So the winter that never really started is drawing to a close. However, following several weeks of baking sunshine and temperatures in the high twenties, yesterday we awoke to a garden full of snow and a rather chilly shock of -1 outside. Just when we were about to let out a big sigh and put away our skis whilst tut-tutting but cheerily back slapping about how we’ve done our best to make the most of a poor winter, the almost forgotten winter seems to have staged a rather dramatic comeback. So the touring skis will stay out for a little while longer, and we will remember April as the month of surprises.
But before the rather bizarre and unexpected snowfall, we managed to get out and enjoy some cracking spring snow, and all under a big blue sky. At this time of year it’s important to stay as high as possible, mainly due to the distinct lack of snow lower down, so we decide to head to Ischgl, in the west of the country. Skiing off the back of the resort down to the Heidelberger Hutte not only provides a great lunch spot but also opens you up to a whole world of touring possibilities. With a number of peaks hovering around the 3000m mark and a ski track all the way back out to rejoin the resort at the end of the day, it was difficult to find any fault with the plan from start to finish. We opted for the Mottana Peak, around 750m height gain from the hut. We were the sole summiteers all day (it seems most Austrians just do the same tour as everyone else and ignore the alternatives!) so fresh spring skiing tracks all the way down and an uninterrupted view to rival most views. Not bad all round.
So I hear that North America is getting a huge amount of snow at the minute, however sadly this is not the case here in Europe. Winter teased us back in November and as ever the snow canons were blasting 24 hours a day, a few meagre pistes were opened and skiers hit the slopes in their droves. But since then we have had literally no precipitation, just bright blue skies, sunshine and well below freezing temperatures. So I can’t complain, this weather is gorgeous, and we have been determined to make the most of what we’ve got.
Those in charge of the ski areas have done a superb job of getting resorts open, and the cold temperatures have helped the manufactured snow stick brilliantly, so with zero off-piste or back-country touring potential, why not make the most of the magnificent sunshine and the spectacular ‘half Autumn half Winter’ scenery and hit the pistes?!
Yes it’s here, I clung on to autumn for as long as I could, but I have finally given in and embraced winter! Although at this time of year the nights are closing in, the temperature plummets, and the sun retreats into hibernation, the wonderful thing about a place like Innsbruck is that with winter comes SNOW! Last weekend we dusted off the skis and had a fun blast round the busy pistes followed by a superb (and considerably quieter!) ski tour.
A great star to the winter and exciting to be back on the skis. Watch this space…
Despite Autumn faithfully and predictably arriving every year at the same time, it still never ceases to surprise me how beautiful it is, possibly because each year it seems to sneak up and blow you away with its seemingly impossible colours. The summer months are always wonderful, and living in a place which has the 4 distinct seasons makes the transition from hot, carefree summer days to dark, short winter days so much more bearable by easing us in to it slowly. Now I must admit a winter with snow and skiing is a great deal more tempting than a rainy, grey one, but it’s still always a challenge to let go of the summer regardless of what’s around the corner!
Every year I cherish the Autumn and make sure I stop to appreciate just how unique and stunning it is, even on a grey day…!
I teach English a couple of mornings a week in a kindergarten here in Innsbruck, which just happens to be at the top of quite a high building, meaning that I get the chance to see the sun come up over the mountains early in the morning. With this stunning Autumn/Winter we’ve been having so far, I can’t fail to appreciate that this has to be among the top 10 best views of any kindergarten in the world??!
Shame the 4 year olds probably don’t have quite the appreciation I do!
I continue to marvel about how the good weather just keeps on coming in Innsbruck, and there are still no signs of it letting up in the near future. Despite starting to get a little concerned about whether winter will ever arrive, we’re thoroughly making the most of this unprecedented sunshine and, having discovered a superb little climbing area just 20 minutes drive from Innsbruck, have now been 3 times over the last 1o days! With a 5 minute walk in, enough sectors to keep you occupied for weeks, and grades from super easy to far too difficult (!), Arzbergklamm near Telfs has proved to be a brilliant find. Even now in mid-December it still holds the sun until after 1pm, and we have yet to see another person there. Stunning views, fun climbing and even a picturesque river running down the middle of the gorge. What more can you ask for?!
Innsbruck is a wonderful place. Where else in the world do you have stunning mountains and all the nature you could wish for, within spitting distance of a city with all the amenities a person could ever need?
The seasons are changing fast here, the bright orange and yellows are out in force and the colder weather is creeping in, which means Winter is coming…! But not quite yet. Last week we managed both a via ferratta (climbing rock faces using fixed metal railings) and a ski tour within a couple of days. Perfect!
The winter is well and truly upon us here in the Alps, finally! It’s hovering around -5 celsius during the day, and at long last there’s tons of snow! As much as this means great skiing, for the foodies amongst us it also means an excellent excuse to get stuck in to some proper winter food, by renaming it ‘Winter Warmers’…! Living in the French Alps the obvious choices are tartiflette, fondue and raclette; basically if you don’t like cheese, there’s not much for you!
So recently I’ve indulged in all these cheesy delights, and I’m loving it! The recent raclette was the clear highlight, featuring 3 types of meat, peppers, mushrooms, courgettes and of course the staple raclette cheese! There’s something so special about a meal where you have to cook your own food at the table; in sole charge of what you eat and how it’s cooked. It’s so sociable, so satisfying and so delicious!
Such a simple concept, yet such a winner with friends. Every household should have a raclette set!
Well I don’t need too many words to describe this one, the pictures very much speak for themselves, even to those who have no knowledge and no interest of skiing! The European winter so far has been practically non-existent; easily the worst start to a winter in the Alps I can ever remember. Christmas and New Year were a nightmare, bare pistes and lots of angry holiday-makers, and January has been pretty snow-free so far, but finally, finally, the heavens opened last week and provided us with the base we need and at long last, the first powder day of the season!
Up until this weekend I must admit that my enthusiasm for skiing was starting to wane… Two months of attempting to ski on grass and ice will do that to even the keenest sportsman (!) But last weekend restored all my faith in the white fluffy stuff, and team this with blue sky, amazing pals and an obscene amount of brilliant banter, it all came together to provide one of the best ski days I’ve ever had.
So it’s been a slow start to Winter in the European Alps by anyone’s standards, a meagre amount of snow in November to get us all excited about skiing, followed by weeks of mild, sunny weather causing what little snow there was to gradually disappear and meaning panic for anyone working in the tourist industry. Most of the Chamonix ski areas were set to open early December yet barely managed to scrape a few slopes open for the Christmas week. We left here before Christmas desperately hoping for some of the white stuff on our return… And thank goodness, we did arrive back to Winter, rather than an even more extended Autumn! The Valley is now thankfully covered in white, although snow cover on the pistes is still the worst I’ve ever seen it for this time of year. There’s an awful amount of grass poking out of the pistes and the artificial snow canons are in full flow, plus it’s well below freezing every day so it’s all about layering up appropriately before leaving the house! But the mountains look beautiful, the sunsets are stunning and it’s always good to be back on the snow, regardless of of how good (or poor!) the skiing is.