Journey to Hollersbach

One thing that is important to note about skiing in Europe versus North America is how the aim is somehow a little different.  In the US and Canada we tend to ski in wilderness on trecherous slopes with one little ski village at the bottom if that, whereas in Europe all the mountains were already filled with little villages and resthouses on the slope.  As a result, skiing in Europe almost feels more like a mode of transportation to get between villages than something for its own sake (heck, I had locals commuting by gondola with me a few times!), meaning there is often an extensive ski network over several mountains to explore.

As such, when Dave of Snowbunnys mentioned to me offhand it was possible to ski all the way to Hollersbach, a town approximately 20km away, I obviously had to do it.  The journey traverses seven peaks according to the map, taking in at minimum two gondolas, an areal tram, 13 chairlifts, and one T-bar.  Gotta say, it’s a long day too…

img_4298Because people who pay 28 Euro a night for accomodation do not exactly get ski-in real estate, I got to walk about ten minutes every day to the gondola. (And for my brother and dad, I did this with lots of gusto actually because I discovered it’s easy to carry your skis when the bindings actually work!) Kitzbuhel itself is a nice little town to walk through as seen above, and I particularly liked this florist next to a bakery.

For the sake of seeing just how long it took me to ski the seven peaks, the time onto the gondola was 9:28am.  I don’t know what I was doing up that early on a ski holiday either.

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The top of the world.  Or at least that’s that’s what it felt like.  Looking here from peak number 2 to number 3.

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And this is one of the main reasons why 20km might sound like a lot but surprisingly isn’t- the 3S bahn!  Opened only five years ago, this tram goes 3.8km in about five minutes.  To top it off there is also only one support beam along the way, meaning one can’t help but feel a little giddy suspended a few hundred meters above the mountain valley at the halfway point.  Especially the one time when it stopped right in the middle for me, and while I trust engineers and all all I can think of at that point is how a jet plane accidentally cut an aerial tram’s line a few years ago, killing all those in the tram.  Once you get over that though, it’s pretty sweet.

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An advertisement I rather liked in the tram terminal.  They advertise the 3S by saying it’s like flying, if that makes more sense.

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The view from the other side of the 3S, which is mainly skiing above the tree line.  Perhaps because it already felt like the top of the world and there isn’t much oxygen at 2000m, but somewhere along the way I started referring to going to the end of the ski field as going to ”the end of the world.”  Sort of in the sense that old explorers fully expected to find one.

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Avalanche!  So this happened not in the ski area but rather on the 3,000m peak overlooking it, but it definitely happened sometime in a 24 hour period because it hadn’t been there the day before.  There are several such remnants on this mountain actually, this is just the most prominent one… This is also noteworthy because I never found Kitzbuhel to be a particularly challenging mountain- I only turned down two runs as too difficult and I’m not that good- but I was told later this is in part because they don’t allow huge moguls to form on the black runs this time of year.  Turns out you don’t want a lot of clumpy snow just waiting to slide and kill skiers, a move I approve of.

img_4286The last bit of skiable terrain, in the town of Hollersbach!  And when Yvette saw her skiing domain she wept, for there were no more mountains to conquer… Until she realized she still had to go back so it was time to get going!

Time at reaching Hollersbach: 12:24, or just under three hours of skiing to reach it.  I feel a little more hard core now.

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Unfortunately the way back was not quite as photogenic- a brief snowstorm popped up, throwing stinging snow into your face, so I holed up in one of the many resthouses for the worst part of it.  I am a bit in love with such Austrian establishments because besides the awesome and cheap schnitzel and strudel diet every single one has a giant ceramic oven from which all the warmth comes from.  They have these in Hungary too, and the little corner you can wedge yourself into where it’s extr-warm is called the kucko, and there is nothing quite like coming in all cold from skiing, draping your wet mittens onto the warm tiles, and feeling yourself warming up.  Really, can we please import these to ski places in the United States already?

img_4296Finally the snow let up, so I skied the last bit home.  By this point it was getting pretty late (I stopped skiing around 4pm) so I ran into these local kids from the Kitzbuhel ski club on the last bit.  At this time of year the bottom of the mountain is pretty cruddy- one day it was all slush, the next day all ice, the day after slush and ice- but these kids were going down on one ski each.  Better than I can ski on two actually.  Probably why they don’t make the bottom part of the mountain any easier to ski, unlike us mortals all the locals could do it on one when they were eight!

And that was my ski journey.  Needless to say by the time I got back to Snowbunnys I went straight to my bunk and spent a long time staring at the bunk above me.  What a great day.

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