The timing of things all worked out surprisingly well, especially as the lift we were on to get back wasn’t quite the lift we thought it was and it wasn’t quite going to where i thought it would do. Not that we were massively out, just enough out to render us a little uncertain, suddenly there was more than one gondola each with its own version of a top. Daud’s meeting place so clear when viewed from other angles now seemed to have options but as we reached the top of our next connection it was just in time to receive his inquiring phone call, unnecessary as we could see his bright and familiar jacket through our gondola window. Also through the window i’d glanced something more interesting and less familiar, another little race course but this one was one of those were you actually go down together and race your friends.
I forgot what that was called but remembered for the apparently hazardous mania it had brought to the winter Olympics .. transpired to be one of the most interesting parts of those games, but not all together the safest. While it wasn’t clear that this was angled all that well for the beginning of the intended route home it had shone out and called to me, i just want to go down these things, in much the same way when as a child i’d been unable to leave the mountain streams and rivers of Switzerland alone and none to professionally dammed.
There was only room for four in the line up, Charlie was not so inclined but the others indulged my fervent and clear enthusiasm. As i approached a thought occurred that i would rather not have any need to overtake or conflict for space, it wasn’t really about racing but i might have felt the need, better to get clear of any clustering earlier, let the others race. So i went for the furthest start box with the closest line , the first flag. It didn’t disappoint while the track was again overly undemanding, well it would probably all to risky on a more vigorous gradient, the efforts of the group made up for it and was available after the fact as a video download. Milton was a tidy back marker while Cirrus and Daud actively races, coming quite close at times and equally very far away at others, as Daud opted to play down the role of the flags in these proceedings and take a more direct route. It did all right by him as he ended this little bought ahead, if somewhat contestedly so.
This time we made our first few connections back and were reassured by the timings displayed on the lifts as their closing time. The temperature was dropping and in early Jan a little bit of sun disappearance goes a long way, the wind got up, on a very long char lift with an unusual L shaped kink in it. We were not warm.
Up on high above Zell am Ziller the mood for stopping took over the group once more, Cirrus seemingly having gone ahead was in this way cut off from the rest of us. A hot chocolate perhaps, there’s something very suited to ski accompanying about hot chocolate. We hadn’t quite completed our lolling about when someone came wondering over, it was hard to determine what this was about, though it sounded like a question on the first couple of times, it wasn’t a question, it was something to do with the mountain patrol people and they were offering the now not unfamiliar advisory notice about Gondolas shutting.
Time then to head down, as the ski patrol people mounted their snow-mobile and also headed off a sort of very loose herding.
I’ve never seen Milton move so fast, a veritable bullet down as the idea of the closing Gondola perturbed him no end. Daud on the other hand was struggling, what effort he had in him, having rolled himself out of his hotel, was done. The Gondola was happily running, we headed down.. In the morning i’d spotted a little app kiosk for the http://www.skiline.cc thing … there were people using it but having not seen any of my tracking info, videos or photos it seemed worth a look.
I was quite chuffed when the loiterers behind who were peering at the device and wondering when i might not be between them and their turn, commented “oh, you go far” and seemed impressed, going on to note the lack of a lunch break… they had a keen eye, these additional screen inspectors .. i didn’t indulge to much in reviewing the days, feeling my blocker status so watched a video, printed a couple of days out on something akin to uber-sized receipt roles.
In the end as it transpired this was the longest days skiing of the holiday, after all we had managed to migrate fully from one end to the other – we’d completed all that we really could, somehow in spite of or oddly due to my preparation for the day, i’d finally gotten to grips with skiing again, we’d had a comedy race which had been successfully recorded (courtesy of skiline) for posterity and been among the last to head down on the gondola, a pretty good day.
The world can be so odd – retrospectively predictable in its contrary ways – i was in a mental fog for sure, the world sort of quiet, a little remote & detached almost serene.. All week Id struggled to ski properly, I’d been relatively diligent and careful to underplay the après ski and too get a decent level of sleep & each day my skis had failed to obey me to the anticipated extent..
I couldn’t quite believe it at first, presumed it was the fog impeding my judgement perhaps but as the runs went on there seemed less and less doubt somehow in my detached malaise, not hung over, not drunk but still not quite in touch with things I’d found my skiing. It shouldn’t be – it was day 5 the legs should probably at any rate be feeling it, the toe was glowing and any notable thoughts seemed highly improbable … Yet it was going better than I could recall it going, not only this holiday but for many many efforts before that.
By the time we were closing in on the far side of the resort Daud had emerged from his hibernation, made his way back into the world and been in contact. He had some way to come to get over to us, we suggested a meeting point that was on the cusp of the way back while we’d then headed on to the further end of the piste map.
There was a short but decent run over that side – the black 86 above – it ended with a drag lift, not everyone’s favourite but you can have too much comfort and the T bars – and there’s something missing when they’re not about. Not too many of them mind, least not on the longer runs … don’t want to be over doing matters – may as well just strap on those skinny Langlauf skies, decide this exhausting, speed and all round general entertainment depleted stuff is nowhere near the desired levels of tedious and/or exhausting and set about climbing up the mountain.
In summary then its good to have some T-Bar drag lifts and they did.
While the others lunched i skied my way back toward the valley where the connection back was located, it seemed like something to do. I then headed back up, realising only once i was on the way back down that i couldn’t entirely remember exactly at the bottom of which piste i’d left the others…they were down there somewhere & according to the text update ending their lunch about now. This dawning notion that i might need to think about where i was going came at a timely juncture allowing for a pause and a course alteration, arriving back at the chairlift just as the others, skies reapplied, were shuffling along toward it.
There are not so very many runs over that side of the region and despite the short juncture of our visit, it seemed we were missing out on little by heading back the way.
I woke to a most unbuzzing feeling – the stomach in moderate objection and the head floating and drifting about me. A little bit frazzled and unfocused i followed what i knew to be true, from past days rituals and undemanding thought, it was time to get up, get dressed and head down for breakfast… It wasn’t the fasted and most efficient of such efforts and when i got down to the breakfast room there was a stumbling block, i was none too hungry. Difficult to prescribe whether it was potato off last night still occupying all my digestive energies or some other gift still loitering from the evening before but i couldn’t really face too much of this. Cereal and some drinking, aside from that i made rolls of ham and cheese from the morning portions (as i did every morning..only today i had more left overs to play with) and meandered my way back to the room.
Collect things and out to the station for a return to Zell Am Ziller, the most rounded, interested and seemingly expansive of the ski areas around here. This is what had been agreed – i cant say i recall much of what filled the time between breakfast and arriving at Zell but i can say we were all there aside from Daud. Daud was not here, he would not be joining us this morning. My left foots little toe was now not its customary size, shape and colour,quite the uncomfortable fellow traveler looking back at me as i sought to achieve something through inspecting it.
The story went that Cirrus had heard someone outside his room, walking past in the morning and offering a “What the …. has happened here?!?” He’d taken little notice but when they had gotten up they’d seen the toppled sideboard, the lone glove, the dishevelled de-pegged rugs (the floor in their hotel was covered by long rugs that were stapled/pinned to the floor – only no more).. His fellow inhabitants among our group had a theory, it went along these lines … Daud had come back last night or rather this morning at an unknown juncture, having made it all the way back to the hotel he’d gotten up some stairs, then either presumed he was all the way back or had run out of steam and set about nesting in the corridor, lying down, mistaking the rug for his bed sheets he’s grabbed hold and tugged them free to cover himself… it made for a distantly possible theory and a brilliantly amusing mental picture.
The bus connection confused even those who had conducted themselves in a more sensible manner the night before. At first i thought it was just me but there was nothing familiar about the route it took, same little red ski though – while i may not have paid much attention to landmarks last time, through the mental fog i couldn’t escape the sense that something was quite different. When eventually i got round to mentioning my thoughts about the route i was not alone, Charlie had also been left wondering on the same matter. We were correct, that was a bonus, the bus arrived at the desired destination only from the opposite direction that it did last ti
Having approached from the opposite direction the bus pulled into the Rosenalmbahn I,instead of its close neighbour, the Wiesenalmbahn.. Everyone on the bus was getting out, so we all gathered up our things and did what we had been doing and followed the direction of majority travel – diligent compliance to the wisdom of the crowd, that can never go wrong.. Well not quite everyone had opted to make it off the bus, something we noticed as the doors closed, the bus drove off and Milton looked out at us. He knew we were getting off, he’d been stood right with us on the bus.. we just looked at each other Cirrus, Charlie and Me, stupified, amused, bemused and just a little bit disbelieving… to be fair this wasn’t quite a first instance of such things for Milton but it was the first on this trip .. there was something horribly brilliant about it, it might even mean a lot of waiting around for his return but for the moment it seemed a little worth it.
There was the hope that the bus would stop again at the Wiesenalmbahn and that he might be able to make his way from there, either way there was little we could do here and headed up where the crowds seemed to flow, up the escalators, where sure enough we found the ski lift waiting.
Things were to work out almost ideally again with a call from Milton to explain that he was indeed let out by the other lift and would swap over lifts where they intersect at the middle stations.. What doesn’t make a lot of sense it that somehow as we pulled into the middle station he had arrived and was waiting to get into a gondola, he rejoined us. Quite how he had arrived here before us and not just before but sufficiently before such that he was able to get off his lift, walked across to our lifts middle station and all before we’d arrived – seemed improbable, Milton is not the worlds fastest moving man and yet here he was… improbable but really exceedingly handy.
Within relatively quick succession and only on this day randoms started to converse with me, in German on the lifts, i remember little to nothing about why. Differently I’m not entirely clear on why i seem to add additional layers of not so native speaker to my response but there seems to be evidence that something of the Brit abroad is being unnecessarily painted on.. still despite some rusty German and additional layering they seemed to make a head from the tail of the responses i gave both opting to question how it was i came to speak German… Shock that a Brit would speak a foreign language, the German language… somewhat or perhaps just marginally unduly, there are plenty of UK dwellers who have found their way clear to speaking a language other than English .. (some, it could be harshly argued, have similarly seen their way clear to speaking less) .. back on the point of the ski lift people, relative to other countries, they have a point, the British do seem to have reduced propensity toward the foreign languages, i only speak this one due the half Swiss side, an explanation that settled their surprise.
My notes are taking too long – its two weeks since i returned to work over two weeks since the skiing – not so much happens back here, though the work questions are resolving themselves. Still time to attempt to pick up the pace on the retrospectives.
We made our way across to Gerlos and close to the far end of the ski area.
We were running out of time to make it back to Zell am Ziller, it was going to be tight with a couple of key lifts that we had to get too before they closed if we were to make the connection. We made it too just above the first of these connections, only no Cirrus, the back markers of our small collective had arrived but no Cirrus… time was finite, with everyone down the unsubstantiatable working theory was that he must have fallen. The lift was getting away from us, the sun was low and the unknown closing time was looming, Cirrus eventually arrived – Photos / Selfie … timing, its all in the timing & the timing saw a curly mustached man stand authoritatively in the middle of the piste as we headed down. Rather than complete the run he pointed us toward the piste side restaurant, an unexpected sort of dead end and the piste turned into a mountain side restaurant car park, it became clear we would be skiing no further. We’d only made it as far as the Umbrella bar – not even as far back as Gerlos and it was anything but clear how we were to proceed from here.
I headed back over to the curly ends mustache man, he seemed friendlier now as this person with the perplexed air duck waddled himself over to seek out some advise.
A ski bus, I’m told, it comes all the way up here with the stop somewhere over by the car park, things were looking up. There is no doubt its smoothly and well organised, trains arrive and buses are waiting, here this somewhat odd little dead end of a valley has its ski bus connection. We barely had to wait any time at all for it to turn up.
It wouldn’t take us all the way home but it was a connection back to Gerlos, the minimum target we had and the place we knew to have bus connections back to Zell am Ziller. The stops are not announced and one tends to rely on general motion to inform a decision, here the general motion was to exit the bus and so we exited the bus, as it transpired possibly a little prematurely and not in Gerlos center. Still we came upon a stop for Zell headed buses and had 30 minutes until the next, 30 minutes …. and Daud didn’t even need to put in the effort of sniffing out a bar, there were two in plain sight, the immediate future required little insight to be predicted.
When that was done and it was insufficiently eventful to warrant much thought here, the abiding memory was a spot of sitting, darkish lighting and re-acquaintance with smoke thickened air. The bus, when it arrived on time or possibly before was unexpectedly headed all the way to Mayrhofen. It was not comfortable, it was convenient, the bus was rather full and like us each of them came with a snow board or skis. In the aisles they stood, most notable a tall one, posh accent, young and rarely throughout any part of the less than swift journey back, we got to hear about his premature knee operations among other topics. The two most obvious types of Brits abroad, the boozed up, lairey & disrespectful or the hoity, entitled & disrespectful. Many Brits fly beneath either such radars but if the microcosm of this bus were to be taken then certainly only a few people stood out, only one was unmissable.
Back in Mayrhofen i took the opportunity to return my equipment to the hotel and to freshen up a little before heading out to rejoin the others for dinner.
The portion of my mixed grill wasn’t exactly the largest – rather imagine if this were presented to an American they might be left to wonder how they’d come to order from the children’s menu but the atmosphere and all round nature of things was superior to yesterdays dinning. Daud & Milton opting for a meat fondue and certainly ending up with the best option of any of us.
Charlie was tired after dinner and had it in mind to return to his room an idea Daud could not not agree to and so in an emergency change of plan he sought to bring forward any intention to return to last nights Brückenstadl bar. I’d long held and expressed the view that the bar was less likely to be of such interest in the earlier hours as it had been lively in the later slot of yesterdays visit.. But something needed to be pulled out to keep the attention and stop the dithering which seemed set to turn back the less enthusiastic and more uncertain of group members. It worked, Daud secured the wobble, no doubt it’s a skill.
Guarded by a solid set and bald security chunk we again meandered in unfettered by being padded down and checked on with suspicious gaze. We settled on the table next to yesterdays again conveniently free, although the seats were laid down beneath assorted coats, jackets and assorted clobber. We’d barley cast a intentful eye toward it when members of the table behind were on their feet and gathering things up, the clobber was clearly theirs and withing moments it was gone, most helpful and polite indeed.
It was a little less lively than last night at the beginning and the music of choice seemed to have a little less of the local popular choice about it, a little more international in flavor. As we stayed the place filled up some more and Charlie woke back up from his post dinner slump.
After a while of being there the security chap came wondering, he did that quite a bit – random wonderings – this time he found himself over by our table. Approaching Milton, who was sat at the tables more exposed end, he pointed to the cage that hung aloft above the stage and said something, apparently suggesting to Milton that he might want to go up there, a spot of performing in the bird cage. Milton, so often (if stories are too be believed) the victim of impromptu bouts of involuntary performance volunteering at the hands of his friends (those here today – Daud) though normally when under a substantially greater weight of alcohol. Milton declined and no halfhearted efforts to convince him to receive the notion in a more positive light would be about to change that.
Daud, married these days, distracts the stumpy candle of his attention span through the smart phone and was glued to it, here where he’d sought to be but busy in his researching of other places where we might go.
He found somewhere else on one or other review site, professing however how useful the telegraph website was proving to be in such matters. By now we’d been stationary for some time, no member inclined toward a more buoyant and exuberant form of participation.. Some might be on another day, with more lubrication and/or less fatigue from the day before, either way the dance floor remained unsoiled by our feat aside for some shimmying, scuttling runs across toward the toilets between the jostling bouncing masses. In short we’d taken from the place as much as we were about to and leaving seemed about right, besides the bar he was advocating (called Scotland Yard) was located not so many additional steps of what was the route back.
As we approached it was dark, we had an agreement – if it were closed there would be no more random ferreting about and we’d go off home, if it remained open we’d go in … it looked dark, it looked closed as we approached.
It wasn’t – somehow the world seems to want Daud to have his way, that his pursuit of alcohol and generally flighty ways should be gently and persistently reinforced .. the winds they see fit to fuel his sails. Personally i remained largely agnostic, its holiday and being out and about seemed to have its charms while going back and getting some reasonable sleep before the next days early start, that would surely have its advantage.
The bar was a little smokey and relatively quiet, well we’d come from a pub/club, this was a more traditional pub that would not look out of place in a UK market town… I’d been offered the incitement of cider appearing on the menu, in way of an unnecessary additional attempt to try to sure up my compliance with the idea of coming here – there was cider, not necessarily a favorite but at this point a pleasant alternative, for those such as myself who are disinclined toward bear.
The consensus was this was probably a bar for earlier in the evening, a place where we could actually talk with quite some ease to one another and sit in comfort on cushioned benches.. Generally by now energy levels were low, Charlie and Milton were first to leave. When Milton departs you know things must be serious, rarely one to leave Daud to drink on most holidays it is Milton who stands among whichever group is the last group standing. I was flagging. The warm, the hour, the comfortable seat, the dusky sort of lighting – as i neared the end of my drink a return to the hotel was calling. Meanwhile Daud had returned from the toilets and had attempted a now well established maneuver of using his return leg to sidle up to the bar, close enough though to be in ear shot, a tactical error that allowed for an interception.
Despite instructions to the contrary he went on to procure an additional pint of Guinness for Damon, when its arrival was not welcomed and attempts were made to reject the idea of consuming it, the rejection seemed to hit an emotional nerve… the disappointment in Dauds face was palpable, might the drinking be soon to end? might the intentions be scuppered .. it was like a puppy having its favorite toy bone taken from it and placed within sight but out of reach. It was though time for hotel, time for sleep – personally thoughts were now quite clear, I’d had my fill and thoughts had turned to tomorrow/later that day – shortly after we left.
We had agreed to head a little down the valley by train and ski in the Zell am Ziller area on the second day. I breakfasted alone, Damon skiing more locally and with a later ski school start. It wasn’t lost on me that the same amount of breakfast materialised for my solo visit as had been provided to the table yesterday when we’d started the day together.
Due to the late nature of yesterdays return to the hotel the skis, boots and polls hadn’t found their way into the by then locked cellar, which was set aside for them. There was also a sign downstairs about such matters, which i now noticed, reminding those who pass it of the store cellar and the desire that we all use it and not our rooms. I’d missed that, not the choices seemed too great in the night hours.
Everyone was there as we headed off on the train, a comfortable and generally pleasant way to travel. The arriving station was not by any ski lifts and instead a ski but awaited the trains arrival. This was fine but can not justifiably described as either comfortable nor generally pleasant.. it was progress, it wasn’t the tube in peak hours and it was destined for the ski lift, hug the skis, try not to wobble about too much and a little bit later we arrived.
The whole area has been sponsored or supported by something to do with BMW – https://www.bmw-mountains.com & http://www.skiline.cc – today with the visibility quite a bit improved the first example of this appeared. There were race tracks laid out, normally the preserve of ski schools or official race day participants this was for everyone, we floated past it upon our chairlift, a hut, poles and a little queue of people waiting their turn all quite enticing. I went second last in the group, awash with reticence, uncertainty and a most tentative approach that was reflected in the time it flashed up at me at the end.
The day had barely gotten started and the others were after a coffee break.. in some ways not ideal, in other ways we were unlikely to do another round of this piste, while generally poor skiing remained in evidence this microcosm of a particular example drew all too much of a highlight. So while they took their break i head back round once more.
There is an APP to go with a website hub – https://www.bmw-mountains.com/en/My-Experiences/Overview – which large posters made clear, you can see your run and time, it would all be videoed from somewhere .. Quite novel and impressive adoption of digital technology.
Second time was better, no doubt – there was a timer – you’d kinda expect that, once you have the measure of what parts needed more attention and which less it makes rather a beneficial difference … but avoiding errors was still being disadvantageously prioritised.