For many of the friends that visit us during the winter getting away from work is their top priority, followed by spending time with us, and the skiing – at least for some – is almost an afterthought. However, Richard, who visited us last week is an enthusiastic skier, so I planned to make the most of his time on the slopes.
The omens on the first morning were mixed. It was snowing (good), but visibility was poor (bad). After a quick check on local web cams it seemed that the visibility was best in Waidring, so that’s where we headed. The first hour was a nightmare – there was up to a foot of fresh snow, but low cloud made it difficult to see our feet. However, by mid-morning the clouds had gone, the sun came out and we had a glorious day skiing fresh powder on quiet pistes. Along the way we were passed on the slopes by the army on manoeuvres. When I say “passed” I mean we were on our way down while they were walking up. I don’t think their camouflage is very effective.
On day two a friend holidaying in Kitzbühel joined us as we headed to Leogang, planning to ski round the Saalbach-Hinterglemm Skicircus. Again, there was fresh powder, but high winds meant that some of the lifts linking different sections of the giant ski area were closed, so we had to satisfy ourselves with powder bashing above the Leogang and Saalbach resorts. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it!
No visit to the Kitzbühel Alps region would be complete without a day skiing in Kitzbühel itself – which is what we did on day three. Our first run of the day was down the Hahnenkamm, where you could still follow the blue markings sprayed for the recent race. Some of the big jumps were closed, but we skied around 75% of the race track – which was more than the racers had been able to do the previous week due to thick fog on the upper slopes. The highlight of the day for me was skiing down black piste 56, which winds its way down to the village of Aschau, where we had lunch at the Italian restaurant before getting the ski bus back to the main ski area. Although the new snow was fresh the night before, by mid-day any powder near the pistes had been heavily skied.
On day four we travelled toZell am See, where we were guided around the resort by Eric, who is more than ten years older than both of us. Now, bear in mind that both Richard and I are retired, and you might think that we were in for a slow, relaxing day’s skiing. But you’d be wrong – very, very wrong! I often record my skiing activity using an app on my phone, and typically the average slope for a day’s skiing is around 20 degrees. In Zell am See, Eric took us on a tour of the black runs in Zell am See, with an average slope for the day of 30 degrees.
Having softened Richard up with our manic day in Zell am See, I went for the coup de grace on day 5 with a tour of 10 villages, starting with Kitzbühel and Kirchberg, then taking the KiWest gondola towards Westendorf and visiting each of the villages linked to the SkiWelt. However, the day started with more snow and poor visibility, so we had half decided to take it easy as soon as we reached Westendorf, but the weather improved so we decided to press on to Brixen im Thale, Hopfgarten, Itter, Söll, Scheffau, Ellmau and – with a bit of luck – Going. This is Hopfgarten, more than 20km from where we had started.
At the end of a long day we finished above Going at around 4:00 (having visited every other village) and then had the choice of skiing to Going to tick off our 10th village of the day (with no nearby bar) or heading back to Ellmau for a bit of après before the Post bus arrived at 5pm (the option we chose). We covered more than 100km (two thirds on skis, the rest on lifts) and did 10,500 vertical metres. But we’ll have another go next year, hopefully in better conditions, and try to get round all 10 villages with time to spare.