Saturday, 13 March 2010

Snow-boarding in the German Alps

I think we are becoming partial to Germany... Garmisch is beautiful. It is actually two towns, Garmisch and Partenkirchen. They were forced to combine by Hitler for the 1936 Olympics. Each town itself was to small for the venue, but together it worked out. They are near the edge of, but surrounded by the German Alps. Beautiful peaks and ridges all around.
We got up early on Sunday and took the 1 1/2 hour flight to Munich. From there a 2 hour train ride takes you right into Garmisch. Flights are only €100 each and the train for ALL of us was only €30. Gotta love the German train system.
We got into the hotel, Edelweiss, around noon. It is a US military hotel. The rooms are decent. The hotel has a few extras to make it easier on the families. There were plenty of washers and dryers down stairs, a couple restaurants, in-door pool, a huge hot tub, commissary…
So after a brief snowball fight, we had lunch and then later we went to the ski lodge (a quick cab ride) to get the kids fitted with snowboards and to get lockers. Good choice. It saved a bunch of time the next day. That night we ate at a Thai restaurant. Why Thai? Because we could.
Monday morning we were up and at the lodge before 8:30. Walking out of the hotel lobby, now with clear skies, you are immediately hit with an amazing view of the surrounding mountains. Brianna was signed up for a 4 hour snowboarding lesson with some friends of ours that also went up. So Carey, Austin, the other guy, his son, and I jumped on the gondola and headed for the slopes.
For those who have never snowboarded, think of it like a really long skateboard, if done right. One foot is in front of the other, sideways, so you have a front (toe) edge and back (heal) edge. When you first learn you spend a lot of time on your back edge plowing down the slope in a falling feather motion. It sucks because you go slow AND you push snow down off the trails. So as you get better you learn to transition from back edge to front and back again so you are pointing the board down the slope more (like skate boarding) in the same manner as a skier. Faster, better control, better for the trails.
Now that I’ve covered that… Austin and the other boy were in that learning to transition stage so the first run was a little slow. We stopped a lot. About half way down we all stopped, mostly off to the side, (not in the way and definitely visible). Out of no where a skier going faster than he should have, ran into Austin sending Austin 10 feet down the hill. The guy lost his ski and flew another 25 feet or so. It was enough of a hit that there was a line on Austin’s arm, through two shirts and a ski jacket, showing where the ski ran over him. Not a good start. His arm is fine. It swelled. It bruised. He could move everything. I pushed on everything all around it. After a binding repair and breather, he was back on the slopes.
We found a shorter, wide open run after lunch and stayed there for the rest of the day. The boys, both ride skateboards, learned fast. By the end of the day I picked a series of trails to get us back to the bottom to meet up with Brianna and the others from the snowboard lesson. I miss read the trail map a little. They only use colors vice colors and shapes that we use in the states. I ended up taking Carey and Austin down a little harder trail than I intended but they both did fine. Brianna’s lesson went well. She also started to get the hang of transitioning from edge to edge.
The World Cup is taking place on the same mountain! The American ski team, including Lindsey Vonn and Julia Mancuso, came out to sign autographs and take pictures. Very cool. Not a bad first day.
Tuesday we were all up early again and were on the first gondola at 8:37 (I was impressed). We went up to the easy run from the day before to let the girls practice what they had learned in their lesson the day before. The problem with the lesson though was that they only went a little way up the practice hill so it was never steep and wasn’t very long. Snowboarding can be tricky. While the snow conditions weren’t bad, it was still hard packed with a small layer of loose snow on top so falls still hurt… By noon the other wife had smacked her head (even wearing a helmet it hurt) a few times and Brianna’s tail bone was hurt. All the women went down to recoup and head back to the hotel hot tub. The guys all set out for bigger, harder, longer trails. We found a couple combinations of trails that made the entire run over two miles long. By 4 PM we called it good. Over 7 hours of snowboarding (Austin and I skipped lunch to keep going). Awesome.
That night we took a covered horse drawn carriage ride through Garmisch. The girl driving/ giving the tour was very nice and knowledgeable. A little cold but worth it. Garmisch is about 1200 years old. The “Old Church” is about 800 years old. They refer to the churches as new and old because they otherwise have the same name…
Wednesday. The other family was a little bruised and beaten/ sore so they decided to make the most of things and rented a car to go see the Ludwig castles. One of them is what the Disney Cinderella castle is modeled after. Brianna, not sharing the same enthusiasm as Carey, Austin, and me decided to go with them. It worked out well. She really enjoyed her day.
So Carey, Austin, and I were back on the mountain by 8:45. That morning we tackled the long runs right off the bat. As I mentioned, the World Cup was taking place. We watched the racers as they flew down the mountain right below the gondola and right next to the trails we were boarding on! The TV doesn’t do it justice (we saw the same exact stuff on TV later that night). They are moving, cutting, and flying through the air.
By 10:30 the sky was clearing. We decided to get some brats, beer, and coke and then catch the cog train to Zugspitze. Zugspitze is the second ski area. It is glacier and at over 10,000 feet (2,964 meters), the highest point in Germany. About a 25 minute train ride and a 10 minute cable car (big gondola) ride later and there we were. The pictures below are from there. Absolutely amazing. The groomed trails were short but it is so wide open that you really don’t need the trails. I spent most of my time off the trails and in POWDER. Carey and Austin found a small jump to go off. It worked out well. After a couple hours the clouds started to roll in again so we called it a day just after 3.
That night we went to an old Bavarian restaurant. Good food; good beer; even a polka band.
When I first started looking into ski trips I was looking at week long trips. This turned out much better. One, a resort with an American side lodge/ hotel made it easy. Two, after three full days our bodies were getting pretty beat. Maybe if the local snow is better next year and we go a little more often a longer trip will be in store for next year. As for Garmisch, we will be going back sometime this summer for camping and hiking.
Next big trip… Paris!

1 comment:

  1. In case you haven't tried, if you click on the picture it should open larger.