I haven't mentioned this much on the blog, but I'm a die-hard ski bum. As in, my parents taught me to ski as a toddler, I raced GS and slalom in high school and I used to be on the hill five to six days a week. Not so bad for a Michigan girl, huh?
And ever since my first Warren Miller movie at the age of six I've dreamed of skiing the chalet-dotted mountains of Switzerland.
Which is why when my family friend Doerte invited me to her Swiss ski chalet for the weekend I spared no expense. Travel accounts be damned, I was going to finally ski Switzerland.
My family friend, Doerte, is someone I have admired my entire life- an elegant German woman who married an American and divides her life between the U.S., Italy and Switzerland. Have I mentioned she speaks five languages?
Upon seeing her chalet in Gstaad for the first time I was already in love- a cozy mountain farmhouse situated next to the Swiss dairy farmer, with views of the Alps from every window.
On my first morning Doerte prepared me a hearty pre-ski breakfast: earthy German black bread, a soft-boiled egg, wheat bread with French honey and butter and black coffee with cream.
Breakfast is already one of my favorite things in the world- there's truly nothing I love more than to waking up to toast. But nutty German black bread? I was a goner. But I guess with a surname like Fleckenstein it's in my blood.
Once Doerte son outfitted me with complimentary ski gear (Danke!), we headed to the hill. While we rode the gondolas Doerte spoke German to everyone while I sat and cursed myself for not knowing a word of it.
Doerte also taught me a neat trick- to carry snacks on the mountain. In my pockets I kept one ziploc of gruyère and one of chocolate, which helped us stay out longer as well as save money on lunch. Genius!
But despite all the fun I was having, on my first day I was almost in tears. My boots were too big (racing boots are much tighter than recreational ski boots) and I felt so out of practice. It had been almost three years!
But I couldn't be too upset as after a full day on the hill I got to relish one of my other favorite rituals- après-ski. Because is there anything better than sitting in a toasty living room after a cold day on the slopes, cheeks flushed with a glass of wine, chatting with friends? Well, no, in my opinion.
On my last day in Gstaad Doerte took me for a little spin around town. I loved seeing the little villages, where clothes hang between 18th century chalets. Many chalets had inscriptions on the façade, with the last name of the family, a prayer in German and a date of construction- I saw some that dated back to 1757!
And between the beautiful blue skies, no-lines skiing and lovely company, I couldn't have had a better time finally experiencing the Swiss Alps.