Glacier 3000, bathed in virgin white and ethereal silence, offers a host of activities like skiing, sledging and hiking to tourists and sports lovers, says Tanushree Podder
The cable car was full of skiers clad in parkas and snow boots, and holding their ski gear atop shoulders. The heavy ski boots and the gear made a thunder-like noise as everyone moved into the vestibule. We were surrounded by giggling teenagers, bright-eyed toddlers, and silver-haired senior citizens. Everyone was on their way to the top of Glacier 3000, the ski region in the heart of the Vaud Alps.
From the base station of Col Du Pillon to the midstation of Tete Aux Chamois and then to the top, the 100-odd people were whisked up in a matter of minutes.
There was an audible gasp of appreciation as tourists stepped out of the cable car. All around us was miles of snow and the Alps. Our feet sank several inches into the snow as we, clad in heavy woollens, tried to walk on the white surface. It felt like walking on the moon.
Does everyone in Switzerland go skiing, we asked the guide. "It is a bright and sunny day, the snow is inviting and to top it all it is a Saturday," she smiled.
Zapped by the splendour, we were standing at a height of 3000 metres above ground on the mountaintop station. Designed by famous Swiss architect Mario Botta, the entire station with its paraphernalia is geared to provide almost everything that a person would need at that place. The complex has a lovely restaurant, sun terrace, picnic area, conference halls, and a shop too.
The temperature was freezing at 10 `BAC and we pulled our parkas closer, our teeth chattering. Yet, it was difficult to tear our eyes from the breathtaking panorama and move indoors.
Unmindful of the chill, the skiers strapped on their gear and began waltzing down the dangerous-looking slopes. As we watched, in the distance, a skier tumbled and somersaulted twice before continuing his race downwards.
Escaping into the warm interiors of the snow bus, we rode towards the spectacular Quille Du Diable, the ‘Devil’s Cone’. Leaving its marks on the snow, the snow bus took us to the precipice of the glacier from where the Alps looked so close that one wanted to stretch out one’s hand and touch them.
Although the romantic ride of the dog sledge drawn by Huskies would have been my preference, it was hard to complain about anything when so much beauty surrounded us on all sides. Clambering down, we tried our moonwalk on the fresh snow (it had snowed the previous evening). The sheer sight of virgin white all around inspired us to ignore the cold and traipse around.
"You are a lucky lot," our guide told us. "The weather is clear so you can see all the mountain peaks. In bad weather all you see is fog."
We saw nature in all its glory. Famous alpine peaks — Eiger, M`F6nch, Jungfrau, Matterhorn — stood majestically around us. We were lucky, indeed.
Enraptured, we watched a father lead his little son through the intricacies of snowboarding. On another side, a young couple, probably on a honeymoon, was holding hands and gliding together effortlessly on their snowboards. The entire glacier was crawling with enthusiastic skiers. It almost made me want to put on the skis and take off, throwing all caution to the winds.
The mountain air, crisp and bracing, brought pangs of hunger along with the ozone. It was time to raid Restaurant Botta 3000. Digging into the freshly prepared rostii and raclette, we watched the snow-covered peaks in the distance. The robust red wine and the chocolate dessert were just as perfect as the scenery outside. The skiers, their appetite worked up after the exercise, were attacking the food with gusto.
The wind had got stronger as we stepped out once more, eager to reach the pinnacle of the glacier. Wading through ankle-deep snow, we manoeuvred our way to the top fighting for breath. The panoramic view was a revelation — how magnificent nature’s canvas could be! Panting after the climb, all of us fell silent as we paid our homage to the Almighty. The Alpine beauty and the crystalline silence was an experience that can hardly be expressed in words.