Sasha and I are back from our adventure in the Austrian Alps, and it was fabulous. We went to Ramsau am Dachstein, a town that I'd been to one autumn back when I was racing and training seriously for skiing, and it was such an awesome trip, I vowed to try to come back some winter. Well, something like 7 years later, I made good on that wish, without the pressure of any training goals. Instead, our goal was simply to have a great vacation; a much simpler goal and one that would be very hard -not- to reach in Austria.
So, as far as I can gather, the creative forces in the universe that led to the creation of Austria must have thought something like "let's make a country that is really nice." The place is full of gorgeous mountains and cozy valleys, and in the winter, it seems to turn itself into one big ski resort. (OK, so a Brit we met on a mountain top said, you think that here, go to Switzerland, Switzerland really is one big ski resort. He may be right, but that doesn't stop Austria from being pretty darn awesome). And, it's civilized. Everytime you start to get thirsty or hungry, there's some hut or restaurant, etc. just waiting to feed you.
We left mid-day last Friday, and drove through snowstorm and nonstop heavy traffic (Sasha drove, I still can't drive a manual) and despite some brief worries due to inabilities to get through by telephone to our pension, made it safely down and checked in (Pension G'senger; good price and great location and ski/wax room in the basement with an ex pro-nordic skier as one of the owners, actually) and went to bed. A word for anyone planning on driving to Austria from Germany, you need a special toll sticker to drive on their Autobahns. Luckily, I learned this from a hiking trip this past August, because otherwise, we would have had no clue. While there aren't frequent checks, so we could have gotten by without one, if you do get caught, I think the fine is quite stiff. But, we got our sticker and got a spare reflective vest, too, since they also are required (if your car breaks down on any highway, only people wearing reflective vests are allowed to get out of the vehicle. A sensible rule, actually).
Since we reached the mountains at night while it was snowing, Sasha had no idea what awaited him the next morning, so he spent most of our first ski going "wow, this is so awesome".
|Snow! Mountains! Skiing! What else do you need for awesomeness?|
Because, well, it was awesome. The mountains are gorgeous, and there are a hundred + km of trails and the grooming is outstanding.
And he also spent much of our first ski falling.
|He asked if he got bonus points since the waterbottle made that many skips. I think, yes.|
|Day 3...look at that distance!|
The best day of the trip was probably day 3. Days 1 and 2 were snowy, and while we had views of the mountains on and off, there were plenty of moments when we could have been in Northern Wisconsin (albeit one where everyone you pass is speaking some European language, and there are opportunities for goat petting or schnaps drinking along the trail).
|Goats!! They're almost as good as sheep!|
|The sign says "self service"|
Day 3, however, was sunny as can be, and so we took the gondola up from the neighboring town Filzmoos, and skied on a beautiful trail on top of a mountain.
|Forget about Eden, this seems like paradise to me. That's Sasha in the mid-ground, proving that he did spend most of the trip upright.|
|Many a summit in Austria has a cross on it.|
|The text says, "Lord God, our homeland is pretty"|
From the high point on the trail, we had a 360 degree view of the mountains, and even way up there, there was an "Alm" hut, at which we could stop for hot cocoa and cake. Although fewer food choices than in the valley. Not surprising, given what it took to get the food and drink up there in the first place.
In case you think it was all sunshine and skiing, there was one worrisome moment (evening of day 2) when we were worried that dinner might need to be Wasa bread and gouda since it seemed like we might not be able to get the car up the snowy side-road that our pension was on, but with some careful driving by Sasha and some serious pushing by me, we were able to get out and buy some yummy pasta dinners, afterall. Which, really, is not a bad "worst part" as trips go.
Well, I'll probably post again later with pictures from our birding stop on the way home, etc. but for now, I'll leave you with a final thought. If the buddhists/hindus have it right, and instead of one life we keep getting reincarnated, I hope this: if I was a little good, I'd like to come back as an Austrian. Such a nice country. If I was naughty, perhaps I could come back as an Austrian pig; I've never heard of free-range pigs, but they do taste pretty delicious. And if I'm really, really good, then I hope I get to be an Austrian sheep or goat. You get to be adorable and fuzzy and you spend the winter snugly nestled in gorgeous valleys and all summer frolicking in the mountains. Lovely, lovely mountains.