Stupid spring, sneaking in and stealing my winter away. I won’t stand for it! I will find snow, and I will participate in winter activities.
Hooray for living near the Alps, where there is snow all year round. This past weekend we found some delicious spring skiing in and around St. Anton, Austria. Continue reading
A typical ski day for a Münchner starts with a painfully early wake up. Well before dawn, you toss on your ski clothes and haul your gear to the ski bus, or if you’re lucky, the car. Grab some coffee and a pretzel from your nearest bakery (the only thing open at this predawn hour) and hit the road. Continue reading
This past weekend we bummed a ride with the Munich International Ski Club for a day of skiing at Sheffau, Austria. Sheffau is just one of many entry points into the irrsinnig gross* ski area which includes 91 lifts and almost 300 km of slopes. There was lots of fresh snow, and a little too much sunshine. Very good conditions.
Sheffau isn’t quite as friendly for beginner skiers as Kitzbühel was, since there are areas where one has to ski red slopes to access other parts of the resort. Long red (middle) slopes are plentiful, and it would be easy to ski all day and never see the same slope twice. Lift lines were mixed, but we probably never waited more than 5 minutes to get on a lift.
One thing I disliked about Sheffau was the poorly-designed labeling system and map they had going on. Instead of numbering the trails, like most resorts do, the Sheffau folks decided to number the lifts. Horrible idea, given that trails don’t neatly correspond to lifts. We spent much too much time puzzling over maps. But otherwise it was a lovely day of skiing.
* ludicrously large
Thinking back on last ski season, we’re having a hard time remembering all the places we skied and which ones we liked the best. So this year I’m going to try blogging a little review of each place.
First up is Kitzbühel, Austria, where we recently spent a day. It’s about an hour and a half drive from Munich. It was a great place to spend the first ski day of the season, since there were tons of blue (easy) slopes. We skied the whole day and only repeated the same runs a couple times; on the other hand, neither of us found any runs we really loved. Things were icy in spots, since there hadn’t been any new snow for several days; the skies were clear and blue, and it was quite warm in the sun. We had lunch at the Pengelstein hut, which offered a pretty good variety of food (I had spinach strudel with Gorgonzola sauce).
After a day on the slopes, we headed into the town of Kitzbühel to find some food and drinks. The town itself was quite cute, and offered a variety of cafes and restaurants (mostly Italian).
We wandered into the tourist office and asked for a restaurant recommendation. They suggested Huberbräustüberl, a cozy little brewery restaurant serving typical Austrian/German food. The beer was good and the food adequate. The wait staff was friendly and seemed to have fun speaking English to the tourists around us (we spoke to them in German). Both of us filled up on dinner, so we had to miss out on the black guy in a shirt. Schade.
My computer situation is still… not good, but hopefully that won’t last too much longer. I have plenty more blog posts that are just aching to come out…
We popped down to Austria for a final ski trip of the season yesterday. It’s so easy to do this that I’m having a hard time remembering that Austria is, in fact, another country. You’d think after two years in Switzerland I’d be over the novelty of popping into another country for a day trip, but you’d be wrong. What can I say? I’m easily impressed.
The time change meant we got even less precious sleep than we normally would have, but on the plus side now we can be happy that all that daylight is no longer going to waste. And, we’re finally back to our normal 6-hour time difference from the east coast of the US. Whew.
We went to the irrsinnig gross ski area called SkiWelt Wilder Kaiser Brixental, which was indeed quite sizable. The skiing was pretty good – slushy, to be sure, but that slush allowed me to ski the red slopes like a rock star, granting me the opportunity to think that my skiing skills have actually improved in the past couple seasons. The sun was brutal and relentless (some people might have called it ‘pleasant’ or even ‘beautiful’), and we probably could have spent most of the day skiing in little more than t-shirts.
Forgot to bring the camera this time, but I’ll add a photo off of the old camera phone as soon as I can figure out how to magically beam it to the computer. Or you can just get the general idea from any other photo I’ve taken skiing.
We would be awfully bummed about moving away from Switzerland in the middle of ski-season… if we hadn’t moved to Munich. The oh-so-conveniently-located Austrian Alps are close enough for easy day-trip skiing. Unfortunately this season hasn’t been as snowy as we would like, but the Austrians seem to be pretty good at filling in the gaps with man-made snow.
There seem to be dozens of resorts to choose from. In January we hit Kaltenbach, and just yesterday we were in Alpbachtal. Kaltenbach had a nice variety of runs, and our enjoyment was greatly enhanced by a covey of skiing witches. Alpbachtal was a little short on the blue (easy) slopes, but I managed to stay entertained for the entire day (and conditions were even good enough for me to successfully navigate a couple red runs). We also enjoyed riding the charmingly antique single-chair lift.
While lift tickets seem to have comparable prices in Austria and Switzerland, equipment rental is noticeably cheaper in Austria (skiing pro that I am, naturally I own my own, but Scott is still renting until he finds a snowboard he can fall in love with that doesn’t have a wild west theme painted on it). From what I’ve seen, Switzerland has more ski areas that are easily reachable by train than Austria does. We’ve heard that Germany’s Garmisch is a quick and easy train ride away, but haven’t had the chance to try it out yet.
Better snow, warmer air, more fleece clothing – we had a good day of skiing at Bridger Bowl yesterday (even though it didn’t end with anything fried on a stick).
I’ve learned there’s a key difference between skiing in the Swiss Alps and skiing in Montana: ambient temperature. I had no idea how good we had it in Switzerland, where we could ski on perfect snow in little more than an unzipped ski jacket for most of the season. Not the case in Red Lodge, Montana. All my warmest clothes worn simultaneously proved no match for the frigid air, and I only survived a handful of runs.
Luckily the Bierstube (‘stube’ rhymes with ‘tube’ here) at the bottom of the slopes serves a whole lot of yummy microbrews, so the day wasn’t a complete disappointment. They also had deep-fried candy bars, which Scott insisted on trying. It came in a coating that made it resemble a corn dog. I found the whole thing rather disappointing – I mean, something that sounds as ridiculous as a deep-fried candy bar ought to at least taste insanely good, right? It didn’t.
The town of Red Lodge itself was very cute and small-towny, where the locals all seemed to know each other and restaurants and bars posted their opening hours as “11am till close”. “Close” in this case tended to be rather early, since most folks are done eating and back at home by 6:30 or so.
Sunday morning we woke up hideously early and hauled our ski gear to the train station for a day in Davos. On the way there my husband joked that someday we would tell our kids about this last day of skiing ever before global warming made it a thing of the past. So I figured I better write about it so we’d be able to remember.
We took the train to Davos Dorf (don’t you just love the word Dorf?) and then a short bus to the Parsennbahn, which brought us up to a lovely cluster of blue slopes at 2600 meters.
At least it was a pretty good ski day. The snow was the best we’ve skied on all season (and would actually have been some of the best skiing I’d done in my life prior to last year’s fabulous Swiss ski wonderland). Plus it was a beautiful, sunny day, without a cloud in the sky. The slopes were somewhat crowded, which was to be expected on a Sunday, but even so the lift lines were for the most part tolerable.
The bummer is that neither of us feels like we’ve improved at all this year. Not the best way to end a ski career. I guess we’ll just have to cross our fingers and hope for some snow for next year after all…
So my first attempt at premeditated week-long skiing was not particularly successful. We’re back from Grindelwald, two days early. I’ll let this article in SwissInfo explain why:
The month of January is set to be the warmest on record in Switzerland despite the cold snap at the end of the month, according to the national weather service. [...] This development coupled with little snowfall, has wreaked havoc with the ski industry, with many low-lying resorts unable to open for business.
We did manage to get in a little skiing at the beginning thanks to last week’s snowfall, but the oppressive sun showed no mercy, making the conditions worse and worse each day. We entertained ourselves with sledding for a couple days before giving up on more snow coming to save the week.
My brother is still here for two more days, so we’re trying to figure out some non-snow-oriented entertainment to round out his Swiss vacation.