Skiing with the n00bz
After two days of learning and practicing, today I took Craig, Sarah and Kade up the big mountain, and showed them what a real ski run looks like. Since this was their last day in Kitzbühel, it was also their final opportunity to give the slopes a try. For the first time in my life, I found myself an "advanced skier" amongst newbies (I'm accustomed to the reverse being true), and the burden of teaching (rather than of being taught) fell on my shoulders. It was an interesting experience; and — as long as you're able to be patient — quite a fun day.
I led the n00b brigade up the usual route this morning: along the main street from Snowbunnys, and up the Hahnenkammbahn to the top. When we alighted from the gondola, who did we bump into — none other than Nikolas and Viktor! The crazy Swedes were planning to race off for some off-piste insanity; but they decided that it wouldn't hurt to tag along for a little while, and to help me with my babysitting.
Sarah and Kade near the Hahnenkammbahn.
The first leg of the noobz' terrifying expedition — their premiere "real run", down to the Steinbergkogel bottom — took a while. It's a steep and an icy run (albeit a nice wide one), and it's the only way down. Sarah and Kade did OK on their skis, but Craig was really struggling with the snowboard. The icy conditions are much worse for snowboarders than they are for skiers: snowboarding's a painful exercise at the best of times, but only more so when you're falling face-first onto a hard surface. Anyway, with the help and encouragement of myself, Nikolas and Viktor, all three of them made it down; and we then continued up the Steinbergkogel chair, and over to the Pengelstein area (i.e. the usual route).
The long, narrow, gently-sloping run over to Pengelstein was great for Sarah and Kade: especially for Kade, who had pulled off a spectacular high-speed stack a bit earlier (I was amazed that he avoided any injury — it didn't look good when I saw it). He and Sarah, however, had no problem skiing on the traverse. For Craig, it was a different story: narrow (albeit gentle) traverses are hell for beginner snowboarders, and it took him forever and a day to complete it. By the time he reached Pengelstein, he was feeling defeated and wiped out — so much so, that he said goodbye to the rest of us, and made his way back to Kitzbühel. At this point, Nikolas and Viktor also split off, and gallivanted away in search of some adventure.
From there on, I had the rest of the day to help out my two little fledgling skiers (Kade and Sarah), and to guide them around the mountain. Kade and Sarah may be n00bz, but they're pretty good sports. I started by leading them down the main run of upper Peng: they weren't too keen on the top bit, which was a bit steep for them; but they had fun on the semi-groomed bottom bit, that leads under the chairlift, and that's fairly gentle (as well as a bit less icy). Once again, today's sunshine made for glorious views and pleasant temperatures — but it only made the snow yet worse; and my beginners were finding it hard enough without extra challenges.
Kade recovers after a little stack on upper Peng.
Once the three of us had conquered upper Peng, we caught the Pengelstein II chair back up to the top; and then it was time for a break at the summit. Unlike myself and the Swedes, Kade and Sarah (and Craig) aren't on such a tight budget: they didn't bring any lunch with them; so we went to one of the resort cafeterias, and they helped themselves to a hearty (and overpriced) hot lunch. I came in with them, and ordered a token bowl of soup, as an entrée to go with my sandwiches. There's no way that I was going to shell out on a complete lunch on the slopes: I'll save that for 30 years' time, when I'm rich and important and middle-aged. Assuming I'll ever be more than two of those three things. And assuming that there'll be any snow left in this world, in 30 years' time (real snow, that is).
From our lunch spot, it was then straight onto the "big boy" himself: my favourite gondola ride in Kitzbühel, the 3S. Like myself yesterday, Kade and Sarah were very impressed with the 3S, and they thought it was pretty cool to ride a contraption of this scale and beauty. Then, from the big boy, we spent a little while on the slopes of Würzhohe, where the runs were a little easier, and the snow a little less icier. Perfect for beginners!
Finally, we skied most of the way down Würzhohe, to the start of the chairlift and runs that lead to Jochberg. The village of Jochberg is the third-largest in the area — after Kitzbühel itself, and Kirchberg on the western side — and it's the main access point for the whole eastern part of the resort. Sarah and I made it down Würzhohe quite fast, but Kade took his sweet ol' time — his excuse was that he "had an unplanned encounter with a forest" :P. Anyway, Kade's delay gave Sarah and myself plenty of time to prepare some snowballs at the bottom: and when he finally made it down, he received a very white welcome indeed. A bit harsh, I know — especially straight after having a stack — but as we say on Earth, c'est la vie.
Sarah sitting patiently with her arsenal of snowballs.
At this point, it was getting a bit late, and Kade and Sarah (what with their slowness and all) had no chance of skiing all the way back to Kitzbühel before the lifts started closing. So they decided to take the chairlift down to Jochberg (avoiding the somewhat challenging piste that leads to the bottom), while I instead made my way back up to the 3S, and caught the big boy back to the western side of the resort. With some major hurrying, I just managed to reach the big run down to Kitzbühel, before the last crucial lifts closed for the day.
Today was Boxing Day — day three of my skiing forays during Christmas week — and still, the infamous crowds are nowhere to be seen. Hallelujah! Good for me, (especially) good for the n00bz, and good for everyone else. But can it possibly last much longer than this?