Dwight Peck's personal website

The urge to snowcave

Once you're hooked, you can't go back. Time-sharing vacation accommodations, always ready and waiting for you. Just find a place, January or February, within a few hours ski-up where nobody in their right mind ever goes, pop in your little cave (1 hour for survival, another hour to make it really nice and commodious), and you've got a scenically impressive home-away-from-home whenever you want to ski on up there, until about late April.

This is the Truex, way above Leysin, Switzerland, the wonderful Tour de Mayen in the background. Observe that nice clean ski line across the front. On the far side of this large bunch of rocks, nobody (sane) ever goes in the winter, and that's your ideal location for your home-away-from-home.

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And here's a likely spot, in late afternoon. Notice that wind-created snowbank behind the rock outcrop -- excellent snowcave country. Let's dig a cave.

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And behold, as night closes in, our accommodations are ready. No worries, and absolutely free of charges and VAT.

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And as we snuggle inside our little refuge, aren't we cosy?  With our Trib, as long as the batteries hold out.

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So we settle down, in embarrassingly silly equipment, and get comfortable for a good dose of the daily news of the world in the incomparable International Herald Tribune.

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If memory serves, this was a particularly good issue of the Trib, some third-world country was in flames again, it was perfectly riveting, but at the end of the day, it's time to turn in -- choose a good Walkman tape, pack down the snowbed and toss and turn for a while until it's really comfy . . . well, it's never really comfy, but never mind.

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The next day dawns excellent weather, and we rig up for some short expeditions skiing and cramponing up the local peaks and maybe a couple of crossword puzzles whilst catching the sun out on that rock outcrop.  A couple of stress-less days pass thus, and very welcome they always are!

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But alas, a few days later, we come up with a right snowstorm and heavy fog, and all those participants who shrink from spending their holidays in a 2.4 by 0.79 meters room with only one window, with heavy snow blowing into it, are preparing to pull out for the bright lights of the city.

We may all find Western Civilization profoundly disappointing on the larger questions, but when it comes to getting warm again, count me in.

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Time to go home before this little paradise fills up with new wet spring snow and we end up having to spend the next eight days here with little to eat but our skis. So we stuff  this half-ton of odds and ends into a pack, and go talk to people for a week or two, and then come back and dig the entrance out again.  Until late April, when a chamois plunges through the roof and ruins the snowcave, and we have to wait until next year.

Here's a view of the way back up to the Col de Famelon from our traditional snowcaving hide-away, then off to the right and back down towards Leysin village.

An earlier foray, 1984, above Leysin, Switzerland.

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Starting to look pretty good -- this time, big enough for two people.

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Smoothing down the ceiling, so the little pointy bits don't drip water on you during the night.

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Checking the progress, stuck in the door like Pooh Bear

It's ready!

Night night.

Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 22 July 1998, revised 30 June 2012.

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