Thursday 20 December 2012

A short break in Austria... diary of an uphill skier

Sitting in Gatwick Airport on my way home from a little break in St. Gilgen near Salzburg in Austria.
The weather was quite.... Scottish. Grey leaden skies and rain in town but plenty of snow.
I'd gone to ski (that will surprise a few of you but don't worry it was Nordic and ski touring kit) and visit my friend Neal who lives out there and to take advantage of his renowned hospitality.
the Nordic trails were groomed but icey on the first 2 days and I did a good bambi impression as I struggled to remember how to control these things on my feet. Then we had a quick tour up the Zwolferhorn. 900m of great skinning up followed by a beer on the top. A rare sight was to be seen as I made a rare attempt at downhill skiing in deep fresh powder. After 500m of descent and 25 falls I was back to my preferred mode of transport.... walking. Then I met Ernst. 200m above St. Gilgen is a wee bar in a hut run by a generous welcoming barman. Its common for people to walk or ski up have a few (ok actually quite a few) drinks and the use one of Ernst's many sledges to get back down (he collects them and brings them back up by ski-doo daily). After 4 beers and 3 schnapps (including 1 made from pine cones and 2 complimentary ones made from what may have been hazelnuts or acorns) my skiing miraculously improved and I happily skiied the remaining 200m of icey snow back to the road. Unfortunately it had the opposite effect on Neal who skied into a ditch... we did recover his binding the next day.
 Manchego rind art
 Skinning up
 Top of the Zwolferhorn
 Neal in a ditch
Working up a sweat
Winter wonderland
 What IS that?
 Time lapse of Neal coming down the Zwolferhorn
That's the rest of my steak on the board in her hand!
The final day saw the best Nordic conditions of the trip and it was real pleasure to glide round the forests working up a sweat. I also was served an enormous doughnut type thing at Neal's instigation (made me think of the stories of Whillans's favourite dessert of multiple doughnuts in a pudding basin filled with rice pudding). Then we went a few hundred metres back up the Zwolferhorn, paid a shorter visit to Ernst and finished off with the biggest steak I've ever eaten. Thanks to Neal, Rosie, Vivian, Ernst and everyone else. Happy holidays!

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