, ham, cheese and crisps - washed down with a chilled beer - we lapped up the sun's warming rays in preparation for the ride down.

It took us a couple of minutes to work out exactly where the sledge run starts, as the beginning of the trail is for both skis and sledges, and we certainly didn't want to get stuck going down the wrong one. Having found the right path to follow, we negotiated some particularly steep descents on our sledges, Lydia sitting with me while Chris (very slowly) followed behind.

Although Lydia enjoyed the speed and the sensation of going fast downhill, she was definitely not a fan of having snow sprayed in her face. Some of the trail was very steep indeed, and I had to really dig my heels into the snow to try and stop us going too fast, fearing slightly for Lydia's safety. This lead to snow being flung up in front of the sledge, most of which went straight onto Lydia.

Despite being well protected in her ski combination, hat, scarf, gloves and sunglasses, the snow managed to get on every available patch of bare skin on Lydia's face. After one decidedly scary downhill slide, I stopped and looked at Lydia - her entire face was covered in bits of snow, she looked almost like a tiny snowman! Naturally, she did not appreciate this, and she cried for most of the time wanting to stop the downhill snow showers.

Unfortunately, you can't really stop halfway down a mountain, so we had to keep going. I would stop every couple of minutes to try to calm Lydia's tears, but she really didn't enjoy it very much.

Pit stop with a view!
We came across a little kiosk/café after about 2km of the track, and stopped for a rest and a glass of mulled wine. The friendly barman told us that we still had around 4km to go before we reached the bottom, but that we had already gone past the worst of the descents. This cheered us up, and a little bit of chocolate eventually made Lydia cheer up as well.

When we restarted the course, Lydia's tears restarted as well. She really didn't enjoy the sledging, and on several occasions she tried to stand up and turn around, leading me to have to restrain her while I stopped the sledge to be able to comfort her. For the final 3km of the course I managed to avoid spraying any snow on her at all, but this didn't stop the crying.

We finally reached the bottom, with me carrying Lydia in my arms for the last few hundred metres just to stop her near-hysterical screaming. I instantly stood up and carried Lydia back to the car, feeling her calming down with each step. By the time I got to the car, she felt completely relaxed in my arms, and I'm pretty sure another five minutes like that and she would have fallen asleep (I should point out here that it is incredibly rare for Lydia to sleep anywhere other than her bed or occasionally her car seat)!

I eased her into the car, covered her up with a blanket and then drove off. After only two minutes in the car, Lydia was asleep. She slept the whole way back to Bussigny, and promptly woke up just as we arrived at home. Think the little munchkin tired herself out with all the crying!

Thinking back to the sledging itself, I quite enjoyed it (if you remove the screaming child aspect). The trail has some very steep parts and some sharp turns, but we managed to negotiate the entire course without falling off the sledge.

The views from the top are stunning, and on a sunny day such as this one the trip to the bottom is very nice indeed.

The downside for us is that the next day it was clear that Lydia has picked up a cold, most likely from getting snow in her face so often. It seems that every time we go tobogganing with her she ends up with the sniffles.

I think this is the last time we will go tobogganing this winter. We'll see how we get on next year - hopefully Lydia will like it more than she did this time.

I would definitely go back to Aminona as the course was fun, but try to avoid going during school holidays.

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