We started our day with a hike up the mountain Brandberg. We took the road half way up because the paths were so icy and then found a sun drenched trail for the rest of the way. While we didn't make it to the top we were able to reach some great views through the beautiful green forests. It was like walking through a Brothers Grimm fairytale - the trees were lively and the trail well worn. The forest floor was accessorized with new berry shrubs and boulders stood mischievously along the path. Our descent down the mountain wasn't as graceful....we went a little 'off roading' and ran into some ice. After some intense bush whacking and careful maneuvering we made it to the bottom - and just in time! Elisabeth's darling grandmother made us delicious knödel and sauerkraut - a lovely Austrian lunch.
After lunch we made our way up the top of a different mountain, Ahorn, but this time via a huge ski lift. Our destination was an igloo hotel that had sun bathing chairs laying out over the snow. The sun was so warm that most people weren't even wearing jackets...and the view!! White caps everywhere! I felt like I was on top of the world. Alex, Elisabeth's boyfriend, pointed out all the different mountain names to me and told me that each peak has a cross at the top. Zooming in with my camera I was able to spy a few. We had a great view of Mayrhofen from the top and I was sure to take plenty of pictures.
|The view from my chair on the mountain|
On Sunday we woke up bright and early because we were going on a ski tour! Alex's family, who own the beautiful Hotel Maximilian, were able to find skis for me so we headed out around 9am to the slopes. Our destination was to a peak where Alex's family had raised a cross, and it was there we were to attend a mid morning mass. In order to reach this peak we needed to veer off the trail and hike up a mountain with skis. Well, it turned into quite the adventure - an amazing and beautiful adventure.
For the first part we took a ski lift up and skied down a couple slopes in order to get to the correct lift that would take us to our trail. I knew I would be the weakest skier in the bunch but everyone was very patient and we skied slow with me. My American ski skills don't exactly match up to Austrian ski standards but I'm proud to say I only fell once. When we reached the mouth of our trail it was time to leave the nice packed snow and get onto waist deep never-been-touched snow which the Austrians call Haxnbrecherschnee (Leg breaking snow). As you can imagine I was a little worried. Our plan was to slowly 'pizza pie' our way down but the snow was so deep that I kept falling every five feet. The snow was literally up to my waist! Everyone was having some trouble but it was obvious that I wasn't going to make it the whole way on my skis so Alex took his skis off with me and we hiked through *waist deep snow* down the mountain. For each step I had to swing my ski boot laden feet into the path Alex had created in front of me. When my weight shifted I would fall and my legs would disappear beneath me like they were in quicksand. Trudging through that snow I have never been so tired and frustrated...but it was amazing. There was one point where I stopped and looked up, barely catching my breath and my legs totally spent, and there in front of me are these gorgeous mountains everywhere and I thought of how beautiful it was and how I am so lucky to be stuck in waist deep snow in this gorgeous place. Then of course my second thought was suck it up and keep going because there is no other way out of here! Eventually we made it to snow that we could ski on and instead of going to the mass we went to the cabin right below the summit because we were late. Once we got to the cabin we found the rest of our party there because as it turns out they were late too and didn't make the mass.
Once I got my skis off everyone clapped for me and we all had a shot of celebratory schnapps! They had a whole picnic set up so I had some delicious goulash soup and cake!
|Finally made it!|
After we were all well rested we headed out...because what comes up must come down. The rest of the way was the ski tour - we put mole skins on the bottom of our skis and unclipped the back of our boots so we could sort of glide and walk our way to the ski slope. The mole skins were to make sure we didn't slide backwards after each step. It is a really strange sensation since you are wearing skis but you feel like you are shuffling. I thought the hard part was getting to the cabin but the ski tour was quite the work out! I was a little slower but I kept up with the group. We zigzagged across the mountain making our way down to a normal ski slope where we took off the mole skins and skied to a lift that took us the rest of the way down the mountain.
|Elisabeth smiling for the camera|