Well, what can i say? I tried combing through the ole brain to see if i could think of some creative excuse to give as to why it has taken me over a month to write my next blog post but nothing comes to mind. In turn i hope i can can reestablish your trust through this blog post and the many more that will (hopefully!) follow in the coming days. Let me first say that this post’s topic ‘Zell am See’ happened almost two months ago and i will have to draw on the long term memory to give you a glimpse of the trip so bear with me. As for what happened between this blog post and the last it involves that boring academic stuff that i will again assume no wants to read about. Onto the actual topic of this blog post: Kaprun – Zell am See. I suppose before i go into the chronological recounting of my trip i should give you a small summary of what Kaprun is. Taken directly from the info graphic they gave us before departure Kaprun is a glacial resort 3000m (roughly 10,000ft. for you non metric system folks) above sea level that operates year round. It contains about 41km (25 miles) of slopes in total ranging from beginners to highly advanced. Now onto the actual events. Luckily the bus ride wasn’t too early, 10AM, which helped a lot letting me be able to prepare and make sure i had all my supplies in order. Another plus was that the trip to Kaprun was only going to be about 4 hours including stopping for lunch. The weather was acting strange by reaching the low seventies (Fahrenheit) in Linz so many of us were worried that it may effect our chances of snow in Kaprun. Yet we were assured time and time again that we had nothing to fear. As we pulled up to our hotel we were hoping that the warm atmosphere of the inside of our bus was deceiving and once we stepped outside we would be embraced by the frigid cold of mountain air. To say the least we were very wrong. As soon as my feet touched down outside i was not only missing that cold i expected but i was overcome by warmth. It had to be close to 70F. This only heightened our fears of no snow. Yet once we got moved into our surprisingly nice hostel rooms and settled with a couple beers we finally saw why our Austrian mentors had no fear.
Our first day there we got our ski rentals and snooped around the hostel to find out about all the amenities offered. I may have forgotten to mention but this trip was actually a meet up of all REFI (the exchange student program in Austria) students in Austria so they had organized large dinners and parties for our group. The dinners, which we had already paid for, were buffet style and just as the quality of the rooms had surprised so did the food. A lot of it looked to be typical Austrian food which was good because it was just the kind of ‘stick-to-your-ribs’ meal someone craves after a long day of skiing. I digress though. After our hearty meals they quickly shepherd us to our next destination, a bar some distance down the road from the hostel. A couple of my roommates and I decided we would stay back and drink the beer we still had and meet up with the bulk of the group later. Thus after downing a couple more beers and gaining a little courage one in our group decided that we would take a route to the bar that wasn’t exactly viable but it made the difference between a five minute trip and a forty minute trip. Let’s just say it involved us walking through a tunnel that most definitely didn’t actaully have a side walk:
By far the funniest part had to be that the group that we told we’d meet there entered into the bar as we walked up. In turn thoroughly fueling many puzzled looks from our fellow exchange students who had not too long ago saw our group polishing off a pint and ordering another round. Overall the night was fun but we called it early because we all knew it was going to be tough waking up at 7AM the next day.
As we started the next day i was again surprised by how much effort was put into our breakfast. We eventually did make it up the mountain where we greeted by some of the most beautiful weather and spectacular views i had ever seen. Some of you may be saying, “Carter what about Hallstatt? I thought that was on the top of your list?.” To which i would respond that it is indeed on the top of my list but Austria ceases to amaze me with its mountainous views. Maybe it’s for the fact that i live in one of the flattest places in the United States but i imagine Austria rivals even the views of the Rockies or Appalachians.
It again is one of those “You had to be there to really grasp it” photos but i’m sure you can get the idea. Here’s another one for good measure.
The snow was pretty amazing that day. Not too much powder, not too icy, pretty close to being perfect. I suppose though i should stop blabbing on about the view and conditions. You probably want to know how the skiing actually was. To start we had formed a small group which included a Fin, four Americans (myself included), a Canadian, and an Italian. Of which all the Americans excluding myself were pretty much beginners. This lead us to taking several ‘beginner’ level slopes at the start to get them warmed up. In that time we had lost the Canadian and Italian. Eventually though the Fin (whose name was Joni) and I decided we needed to do some more difficult runs. They had your typical blacks that one would suspect we would be headed to next but on the way up the ski lifts we saw these huge runs on either side of the mountain that seemed to be out-of-bounds. Thus we began shifting our group that direction. Once we arrived on one of the sides of the mountain two of the Americans decided that they would take the easier blue run back down to the bottom while another one (after some convincing and prodding of course) decided to join Joni and I. The aptly named slope ‘X1’ would be a our first real run of the day. We decided to let the somewhat newbie guy go so that maybe we could keep track of him going down. Oh how we were wrong. After a moment of waiting then pushing off the top of the hill i began coasting through the top segment of the slope. Because these slopes were free range the snow was fairly untouched and fresh for the taking. As i’m enjoying my run down the first half of the slope not too behind far Joni my mind drifts to the other American that i’m suppose to be paying attention to but i shortly dismissed the thought thinking he should have no problem if the rest of the slope was this nice. Let me add the this slope ran about half of the mountain and in turn was a fairly long run. As we reached the half way point we began rounding this huge curve. As we worked our way around it i saw Joni stop ahead of me for which i assumed was to just to catch his breath. As i pulled up to him i saw why he had really stopped. He was peering over onto the next part of the slope which consisted of an enormous valley probably about half a kilo long. It was definitely a lot more steep than the last section but i figured i could handle it. Being on the side of the mountain that was going in and out of the sun Joni was pointing to a small area that was lit up by sun saying something about how our American friend may be in trouble. At first i had no idea what he was talking about. Then i saw them. Brightly glistening in the sun now stood innumerable moguls. I then started looking into the areas that had no sun and saw that hidden behind the veil of the shadows stood countless more moguls. My brain started racing, i was beginning to question whether or not i was going to be able to make it down the slope. Then it hit me like a brick wall. The poor American whom i had partaken in convincing to go down this very slope was about to meet his eternal resting place on the side of a mountain in Austria. We scanned the area to see if we could find him but there was no sign so we decided we had to move on being in a fairly dangerous spot for oncoming skiers. After some less than safe skiing by myself to reach the bottom me and Joni met up at a place out of the way so we could check again for our American friend. After some time of staring at this wall of moguls we spot what seems to be a guy going every few meters then crashing. Had to be our guy. After some patience on our part and endurance on his he eventually made it down to where we were. To say the least he had some not so nice things to say to us after he caught his breath. Also, i may add, that was the last time he ever followed Joni and I down a run. Eventually we caught up with our other two buddies and headed back up for a couple more runs.
As the resort was reaching closing time Joni and I agreed that we needed to do at least one more tough run for the day. Seeing as how we had already conquered one side of the mountain we decided we’d check out the other. Again we began leading our little group to our destination. When we arrived at the slope (named X2) there was a general consensus among the other Americans that they would be taking the blue slope down to the bottom to meet us. Let me also add that this slope ran the entirety of the mountain which probably made it the longest run in the resort. Our little group splits ways and Joni and I begin our descent down X2. It started it out pretty great with some untouched snow and fairly sloped hills but i wasn’t going to be deceived as i had been on X1. I knew there had to be something lurking in the shadows. I just wish i hadn’t been so correct. As we are rounding the second or third curve the slope took an odd twist by cutting across an 80 degree incline. Pretty much your’e skiing across a wall, where on your right there is a 100 or so foot drop into an un-skiable ravine and the only thing holding you on are the ridges of your skis. You know that feeling when your skiing and your’e going down something tough and you tell yourself “It won’t be bad if you fall, it’s just snow.”? That was not the case here. It was either get across or find out what was at the bottom of the ravine in spectacular fashion. It gets even better though. Because of the steepness of the wall we were crossing there were hundreds of different little grooves from previous skiers for each separate ski. You might think this would help. Yet the reality of the situation was that as you had one ski on one of these paths and one on another they would start to separate. Which meant you started doing random splits on this nearly vertical wall a 100 feet above a ravine. To say the least this was definitely one of the more nerve wracking things i’ve done. Eventually we did make it across, though my legs were pretty much shot. Only being about halfway through, it was not good that i was already that tired but we pushed through. Ahead we conquered multiple steep valleys of moguls such as the one we had done on X1 but nothing came close to crossing the wall. I also want to add that through all of this we were dodging rocks like it was going out of style. Unlike the mountains back home which are mostly trees, Kaprun hosts only rocks on its barren landscape. Here are some photos from X2 when were taking the occasional break:
Sadly we did not get any photos of the wall which probably had to do with us being in shock that we were still alive, but you can kind of get the idea of what i mean when i say it’s just rocks scattered along the slope through these photos. After we met up with the others and described what had happened on X2 Joni and I decided to call it a day to which they concurred.
We arrived back at the hostel at around four or five and immediately went to the local supermarket to grab some beers for the night ahead. The next most eventful thing for the evening was my first experience with a ‘Finnish Sauna.’ Before this trip i had zero knowledge that the Finnish people are very proud of there sauna tradition. Kind of makes sense though if you think about the fact that it’s snowy and cloudy most of the year in Finland. That’s beyond the point though. I was definitely not prepared for what the Sauna entailed. I’m fairly certain if there is anything close to the fiery pits of hell it’s most likely a Finnish Sauna. Some may think i know a little bit about heat and humidity coming from the southern United States. Not even remotely true. I’m sitting there practically in tears after about five minutes and i’m getting stares from all the Scandinavians like i’m some little girl. Good memories nonetheless. Eventually though i did learn to love it. You feel amazingly refreshed afterwards which is particularly nice when you are really sore after a rough day of skiing.
After my Sauna experience i was well prepared the following morning for a full day of skiing. We again woke up bright and early at 7AM to eat the breakfast provided and head out to the slopes. Yet this time we were in for a huge surprise. As we neared the gondola that would take us up the mountain it began to start snowing. From the time it took us to walk from the bus to the gondola the light snow fall had transformed into a near blizzard. You could tell some around us were questioning whether or not they actually wanted to go up in these conditions. Only being there for two days our group trudged onwards. Once we reached the very top of the mountain (after a couple of chair lifts and the gondola) the snow started to thin out luckily. Still being tired from the day before i had decided early on that i was going to take it easy for the day. So as the day progressed we stuck to the top of the mountain doing mostly average level runs. Though Joni, somehow still having energy and courage, was trying to convince me to go down some more X related slopes to which i politely told him ‘no chance in hell.’ Also with the amount of snowfall there was easily a good foot and a half of powder on the slopes which only added to the workout on my legs.
Being the day that we had to return we left the mountain fairly early to go take back our skis and grab some lunch in town. By the time we had come down the mountain the whole town of Kaprun was white and in turn made for a cozy lunch inside a snow covered restaurant before departure. On our return journey i slept like a baby. My only fear being that they may need a wheelchair to get me off the bus because of how sore i was. Overall the trip was a great success though and i can now say i have been skiing in the Alps.
As for the next blog post, i would not expect it to be even remotely as long as this one. There were many stories that happened on the Ski trip that i thought you may like so i decided to include them all. I don’t think i’ll be doing that again both for the fact of how long it took me to type this blog post and that most of my future travels i have more photos than stories (which was not the case for the ski trip.) In all honesty none of these photos are mine but are Joni’s so i have to give credit to him. Lastly here’s a little photo as proof that i actually was there and until next time.