Skiing in the Austrian Alps, plus a few days in Munich, Germany

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When we were presented with another school break in February we jumped at the chance to meet up with our good friends (and former neighbors) in Germany. They left for Europe around the same time we did but settled in Munich because of jobs and the language.

Our friends live in a beautiful suburb with excellent public transport and playgrounds for the kids. Daily life is very walkable, or cyclable if you prefer, with banks, grocery stores, restaurants etc. all within walking distance from their house. Also, Munich city center is only a short train ride away. The first day we spent exploring their neighborhood, walking through the woods and enjoying a nice German-style dinner.

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The kids were so happy to be reunited, and had fun playing in the woods and walking around town

The second day, we headed into Munich by train and explored on foot and enjoyed being typical tourists for the day. It was beautiful weather and very nice to see so many people outside going about their daily routines. IMG_E0831

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Pretzels, bratwurst and beer – we have all the German food groups covered here.

However, after just two days in Munich, it was time to hit the road and drive to Mittersill, Austria, in the Pinzgau region of the Alps to go skiing. It is a beautiful little town and a very popular winter tourist destination for skiing and snowboarding, and it is less than three hours from Munich.

We stayed in a guesthouse just above the town with amazing views all around.

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Kids playing in the snow next to the guesthouse, with the lights of Mittersill visible in the valley below.

The guesthouse itself was very nice with plenty of space outside for the kids to play, along with a barn next door for the owners’ dairy cows.  We even got to see a new baby calf when it was only 5 minutes old!IMG_0565We were there for three days and skied every day. We are only beginners and so we rented equipment and had an instructor from a company called Snow Experts all three days. They were very organized and efficient as you might expect from Austria 😉

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With our friendly Austrian instructor. He could never remember N’s name, so he called him Hans.

Since it wasn’t a school holiday in Austria or Germany there were hardly any people on the slopes and we were able to make a lot of progress in a short time (a world of difference from our trip to Sierra Nevada in Spain over a holiday weekend!).

Our instructor was this crazy Austrian guy from Mittersill. He pushed us way outside our comfort zone (at least the adult comfort zone) and by the third day we were going down some pretty steep hills and through trees off piste. If we fell over he’d just exclaim in his thick German Austrian accent, “What happen!? Why you fell over!?” as if we were doing it deliberately. He was very funny and we liked him a lot. It was a good fit. When we would ask about tips or pretty much anything ski related his answer was always, “lean forward more”. Also, if we said “what color slope is that?” He liked to say “White, they are all white.  You just control how fast you go down.”  There you go. Skiing. Easy.

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The first day on the slopes, we spent a little time just doing some basic balancing and stopping on skis, then headed to the bunny hill, where we would ride on a t-bar up to the top of the slope.  Poor little N had a lot of trouble on the t-bar, and fell many, many times.  He was getting really frustrated, but we had a talk and he decided to keep trying, and was so happy when he finally got it figured out and made it to the top.  Just getting to the top of the hill was the biggest challenge for him, he did really well skiing down (though he tends to ski very slowly).

On day 2, our instructor decided we were ready for the big hills and he went to get tickets for the big chair lifts.  Before buying the tickets, he asked me “Is anyone afraid of heights?”.  I said no, because, mostly we aren’t.  I mean maybe just a little, but it’ll be fine, right? I don’t mind heights, it is just the possibility falling off of things high up that I don’t like and he didn’t ask that.IMG_0654.JPG

So, anyway, it started well, and we had a lovely trip up the chair lift, got off and we were…on the top of a mountain….with steep drops off the mountain on all sides…and between those cliff edges was either a super steep slope, or a very narrow and winding “road” to ski down in order to get us to the next chair lift and to easier hills.  So, down the narrow and winding road we went.  And, it sucked.  Totally.  I had ZERO faith in my ability to stop myself from flying off the narrow edge of said “road” on the top of the mountain. I didn’t have much faith in the ability of my kids to not fall off either.  I just didn’t see how we would get down this narrow snow road all in one piece.  The kids and instructor headed down and I figured the best way down was clearly to just roll, flailing, while desperately trying to get some traction by grabbing the snow as I tumbled by.  Then, the instructor comes over to help me, telling my poor young children to just “ski on ahead of us”, and I think my anxiety levels at that point were somewhere past the totally, completely freaking out point. I told him not to help me just make sure my kids don’t fall off the edge.  Anyway, we all somehow miraculously made it to down the road and to the next ski lift, where I spent the entire time plotting how to scoot on my butt all the way back down the mountain.  To my delight, the top of that hill contained a nice enclosed cable car to take tourists (and chickening-out skiers) straight back down the mountain.  So, after lunch with the family, I happily left the group, content that the instructor could focus on keeping my kids alive, while I went back to skiing on the bunny hill.

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The enclosed panoramic cable car aka cable car of shame for scaredy-cat skiiers who manage to make it to the top of the mountain and don’t want to ski back down.

And that was the end of my skiing adventures.  However, meanwhile, back on the top of the mountain, the kids were rocking it and C was keeping up (more or less).

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Picture me watching with my heart in my throat as my kids and husband follow the instructor off the cliff edge (okay maybe not, but it looked like it). Also, imagine my relief at not having to do it myself.

By the third day, N was totally worn out and refused to wake up to ski.  I was happy to stay home with him, so the big boys and C skiied with the instructor.  The boys’ friends decided to join them as well. Their friends are regular skiiers, so they made it look easy, and C really could barely keep up with the kids. In fact, at one point, as the instructor took them off piste to ski through trees, he suggested to C that he just skip that part 🙂

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Kids heading through the trees while C stays out of trouble outside the trees

After our days on the slopes, we went back to the guesthouse and hung out.  The guesthouse offered dinner, so most of the nights we ate there.

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Family-style meals

We did head into Mittersill one night for dinner, and enjoyed walking through the quaint town at the bottom of the valley.

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IMG_0761After three days of skiing, we headed back to Munich (with a quick stop to do some sledding) and our flight back to Spain. It was a fun and exhausting trip, and we are already planning with our friends where we might go for next year’s ski vacation!

 

 

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