Hiking miles through some deep, soft snow.
Hiking miles through some deep, soft snow.

Did Winter Come Back One Last Time?

After the two previous weekends, I thought that my fat-bike season had come to an early end. Years past, it wasn't uncommon to fat-bike into May. Last week, however, winter returned in full force, dropping over a foot of snow on the Swiss Alps and 8-10 inches in the Jura. Brown pastures and trees were suddenly white again. I had already washed and packed away my Bike Jacket, so I got it back out again because my studded fat-bike can't be placed inside our car without.

On Saturday morning I made the half-hour drive to Prés d'Orvin, which I haven't visited as often this winter. I climbed to the Jobert farm in the hope to find snowmobile tracks, but the farm was unoccupied and tracks were nowhere to be found. Pushing my bike, I stomped through deep snow for about four kilometers. The road south to the Métairie de Gléresse had not been groomed either, so my only option was to drop to the Anabaptist Bridge. Just before getting there, I noticed that a snowmobile had traveled to the Métairie Pierrefeu, so I went that way. The snowmobile track continued west, but I decided to turn around. The only rideable path was the cross-country ski track to the Place Centrale. I generally avoid those because Swiss cross-country skiers don't have the winter spirit of the Fins or the Norges and don't like to share. They pay for the use of those cross-country ski tracks, so it's understandable to a point. I hopped onto the winter hiking trail to get down into the village. The trail must have been groomed in the morning but was already in poor shape due to hiker use. In December and January, most people on foot wear snowshoes. Strangely, at the end of March, almost no one does. When I was zipping by the ski resort, I saw that the lifts were operating and people were on the slopes. So, instead of riding to my car, I climbed to the top of the ski lift for a fun descent on the slope. I think I did that only one other time this winter.

Due to the amount of snow encountered on Saturday, I decided to try my luck at lower elevations on Sunday. Plagne, a small hilltop village just a 16-minute drive from home was my starting point. Whereas parking had been absolute chaos on weekends only a month ago, I arrived at a nearly empty parking lot. I started my ride by heading west to the "Sur Les Roches" area high above Rondchâtel. I looped back to Plagne to drop into the valley north of it. At the end of the valley there are two ways out; southeast to the Stierenberg, or north. This winter I discovered that the northern-facing climb is often used by snowmobiles, and Sunday was no different. I found some wonderful hardpack to climb to the Tiefmatt Restaurant, where a half dozen snowmobiles were parked outside. I continued to the Obergrenchenberg on the road on a mix of clean pavement, ice and snow. Unlike Prés d'Orvin the day before, the two ski lifts of the Grenchenberg were not in operation. I jumped onto a single trail to the Stierenberg and a winter hiking trail to the Montagne de Romont. The last few miles back to the car had to be ridden on sometimes wet, sometimes frozen gravel. The parking lot was just as empty as in the morning, which is probably a sign that most Swiss have grown tired of winter and desperately wait for spring to arrive. Well, I don't; my fat-bike season can never be long enough.