The Euros don’t approve. But then, they never do. Fat skis in tow, three American friends and I stand in line for the Gemsstock tram in Andermatt, Switzerland, a tiny ski village a few valleys south of Zurich. Located in the central, German-speaking part of the country, a region the Swiss call Zentralschweiz, Andermatt is a long haul from the Rocky Mountains we four (Lee Cohen, Travis Spitzer, Tyler Sterling and I) call home. We’re jet-lagged and only dimly aware of our surroundings here at the base of the Gemsstock. But we still sense the stares and frowns our beefy gear elicits from light-and-fast-loving Teutonic types elbowing their way toward the tram’s sliding glass doors.
I don’t speak the local tongue and have no idea what our fellow tram riders are saying about us. They could be pronouncing us Trödelerscheinen, which is German for “junk show.” For years, Americans have been notorious in Europe for holstering too much firepower. Euros—the people who invented randonnée racing—simply cannot comprehend 115-millimeter-waisted freeride boards in the backcountry. But if they want to ride toothpick skis (and schuss in Lycra tights), that’s their problem. I’m from the country that launched rocker (thanks, Shane McConkey); I’m OK going fat.
As the tram rises above Andermatt (population 1,270), I look around at the sniffing Euros. Even though it’s a milky, still-snowing powder day, few of them tote condition-appropriate fat skis. While a couple of über-blond, obviously Scandinavian ski bums hold boards as wide as ours, most have race sticks. I see Atomics from about a decade ago, when the Continent’s Formula 1 obsession resulted in lots of skis with checkerboard motifs. Others carry narrow string beans the manufacturers never even considered releasing in North America. Skis like Fischer Carbon Ices. Or Völkl Racetiger Slalom Carvers…yeah, those names should cover all the bases.