Skiing Kitzbühel

Second day of solo skiing during our vacation in Austria. I started close to our hotel on the Pinzgau Panaroamabahn. The idea was to work my way North via a bunch of linked ski resorts all the way to Kitzbühel and back. It was an overcast day with even a bit of rain, but still great skiing. Many slopes were deserted because few people ventured out in these conditions. In the end I couldn't make it back on skis because a crucial lift had technical issues and wasn't running for the rest of the day. So I had to return by bus. Still it was a good idea to go all the way to Kitzbühel because just a few days prior the famous Hahnenkamm race took place there. I got to run the official race course with all the markers still on the snow. Great fun. I got completely destroyed by a bunch of 10 year olds and their ski instructors though. They were doing loops on a part of the race track and were just crazy fast and good. The kids casually jumped out of the lift, raced down the mountain at breakneck speeds and continued their chatter and gummy bear eating on the chairlift as if nothing happened in between. Impressive.

This was an impressive gondola! It connected two ski resorts by spanning an enormous valley. The cables are hanging free, only supported at the two terminal stations. Cool engineering.
Some off-piste fun.


Skiing Wildkogel

In another life, when vacations were still a thing, in January, before the Corona pandemic, we spent a week in the family hotel Habachklause in Austria. Leonie was about to turn three years old, so by Swiss standards it was high time to put her on skis (a more cynical view would be that she has to hurry up if she wants to experience skiing at all before the climate catastrophe destroys all snow in her lifetime). She enjoyed the activity well enough, but unfortunately the course didn't work out so well. She was by far the youngest kid in a large group and had trouble understanding the instructor's Austrian German instructions. Thus she was too intimidated to stick with it through the week. So we went sledging instead. Both on the baby slope behind our hotel but also the multi-kilometer runs down from the ski resorts.

A fresh dump as seen from our balcony.
What dads are for ;-/
Lukas' first gondola ride.

I got two days of solo skiing. I went to the Wildkogel Arena first. I originally wanted to take it slow to warm up, but then decided to try to ski every run they have. Ended up covering 85 horizontal and 10 vertical kilometers. Good day!

Playground with a view.
Not too bad!
View of our hotel. Tugged into the upper end of the valley just before the forrest starts. Beautiful location.
My day on the slopes.


Skiing Andermatt

After getting a taste on the previous day, we went skiing again on Thursday. This time to Andermatt. A little further away, but higher up in the mountains, in a more alpine setting. Also a much larger resort. I sent some pictures from Wednesday's outing to Christian, who didn't need any further convincing to spontaneously skip a day of work and join us instead.

This is my church ;-)
Torsten, contemplating all the terrible life choices that got him to this point.
Sören, Christian, Torsten.

It turned into another picture perfect day. We covered more than 80 kilometers. I reached a top speed of nearly 85 km/h, according to Strava the 4th fastest descent ever for that particular run. Following my brother's wishes (stupid snowboarders!) we even sampled the ramps in the fun park. I have to admit this worked better when I was a teenager ;-P I went in too fast and got cold feet at the last minute, screwing up my approach and crashing on land. No harm done, but somewhat intimidated to try more jumps. I still have all the metal pins, plates and screws in my body from the big accident in 2013. One consequence of that is that any bones I break now will come with additional complications, so I better avoid that. Another issue is that I can barely bend my ankle far enough to fit a ski boot. This means I can only crouch down so much. It also inhibits circulation in that foot, so my toes go numb, requiring regular massages on the lifts. Anyway. We skied until our muscles started giving out and went home in a satisfied state of exhaustion.

Torsten, followed by Christian, on a black run.
Christian on one of the red "Superhighways".
And up again.
Seemed more intimidating in real life.
Final run down to Andermatt as the sun is going down.


Skiing Pizol

We celebrated Lukas' baptism back in January. A big family event with us hosting nearly two dozen people at our apartment. That weekend marked the beginning of a two week vacation. The first of which my brother Torsten and wife Sarah stayed with us for some relaxation. My mom shuttled the last of my thirty year old Lego kits from my parent's house in Germany to Switzerland, so we spent a few days crouched on the floor sorting through Legos and building stuff with Leonie. Great fun. Very hygge ;-)

First ride up, expecting good things in our immediate future.
Uh yeah!
Torsten on a typically overcrowded run.

Torsten and I got to go skiing on Wednesday. We chose to start the season in a relatively small resort: Pizol. It's just an hour's drive away from home. Our expectations were rather modest, but it turned into a day of skiing so good it should be illegal. The weather was picture perfect. Blue skies above and a sea of clouds below. No wind. Perfect snow cover. And best of all: nobody around. We almost felt sorry for the resort - it was almost like we had rented out the entire place to ourselves. There's no way this was a profitable day for them. But we certainly had a total blast. We skied until our legs wouldn't carry us any more and raced down the slopes grinning like stupid maniacs.

Clouds over Liechtenstein.
Torsten speeding towards me.
Coming over the crest. This backlight looked even cooler in real life.
One of the few black runs in the resort.
Thumbs up indeed.
Mission accomplished.


Rophaien (2078m)

Another day of glorious weather. The world's best wife volunteered to take care of our kids (love you!) so I could spend another day in the mountains. At first I considered resort skiing, but my usual snow buddies were unavailable. So I spontaneously decided to go snowshoeing instead. I didn't really have time to prepare properly, so I just eyeballed Google earth for mountains I haven't climbed yet and settled on the Rophaien. It's quick to get to and not too high.

The objective.

After a breakfast-for-two with Leonie, while Anita and Lukas were still in bed, I drove off towards lake Lucerne. For a moment it looked like the tour would be over right there and then, when, after empty roads all the way, I suddenly got stuck in a traffic jam in a tunnel. Emergency vehicles were just arriving at the scene and it looked like it might be a while. But it took only 20 minutes or so and from what I could tell from a rubbernecking drive-by, the accident wasn't too bad.

Hut with a view.

The trail starts directly at the parking lot by the lake and maintains a constant rate of incline up the mountain. No snow, but frozen mud. After a while I reach my turnoff: the regular trail proceeds to traverse the mountain while I want to follow the white-blue-white steep trail up to the summit. It's rated T4, but at this point there is sufficient snow to turn it into a real challenge. The slopes are steep and often end in vertical drops. Not a good idea to go skidding down the mountain here.

Steeper than it looks!
This was frickin' exhausting!

From below it looked like the snow cover was thin and I might have carried the snowshoes for nothing. This changed significantly as soon as I got close to the ridge. The wind had accumulated enough snow that I was digging my way balls deep. Even though it was only a few hundred meters to go to the summit, progress was so arduous and exhausting that I seriously contemplated turning around. Every step took a lot of effort. Every two steps forwards I'd slide one back. I vented my frustration with a scream. Luckily I had the entire mountain to myself that day ;-)

Contemplating giving up.
Summit slope. Finally less snow than on the ridge.

Eventually I did reach the summit - according to the summit book the first person to do so in more than a week. The way down was another piece of work. At this point the snow had softened and become treacherous. So instead of running/sliding down the mountain I had to carefully retrace my steps from the way up. This didn't even get better once I got back on the trail proper. The frozen mud had thawed and turned the trail into a soapy waterslide. "Fun".

Final approach. According to the summit book I was the first to tread here in a week.
Massive summit cross. I wonder if there's some kind of pissing contest on who's got the largest?

I'm spoiled in that I never have issues with my knees. Even on knee-breaking descents where everybody else is complaining. Well, not so this time. Apparently weight gain and lack of training shows and my left knee hurt badly on the way down. Don't go on 1500 meter snow plow missions without at least a little training. Sucks. Anyway, I made it back in time to enjoy a hot bath with Leonie splashing around happily and make me forget about the bad parts of the trip. Now I mostly remember glorious weather, beautiful views of lake Lucerne and the serene winter solutide of the mountain.

Random steel cable going down. I hope this is not a cable car?
The frozen ground from the morning turned into a slippery mudslide in the afternoon. Tricky to negotiate.