Friday, January 24, 2014

St. Anton am Arlberg, Austria: 6 Days of Skiing

Actual date of this event: 11-18 January

Last week, Luke and I went on our yearly ski trip - this time to Sankt Anton am Arlberg! Let me tell ya folks, that was quite a challenge to plan! It ended up really great though, so it was completely worth it. I am here today to really really use this blog as a personal journal, so Luke and I can remember how our 6 full days of skiing in the Tyrolean Alps went. I'm giving you a fair warning right now that you might think to yourself many times "Why am I reading this? This is not interesting to me. I don't care." Maybe this picture will interest you?
Maybe these 46 other pictures will interest you. So... shall I begin?

Saturday, January 11
Note: Saturday morning London buses don't run as often as the rest of the time. First hiccup. Luke and I made our way to London City Airport which was quite funny! Luke had his giant snow board bag and a backpack full of clothes (due to the fear of having to pay extra for a snowboard bag) - it was quite the scene on the London Underground. Thank God it was Saturday morning or else the snowboard bag probably would have gotten chucked out the door.
We chose to fly into Zurich rather than Innsbruck for two major reasons: one, we didn't have to wake up at 4am, and two, it was cheaper. Extra bonuses, we didn't have to worry about the risks of flying into Innsbruck airport (where there is a potential of not landing), and we didn't have to fly EasyJet (we don't like you, EasyJet). When we arrived to Zurich, we made our way via train to the main station where we then switched trains to take us to St. Anton am Arlberg. I had pre-purchased our train tickets, which was not necessary, but we had reserved seats at a table and both of us got to sit at the window. We had an amazing ride through The Alps for close to 2.5 hours. We even passed through Liechtenstein... can we count that as "visiting" a new country? Eh, didn't think so. Anyway, we were a bit worried as we got closer and closer because there was barely any snow on the ground, but as soon as we exited a tunnel into St Anton, there it was! I had faith in the intertrons saying the ski conditions were excellent, but Luke did not. More proof that women are always right, yes?
Prior to arriving, the apartment where we stayed gave us a bus timetable and told me where to go catch the bus from the train station. This ended up being a mess because she told us two different bus stops but I was under the impression it was the same stop - second hiccup. After about 30 minutes, we finally figured it out and arrived to our apartment within a few minutes. We checked-in, then made our way to dinner (at Fuhrmannstube), and planned to go to the grocery store, but it had already closed - third hiccup! (there were no more hiccups after this, thankfully) We ended up finding a Shell station that had some eggs for us to cook for breakfast, but no coffee for the morning :-/ How will we ever manage!?? (just fine, we managed just fine) We were exhausted from a long day of travel and went to sleep fairly early so we could be well rested for day one of skiing!
Our apartment was super nice! It was built in the summer of 2013, a great price, had a full kitchen, two bedrooms, a balcony, a really nice shower, and a sauna was available in the building but we did not use it. It was a 5-10 minute walk, depending on the kind of shoes we wore - ski boots or regular boots -from the Nassereinbahn, one of the main ski lifts. It was on the opposite side of town to where most of the main stuff was, but I actually appreciated stretching my legs with a walk in the evenings... better for the muscles. The best part of our stay was we were the only ones in the building, so we did not need to worry about our gear being in the ski storage area of the building. From now until the end of March, the place is booked up though - we just got lucky!

Sunday, January 12 - Ski Day One
Bright and early at 8:30am, we were out the door! I needed to get my ski rental equipment which was located right next to Nassereinbahn ski lift, and we were on the lift by 9am. We had already came up with a beginning ski plan, so we knew exactly where to go. The first run was much longer than expected (#36), but it wasn't too bad. We just realized that we are old. We stopped for sausages, potato salad, and beer for lunch around 11:30, stopped for more beer later on (beer stops were a several times daily occurrence), and finished around 3pm. It was beautiful the whole day, maybe a bit warmer than we would like, but we covered approximately 32 miles of the mountain. That evening, we had tapas for dinner at Bodega... yummy yummy, but not quite on the cheap side. We stopped at the grocery store on the way home, and stocked up the apartment with beer, wine and Monday night's dinner.

Monday, January 13 - Ski Day Two
It was another gorgeous day, but the snow clouds rolled in that afternoon in preparation for the night! We were on the Nassereinbahn by 10am, and started with a few runs that we did not do the day before. We learned that one in particular (#17) was a killer at 1.9 miles long. Doesn't seem too long, but we kept going and going without stopping as we thought the end would come soon. When we got to the bottom, we both plopped on the ground and didn't move for a few minutes. The lift after that (Valfagehr) was really long, with heated seats, and had amazing views! So I guess that long slope was worth it. For lunch, we had sausages, potato salad, sauerkraut, and beer again. Of course, we made several other beers stops on the mountain, one being at the party-bar Mooserwirt which is pretty expensive! We put ourselves on some flat areas too many times that day (a snowboarders nightmare), but we clocked around 30 miles of powder until about 4pm. We made dinner at home that night, and it felt nice to relax. Luke even cleaned the dishes!

Tuesday, January 14 - Ski Day Three
On Tuesday morning, we woke up to some white stuff falling from the sky. We were on the Nassereinbahn by 10:30am, but we stopped not too long after to take a break. When the visibility is bad, the legs get very tired from being so cautious. During our first stop, we discovered a really cool tavern, which we visit again on Thursday. We had ribs, pizza, and beer for lunch (at Taps) where we did our first red of the trip. As six inches of snow fell, we made our way around 23 miles of the mountain by 3pm. That evening, we wandered in town for a bit, stopping for a few drinks here and there as the snow lightened up, before eating dinner at Pomodoro. We saw the grooming tractor making its way around the mountain which meant that new powder would be on top of groomed snow. We like that! We also saw people snowing down from the mountain bars in the pitch black. and in the process one guy just laying sprawled out on the ground with skis still on like he just made his way down the slopes... pretty sure he was not sober. Note: Turns out that when it's snowing on the mountain, there isn't a whole lot to take pictures of.

Wednesday, January 15 - Ski Day Four
We were thrilled to wake up on Wednesday to a sunny, not-a-cloud-in-the-sky, powder day! Luke was excited to "play in the snow" aka go off-piste (off-trail) aka almost go off a few cliffs. We could tell immediately, while on the Nassereinbahn at 10am, that quite a few inches of new snow were on the ground - we knew it would be a different kind of ski day. There were moguls EVERYWHERE by 11am. At first we thought that it was a bad thing, but somehow, we both turned on our previously non-existent mogul hats and maneuvered our way around them. We did really well and I actually felt like it was really easy on my legs. Previously, I always dreaded moguls and they always wore out my legs, but not this time! I felt everyone else on the mountain was doing about the same as me. I made my first "mistake" of the trip while going down a really chunky part (on #11) and ended up falling into a ten inch mogul... one guy stopped to ask if I was okay, and I'm all, "dude, I'm laying in feathers here." Anyway, as I was dusting snow off of me, four other people around me did the same exact fall. Good for my confidence - thanks folks! Back to the day... For lunch, we had sausages, sauerkraut, and beer, and only stopped two times throughout the day. We started to add in a few more reds as to avoid all of those super flat areas that we struggled with the day before as much as possible. And I also did my first ever in my life BLACK (I wont mention that it should probably be labeled a red)! We also did that dreadfully long #17 again but handled it much much better this time. Wednesday was our longest day, at approx 34 miles, thirty-four miles of moguls, and finished around 3pm. That evening, we checked out Keller Bar which had live music that dad would have liked, and ate dinner at the hotel's restaurant upstairs (at Nasserienerhof).

Thursday, January 16 - Ski Day Five
As far as skiing goes, Thursday wasn't anything special. It wasn't a sunny day, but it didn't snow. It was a bit colder, but not unbearable. We were on the Nasserienbahn by 10:30am, and immediately, I began having issues with circulation in my right foot... one of those 'my boot is too loose, now my boot is too tight, I cant find a good middle ground'. Within a quarter mile of any slope, I was in a pretty good amount of pain. I tried to suck it up though, especially since Luke was having a pretty good day. For lunch we had lasagna, sausages, sauerkraut, and beer at Hospiz-Alm, a traditional alpine restaurant, who by the way, are geniuses! Many places throughout Europe make you go downstairs to go the bathroom. Well going downstairs in ski boots is one of the hardest things to do. This place put in a slide to take you down the stairs. Genius! I discovered it while walking up the stairs and a middle aged man went sliding passed me... say what?!?! I went back to the table with a big smile on my face and Luke knew right away what I was smiling at. Go to St Anton just for this people... it will change your ski-life! Anyway, that brightened up my terrible day a bit, so Thursday wasn't a total disaster. We covered about 26 miles of the Arlberg region ending around 4pm. We jagermeister cheers-ed to hoping for one last day of great skiing before heading back to the apartment to finish our leftovers from Monday night.

Friday, January 17 - Ski Day Six/Final Day
Our final day did not start out exactly as planned. We hopped on the Nassereinbahn by 10:30am, and the visibility was even worse than Tuesday! I couldn't see what was farther than 50 meters in front of me - extremely scary! It gradually cleared up as the day went on, though, and the sun came out just when it was time to call it a day. My circulation issue was no longer bothering me, and I ended up getting a pretty good groove on a few of the slopes. You see, I never had a proper lesson, so I feel I have pretty bad technique, and struggle sometimes (read about my beginning experience here). I actually passed on that circulation curse to Luke, and he wasn't feeling the greatest. But he pretended to be a woman for a day and sucked it up like us women do. We stopped for lunch at Krazy Kanguruh and had a chicken burrito, ribs, wings, and beer (of course). We finished our 30 mile final day with a few beers in the mountain sun before saying goodbye to the slopes at 4:30pm. That evening, I started to feel a pain in my knee, so at some point during the day, I must have tweaked it, although I cannot remember when. Strange. Anyway, we had dinner at Maximilian, and afterward, we packed up our bags and did our best to finish off any more food and drink left in the apartment. Luke is officially sauerkrauted out, which meant I could admit that I am not the biggest fan of sauerkraut. Haha!

Saturday, January 18
Over the course of the night, I could feel my knee gradually getting worse, so I was hobbling around as we left. (I have had to take it easy all week, and finally went for my first jog in two weeks today... I think I am better now :-]) Because the bus schedule to the train station (every hour) AND the train schedule back to Zurich were pretty limited (every two hours) (and the two schedules didn't match up so well), we decided to take a taxi to the train station. We arrived 30 minutes before our train arrived, which left me feeling relieved that all would go smoothly. We were thankful for those train reservations , too, because it was a much more crowded train on the way back. We had those lovely window seats at a table again. All went well getting back to London on Saturday afternoon. We arrived before dinner which never happens and we also had Sunday to relax and recoup (and begin laundry) before the official week started.
We are so thankful for only having minor aches and pains as skiing is a risky activity no matter who you are. We are extremely grateful for being given the opportunity to take part in these once-in-a-lifetime events. I am a pretty solid person... I don't show much emotion, other than smiles... I try to stay strong and positive. But I can't help that each time we travel, I get choked up thinking about how amazingly blessed we are. Never in my life did I think I would be where I am today, and I can't forget that.

St Anton am Arlberg is part of the Arlberg ski resort region in the Alps that has 94 cable cars and 330 miles of skiable area (43% blue, 41% red, 16% black) all available under the same lift pass.

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