Alpining in the Alps

Reed here, attempting to complement Kim’s posts with a description of my first ski day in the Alps. For those of  who have spent time downhill skiing in the Alps, this post may not enhance your blogging experience, but for those who enjoy the American alpine experience, you’ll find this post interesting, I think.

Muhlbach is about a 45 minute drive south of  Salzburg, a beautiful drive into the Northern Calciferous Alps (ok, I looked that up). The area we skied is known as Maria Alm, Dienten and Muhlbach of the Hochkonig region, since it’s actually three resorts. But you don’t choose one of three to ski; you essentially put in at one and then your ski day is literally skiing from one area to the other – a seamless adventure linked by gondolas, 6-person super-comfy high speed lifts and a few (very few) small chairlifts that are slow enough to remind you of skiing back home. To get a sense of what this looks like, click the link that follows and scan the route; starting in Muhlbach and follow the lifts and mountains across to Maria Alm, reverse course to Muhlbach. Of course, you can choose – as we did – to ski certain slopes a few times because the run was worth repeating – but you don’t have to:

Even the ski passes are different – get this – your lift ticket is like a hotel pass key with the day’s date encrypted on it – and can be detected by scanners that reside in the access point turnstiles. You place it in your left pocket and when you approach the lift a card reader permits you to pass through a turnstile and away you go. No ticket scanners pretending to be your new best friend. As with most things here, organized, efficient and techno-cool. At the 6 person lift, you and 5 others are held in check at a gate until your chair arrives – gate(s) open, you slip forward into position OR there’s a moving mat that magic carpets you to your position! A system like this moves large volumes of skiers along the mountains – of course, without a hang-tag living on your jacket you’re look-at-where-I’ve-skied advantage in apres ski is lost. Gee, I really missed not seeing someone with an Aspen hang-tag from 1997.  In the states, even at the better resorts that cost about 40% more for a lift ticket than here, such technology is MIA – we need a new cause now that we’re leaving Afghanistan – let’s GO, folks!

The skiing here was picture-perfect, the views breathtaking – but most ski views are – and the views here reminded me of Glacier from Big Mountain and the Pioneers from Sun Valley. I was grateful for the guidance and patience of my colleague here, Josef Niebauer, and his daughter, Sarah, awesome skiers who know the mountain(s) well and ski most runs as if the Mayans are going to be right at any moment. Here, Joe stops long enough for Sarah to snap a pic:

In an effort to minimize packing, my Nordic jacket doubles as an Alpine orange beacon.

In an effort to minimize packing, my Nordic jacket doubles as an Alpine orange beacon.

The Niebauers of course ski from first chair to last, enjoy lunch on a moving Gondola, and log a Guinness records worth of vertical through the day. But its not about vertical for Joe and Sarah and his family – its about the love affair they enjoy with skiing and the mountains. I took my first break at 2PM at a slopeside, sun-washed break spot for some käse-suppe, milchkaffee and wassar mit gas. Joe and Sarah would break orbit to check in and after 30 minutes I was back on their Alpine Autobahn, until I slid to home at 3:45 or so; they arrived at 4:30 and I doubt there were many behind them.  A tall bier awaited as we lost light:

End of the day at Muhlbach.

End of the day at Muhlbach.

I can’t wait to get Kimmer out – if that day can be like today, well, wow.


4 thoughts on “Alpining in the Alps

  1. Nice! Although our skiing tech might not have changed much over the years, evidently the vernacular has. According to Ben, nobody says ‘hang tag’ anymore. Come on Reed, get with the times!

  2. So jealous! Your description was tantalizing. Sounds like you really did it right–got a local to keep you efficient. Must have been incredible! I LOVE the views there…can’t imagine getting to ski all day under them, too!

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