The winter of 2014 passed, and I was once again left without any mountains, skis, or even snow. But then along came salvation in the form of the ski weekend that my former employer organised every year. Get on a bus on Friday afternoon in early April 2015, arrive there on Saturday morning at the Axamer Lizum resort in Austria, where all alpine skiing was done during the 1976 winter Olympics.
The concept was quite straightforward. Get out of the bus, drop your stuff, get the new stuff to go on and underneath your feet, and then hit the slopes. Enjoy the beautiful landscape, white trees (I was surprised at the amount of snow at this time of year!) and well prepared state of affairs. During lunch, stuff your face with all the Austrian delicacies you ever dreamed of. And in the evening, enjoy a “social gathering” at the pub of the hotel. The next day, some people would miss out on the fantastic weather and slopes, unfortunately. I guess some people value hangovers more than speeding downhill on well prepared white stuff…
Anyhow, come Sunday evening, return all material, grab your stuff and hop on to the bus again, to go back home. Two days of skiing, not a lot of sleep, but it was totally worth it. Great company, great resort and awesome super-food to go along with it made this one of the best weekends I’ve ever had. And now you may be all like: PICS OR IT DIDN’T HAPPEN! I’m afraid to disappoint, but I wiped the phone I was using back then without backing anything up, so alas, no pictures. Except this one of a gift we received from the employer to keep our heads warm on the pistes:
One downside to it, to be honest, the resort is pretty small, it can only show off 6 chair lifts, 3 T-bar lifts and 1 cable car, to access about 40km of piste. Even a semi-experience skier like I was back then can do all of twice in just one day, without even trying hard. But the overal experience was fantastic. It was late in the season, not a lot of people were around, so most of the pistes were for us alone. Great times. If you’d like to know more about it and are sufficiently proficient in German, you can check out their own website, or check out the review and important information at the international page at tyrol.com.
Of course, after such a weekend, the ski fever was still real. One weekend was not enough! Unfortunately, it would take nearly two more years until I would stand on a mountain again. When the next winter came and it became apparent, that I wouldn’t see any snow or mountains in the winter of 2015/2016, my reaction was something along the lines of
Something had to be done. I started talking to my parents, brother and sister-in-law and their dog, to convince them to go skiing together, as a family bonding vacation and general opportunity for tons of fun! It worked. My parents had secretly been thinking about it as well, since my wintersport adventures had become more serious in Avoriaz, so they were on board right away and started looking for a nice place to go. My sister-in-law was a bit reserved, as she had never before stood on skis and was a bit nervous about the whole deal. But no worries, we told her, and went off to an indoor ski hall and taught her the basics. Twice. It was looking pretty good already, so when January 2017 came, we were all set for an epic family trip to Großarl in the Großarl valley in Austria.
We packed our stuff, the dog, and off we went. The week started off amazing, the weather conditions were okay and overall the resort made a decent impression. Pistes were well kept and the material we rented was performing nicely. My sister-in-law was also performing quite nicely, even though she didn’t have a lot of experience and still had a lot of respect for the dangers of skiing, she improved visibly every day. It was great. We would take turns in walking Molly the dog during lunch breaks, which was absolutely no chore, since the surroundings of our vacation appartement were equally beautiful as the slopes. A forest right in the backyard and everything was covered in white.
In the evenings, we made good use of all the things we had brought with us. Our luggage consisted for not an insignificant part of alcohol and juices. At the time of this vacation I had become quite involved in the world of cocktails (more on that later on this channel, stay tuned), and since we were dead-set on enjoying the living hell out of this week, I had packed all the good stuff. The first evening proved to be a challenge though. Although I had managed to bring all the essentials, like ice cube making utensils, shaker, jigger, but I forgot to bring one thing. Straws. Disaster. Moods were down! All those tasty ingredients, but no way to consume them after mixing. Despair all around, until my brother, who is one to deal with problems instead of dwelling on them, came up with the solution. The store he was working at was running a promotional campaign, and he was stuck with butt loads of pens. Some of them had naturally made their way into his bags somehow. We re-purposed them into drinking straws. It didn’t work out so well for anything bigger than small tumbler size glasses, but well, whatcha gonna do if the cocktails are calling…
So in between great weather circumstances, great slopes, a lot of amazing food and drinks, the first couple of days were a blast. Then things began to heat up, quite literally. The thermometer kept climbing, and equally, the quality of the snow began to suffer. The second half of the week sadly was only pretty during the early morning hours, after the lifts just opened up. At night it was still sufficiently cold to make the snow crisp again and for the resort to allow to add new artificial snow on top of it, but as soon as the sun came peeking from behind the mountain around noon, things started to get… slushy…
Which wasn’t a very big deal on most pistes, especially the parts higher up, but well.. there was one bend and one steep part at the end, that you absolutely had to go through if you wanted to get back to the village. On some occasions, we would watch that last bend from our living room for entertainment. 90% of people who came this way would fall. It was so bad. What was quite a steep and narrow bend before turned into a dangerously narrow trail with only ice underneath and huge mounds of slushy snow to both sides. You could either take it face-on like a hero and somehow figure out how to brake on the equally icy and slushy, but flat part behind the bend, or you could take it step by step, wading through the slush. It was terrible. But then came the last part. It was only about 40 meters, that had to be overcome, but those were some of the steepest in the whole resort. With good snow, you would see some bulges forming which can be hard to navigate for beginners like my sister-in-law, but when those bulges even turn messy piles of slush, it is downright terrifying. Needless to say, during the last days my mom and sister-in-law spent the afternoons with Molly the dog, reading, and preparing food like this:
The men of the trip were a bit hardier, but on the second to last day, disaster struck. My dad fell. Not while going down a black piste, but while waiting for my mom to catch up. He twisted his knee, badly. He went to a doctor, got a stabilising bandage thingy and had to skip the last day of skiing, unfortunately. And to think. A few days before this incident, he had a close encounter, quite involuntarily, with one of the safety nets and one of the poles holding it… He walked away from that spectacular accident without a scratch. But apparently he’s not the type to stand around waiting, his body is meant to move at breakneck speeds!
This injury would haunt him for some time however, make him miss the “Hero” bike tour through the Dolomites the summer after it, and generally annoyed the heck out of him. But well, that’s the risk you’re taking when you follow the call of the white gold.
But taking everything into account, the great company, being there as a family, all the overly tasty food and beverages each evening, even the bad snow conditions towards the end couldn’t put a negative twist on this week. On the way back, we already started making plans for next year, to go once more, but to another resort. Because even though in general it wasn’t too bad at the Großarl valley, there were some parts that you couldn’t avoid as a beginner and were quite challenging.
To end this part, let me add some more impressions of the vacation. Look at the happy faces everywhere!
And with that, I’ll continue my wintersport adventures in the next one!