Tannenbaum ski club takes American tradition to the alps

Monica Mendoza
Kaiserslautern American

***image1***Far from home and Mom’s green bean casserole, a group of Americans
boarded three buses from Germany and headed into the Swiss alps, where
on Thanksgiving—America’s holiday—they were served a good old-fashioned
turkey dinner, complete with cranberry sauce and dressing.

It might have seemed ironic that in the Swiss village that borders
Italy, with its view of the world-famous Matterhorn mountain, apple pie
would be on the menu. But the turkey dinner in Switzerland has itself
become a tradition with the Tannenbaum Ski and Social Club. For years,
the club’s leaders have hauled — along with their skis and snowboards —
dozens of turkeys to Zermatt Switzerland for the long Thanksgiving
weekend. The trek includes an eight-hour bus ride to the village of
Täsch and then a 20-minute train ride through the mountains to Zermatt,
where 5,000 locals live and only small electric cars are allowed.

It can be logistically challenging, said Tannenbaum club officer
Jennifer Spencer, a civilian with the Army’s 200th Material Management
Center. But when the hotel’s chef paraded the turkey through the dining
room with sparklers, he was met with applause. And it was worth it,
Spencer said.
“For me, being away from home at Thanksgiving is tough,” Spencer said. “I really appreciate the Thanksgiving meal.”


The Tannenbaum Ski and Social Club’s next
meeting is at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Landstuhl Combined Club.
For more information, visit
– Zermatt Switzerland has more than 100 hotels, ranging from youth hostels
to five-star facilities. For more information, visit www.zermatt.ch/index.e.html

Tannenbaum Ski and Social Club started in 1960 and this year has about
300 members —Army, Air Force, civilian and German nationals — and plans
about 30 club trips a season to Switzerland, Italy, Austria and France.

Thanksgiving weekend is one of the club’s biggest weekends — with three
buses going to Zermatt and two buses to Stubai, Austria. Club members
ski, board, hike, rock climb, shop, dine and dance.
“It’s not just about skiing,” Spencer said.

For Ross Franquemont, a U-2 pilot stationed at Beale Air Force Base,
Calif., who planned his Thanksgiving vacation with the Tannenbaum ski
club, it’s about the friendship.

“I had been part of the club for four years,” said Franquemont, who was
stationed at Ramstein until April. “They were some of the best times of
my life.”

The Matterhorn is not the highest mountain in Switzerland, but may well
be the most spectacular. Three gondola rides and a short walk through
the snow to the top of the resort, at the foot of the Matterhorn,
proved to be just the rest and relaxation Rob MacDonald, a lieutenant
colonel in the National Guard, needed.

“It was the perfect anecdote to the Iraqi desert,” he said. “I was
walking around just open-jawed at the beautiful spectacle of Zermatt.”

As the buses pulled back into Ramstein Sunday night, Tannenbaum club members knew there was a lot for which they were thankful.

“At the end of a Tannenbaum trip, you never feel so good about your
body feeling so bad,” said Ryan Kohl, 24th Intelligence Squadron.

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