You know the drill. Fly into Frankfurt...suffer jet lag and stay awake as long into the German day as possible. Next day drive the autobahns south into Austria, less than an south of Salzburg. You can't swing a dead cat without hitting a ski area in this region. Our drive was blessed with hundreds of miles of rainy wather, and plenty of stau's (traffic jams). It was a long travel day.
Sorry for the mediocre photo, but something about the south German countryside captures me. Villages are tight collections of neat homes and the fields and forests are impeccably managed. Quintessential Germany.
There is new construction, and what surprised me is the large size (and architectural variety) of these homes. These places are far lager than the small apartments I used to live in twenty years ago.
Blitzing along south on the A10 fifteen minutes after entering Austria...look up and right for this large, inhabited castle. (It looks far better on a sunny day.)
The Rustica is the home of Siegi Tours, and is one of the reasons I came back here - an amazing skier comraderie is forged when you attend Austrian ski school.
The town square of St. Veit im Pongau.
Another view of the town's center, looking southwest toward the opposite side of the valley. Spring is coming, and snow is melting away in the low valley, especially the southern faces.
After our long drive we gathered in the Pichl Hausl steak house for a killer meal cooked over wood coals. They even brought a bucket of coals to the table to keep the food warm.
Friends old and new gathered, catching up on events and looking forward to the ski week.
Monday was typical spring skiing - frozen in the morning, slushy in the afternoon. The lower parts of the valley have lost much of their snow. Don't dismay at skiing the hard piste...snow is in the forecast.... (Compare this to photo 26 post-storm.)
The unusual thing in this photo is that King is wearing full length skis, not those silly Big Feet he likes to cruise around in. (I also have Big Feet, but only use them on the last day of the season when I'm in a silly/sad mood.)
Gotta love that Austrian food! This is krapfen (fried donut), covered with sauerkraut and bacon to make it a 'busfahrer' (busdriver). It's a tasy lunch.
Take another krapfen and put vanilla sauce and blueberry jam on it, sprinkle some powdered suger, and you have dessert! Krapfen are versatile!
Our Austrian ski school instructor...is an American?! Jeff Riplinger recently retired as a US Army civilian, a senior level manager in the Pentagon. We last skied together 12 years ago. He had a dream of becoming an instructor and early this winter earned his certification (in the German language!) Now he lives in a tiny apartment in rural Austria, makes just enough money to pay the rent, and loves what he's doing. He's living the dream.
BTW, he's not sporting a gut, he's carrying all sorts of ski instructor stuff in his jacket pockets...radio, first aid kit, candy if he teaches a kids' class, etc.
There's also currently a British ski instructor at this school...a retired bank manager. Part of me wants to join these folks, but it's hard to do astronomy here compared to southern New Mexico.
Jeff also knows how to sport a stern expression when he's explaining a technical ski concept in German...which is entirely appropriate.
Another bad photo, but Jeff is shown here stepping back into his binding. That means he fell. When an instructor does that in front of their class...it's a round of schnapps for the students!
You don't want to see under Jeff's bandage. It's the hematoma from hell. If he takes a couple days off skiing it just might heal...but he's been skiing practically every day for months. It's a tough life in the mountains.
At the end of the ski day everyone in the tour group gathers for dinner and tales of mountain adventure.
Our group was the ski safari - good skiers that perfer only a little bit of instruction, and lots of skiing. You'd better have your game face on when the instructor looks at you and says 'follow me!' We had Americans, a token Brit, Dutch, and Danish skiers in the group. Many new friends were made, and we formed a tight group on the slopes.
As promised, it snowed for two days! With the dropping temperatures we were back to winter ski conditions.
Ski safari climbs a small hill to ski powder just slightly off piste.
I'm grabbing another sip of water before charging off on a another powder run in the trees. Rob must have fallen because he looks like a powdered sugar cookie.
Even in the low valley we had snow. Everything was picture perfect.
The storm ended Wednesday afternoon and skies cleared somewhat. Snow blanketed the entire valley, and we could still find powder just off piste on the final 'beer run'.
Thursday morning was clear and cold. (Compare this to photo 11 before the storm.)
Many ski valleys and resorts are interconneted...you can start in one valley, travel far away for lunch, and return to home base at the end of the day. Sometimes you need to jump on a shuttle bus to cross town or move up/down a valley to catch the next series of lifts. The English on this sign is a literal (bad) translation. They wanted to say 'this way to the cable car/gondola', but the German word Seilbahn can literally mean ropeway.
Ski safari contemplates another top to bottom run down a frightfully steep pitch.
Friday brought more runs to valley floors...only to return to Alpendorf to celebrate the end of our ski school week. (And on Thursday we skied to Wagrain, Kleinarl, and Flachauwinkl.)
King's damn Big Feet! (This could be the best photo of the set!)
A medical emergency required a helicopter and medical team to land on the piste. A lift operator quickly roped off a small landing zone. I have never had more than a mild sprain while skiing (knock on wood!), but there's no denying that skiing is a risk sport.
Ulla (wearing orange) was not in ski safari...it'll be a couple more years before that adventure starts...but she's doing awful good for a beginner. Especially because she's older than I am! Unfortunately fate, and a crowded ski slope, would come knocking...literally....
An anonymous skier ran into Ulla and broke her nose on the last run of the day. Surgery that night in a local hospital...and she still completed ski school, got her certificates, and a medal for exceptional bravery! I can only hope that my attitude will be as good as hers if I ever get banged up badly.