I’m pretty physically conservative.
I don’t much like pain- whether it comes from falling, or torture devices that masquerade as ski boots.
I’m not built for speed.
But I do appreciate twinkle lights, alpine scenery, and faux furry hoods. Add to that the scents of pine trees and freshly fallen snow.
I like an outdoor activity that mandates a warming wine with lunch.
I like how much better food tastes when you’re a little bit cold and very hungry.
And, because I persist in trying to ski, I now know that I like Zermatt’s Igloo Bar, a lot.
Luckily for me and my quivering courage Zermatt’s Igloo Bar is on a beginner slope.
Half way down the run from Gornegrat to Riffleberg, under the shadow of the Matterhorn you can hear the music. It’s the sounds of Buddha Bar CDs bred with the lilting licks of a clubbing recovery mix. It’s the kind of music that stem christies into the ‘so cheesy it’s good’ category. Ibiza with icicles.
The bar complex looks like a refugee from Tatooine crafted from snow instead of sand. The rounded ice huts are made every year from 3000 tonnes of snow. There are banquettes carved into the frozen walls and some are decorated with friezes of smiling suns.
In the centre there’s an open courtyard, peppered with wooden stools, draped in sheepskin. There are small tables to huddle around.
Muddled through the crisp mountain air, which seizes when you exhale is the smell of mulled wine.
Most visitors fall into the same pattern as us;
Walk in. Clap hands in delight. Find a fluffy perch. Bask in the sunshine. Peel off a layer or two. Rediscover that you still have fingers under your gloves. Wrap them around some warm booze. Loosen your boots. Pull out a map and plot your route for the rest of the day. Comment again on how cheesy the music is. Take some photos. Have another drink.
The only real choice to make is whether you’ll be drinking rot or weiss. The weiss is an interesting turn on the classic gluhwein. The added cargo of chopped apple twists the taste towards steaming cider. Meanwhile the red (for 7 Swiss Francs) is festivity in a plastic cup.
Puddling among the warm red wine are the scents of orange, cinnamon and clove. With a warmed sticky cinnamon bun to pick at you’ll soon be steeled for another turn on the slopes.
There are also bottles of champagne chilling in buckets of snow and bottles of jaegermeister evilly gleaming behind the bar. For those after more respite than a sticky bun can bring there’s fondue on offer.
The sharp edges on my boots are enough metal for me (fondue forks scare me a little).
One mulled wine down and I’ve almost forgotten the ache in my shins and how ridiculous I look wearing seven layers.
I’m ready to continue my onslaught on the beginner slopes, singing myself all the way down when things get a little scary.
I’ve discovered that I might not be much chops as a skier, but I’m markedly better after a drink or two.
I’m calling it Swiss Courage.
Zermatt’s Igloo Bar