Austria / Travels

A White Christmas

Christmas morning we opened only one present – one I had brought for Andre which was easy to pack (an Asterix comic book!) as we’d opened most of our presents before leaving London. Breakfast was bacon, eggs and toast (toast made in the oven as there was no toaster?!). We had thought about hiring snowshoes to do some snowshoeing, but the snow was a bit thin on the ground (pun intended) so we decided to head up the hill behind our house where we knew there were groomed beginner ski runs, most of which were not open, to build a snowman! On our way we stopped for Andre to make a snow angel, but because the snow was pretty old by then it was a bit hard and not very effective. Only one tiny little super-beginner run was open, so we hiked a hundred metres or so up the main run and found a spot with plenty of snow to make a snowman. Andre was especially excited as he’d never made a snowman before, and we even had a carrot for his nose!

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Our snowman with Seefeld in the background

By the time we got home, a little sprinkling of rain plus the sun had pretty much finished off the snow in our front yard. Lunch was roasted chicken legs (I wasn’t going to buy a whole chicken for just the two of us!), roast potatoes, boiled veggies and garlic bread with some of the normal pre-Christmas lunch snacks – chips, nuts, grapes and chocolates – with beer for Andre and apfelsaft spritzer – sparkling apple juice. We were so full after lunch that we postponed dessert and decided to head out to go ice-skating. As we were packing up lunch, Andre was standing by the window when he said to me, “um, Leah?…. It’s snowing.” I looked out the other window and sure enough there were a few flakes falling from the sky! It was very short-lived though and stopped as quickly as it started. As we started getting ready to go out though, it began to fall in earnest, and we raced outside to get some photos of the snow falling. We needn’t have worried though, as it kept on snowing as we walked around the hill to the ice-skating rink and the whole time we skated! It was our first time ice-skating outdoors – and in the snow too! Unfortunately my skates were a very uncomfortable, and while they were fitting on my feet, the ankles were very low and oddly-shaped, so they cut into the sides of my ankles while still having a lot of back-and-forwards movement in them. The ice was very cut up and bumpy too which I didn’t expect, but I guess it was probably a pretty busy day and had had a lot of wear by the time we got there. We didn’t stay too long as my ankles just got too sore, and when I took my skates off I found out why – I had a layer or two of skin rubbed off on either ankle, with one patch even bleeding!

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Andre ice-skating in the snow

We walked back to our house via the village centre to see the snow which was now collecting on the pavement. We stopped in the market to take photos of the snow and have some glühwein (mulled wine) where we chatted a bit with some other Australians. Then it was back home again, this time walking through a good centimetre or two of snow collecting on the ground. Instead of tea we had our postponed dessert, which was a Vienetta ice-cream log.

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Snowing in the town centre on our way home

And the snow didn’t stop during the night. By the next morning, everything was covered in white and it was still snowing! Our yard was now completely white again, covered in about two inches of snow. The driveway, road, roofs, even the trees were beginning to collect it – everything was covered in snow. It was completely still which, combined with the lack of sound that snow makes, I find a little odd and eerie (in a good way). Every now and then a little breath of wind would come through and the snow would swirl around, before continuing to fall silently – I’m used to rain which makes a racket!

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View from our bedroom window Boxing Day morning

The mountain was nearly completely hidden from view though, so we knew visibility on the mountain would be rubbish. After a boxing day skype call with my family, we decided to check out the runs on the hill behind us, expecting they would all be open due to the snowfall, and knew we could hire skis from the ski school at the bottom of the hill. On the way around the hill we saw snowploughs clearing the roads, and the ski buses that passed us had snow chains on their tyres (although I was surprised to see none of the cars did).

Well, aside from the tiny super-beginner run, everything was closed. Why? Conditions were SO GOOD for snow that they had all their snow canons out and operating at full capacity, laying down as much snow as possible. You just can’t win. So then we decided we may as well at least get the ski bus (which is free) up to Rösshutte to check out the conditions at the bottom of the funicular and decide from there if we wanted to ski.

Visibility actually wasn’t too bad, so we decided to have lunch first to get half-day prices for the lift ticket and ski hire. There was an amazing fifteen minutes where the snow virtually stopped and the clouds lifted and we could see up to the top of the mountain, but that didn’t last. By the time we got all our gear and headed up the funicular the snow and clouds were back. Aaaaand…. the same problem; although there were an extra two lifts opened, they still serviced the same one run and everything else was closed as they went hard-core on the snow-making everywhere else. Really, guys?! Can you not do that overnight? There was still powder on the run we did do, but it was sitting on  a layer of ice which actually made it more awkward to ski on than just icy snow, because at least you know what you’re dealing with there. When you have no sun and rotten visibility you can’t really see what you’re skiing/snowboarding on, which means you might expect powder and get ice or vice-versa. We both took a lot more tumbles that day than our first day.

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View from the mountain towards the end of the day

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I ended up bailing early for a breather while Andre did a few more runs, then came and found me inside to have a bit of food. I was expecting to go back out for another run or two before finishing, but after sitting for a while Andre realised his upper right chest was in a lot of pain and he could not move his left leg at the hip. From the way his chest felt he wondered if he had cracked a rib, but we figured the muscles in his hip had just seized up from the excessive use as he’d been walking fine when he came off the slopes. After stretching out his leg with his hands and giving it a bit more time to relax it ended up being ok, but his chest was still in a lot of pain so we decided it was probably not a wise idea to go back out. After doing a bit of googling that night it did sound like he had cracked or bruised a rib, but not a lot can be done for that and the NHS website recommended just taking painkillers and watching for signs of a lung puncture (coughing up blood) or a chest infection (as people with cracked ribs tend to repress coughing due to the pain, which exacerbates colds and chest infections). We decided that meant he didn’t urgently need medical care and could probably wait until we got back to London. After a day or two, as the pain subsided a little (so he could pinpoint the pain a bit better) and as he could lie on his side we thought his ribs were probably ok and that it might have just been a torn muscle.

By that evening there was just a slow trickle of snow falling. We began getting everything packed up, eating our leftovers, ready to leave the next day. The next morning the snow had finally stopped (although stopped and started intermittently throughout the morning) and in many places there was a good 10 – 15cm of snow on the ground.

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View from our kitchen window on our last morning

We used google translate to ask our hostess (who had very minimal English) to borrow a vaccuum cleaner to vaccuum pack our snow gear away, and Andre made another snow angel in the fresh snow – this one was a lot more effective! We had to go back into the village to get cash out because our hostess only accepted cash payment, and then we farewelled our white Christmas in Seefeld as we headed down to the train station.

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