The End of the World

Sun Over Obergurgl
One of the few blue moments in Obergurgl-Hochgurgl, when it wasn’t snowing.

In order to plan this, most recent, snowboard trip we waited until the last minute, and searched for snow. Normally I am a pre-planner, but with a winter as uncharacteristic as this, we’ve all got to be a bit more unconventional. I must report that I am quite pleased with our results. Phil is too. Our research led us to the resort town of Obergurgl-Hochgurgl. It’s in Austria; just past Sölden. Those that are familiar with Obergurgl-Hochgurgl lovingly refer to it as The End of the World, as Ötztalerstraße (Oetztal Road) literally ends in Ober-Hoch and you can’t drive any further.

The journey winds up-down-and-over a mountain road, through the tall pines, and a couple of adorable Austrian mountain towns (which Phil has dubbed “The Bergs”) and then you enter Sölden. Sölden is quite impressive. It’s everything you could ever want in a ski town; electric streets, five star hotels, glacier skiing, high-speed chair lifts, fine dining, and top-notch après ski. The drive through Sölden makes you feel like you want to stop. You’re afraid that if you don’t you might miss the party. Resisting the temptation and continuing the drive brings you to a sleepy ski town with a beautifully designed resort and the friendliest bunch of winter-lovers I have ever met. (This statement is too include locals and tourists alike) I truly feel like Phil and I hit the Jackpot with this trip. All the elements of a superb holiday came together for us; and all of the snow that Santa Clause neglected to put in Laax, he actually put in Ober-Hoch for me. It was the first time (I can remember) having taken the lift up, and been able to ride down anywhere I wish. Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t need my snorkel, I wasn’t in fear of drowning in snow, but there was plenty of snow everywhere. The groomers at Ober-Hoch are nice and wide, and the fresh snow on the fringe was cold, soft, and playful. We were crazy with energy for riding, all day, and everyday. No stopping for lunch; you eat that brown-bag lunch on the gondola.

I learned a lesson last weekend…and it may not be what you think. The harder I think something is going to be before I attempt it, after successful completion I realize it was that much easier. Just because you’ve never done something before does not mean you cannot do it. So just (stop sweating and) do it already.

And do it again.

And again…because it’s fun and healthy.

Fresh Tracks Snow
This is my shameless acknowledgement of our lines. Ours were the first but hundreds followed; as you can see.

For those that may not have ever skied: Resorts carve trails down the mountain for clientele. The trails have groomed snow, and snake down the mountainside (back and forth) giving skiers a thrill while allowing them the opportunity to glide at a moderate pace and not have to make navigation decisions. When there is enough (fresh) snow thrill-seekers can blaze their own trail down the slopes. Depending on your level of skill, level of confidence, and familiarity with the terrain; this can be accomplished at varying degrees of treachery. Given my junior-varsity status, Phil and I kept it pretty cultivated but still made some nice lines of our own. In fact…I hate to brag… but I’m gonna brag anyway… Monday morning we were the first car in the parking lot, first people on the gondola, first people to the top, and first people to scribble in the fresh snow. I’ve got to admit; it felt pretty good. Of course, finding our tracks after two hours of the mountain being open was nearly impossible.

Ski Town Hochgurgl
Ski Town

Interesting Obergurgl-Hochgurgl Fact:

In May of 1931, Swiss physicist Professor Auguste Piccard and his assistant (Paul Kipfer) launched a high-altitude flight that took them 16,000meters (52,493 feet) into the sky. They are the first people to reach this height in a balloon. They had technical difficulties and had an emergency landing on the Gurgler Ferner glacier in the Ötztal. The event made international headlines and Obergurgl, the town with 14 farmhouses, was suddenly famous.