Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Europe - St Anton, Day 1 & 2

(Previous Stop: Heidelberg)

Now onto the main reason for this trip to Europe - 5 days of skiing in the Austria Alps. In the weeks leading upto the trip, I was getting nervous regarding the weather since this winter happened to be the warmest the Alps has experienced in a thousand years. Winter was having a late start and quite a few resorts had to delay their opening. But I seem to bring the snow with me where I go and it snowed about a foot or more in the days before I got to St Anton in Austria. It also snowed heavily right before my Colorado trip in December and also before my trip to Banff, Canada in Jan 06.

I chose St Anton after researching that it was a mountain aimed more at intermediate and expert skiers and that it was always a good bet for early season snow. I also chose Austria over the resorts in Switzerland or France because things were generally cheaper in Austria. Also, the chance to visit an authentic Austria ski town, which most resorts in the US try to emulate, couldn't be passed up.

I booked myslef in a little bed and breakfast (Haus Kleinhans) for 40 Euros a night, where I got my own single room with a private bath. The owner was very friendly and gave me lots of tips of where to ski each day and where to eat in town.

The difference between European and American ski resorts is in the amount of grooming that's done on the trails and the vast acerage increase. There're less defined trails in European resorts and lots more off-piste skiing within the resort boundaries, in general. My 40 Euro a day lift ticket got me access to five different mountains, which sometimes required a shuttle to get to the other side of the mountain.

St Anton, Day 1

Looking down at the St Anton valley

The new gondala that just opened this year, the Galzig Bahn

Mt. Valluga, the tallest peak in the area

It was still snowing the first day I was there and just a few days before, people said they were skiing on grass...

A communications tower on top one of the peaks

A snow cat, which is used to groom the main trails. As people ski on a certain trail, it will eventually start forming bumps and by the end of the day, a flat trail in the morning would become moguls in the afternoon. There was a whole army of these snow cats.

The Mooserwirt - on mountain pub. St Anton is also known for its very active Apres Ski (like a happy hour after the day's skiing). In Europe, it's also more customary to ski a little bit, take a little break, ski some more, grab a beer, ski some more... it's more relaxed. But almost everyone there (including kids) seemed to be advanced intermediates, at the least.


St Anton, Day 2

The few trails that were mapped were marked really well with directions and colors, as well. Unlike the States, where the difficulty increases from Green to Blue to Black, in Europe it goes from Blue to Red to Orange to Black and sometimes this chanages between resorts. At least they're consistent with keeping a Black to be the most difficult.

Some fresh powder next to a trail. A majority of the skiers seemed to stick to the trail (piste) and only quite a few were venturing off-piste.

Day 2 was very foggy and visibility was very limited. There was lots of skiing like driving at night where you simply the follow the tail lights in front of you. I'd get behind somebody with a bright colored jacket and just follow them down.

This is supposed to make you a better skier, since you have to take whatever terrain comes at you. You can't plan a nice route around the bumps, you have to ride them and go with the flow...

A net to catch falling skiers. This was used in areas where the chair lift was crossing a small valley or if the terrain was unskiable below.

Mountains in the mist

Electricity tower in the middle of a trail

(Next Stop: St Anton, Day 3)

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