It has become our tradition to come to Bad Hofgastein every year. We’ve been to alot of winter resorts in Austria but this is our favorite. We always pick a hotel in the city center to be close to the spa, ice skating rink, restaurants and the ski lift. Everything is within walking distance so we park the car and leave it there till it’s time to head back to Germany. The streets are full with snow so the less we drive, the better.
Christmas and New Year’s Eve was just a week ago. I was on vacation for two weeks but went back to work this week. The office was so empty and quiet. I turned the radio on loud and worked all day. I got a lot done but I missed my colleagues. I had no one to have lunch with, to have coffee with or even to talk to.
Nevertheless the work week past by quickly and a long weekend followed, a perfect time to spend a few days in our favorite Austrian resort. I booked a hotel in the last minute, we’ve been to Bad Hofgastein so many times that I know all the hotels by heart. We know which one is good and which one we should avoid. Hotel Alpenhof is one of the good ones… if you can live with the bad parking conditions. Last time we couldn’t drive out!
The drive took 5 hours. The road was terrible, we caught a big snow storm. We are rather unlucky with the weather this time. According to the weather forecast, it’s going to snow whole weekend. I don’t mind, I’m actually happy to see this much snow, but it’s bad for skiing. Luckily I can’t ski, although I tried to learn several times, but that’s another story.
My plan for this trip was, as usual, to go ice skating. Bad Hofgastein has a nice ice skating rink, open every day between 10-22 and it’s free of charge. It’s open air but, despite the snow, I was hoping that I will be able to skate anyhow. I was wrong. I made one lap and gave up.
As I was packing the ice skates back in the bag, I realised that it’s still too early to go to a café or go back to the hotel. The stores are all closed because it’s a national holiday so I can’t go shopping either.
I remembered that the cross-country skiing slope is nearby so I decided to go and watch other people ski. I watched cross-country skiing championships on tv. It looked easy enough so I decided to try it out. What can possibly go wrong, right?
I entered the ski school full of confidence and asked for an equipment. I told them that it’s my first time and they recommended a private class. The instructor was there but she was unfortunately booked for the whole day. She suggested that I should try it by myself and if it’s not working, then I can always book a class for tomorrow. So I did.
I got the shoes on, they pushed the skis and the sticks in my hand and I was ready to rock’n’roll.
I walked to the slope and placed the skis on the ground to get them on. That’s when I had my first scare: I was standing uphill and, as I stepped on the ski, I slipped and almost fell on my backside.
I realised next that the cross-country skis don’t close as the alpine ones. I turned them over several times till I figured out that I somehow have to attach the front of the shoe to the ski, the back stays unattached. I think I tried for 15 minutes but I didn’t manage. A gentleman equiped with similar skis was standing close by so I waited patiently till he filmed all his friends skiing and when he was done, I wanted to ask for his help. I asked if he knows English or German. “Paruski? Francais?” was his answer. I’m pretty bad at both of those languages so I went back to my skis to try again by myself.
I think the instructor was looking at me for the entire time because she came out eventually to show me how to get the skis on. Luckily she did, because I was already close to giving up and taking the skis back. She showed me how to get the skis on and then left, it looked so easy when she did it. I needed after that 15 more minutes till I finally got it.
So, with the skis finally on, the next step was to go on the slope… uphill. I slipped several times, the only thing that saved me were my sticks.
I was trying to learn the classic cross-country skiing, it’s the easiest and best for beginners. I looked at how other people were moving and tried to do it the same way. It was slippery! I was really afraid that I’ll lose control of the skis and fall.
I was slow at first. Everyone passed by me, even small kids, and they were looking strange at me so I thought if told them that I’m trying it for the first time, they’ll understand. Wrong! They were shouting from far behind that they’re coming and I should get off the slope to let them pass. Well, I didn’t. I paid for the equipment the same as they did so I had the same right to be there. They eventually went around me.
After I made the first lap, I got the uphill and straight area down but downhill was still a problem. Why? Because I can’t brake! I used my sticks to slow myself down but that’s not a good long-term strategy. I’ll have to work on it.
I continued to watch other people and try to reproduce their movements. At the end it went pretty well. I almost had a heart attack several times when I lost my balance and almost fell but I caught myself with the sticks.
I had the equipment for the whole day but I had to stop after 3 hours. My legs hurt and my arms are shaking too much. But I rewarded myself with a delicious cake and a coffee afterwards.
I’m really glad that I finally found a winter sport activity which I can do half-way good. Ice skating is also nice but I’m too afraid to leave the edge of the rink because if I’ll fall, I can’t catch myself. Plus the scenery is magnificent!
I’m planning to go back to the cross-country skiing slope tomorrow and practice some more.