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Published: January 1st 2007
Over two years ago Suzy and I where looking for adventurous places to go snowboarding. We found a place in the Alps named St. Anton am Arlberg. This little town was a two hour train ride from Zurich in the Austrian Alps. We did the math and decided to go to Whistler/Blackcomb in British Columbia, Canada. At the time I made Suzy a promise that we would some day visit and board in St. Anton. I had even sent her a ecard from the site inviting her with me in the future to make the journey.
Well, as luck has it, I was able to keep my promise to my incredible wife to be on 12/26/06.
We decided on a 3 day Austrian rail pass (95 euros total for 2 people), thinking 2 days would be used to and from St. Anton. and the final would take us to Zurich the day after New Years to meet Talar, Suzy's baby sister.
The first 4 hours of the train ride were unremarkable since we had traveled the same route to Salzburg. But, the portion after Salzburg began to blossom into the winter wonderland we had imagined. Jagged granite peaks
exploded towards the blue sky in an awesome array of mountainous beauty. I have always had an affinity to the mountains, but this had a very special meaning to me because of the promise I had made to Suzy two years earlier.
We once again booked our accommodations in advance at Pension Waldhausli which was very cheap for being on the slopes. Total cost was 70 euros a night for 2 people including breakfast with w.c. and shower (private showers and bathrooms do not necessarily come with every room). St. Anton is notorious for four things.... 1st, the town and accommodations are VERY EXPENSIVE, 2nd, the slopes are crazily under rated in difficulty, 3rd the threat of avalanches is real, and 4th the Apres Ski (after skiing) party session is the best in all of Europe. All would be confirmed by the end of our stay.
Upon arrival, in the less than snowy town, we switched on the handy G.P.S. to find our way to our pension. With Suzy doubtful of the G.P.S. and it being as cold as it was (0 degrees) it took a bit convincing to hike through the town with our luggage. But it
ended up being an easy walk, as the whole town is very small. The G.P.S. came through and led us to our front door.
Our pension was just as we had imagined it, with the attentive and very nice "den mother", and the incredible view of the mountains stretching from the edges of town high into the clear blue sky.
After getting situated we decided to wander around town and get the lay of the land, as well as find a cheap spot to rent boards, and find out where all the partying goes down. The town is the quaint alpine town, small and easy to navigate, with equipment rental places littered throughout the town.
Regarding the boards, there does seem to be a bit of a monopoly on equipment rental in the town with Intersport totally controlling all rentals. This was figured out after traveling around to find a bargain and each of the rental place told us (as we pondered the 25 euro prices), "Everyone in town has the same rates." Hmmmm. I guess that will work then.
We figured out that most of the party spots were in the middle of town, including
Piccadilly, which was rowdy with a live coverband preforming. We were having a great time until they closed the bar down between 8 and 9 to clean (we figured it was because they open up as a club at 9 and wanted to nix the ski bums and charge for admission.) Oh, well time to move to the next spot. We went next door to Platz and it was nice but a bit like walking into someone’s living room, so we left and got us some of the best damn pizza ever next door. A few more beers and pizza and we were now dancing at our table, literally, dancing in a bar/restaurant. In a town that parties like this I honestly don't even think anyone noticed, but it was funny as hell to us. Now, off to bed for a solid day of boarding.
We should note that Suzy and I ride black diamond runs in Mammoth Mountain in CA. and the Alps are suffering the least amount of snow in 1300 years. But, our enthusiasm would not suffer, as we were up and out the door at 8:30. Easily got boards and fitted and up the gondola
Please notice ghost behind me
we went. The first lift up was incredible. What we didn’t realize is that from the town we could only see about a 1/3 of the whole mountain and damn where the slopes steep and narrow as hell (and by narrow I mean 8 feet wide and shear cliff on one side and exposed rocks on the other) Definitely not ideal for boarders. Once we got to the top we were feeling a bit intimidated, and then I looked next to me and the gentleman was strapping on his avalanche beacon, now I am Definitely intimidated. Our first run was a seriously painful not having our boards and Definitely not used to the man made snow, which was hard as hell and fast. Never the less we took the lifts all the way to the top to try and avoid the mass amount of skiers (The ratio skiers to boarders in St. Anton is about 20 to 1 and it maybe higher) add in the holiday and damn there were a lot of people whizzing past you on skis. We took #20 black run which ran on the spine of the mountain down to #4 which we knew would be
easier, and we figured it was a good intermediate run (Ha, we found out later it is trail marked as easy, seriously that is insane) It was good up top but it grew narrower and more crowded as we moved down the mountain; thus, increasing the frustration level. A couple more runs and we decided to grab some lunch atop one of the several mountain top cafes.
Pommes and Brots later, plus some great strudel, we decided to go sit outside and enjoy the mountainous view of the surrounding Alps. After a bit of stalking we were able to grab a couple of lounge chairs with a stunning view. Now all we needed was some drinks from the bar right behind us and we would be set. Three hours later we had not touched another slope and decided to take a buzzed gondola ride down the mountain, instead of beating ourselves up more.
That evening we headed out to get some dinner/drinks and decided to stop by the local grocery store to get us a bottle of the locally made and famous schnapps. This kicked things into high gear pretty fast and out and about we went. After
a few stops and searching for the Crazy Kangaroo (which is on one of the slopes but its long street walk or a walk up a slope) which we gave up on. We headed back toward a bar called the Alibi, which was on our way home. On the walk we encountered a group superhero dressed party goers in tights, spidey suits, rasta fake deads, and pokemon outfit to boot. They came hooting and hollering past us as we ogled at there drunk selves. They went in a bar and we headed off to the Alibi. The Alibi was chill and small with good music playing as well as a singing deer which head was mounted on the wall, which the bartender kept remotely messing with Suzy with; since her back was to him. We made sure the Jagermister machine, that was posted a top the bar, was working.... several times and even got some souvenirs for our effort. About an hour after our arrival the drunk ass superheroes showed up in their tights and really livened the place up. We sat as these fools went from drunk to damn near making out with each others boyfriends. Several shots and photos later they left and so did we.
The next morning we decided to take a boarding lesson. While we are both very good boarders neither of us had ever had any instruction. This coupled with the fact that St. Anton's ski and boarding school's are supposed to be top notch and we figured sure why not. We arrived at our lesson and the our instructor took us up the hill and started instructing us in some stretching exercises. This is the point when I looked at Suzy and was like oh joy here we go.
I ended up feeling a lot more comfortable fast carving after the lesson and thought that it was good money spent. Suzy on the other hand didn’t get much out of the time which was a bit disappointing. After the lesson we went and got some coffee. It was at this time I decided to go complain to the snowboard rental company how our bindings were not adjusted correctly. I was only hoping to save some money, and ended up paying $12.50 (from $50.00) for both boards for the morning. Being pretty beat up and tired we decided to get our act together and hop on the train home.
The ride home was painful and long. Suzy had banged her head pretty hard and was sore everywhere in her shoulders and back. Our saving grace on the ride back was a audio book my mom had given us for our early Christmas gift. Thank GOD for Wild Fire!
6 hours later we arrived home. As we exited the train I thought I was something falling from the sky (which I had thought was a pigeon feather), and Suzy’s attentive nature noticed me not looking forward. We’ll look what we have here..... 6 hours on a train in the Alps and not 1 stinking flake, now its snowing in Vienna. There was no accumulation when we had seen the snow and easily hopped the subway back home. As we exited the subway terminal we were greeted by a blast of cold air and a swirling breeze filled with, what else than, snow. At out exit Taubsummengasse we witnessed how beautiful a snowy Vienna is. There was at least 3 inches of accumulation now and it was coming down hard. We stopped awed and took a few pictures. (Unfortunately the digital camera was dead so we had to use the handheld.) We dragged the bags through the snow and successfully made it home from our first European snowboarding trip.
Now a couple days rest then off to meet Talar and tour Zurich, Milan, Paris and Amsterdam. (that's the plan at least.. a bit ambitious but we'll see)
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