Return of the Seasonnaire
Since delivering my last departure speech to a guest filled coach and waving goodbye to the place and people that had made the great memoires of the last five months in Mayrhofen, my last transfer day and last season had sadly come to an end. The countdown to return had however begun.
Having worked three seasons in Austria, two in Mayrhofen and one in Ischgl, I have since swopped the snow and mountains for rain and concrete buildings living and working in London, and the excitement of returning to my old stomping ground has built and built since leaving last April. The need to taste a schnitzel (my absolute favourite thing ever) and enjoy a locally brewed schnapps has been niggling at me since I left! I simply had to go back and experience all that the mountains has to offer as now a ‘punter’…..278 days later my flight landed in Innsbruck.
The ten days that I was out in the Austrian Alps I tried to get as much ticked off my ‘to do’ list as possible, catch up with old seasonnaire friends, hotel receptionists, eat lots of schnitzel, currywurst, avoid the schnapps, ski as many resorts as I could and simply enjoy the mountains once again.
Luckily I have a few ex-colleagues living in the Innsbruck area so had a place to stay and more importantly a car and companions to drive from resort to resort with. Our first stop was Kuthai, where I got back into the swing of things, it felt brilliant to click into my bindings and jump on that first chair lift, having parked only 30 metres away. With less than ideal visibility, I was happy to stop at a lovely wooden mountain hut and enjoy a schiwasser with frankfurter mit pommes. Another two things ticked off the list.
That evening we headed to Bergisel and its famous Ski Jump, for the Innsbruck leg of Air&Style, which I felt sufficiently not cool enough to attend. There was an absolute brilliant atmosphere among the many-thousand deep crowd as we cheered and gasped at some of the amazing ‘air’ the boarders pulled off with ‘style’. Things only got more thrilling as snow started falling, a bit of a rarity up until then, and the bizarre panda mask wearing German rap artist Cro performed for us, which after a few beers, I must admit I did end up rather enjoying. Our attention though was once again transfixed to the ‘real’ performers in the Super Final when the final four upped their game and eventually, Stale Sandbech from Norway came away victorious. It was a really great evening and knowing we all had fresh powder to enjoy the next morning only made things even better!
The snow, as we had hoped was in great condition over the next few days and we made the most of it; having a great day in Schlick 2000, close to Stubai, with its beautiful tree lined runs and silky-smooth off piste; followed by Alpbach the next day. Having worked as a representative for a tour operator the previous two seasons I was used to directing guests to the Alpbach coach, and knew it was not too far away from the Zillertal but didn’t know much more than that. I had not expected such a stunning valley or the breath taking views we experienced on our bluebird visit. With its 109 km of pistes and 360 degree views from its highest point of 2025m, it really was an absolute pleasure to visit, the perfect place for those looking for a quiet and beautiful location within a great ski area and all within an hour and fifteen minutes’ drive from Innsbruck airport.
From this romantic and tranquil location onto quite the opposite… Mayrhofen. Driving up the valley, passing the tracks of the Arena Coaster at Zell Am Ziller, then the one man chair lift at Gerlosstein everything looked so familiar and my excitement of visiting my ‘second home’ set in. The next three days I really did experience the Zillertal as a visitor, staying out too late in Mike’s Sports Bar, resulting in getting on the mountain far too late the following day, and seeing the afternoon out with dancing on the tables, jager in hand. It was great not having to worry about hotel evening visits, or delivering departure details out to hotel rooms; all we had to figure out was where we were planning to eat next.
After a good night’s sleep following the three days of Mayrhofen madness, and a short drive we were on the brand spanking new Gondola taking us to the top of the Pardatschgrat and hitting the slopes of possibly my favourite ski area of the Austrian Alps, Ischgl. Despite the pretty poor visibility, and cool temperature it was brilliant to be back on Red 80 making our way to the Swiss Duty Free town of Samnaun, where we enjoyed a delicious strudel in the Smugglers Alm sat next to the roaring open fire. Perfect.
My visit to Austria would not have been quite complete without a trip to the Alberg, to see yet more past seasonnaire friends in St Anton. Renowned for its lively après ski scene and extensive ski area it was the perfect place to end the ten days; great company, great skiing and great après.
Rising above the low lying valley cloud into the sun filled, clear blue sky I had the pleasure of skiing with past reps who knew the ski area like the back of their hands, meaning we managed to cover a serious distance in rather a short period of time. From St Christoph, to Stuben, to the Rendl ski area, the conditions were perfect and as it was changeover day at points we had the pistes to ourselves. What an absolute dream of a last day. Then came the après……
After a short delay at Innsbruck airport, due to the heavy snow fall, I reluctantly boarded my flight and headed back to Blighty and my desk at the Ski Club office; whilst wearily flipping through the Duty Free magazine I reminisced over what a brilliant ten days had I just ‘endured’, and the plans for the next holiday started concocting in my mind…there’s still so many resorts to visit! But for the meantime my bed was calling; how did I manage to cope with all this fun, week after week when working a season?