Thursday, April 18, 2013


I have just spent a week in Switzerland - to see a dentist in Zurich and to spend a few days spring skiing. It was my first visit in about 15 years - and my reaction was "omg!" and another "OMG!!" And yet another "OMG!!!"

After a teeth cleaning that lasted 75 minutes, executed with Swiss precision, and after two fillings that were painless even to this dental coward, I took the train to the ski resort of Saas-Fee on the Italian border.
On the slope.  In the sun.

The first omg! was caused by a most embarrassing thing that happened to me.  I got ski sick!

Omg!  I threw up on the slopes of Saas-Fee.

The village of Saas-Fee is surrounded by about a dozen peaks over 4000 meters (13,000 feet). The town is small, and throughout there are dozens of old, wooden raccards (granaries) - most still in use. The sheds stand on special stones designed to prevent rodents from raiding the pantry.

Needless to say, the ski area is very big, and it takes two gondolas and an underground funicular to get close to the top. On the first day, after a few runs on easy slopes to find my ski legs, I decided to head to the top for some intermediate runs.  I clipped on my skis and headed down a narrow chute to the top of the slope. 

The view on a good day.

Halfway down, the fog rolled in.  OMG!  What to do?  My skiing on steep narrow trails isn’t that great when I can see what I am doing.  But in fog? 

The view in the fog!

I couldn’t go up, so I slithered to the bottom of the chute and stood at the top of the first slope in a total white-out.  I plucked up courage and started down with long, slow traverses hoping that I wouldn’t slide off the edge of the mountain.  With no visibility, I couldn’t see the moguls or the piles of snow on the piste.  I could barely see my own skis. 

Then the unthinkable happened – I got ski sick!  As in sea sick.  With no horizon and making so many turns, and with ups and downs, my vestibular system revolted.  So did my stomach. 

Being a pilot, I know quite a lot about the vestibular system and what happens when it is disrupted.  So I stood still and hoped the fog would lift so I could see the horizon.  It didn’t.  After a while I started down again, skiing purely by feel.  Ski slowly to the right.  Bump.  Slide.  Turn to the left.  Bump.  Slide.  Turn to the right.  And so on.

At one stage I was so disoriented that I felt I was turning but was in fact stationary.  Have you ever tried stopping, when you are already stopped?  I nearly fell over while standing still!

It took me a long time to get down, needless to say, and I blemished the piste on more than one occasion with the remnants of the previous evening’s raclette and prosecco.  At those moments I was happy there was a fog!  My indiscretions were invisible.

Fortunately I recovered quickly and was able to ski again the next day without the unwanted side effects.  But the sun was shining and I could see what I was doing.

A better day!

Stan – Thursday

Postscript 1:  There were many additional OMGs during the stay – mostly at how expensive everything is in Switzerland – it is bad enough in dollars, but it is heart-stopping in rands.  The others were aimed at the spectacular scenery.  OMG, it is stunning.

Postscript 2: Several outlets are offering the e-book version of our first mystery, A CARRION DEATH, for $1.99 (at least in the States).

Unfortunately we cannot guarantee these prices will last.

OMG this is a great deal.


  1. OMG! My already screwy vestibular system can barely stand my reading this. Vivid as it is, I am glad I am lying down.

  2. I thought of lying down in the snow - it wasn't too cold - but was worried about being ski-ed over by some Swiss hulk with sharp edges!

  3. Thank you, Stan, for bringing back a memory. One late November, I found myself stranded in the fog halfway up a ski mountain in Montreux in without skis. How I got there is another story. It was eerily fascinating for a time. Until I realized I had to get down before it turned dark. All I remember was creeping down the hill in "street shoes," following tobaggon tracks, and praying all the while that no more were being formed behind me.

    I don't remember throwing up, but I do remember buying the warmest pair of Moon Boots I could find the moment I reached the bottom.