Part of our European spring break was going skiing in Austria. We invested our time, energy (!) and money to make our boys fall in love with snow covered mountains and the equipment to get downhill safe and fast – or better, fast and furious!
During this spring break we decided to drive across the border for some serious skiing on the other side. Mt. Baker is only a skip and jump (110 km) from our front door; which makes it even closer than driving to Whistler.
Upon arrival we picked up the key to our rented condo. Our friendly, local agent warned us about the coming weekend: “Tomorrow will be very busy, we are having our annual Easter egg hunt on the mountain, and everybody wants to find the golden egg!”
Skiing in Austria during school holidays can leave a somewhat bitter taste in your mouth. It goes something like this: 10 minutes to get down the hill, 25 minutes waiting time at the bottom of the lift to get back up again! It is crazy busy with anybody and everybody who can afford a lift ticket. If you find yourself stuck in the midst of other parents, there is only one thing to do,- in Germany we call it “huettenschwung”!
In good old English it translates to skiing from hut to hut to drown your frustration with a gluewein (mulled wine) or jagertea (tea plus rum) and hope for a clear run all the way home! You will never get where you want to ski without stopping. During your time on the slopes you are in active danger of being run into, or worse, run over by some random boarder who hasn’t discovered his break on his snowboard. yet. Yes, skiing in Austria during the height of the season can seriously damage your body!
Anyway, small, free standing refueling stations (huts) can be found everywhere, on every mountain, in every region across Austria. They make part of the Austrian charm. They welcome you with loud brass music and a wide selection of hot and cold beverages. Their drinks make you forget your sorrows and most of all, your inhibitions. In regards to your skiing ability it translates into starting off as a beginner and makes you finish in a league of your own. Forget about looking good, after two gluewein all you want to do is ‘let it rip’.
With memories of crowds and massive queues to wait in line with, it was no wonder we were slightly peed off about the egg hunt.
Wonder oh wonder! The busiest day of the season is upon us and we had no problem finding a parking spot. Wait, it gets even better: No line in front of the ticket booth either! Believe it or not, the coast was clear all day long! The longest we had to wait for at the bottom of any lift were five guys in front of us. If this is what the locals call busy, I want to ski here during their quiet days. No awkward turnstiles either to check your lift pass. It was wide, open slopes as far as the eye can see!
The huts on American soil are function build, they are good for eating and drinking,not for cosiness. And, one beer allowed per ID only. I am not much of a beer drinker, and gluewein can’t be found anywhere.. But then, you don’t really need gluewein or schnaps here.
There is no immediate danger of being run over and I found my inner goddess on the wide, open slopes!
How amazing is skiing here in Washington State. No wonder the guy at Glaciers Ski Rental swore me to secrecy – I should keep my mouth shut about this gem! But if I do, how will he make money with his ski rentals? How will the condo owners rent out their homes if nobody knows about them?
But even with my post out there I don’t believe it would make a difference. Back at the apartment I found a guidebook, published in 1979. Everything written then still applies today- Mt. Baker, Washington’s best kept secret? A place where time stood still?