After four blissfully quiet days on the slopes, the world finally makes sense again: as of today, Kitzbühel has crowds... and lots of 'em! For my final day of skiing this year (seriously — look at the date, will you), I once again got in as much slopes-time as I possibly could. But today, I was battling some fierce hordes on the pistes and in the chairlift queues. Looks like I got in my ski trip just in time, before the rush — if it's going to be like this for the next week, then maybe the fact that I must depart Kitzbühel isn't so bad after all. Maybe... but probably not :P.
Things were a little messy this morning, after last night's big crawl. I woke up rather hung-over, to find that (after 3 privileged nights) I'm now sharing my room with 4 new people (2 Aussie couples from Melbourne), who informed me upon arising that I was snoring my head off all night (hey, they should kiss my a$$ — I could have done worse). Plus, I went downstairs, to find my beanie randomly hanging on a hook in the kitchen (WTF?). Anyway, a good Snowbunnys breakfast cured me a bit, as well as giving me my voice back (must have been all the passive smoking at Flannigans that robbed me of it — gawdammit Austria, could you please enter the 21st century and pass some anti-smoking laws!). And heading up to the Kitzbühelerhorn, for another day of skiing, was more than enough to complete the curing process.
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.
It wasn't what I had planned, but it's what happened: today I was crazy enough to hit the slopes with Nikolas and Viktor — the fearless Swedes of Snowbunnys — and to embark upon a grand tour of the resort with them. We covered an awful lot of runs today, and most of them were in the eastern area of the resort, which I didn't get around to visiting yesterday. Plus, we managed to navigate our way around for the entire day, without getting stuck or having to catch a bus once: it was lifts, gondolas and skis all the way. And as an added bonus: I even survived to tell the tale.
The colour-coding of ski trails, according to level of difficulty, is generally sensible and familiar. "Green" for beginner runs, "blue" for intermediate runs, and "black" for advanced runs (with some variations — e.g, the addition of "yellow" for super-easy runs, and of "double black" for expert / semi-suicidal runs). An international standard — or so I thought. But not here in Kitzbühel. Apparently, the Austrian way is to mark the trails "blue" for beginner runs, "red" for intermediate runs, and (thankfully still) "black" for advanced runs. Extremely confusing, and contrary to what I've now become intimately familiar with, over my several years of Aussie skiing. Argh!
It's been three months since I last hit the snow, and nine months since I last went skiing; so today, it was good to be back and to be doing both once again. For my first day of skiing at Austria's magnificent Kitzbühel resort, I took it easy, got back into the swing of things, and began exploring the icy but extensive selection of runs that are on offer.
After six years of skiing, and after one week of snowboarding, I can now say with confidence that I've experienced both of these alpine sports, and that I'm able to talk about them a bit and to compare them. So here's a few reflective points in favour of snowboarding, and a few more in favour of skiing. I'm not making any decisive call here on which one I think is the better — just spelling out my views on the advantages and the disadvantages of each. The verdict, I leave in your hands.
Yesterday I went skiing at Grouse Mountain. But today I had another day to kill. And one day of skiing isn't enough, anyway. So today I tried Vancouver's other ridiculously-close-to-the-city ski park, Cypress Mountain. As with Grouse, this place has great snow (even at the end of the season), great terrain (and more of it than Grouse), and great convenience.
The people of Vancouver are ridiculously over-spoiled, as far as skiing goes. Today, I went over to Grouse Mountain, which is a fully-equipped ski park that's virtually inside the city! Apart from accommodation, Grouse has everything it needs in order to call itself a resort: runs for skiers and boarders of all levels; chairlifts; ski and board hire; and all the other usual facilities you'd expect to find on the slopes. And, although it's not a terribly big place, Grouse has enough challenging terrain to keep you busy for a full day.