Posted by: martinworster | April 4, 2008

95. AUSTRIA

Arriving at Friedrichshafen in Germany on Ryanair after a 1 hour flight from Stanstead. I was reminded how small Europe is. We then proceeded on a bus for the hour and half journey to St Anton in Austria. It was difficult to see the landscape as it was so cloudy and the visibility was bad, forests poked out of the clouds, factories appeared though the mist and finally the scenery started to become mountainous as we entered the Alps.

Seventeen lads on a long weekend ski tour and it wasn’t even a stag do, even though the banter and atmosphere made it seem like one. After three years snowboarding in the US I was gagging to get back on Alpine slopes and St Anton’s reputation had a lot to live up to. The coach pulled up at our hotel which was in the town of Flirsch, about ten miles down the valley from St Anton and typically Tyrolean.

The first three days it didn’t stop raining – even when you were up the slopes, unless you went really high and you couldn’t see a thing. You’d come down for lunch literally soaking wet. A lot of the runs weren’t open due to the low visibility and high avalanche risk as there was a lot of snow. The first few days I had a frustrating sense of feeling the great presence of the mountain which was slightly out of reach. A hulking beast I couldn’t see. I could feel it there but it couldn’t be fully explored as it was closed or you just couldn’t see.

The last day we woke to blue skies. I crossed to the other side of the valley to some heavenly terrain, massive power fields and bowls, crevices, lovely pistes, natural hits and jumps and from the very top the most amazing views. Finally the last day we got to see it. A great, top of the world view down into the valley. It was a shame this happened on the last day as it was a teaser of what was there. St Anton is reknowed for off piste and some challenging terrain, I will return one day.

St Anton is also famous for it’s apres ski and we certainly got to see some of that. One place, I think it was called the Moosvert Bar – basically all the Austrians come off the slope at 3 and start getting really pissed. By 4.30 there dancing on chairs and tables in their ski boots, smashing glasses on the floor and necking schappes by the gallon. The bar had an inside which was like a full on heaving club at 4 in the afternoon, smoke machines, lights. And then there’s the music – pure Euro trash cheese with vintage 80s hair metal thrown in for good measure. Pure Strudel. It’s a devastating mix. The extra funny bit is that the bar is halfway up the hill so after a skin full everyone boards or skis down the mountain to base camp. It’s hilarious. It felt liberating to be in Europe again. You can smoke in the bars (not that I smoke anymore) but it was great that you could if you wanted. After living in Chamonix for six months five years ago, it was a case of oh my Alps, how I have missed you. I will be back soon.

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