We’re here in Zentralschweiz to tackle a big alpine tour with big alpine boards. Tomorrow we’ll set off on the Urner Haute Route, which connects Realp (just upvalley from Andermatt) and Engelberg (the significantly bigger town to the north renowned as a freeride capital of Europe). Spanning five to seven days, the route runs 34 demanding miles through crevasse-riddled glaciers and over lofty passes. Unlike the more famous Chamonix–Zermatt Haute Route, the Urner contains no chairlifts. We’ll endure multi-hour uphill slogs and earn every inch of vertical we descend. Nonetheless, I still brought Salomon Czars, which spread 110 millimeters underfoot and never claimed to be lightweight.
Am I stupid? No, just different. Old World skiers, I guess, focus on the up of touring. This makes sense because they spend a majority of the time ascending. But not us New World riders. We get up to get down, and we’ll be damned if we’re going all the way to Switzerland for a self-propelled tour only to flounder in a heavy snowpack on the descent. We’re into floating, bro. I don’t want to wrestle a glacier for turns when I can surf the darn thing on my fat skis.
Who’s right and who’s wrong? We’ll see. In the meantime, it turns out there’s another approach entirely. Like move by yourself, on a whim, from the U.S. to a small Swiss mountain village. Then live in a two-bedroom apartment with nine Swedes, marry a local Heidi, and launch a custom ski company in a tiny basement, learning business the hard way until you come up with a local cult favorite.