An Austrian Skiing Diary

Friday, February 27, 2004

To avoid traffic we left at 1:30 a.m. to drive from Amsterdam to Kufstein (which is close to Salztberg).

We encountered a little bit of snow but it was just a light flurry.

My Thursday evening schedule the night before was jamb packed. First I skied in the snow. Really. We’d gotten enough snow to accumulate in Holland. I took a lesson on the artificial slope. It was very icy. My replacement ski instructor showed us how to make a sharp turn on a steel hill. I would need this knowledge shortly. Then I skipped yoga class in order to attend my book club.

After filling up the multiple day cat feeder with dry kibble and grabbing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle toy, Leonardo, that I had bought earlier to entertain Andy on the trip, we were off.

We stopped in Germany at 6:30 a.m. for breakfast. The toilet was interesting as only European toilets can be. First we had to purchase a ticket to open the door. There was no flush button but as we left the stall a) the whole bowl is washed down with disinfectant as it flushes and b) the special toilet seat is rotated automatically under a sponge and then c) blown with warm air to dry it off. Luckily the coupon was redeemable for food in the rest stop cafeteria.

We listened to a CD my mother had sent me. My childhood baby sitter had made a recording of gospel music with her parents. They are called the ‘Abners’. Allan called it, “Prarie Home Companion music.” When Andy got restless I gave him his toy.

Our hotel in Kufstein was up a hill. The road to it is closed for a few hours every afternoon to allow the guests to sled down. We caught up with the Koopmanschaps, a family that was in our group at the bottom of the road at 11:00.

Some of our party had stopped at the foot of the hill to put their snow chains on their SUV. Allan decided chains wouldn’t be necessary for our Civic. We fish tailed as the Koopmanschap’s tried to back down in front of us because a snowplow was making it’s way down the road. I got out of the car with my son and walked where we could watch the drama unfolding before us at a distance.

Someone phoned for assistance, shortly thereafter a pickup truck with a wench arrived to help us all to safety.

The SUV moved their chains from the back to their front tires while we figured out how to put on our chains.

At 12:00 we made it the last 3 1/2 kilometers to our hotel. Yes, the first 945 1/2 km took 9 ½ hours and the last 33 1/2 km took 1 hour. We waited. I felt like it was a ‘hurry up and wait’ situation. Why did we rush here to sit on a snowy mountain all afternoon? I thought. The children played in the snow and the grownups sat in the bar.

Saturday, February 28

We’d agreed to meet at 8:00 a.m. for breakfast. Allan was downstairs with Andy so since it was only 7:45 I used the opportunity to practice a little yoga. Everybody was already at breakfast by the time I’d gotten there. Allan chided me for holding everybody else up.

We arrived in Leogang at 10:30 without incident. Picture postcard views of snowly mountains greeted up from every car window.

The entire group went in mass to buy lift tickets and to rent equipment. Andy was disappointed that he didn’t get poles. I saw a pair of moon boots that I like but I wanted to do some comparison shopping first so I didn’t buy them.

Buy 1:00 p.m. we were on the slopes of Asitz Mountain. The rest of the group had decided to take it easy by staying on the bunny slope that afternoon. Allan was raring to go. My desire to follow my husband overrode my trepidations over jumping in headfirst.

At the top of the first run, Andy froze and refused to go any further. I had already descended a bit so I side stepped back up to stay with him. Allan was still at the top with Andy so while I slowly made my way back up, Allan found someone to watch Andy. Then Allan attacked the run alone. Andy kept pestering me to collect an icicle from the side of a building. Finally I caved in and he immediately broke the top off and cried for me to get him another one.

We waited and waited and waited. At last Allan returned. After consulting the piste map we decided to ski all the way down the mountain on red and blue runs. I thought that if it got too steep I could always ‘ruche’ or slip sideways on my skis. I was very tired hungry and dehydrated. At one point I had Al’s poles and my own as he coaxed Andy down the slope. I hit a patch of ice and just sat down. Everywhere I looked there was ice. I couldn’t even ruche! Very awkwardly, hugging the 4 poles to my chest I crawled off the ice. Halfway down Asitz you can get back in the lift and ride down. We didn’t because according to the trail map we had already skied the hardest part [red #89]. And the rest of the way would be a blue [#90] beginner’s slope.

I don’t know who decides what difficulty a slope is but in my view they got these two reversed. I would maintain this opinion when I got up the nerve to come down the same way again later in the week.

By 3:30 we were back in our clean Austrian hotel. We all felt smug and pleased with ourselves as terrible reports of traffic jams rolled in. Our ski boots were drying on a heated rack. Andy attached himself to Jelle [pronounced ‘Yell-ah] a nine year old boy in our party. I enjoyed a pot of hot tea. And vowed NEVER to follow my husband again. There were plenty of other less adventurous skiers in our group that I could join.

Dinner tasted a lot like Mom’s pot roast and there was thick yummy yogurt for dessert. We had a long interesting conversation with Joke (pronounced Yoe-kuh) about the difference between U.S. and Dutch work culture. She said that I had a golden opportunity to practice my Dutch that week, which was true, our hosts, the rest of the party and even Andy’s ski instructor were Dutch. I went upstairs to read ‘Fog and Toad’ to Andy before putting him to bed.

Sunday, February 29

For breakfast I had:

· Slices of cheese

· Eggs scrambled with smoked salmon

· Bacon

· Ostrich pate on rye bread

We took all the little kids (5 of them) from ages 4-9, to ski school. Sascha who is 8 and an excellent skier already stayed with her family. After reassuring ourselves that the kids had a competent teacher we rode the gondola up to the top of Mount Asitz for coffee. By now it was almost lunchtime. I’d only done a few runs on the bunny slope where we dropped off the kids. I was itching to go. Finally Ellen Koopmanschap and I did the top two blue runs. I was disappointed that after 6 months of lessons I was still only comfortable on the green (very easy) trails.

After collecting the kids at 3 or was it 3:30 back in the hotel Allan reviewed the days digital pictures on the laptop he’d brought along. The ski instructor asked that we get poles for the children taking lessons after all. Andy was delighted. While at the ski rental place I eyed the moon boots that I had seen earlier. But didn’t buy them.

Dinner was schnitzel and frites or breaded fried pork tenderloin and French fries with salad bar and ice cream for dessert. Everyone took up the challenge to get Andy to eat. Paul, Jelle’s father managed to get Andy to try a bite of schnitzel. Our hosts were Dutch and had run a restaurant in Holland before turning their hands at hotel management. The food was wonderful every meal. We all loosened our belts. That was the last time in a long time that I could wear the jeans that I had brought along for evening attire. Luckily I also had brought along some stretch pants. So I didn’t have to wear my ski pants to dinner.

There was only a shower in our room but Andy was so sore, dirty and tired that I just stood him under the sprayer-that could be lowered to about 4 feet while I sat on the closed toilet lid. The shower stall did have a funny pipe that could plug the drain. This allowed oh, maybe 5 inches of water to collect on the floor of the shower. There was enough room for him to sit there.

Monday, March 1

It was a bit of a jolt to not have eggs for breakfast after having them practically every morning for the last 14 months, but we managed.

Again we rode to the top of Asitz Mountain after dropping off the kids. We took blue runs #87 and #85. Which were to remain some of my favorites for the week.

I realized for me anyway that skiing is the art of continually losing control and regaining it.

The logistics of the ski area were very high tech in my opinion. Lift tickets contained a chip. By keeping my lift ticket in my left hip pocket I could simply ‘bump’ up against the sensor at the lift entrance to open the turnstile to get on the lift.

That afternoon the three of us drove into a nearby village to;

1. put air in one of the car tires

2. get some protein into Andy in the form of McDonald’s chicken nuggets. For lunch that day he’d been offered spaghetti which he didn’t eat. Not surprising since he never HAS eaten pasta.

3. Shop for moon boots. The trip was fruitless.

For dinner we had pasta.

Tuesday March 2

Inexplicably, boiled eggs were on offer for along with the usual breakfast buffet. Guiltily I enjoyed 2. (!!!)

Rested and renewed, -my husband skiing with the other dare devil group –I decided to tackle red run #89. My dear neighbor, Ben talked me through every turn. This was SO easy! Ben’s a very relaxed and experienced skier. I DONE GOOD!. Blue run #90 I found to be a bit too icy for my taste again, even with Ben’s coaching.

I felt like I was in control. I was happy with how I could maintain my form. But I still thought that I needed more lessons.

From the hotel I walked into Leogang and bought the pair of moon boots that I had seen earlier where we’ rented our stuff.

Wednesday, March 3

I decided to ski with my husband. It was foggy which obscures the surface details making it hard to see where you’re heading.

After starting our I thought, “this is too hard!” Allan assured me that it would probably be clear further up on the other side of the mountain. It wasn’t. I couldn’t get my boots adjusted right. I was so tired. I broke form by dragging my uphill pole to slow me down.

There were 12 of us skiing together. At one point 11 of us were lined up like dominoes waiting for Allan. I was the first domino in line. Allan plowed into me knocking me and some of the others over. Shortly after that I decided to turn back. It was JUST LIKE being on the patch of ice the first day. There wasn’t any good way to proceed. At one impossible point Allan said to follow an instructor leading a class. We avoided what looked like a terrible bumpy slope and took what turned out to be an easy way down.

It was such a relief to reach familiar territory and ski red run #89 halfway down. This turned out to be my favorite trail. Halfway we stopped for an omelet. Allan hadn’t tried kaiserschmarren yet. Kaiserschmarren is like a sweet omelet made with custard and sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Allan took blue run #90 down. I rode in the gondola.

This was the last day of lessons for the kids. At 3:30 they were to enjoy a kiddy disco at the restaurant close to where we left them with the teacher every morning. I was the only one on time. But it didn’t matter. With my last Euro’s I bought the children a round of colas and waited for the other parents.

That night in the hotel restaurant it was Tyroler night. We were in the Tyrol region of the Alps. The cook had gone to great pains to prepare local dishes. Allan was the only one to enjoy the liver dumplings [knodeln]. I declined the strudel for dessert but did enjoy my usual glass of red wine. Traditional Tyroler fare includes:

· Omelet soup

· Spaetzle [potato noodles]

· Chicken

· Knodeln

· Waldorf salad made with grated celeriac root

Thursday, March 4

Andy and I took the day off.

We colored and read more ‘Frog and Toad’. I took him back to McDonald’s for another protein/chicken nugget fix. I couldn’t figure out the air hose so I couldn’t pump up our semi-flat tire.

Andy played for hours in the snow out in front of our hotel while I sat in the sun on the terrace.

Friday, March 5

Eggs for breakfast, yah! Blue skies met us on this cold day. I skied the top two blue runs with Andy and Allan. Andy was fearless. This was familiar territory for him now. It was nice to end on a beautiful day with perfect conditions.

I stopped halfway after enjoying my favorite trail –red #89 and had a bowl of beef bouillon soup. I had been constantly battling dehydration the whole week. Andy and Al went on down the dreadful –in my opinion blue #90. I wasn’t worried about Andy, because he’d skied blue #90 with his class on numerous times. Allan was supposed to meet me by 11:45 so we could go have lunch as the foot of the baby slope where Andy’s ski school was going to end the week with a friendly competition. He didn’t show up on time so I rode the lift down and waited for him there. Did I misunderstand? Finally he showed up. We then jumped into the car and drove over to Leogang, about 5 minutes away for lunch. Andy wouldn’t eat the kaiserschmarren, schnitzel or sausage that we ordered. But we did find out that he would eat Kaiser rolls.

The races were very low key. Emphasis was put on participation by the groups. All the children stood in a circle and sang ‘if you’re happy and you know it’. At the end they all got medals and candy.

I was trying to get in one last perfect run when a little girl came zooming up behind me. We both went tumbling. It just goes to show you that you can do everything right and it STILL not be good.

We packed that night. Most were leaving at ridiculous early hours to avoid traffic. Andy conked out early because he wasn’t feeling well. A bug had been going around felling various members of our party all week. Thank goodness Andy didn’t get it until the last day. It did mean that we had to stop about every hour for him to use the toilet. The bug didn’t get me until we were home for a couple of days.

Reservations are already made for next year.

NEXT TIME

· The first day we’re gonna ski on the bunny slope with the rest of the

· We’ll try to ski in some of the ‘little areas’ nearby

· We’ll bring less clothes –and incidentally I want to decline dessert-it took me AGES to lose the three pounds that I gained that week

· Bring plastic window stickers for Andy to play with in the car

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