Wintertime in Switzerland means cross country skiing in the Jura Mountains!

Winter weather in Geneva can be a little depressing. With the alps to the south and the Jura mountain range to the north sandwiching Lake Geneva and the city, it’s not uncommon to go two or three weeks without seeing the sun as a thick, impenetrable fog settles in over the city.

Clouds over Geneva

It’s beautiful… at 4,000 feet!

So what can one to do to escape the dreariness? Throw some skis into the “boot” (that’s what they call car trunks over here) and head up into the mountains! Geneva is about 1,200 feet above sea level, but just a 45 minute drive away, you can pierce the cloud cover, and get up to the ridge of the Jura mountain range, which is at about 4,000 feet, and get a respite from the “soup” everyone is suffering through down in the city.

At this altitude, winter takes on a whole new charm. There’s plenty of snow up here from December into April. Most of Geneva’s winter sports enthusiasts gravitate to the popular downhill slopes in places like Chamonix, Verbier, and Zermatt. These are all beautiful places, of course, but for my money I much prefer the peace and serenity of a wooded cross country ski trail over the crowds, noise, lines, lift fees, and overall hassle of renting skis that the downhill experience involves. That, and I’m a pretty crappy downhill skier, and I don’t want to join the legions of people I see walking around town with a cast or brace on their knee. (I’m not making this up… I see a lot of seemingly healthy young people limping around with crutches and leg braces this time of year.)

We seek refuge from the fog by driving up to the ridge of the Jura mountains, where we get out of the car, strap on the skis, and 5 minutes in, we’re striding off into the woods on a beautifully groomed trail on about 30 inches of snow. We’ve discovered a place called Marchairuz, which has become our favorite place to ski because there are gentle rolling “hills” which affords us the opportunity to get in some good exercise skiing in the “classic” (alternate stride) form, with occasional but not dangerous downhill segments, and fewer steep uphills that require “harringboning” up the slope, which for obvious reasons, isn’t as much fun.

One a recent Friday, I had some time on my hands, and I decided to escape the dreariness of the city and head up to the Jura for a good long ski. I drove to Marchairuz, parked the car and headed off in the direction of a place called La Givrine, 12.5 kilometers away. Here’s a photo I took of a map that is a woodburned image of the trails leading away from Marchairuz, where I started.

Marchairuz ski map

I skied out along the blue trail.

I wanted to give my readers a sense of what it feels like to cross country ski along the trail, but its tricky to ski and record video at the same time. Ordinarily, one’s hands are occupied with the task of using the poles for balance and propulsion. So I looked for a segment of the trail that offered a gentle downhill slope so that I could let gravity do some of the work for me while I held both poles in one hand and recorded video and with the other, all while offering an informative narration. Here’s how that turned out. Its a two-minute video, but I encourage you to watch it until the end, when something kinda funny happens.

Don’t worry, other than my pride and dignity, it didn’t hurt at all.

A few kilometers up the trail, I encountered these guys. I wasn’t aware that there was such a thing as ski patrol on cross country trails, but apparently, that’s a thing.

Ski patrol

Here was my ride home if that wipeout had ended badly.

My destination was a ski lodge/restaurant along the trail that we had been to the previous weekend. (We approached it from the opposite direction that day…) As I indicated, it was a pretty long ski just to get out to my turnaround point, but eventually I could see the building off in the distance. When we were there last weekend, there were probably 50 other skiers resting, and enjoying a hot chocolate or bowl of soup.

Ski trail restaurant

It was closed this day, but this place is hopping on the weekend!

And here I am at the sign indicating my turnaround point. 12.5 Kilometers out, and now I’m turning around for the 12.5 kilometers back to Marchairuz.

Turnaround point

Here I am at the turnaround point, halfway home!

It was a great day of skiing. Three hours, out and back. On the way back, I figured it might be nice to include another video that demonstrates that I can actually stay on my feet for an extended period of time, so I’ve included another short video of me not wiping out below. Some skiers are a lot faster than me, as the video below shows, but I’m at a point where I’m mostly in it for the scenery and the serenity. I’m much less interested in going fast as I once was in my younger years.

The World Economics Forum welcomes the American president. Here’s how the Swiss feel about that.

The Swiss Sojourner generally avoids political commentary, but with world leaders gathering right here in Davos for the World Economics Forum, I’ve decided to include a brief post on an event that took place here in Geneva as the meetings in Davos were getting underway. (Similar events were held across Switzerland in Lausanne, Zurich, Basel, and Bern.)

My friend Rabea told me that there was going to be a demonstration at 7:00 PM in the commercial district of Geneva along the Place du Molard. The Place du Molard is a beautiful pedestrian thoroughfare, especially at night.

Place du Molard

Reflecting the international nature of the city, each of the little lighted tiles has a greeting in a different language.

When I arrived at Place du Molard, the demonstration was just beginning. There were about 400 people there, many holding holding signs and torches, but not those stupid backyard tiki torches that american racists favor.

More signs at the anti-trump rally

The sign on the right says: “47 years of shenanigans, by jove, that’s enough!

Signs at anti-trump demonstration

Truth is, Davos is actually quite beautiful, but I get the sign bearer’s point.

The peaceful demonstration lasted about 45 minutes.

The crowd at the anti-trump rally in Geneva

Some of the demonstrators

Here’s what a demonstration in Geneva Switzerland against the World Economics Forum, and one participant in particular, looks and sounds like.

The Piedmont wine region in Italy is spectacular! And the wine ain’t bad either.

I am asked from time to time, “what’s your favorite European country?”

There’s something to love about every country we’ve visited, but I never hesitate in responding: It’s Italy. Italy totally rules. It’s got everything: coastlines on two seas, magnificent architecture, the art, the fun-loving people… I could go on and on, so I will for a minute: the food, the historic cities both large and small, the wine, the scenery… So when you decide to visit Italy, there are lots of really good options.

If wine and scenery are your key criteria, I recommend visiting the Piedmont wine region in northwestern Italy. Continue reading

Death or Glory! We hike 2,100 meters up to snowy Piz Gloria on Schilthorn!

Followers of this blog will recall my affinity for the Lauterbrunnen Valley and the mountains of the Bernese Oberland region, including the Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau mountains. I’ve taken virtually every visitor we’ve had to Lauterbrunnen, usually incorporationg the hike between Grutschalp and Murren, then down to Stechelberg and back to Lauterbrunnen through the valley.

But every time I’ve been there, when the weather was clear, I’d glance up the valley to the highest peak, called Schilthorn and say to myself, “Some day I will hike all the way up there.” I mentioned this to one of my favorite hiking companions, Patrick, who was in town for a visit, and the two of us decided it would be a great adventure and a lot of fun to hike it together. Continue reading

Our friends Philippe and Linda at ArtyGlaces make the best ice cream in Geneva… no, make that Switzerland… no wait, Europe… scratch that, ON THE ENTIRE PLANET!

One hot summer day a couple years ago shortly after arriving in Geneva, we were wandering around town and had a hankering for some good ice cream. So we googled: “best ice cream shop in Geneva” seeking hints on where we might go to find some. Up came a place called “ArtyGlaces”, located right in town, a few blocks away from the junction of the Rhone and Arve rivers. We put away our phones and made our way there.

Three years and much incredibly delicious ice cream later, I can honestly say that it was the best recommendation I’ve ever received from Google. This is a fun story about friendship and making delicious ice cream. Continue reading

I took an epic solo hike along the south coast of the Portofino peninsula in Italy

I’ve written before on hiking the Cinqua Terra trail along the Mediterranean coast in northern Italy, an adventure I’ve done twice – once with Patrick and again with my friends Ken and Jane. This time, on a trip to Italy with our most frequent visitors Cliff and Ellen, we had the opportunity to explore a new stretch of the Italian Mediterranean coastline, the Portofino peninsula. Continue reading