Skiing in the Vorarlberg
(18 Dec 17) Christmas came early this year as another ‘bucket list’ item entered the chute! I’ve always wanted to be one of those guys that spent all their time away from work chasing speed, style and grace down a ski piste; for a season. I never had that chance before; now I do! This season, I’m Skiing in Vorarlberg
Somehow I always mis-prioritized my priorities and could never get more than two or three quick weekends out of a season (if lucky) on the slopes. Finally, after five years of no skiing, the Christmas Saints sent me to a local bank (yeah, it’s kind of an odd place to get it) to ‘invest’ in a season ski pass for the lifts in the Montafon/Brandental Valleys. It’s still early in the season, but so far it’s turning out to be exhilarating and satisfying adventure.
Skiing with the Austrian
When I met Ursula (the Austrian) and went on our first ski trip to the home country, I was surprised that she wasn’t a big skier. Sure, she knew how, but, shall I say, her talents were ‘rusty’ at the time. I was afraid that the authorities would spot her, and knowing she was Austrian, revoke her citizenship status. Everybody in Austria skis like Winter Titans, or so I thought at the time. Surely they wouldn’t let one of their own claim the status without the…..’practice?’ Over the years we’ve been back to the Austrian Alps and she’s perfected her technique sufficiently to claim the proud title ‘Austrian Winter Titan’!
Our first ski adventure really exposed me to just how much of a routine skiing can be in one’s daily life in the Vorarlberg. Staying at her parents home, we kitted-out with skis over our shoulders and walked to the bus stop across the street. The bus deposited us at its last stop on top of the ‘haus berg’, or ‘house mountain’, and in front of the local ski lift. We spent a wonderful day skiing and then hopped on the bus and headed home. Because we were in ski kit, it was gratis! It could not be more convenient than that! It was fascinating to see how people integrated an afternoon skiing like I would spend an afternoon in the gym – that simple. This definitely expanded my experience-set and those experiences only reinforced my desire to spend a season on the ski slopes perfecting my technique!
The excursions to the world class Montafon ski slopes are a little more complex. But, from leaving the apartment until the time I’m kitted-out and on the slope is just over 90 minutes. I catch the local bus after a 5 minute walk. It takes me to the Feldkirch Bahnhof to catch the awaiting fast train to Bludenz. This is followed up by the not so fast train to Schruns. From there it’s a 10 minute walk to the massive gondola which ascends to the top of the berg and my waiting kit (inside the seasonally rented locker).
Public transportation is so well supported and coordinated that there’s only a 3-10 minute wait in-between connections; so there’s literally no wasted time standing around. Ursula has volunteered to drive me on a few occasions, but really, it’s much more convenient to take the public transportation, as long as the kit stays on the mountain.
Besides, with public transportation one has a front row seat exposed to the colors, sounds and flavors of local life, whereas the experience through a car window is a bit antiseptic and one is merely an observer, not participant to living the experience.
Even though it’s still early in the season we’ve been graced with plenty of that happy and cheerful white stuff; both in the villages and most certainly on top of the mountains. With a season pass one has the luxury of selectivity and can ski when they want. There’s no need for taking one’s life in their hands on shitty days because the ski weekend will soon end and the urge to get in as much slope time as possible is overwhelming. Now, I’m a fair-weather skier, and loving it!
Though not all are open yet, the pistes are in superb condition with groomed, fresh snow. Because it is still early in the season, at times you’ll stop to catch your breadth and look around to find your the only one in view on the run. You seemingly have the entire mountain to your self! That, is glorious! To be able to run, uncaring and swiftly across the width and breadth of a piste without a thought of collision is a splendid feeling of freedom. But, as a matter of fact, it’s also tiring!
Skiing back into shape
Not having skied since a broken foot five years ago there was much catching up to do as my technique needed much ‘refinement’. These empty slopes offer just the perfect solution. But with poor technique and unused muscles, being winded with screaming thigh muscles has become the standard as is wishing there were others on the pistes, just for the reason to stop and slow down. Knocking out a record number of runs is both exhilarating and a superb way to get back in shape….if you don’t blow out your heart out first! The lifts do offer some respite, but the fact that there are no lines and no wait time, there not much of a respite and most of one’s time (properly so) is spent skiing.
Taking in Nature’s Splendor
One of the drawbacks to spending so much focus on technique and runs is missing the surrounding picture. The Austrian Alps are legendary for their beauty. During the brief lift rides to the top, your remember to look around you and see yourself enmeshed in a sea of rugged mountain peaks and sharp crests covered in windswept snow. We’re in the ‘Vorarlberg’, or ‘before the Arl mountains’, which are a taller than the local ones. As you gaze to the east and south into Switzerland, the crests grow higher and more rugged across the horizon. It’s in these moments that you gratefully forget your problems and concerns as you sink into infinitesimal insignificance while surrounded by nature’s majesty. Being even a small part of all this makes one grateful.
But, driven as we humans are, we’re quickly back on task working for technique and speed….and a little control.
Successfully raging down the friction free snow under the control of gravity is a testament to one’s skills. Sometimes your in charge as you lean forward and press the turns and hop the bumps and speed down the depths of the run. Other times, when your balance is out and weight is poorly set, the skis are in control and all you can do (while desperately trying to regain control) is ride it out and hope for the best. On these occasions, speed really is not your friend! Skiing just on the edge of being out-of-control is a exhilarating way to enjoy skiing. I guess, within reasoned restraint, it’s a great way to enjoy life…just on the inside of out-of-control!
Here’s a quick vid of images from the day on the slopes with Motofon’s World Cup competition. Enjoy.
- Interested in the ‘Skiing in Vorarlberg ‘ Blog?, Link here to our Year in Vorarlberg Series
- See our ‘Best of Photos’ from this a adventure and from the Rhein’s Lands
- Care to comment on the Blog or Adventure? Jot down your comments in the form below – thanks