Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Hochgurgl: Last gasp ski weekend

The name is a little funny but that’s what it is; Hochgurgl. Sitting at the top of the highest paved road in the Alps, Hochgurgl at 2150 meters is all about skiing. While we’ve had a super mild winter in Munich, with only 1-2 days of snow, Hochgurgl is high enough for folks to ski through the end of May. And we recently did just that. As our usual ski places have no snow, we drove further into Austria in search of snow and ending up, a bit by chance, making a weekend out of it at Hochgurgl.
Skiing has been one of the real pluses about our time in Germany. Phil has gotten the kids out of skiing almost every weekend in the winter. While there are still problems with gear, these problems are decreasing. The kids are mostly able to manage their skis and stuff themselves though Adam’s “off-piste” accidents still require a helping hand. Sometimes more than one helping hand is needed. In Hochgurgl when Royce lost a ski in limited visibility, numerous people stopped to help her.
We typically ski just over the German border in Austria (about one hour from our house). And just past our regular place is the Brenner Pass, a tall alpine pass that we must first drive down on the way there and then back up on the way home. Always a bit nerve wrecking in our car but (knock on wood), while we’ve had problems with that car on the flats, old Blueberry (as the kids named our car) has never failed us on Brenner’s Pass. The only problem this time was our car navigation system telling us that the road was closed the whole down Brenner’s Pass, despite the road free and open.
We drove into the area known as Otztal, Tyrol, Austria, through a snowless forty mile long valley, with the northern end being Austrian and the southern end being Italian. All this brought home the lesson the twins were studying at school about the Oetzi Iceman, found in 1991 from 3300 B.C. The kids told us how the Iceman was found on the border and Austria and Italy argued over who go him. Italy won but our hotel in Hochgurgl had some photos of the find. Adam and Royce recognized the people in the photos, told us their names and what was going on. We might even be motivated to go find the actual Iceman mummy in Bolzano next.
We stayed (with no prior booking- a first for us) at a nice hotel. The in-room sauna was a hit with the kids after a cold day of skiing. Overnight it started to snow and never stopped. That part of Austria got 50 centimeters of snow in one day. And the kids skied through it. And the car made it down the hill, through the valley and back over Brenner’s Pass. We thought we saw signs for chains. As we tried to figure the signs out in multiple languages, we quickly realized we didn’t have chains and no stores were open on Sunday anyway. Best just to proceed with caution. That was us; proceeding with caution into a new part of the world, with no hotel reservations, no suitcases, three kids and lots and lots of skis.  


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