Pick your Austrian Ski Town

Written by Hank Martin in W. Europe

From up here it's still difficult to envision the full scope of these mountains. This ski area is disgustingly massive. Eight small ski towns surround the base of several peaks, peaks and terrain that is connected by ski runs. If you look at a map of this area the 91 lifts and 170+ miles of piste look like arteries snaking through the mountains. Then, add in the 70 ski huts, apres huts, and restaurants and good luck conquering this mountain in a weekend.

Yesterday we arrived in Söll, Austria and settled in at the foot of the mountains. As we looked at a map of SkiWelt Wilder Kaiser Brixental our adrenaline was already pumping. This area is a huge web of ski runs, lifts, and cities all interconnected. You can take the bahn up in one city, ski across several mountain peaks and end up in a city on the other side of the mountain.

But enough back story. Right now I'm looking down on Söll; the houses are brown dots in an otherwise white landscape. From on top of a mountain the world is always different, always quieter and filled with a new outlook on the world. Turning away from the lift and away from the cities below I point my skis down. Down, but not from the way I came. There is too much mountain to see. Eventually the runs will blur together, and I'll be lost. But, there can be worst places to be lost, like in Russia or Morocco at night.

At SkiWelt there is no shame in getting lost. It's like entering yourself in a food eating contest and losing. Sure, you didn't win, but, man, your still crazy in a respectable sort of way for trying to conquer that burger with 10lbs of meat on it.

At some point I'll pop out in a different Austrian town, maybe Scheffau, Ellmau, or Brixen im Thale. I'll ski until the lift opts kick me off then end where I may. At that point I'll be ready for a beer, or three, and a nice plate of schnitzel. Then, I'll just taxi my way back home for 10-20 Euros.

If you do have the chance to go to SkiWelt stay in one of the more centrally located towns, something like Scheffau, Söll, or Itter. These ski towns are so closely packed that they vary little. But, the center towns are below the majority of the skiing. Sure, part of the adventure is skiing from peak to peak, but if you have limited time the quickest route to the most terrain is from the middle cities.

Find yourself a nice little ski condo, they are everywhere and you don't really need to worry about them booking up except during the holidays. Most ski houses and apartments in the area have saunas, steam baths, relaxation rooms and ski storerooms. But, if these things are of interest to you make sure to find the amenities before you book. There are enough places, usually ranging in price from 30 to 130 euros a night, that you can afford to be picky.

Digital imageAfter skiing all day, take a short break, and muster up the cajones to try out the night skiing. Do it once if you never have. Although the runs are limited the experience itself is worth the couple extra euros they tack on to your normal ticket. Think of night skiing as a victory lap for riding hard all day. The most accessible, and frequent location is from Söll and begins at 6:30 pm Wednesday-Saturday. During this time they have select runs that are open with the help of floodlights.

Life in a ski town takes on a routine, a constant series of skiing all day, trudging to the nearest apres bar after unclipping from your last run of the day and finding your way home by ten o'clock so you're ready to repeat the cycle the next day. It is precisely this chance to break out of a static routine and live outside of our normal selves that makes trips like these so essential to our well-being as humans. Experiences like these let us live out a fantasy life, a life that we may not be able to have forever. Forget bills, forget school, and a job. While here the only thing that matters, that means anything is this moment, this powdery, slick ride where you are completely in control of your own destiny. But, then again, maybe you're not. Maybe you'll get lost. In which case, you've succeed in living this trip to the fullest.



Hank Martin

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Traveling for a world education and writing about the life lessons learned.

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