Most people who know us and are still living in homes think we are mad for living on a plastic boat especially in the winter. Imagine how they think when they hear we go to freezing ski resorts in a motorhome. We must be good in the cold! Those who know Maria well will know that she is not one for the cold at the best of times and so both the boat and motorhome are kept toasty warm.
We had finally arrived in Fieberbrunn after an eventful journey and had set ourselves up with piped in gas and electricity. So no problems with the internal temperature.
On arrival, you could see there had been a lot of snow already this season but over the space of the next 24 hours, there was two feet of fresh snow! That will sort out the holiday. As the snow came down, visibility was poor but the advantage of having two weeks skiing is that you don’t feel as bad if you miss a day and don’t feel obligated to go out in any conditions! It’s the first Sunday and so we decide to walk down from the resort to the village, exploring our surroundings and getting a feel for what is available. But first we have to get out of the van…
So we walk into town on a Sunday…..in France…. and we have walked the mile into town, we get there and it is closed! Everywhere is closed, including the supermarkets. The town is quite small but looks like fun so we’ll come back when it’s open.
“We walked a mile into town”, I didn’t expect to be writing that. For the last few months, Maria and I have been on the Cambridge Diet and have lost two stone each. It means we are a lot more active than we used to be and for Maria to agree to a long walk on icy and snowy roads is a major change.
The next day, it’s a little clearer but there is a lot of snow everywhere. Maria is apprehensive about going skiiing because she is worried about her feet hurting.
Maria has had problems with ski boots since we started skiing and is a little unhappy that my boots are like slippers and really comfortable whilst hers kill her. We tried to resolve this a few years ago in Chamonix, when we took Maria to the best boot fitters in town. They sized, heated, cooled, expanded parts of the boot to fit the shape of her feet and shaped an inner sole so that it was perfect. It cost a lot but Maria’s happiness is important and we can’t have Maria’s feet hurting – or Adam’s ears hurting as she complains! We returned a few times to tune the boots further and the guys did everything they could. As we went to Courcheval the following years, we went through the same process with their expert boot fitters, including even more inner soles and more expanding of parts of the boot. The pain was still there. I now believe that these are the most expensive ski boots in alpine history and I’m sure it would have been cheaper to have them cast in gold and lined with fur, obviously responsibly sourced fur – our cats shed enough for this job! Anyway, after several years of refitting, Maria’s feet still hurt after a couple of runs and I spend a lot of time on my knees trying to adjust the boots to make them comfortable for her.
The vast amount of snow in the first 24 hours would make skiing hard work, particularly on the feet and this isn’t helping Maria bite the bullet. Also the weather has closed the links from Fieberbrunn to the other parts of the ski circus so we would be limited to local skiing anyway. We’re up late in the morning and Maria agrees to go into town again to get some shopping for the next couple of weeks. So it’s another walk and we arrive at lunchtime, the town is closed again! But at least the supermarkets are open. Of course we can’t get too much shopping because we have to carry it back, but at least there is a bus that drops us off back at the ski lifts just above the camp site. So two days in and we haven’t done any skiing yet but that doesn’t stop “skiing injuries”. In places the town is very icy and Maria’s all weather boots are not as gripy as they could be, she slips over four times over the two days and bangs her knees quite hard. So we haven’t even started and Maria is injured already. We’re worried that Maria is going to struggle to “bend zee knees” as she used to hear regularly from her ski instructors. Of course a way around this is to apply some kind of ice pack. Or lay in the snow. Or do a snow angel in the snow…
We get back and all of our Austrian neighbours are busy clearing snow from their vans and pitches, so they’re not making snow angels then. They take all day doing this, constantly wheeling snow to other areas – it’s tiring just watching them. At the same time the staff are scurrying around the site in large snow ploughs – no, Maria, no snow plough, as Maria’s ski instructors would also say. We pop out to get Maria some new snow boots that she can walk in without falling over and please note that no alcohol was consumed at the time of these accidents! There is a huge Sport2000 ski shop near the lifts and Maria finds some nice new snow boots so hopefully no more accidents.
The fact that we are not skiing doesn’t get in the way of the apres ski though and we have tried all five bars in the ski area and have already identified our favourite, S4 Alm. Maria has got a taste for Aperol Spritz and is “enjoying” Austrian apres ski with its unique music! The video is a bit dark but you get the idea!
In the evening when we are home we use our amazon fire stick to catch up with TV, our favourite programmes and some films. The cats are happy to have us around too. Unfortunately, I still have to do a little work and I am on a few calls with our main software suppliers and the execs from the Trust where I am working. That doesn’t take too long and a little effort now means I can relax for the rest of the holiday.
After so much snow the weather turns and it starts to heat up. It means in the low village of Fieberbrunn, we are getting rain. The worst thing for snow is rain since it washes the snow away but there is so much snow that we should be ok.
The next day is clear and bright. We still have loads of snow and it is finally time for the skiing to start. We decide to take a nice easy blue to start off with so we can get our ski-legs sorted out. Half way down the blue and Maria’s feet are aching already. 😦
Now Maria has decided that if her feet hurt on this holiday, we are not adjusting the boots again but she will rent some boots and see how they are. We are back to Sport2000…”we’re having boot problems and would like to rent some”. They sit Maria down and try some new boots on her. They are the same make as the ones she has but the boot shape is slightly different around the front of the foot. We agree these are a good fit but the true test is out on the slopes. “Can we try a rental pair of this type please”. They apologise but these boots are not available in the rental section…. 😦 . But….you can try the ones you have on and if you like them, buy them, if not, pay a rental charge. That sounds perfect, what amazing customer service. We take the boots back to the van and prepare for a days skiing with the new boots.
The next day we are up at a reasonable time and we give it a go. The first run is a disaster, in the shop the staff have adjusted the boots to reduce the push forward in the boot but this doesn’t work with Maria’s skiing. Maria is struggling to keep her weight forward, leans back, loses confidence and seems to have gone back ten years. We go back to the shop, these aren’t working. They re-adjust the pressure on the back of the boot, we’ll give that a try tomorrow.
Tomorrow is another day. The first run is a triumph and Maria is happy. In fact she does several runs, hardly adjusting the boots at all. Best of all, is that with the weight loss, Maria is more than comfortable to bend down and adjust her own boots, not the easiest job sometimes. It means I am not on my hands and knees at the top of every lift.
To break up the skiing, we stop for lunch and Maria and I try the traditional Tiroler Gröstl. This is a meat and potato dish with an egg on top and comes
with a fantastic salad at the S4 Alm bar in Fieberbrunn. Not really in keeping with our diet regime but we have worked out if we are skiing then the reduced calorie count may not be healthy, so having had a few days on the diet we decide to eat sensibly but come off the diet for the rest of the holiday.
Later we’re back in the shop with a happy smiling Maria. The guys are pleased. We have done a few runs but we don’t want to push it too hard on the first successful day and so the guys suggest we take a third day with the boots to make a decision.
Morning of the third day (post new boots) and Maria wakes up. She has no pain in her feet but her quads are starting to hurt! Result, that is an ache I can do something about. We know exercises you can do to get the quads sorted but in our experience there is nothing you can do about painful feet. So day three and we decided to ski over to Hinterglemm. The lift we get up takes us past the camp and we can see the motorhome nestled in looking up at us.
The boots are feeling fine and Maria is loving it. She is enjoying her skiing and her legs have warmed up and the quads aren’t painful anymore but they will hurt later.
The connection to the rest of Saalbach Hinterglemm is via a couple of long enclosed lifts but these have a relatively early close so we need to have an eye on the clock or it will be an expensive taxi ride home. We have first hand experience of this from a family holiday in La Plagne when we missed the last lift to get over the top of the mountain and be able to ski down. We had to ski down the wrong side to another village and the group of us had to pile into a minibus to get back to our resort. Every time the taxi driver got a call on his phone he shouted “Oui” down the phone, and he got a lot of calls. By the end of the journey, we were all shouting “Oui” when the phone rang and giggling hysterically. He got the last laugh though when he charged us €100 for the trip home 🙂 Needless to say we try not to miss lifts anymore!
The skiing in Hinterglemm is great with big wide pistes with great snow. Maria is enjoying herself as we take the last lift up to the bubble lifts to return home. It’s been a good day and the boots are working exactly as you would want. But it has been a much harder ski and Maria can feel it in her legs.
So Maria has painful legs and that normally means that she will be demanding massages all the time until they feel better. In my experience, men and women have rather different views of massages…. Maria believes that she should be massaged regularly and her aching limbs should be relieved. Like a lot of men, I see massages as foreplay which probably means the massage part doesn’t last too long ;). But Maria can have them as much as she likes….on my terms…. Hmmm, or maybe not 😦
Anyway, we also have a spa booked for the evening which will help with Maria’s legs aching. Actually the spa is wonderful. It has everything you could want but Maria has found the “spa for two”, this is a private room with a gold hot tub in the middle of the room, a double shower, a steam room and a water bed (I’ve never been on a water bed)! Did I mention the Moët? Or the fruit bowl? Then we look at the decor….there is a painting behind the bed, two naked people talking the talk of love, there are statues of naked women…you get the idea! No? On our little tour of the room, the lady shows us the TV with DVD player. There are two DVDs, the history of skiing, available in German and English. Alternatively, there is a dodgy shoe-fetish porn video! No prizes for guessing which was in the machine :). But if I’m honest, I didn’t know that Mathias Zdarsky first skied in Austria in the early 20th century…. or that some guys find stiletto heels sexier than quite attractive young ladies!
The upshot is that Maria’s legs don’t ache as much the next day! And I have a smile on my face because she is happy. It appears that footgate is over and we have a Maria who loves her skiing and isn’t fighting pain. Absolute result. I’m sure those who have skied with Maria over the years will be equally excited at the thought. On this day, we have agreed to meet a friend of ours from the marina, Grahame. He is skiing with some friends and with Maria’s new found energy and pain-free skiing, she is keen to do more. We’re back off to Hinterglemm where we meet up with Grahame and friends before having a ski around the area. We intend to stop for lunch but time is ticking on and it is after 2:30pm when we eventually stop. We’re about to order food but just as discretion is the better part of valour, we decide that cowardice is the better part of discretion and get the lift back to the returning bubble lifts. We’re not sure how long it will take to get to the lift and food may just make us miss the last lift! Needless to say we get there quickly and leave with 40 minutes to spare.
In the past, we have taken our four children, and their partners if applicable, skiing and they are now very nice skiers having all learnt fifteen years ago. Now with Amie in Australia, Rachel in Leeds and both Matt and Kristy with busy lives, we find that they don’t join us any more. But the offer is always there. Matt had been having a bit of a hard time with two “w”s: work and women! We decided that we would surprise him by organising a long weekend when he could join us and get away from it all. The arrangements were made and the Penguin was on his way! I should probably explain that…. Matt mostly wears a black ski outfit including a black hat, with a few splashes of white. A few years ago, he was keeping his arms very close to his sides with his hands and poles out at 45 degrees. With a typically French skiing style of legs and hence skis close together, he was branded the skiing penguin! Now Matt is a lovely skier but the name has stuck.
Matt arrives and after a quick change he is ready for a gentle ski having got up at 4am to catch his flight. Anyone who knows Matt will realise how difficult that must have been! But it is one of his loves and so sacrifices have to be made. After a few runs it’s a relatively quiet evening because we have big plans for the next day.
With the joining up of Fieberbrunn to Saalback Hinterglemm, the Ski Circus has become a large horseshoe of ski areas with Fieberbrunn at one extreme. The other end of the horseshoe is Leogang and there is a bus service back to Fieberbrunn. This is quite a lot of skiing and includes a 7km run around the back of the mountains. This will truly test Maria’s new found energy levels, comfort and stamina. The day is a triumph with lots of skiing and perfect conditions. In all we ski thirty kilometres before just missing a bus that goes once an hour. We’re tired but really happy and Maria is wandering around in her ski boots without a care in the world.
We take Matt out for Apres ski at the S4 Alm bar which is rapidly becoming a regular haunt. Here he is subjected to a German language oompah version of sex on fire, it is exactly how you are imagine it (if you have a warped imagination that is!). There is also what can’t only be considered the Johnny Depp (Johnny Däpp) song which includes his name repeated often with a euro beat behind it! Very popular with the ski-boot wearing, table-top dancing Austrians, and one not-so-quiet British girl…..
Ah, I now can’t get the Johnny Däpp song out of my head….
If you have watched the video, I expect you are in the same position as me….Johnny depp, depp, depp, johnny depp, depp, johnny, johnny depp….
The Sunday is Matt’s last day skiing and so we decide to have a good day and then book into the public part of the spa, no interesting skiing videos here I’m afraid. The area is lovely and I persuade Maria and Matt to get out of the outside heated pool and sort their feet out by putting them in snow for a few seconds. They are both back in the pool very quickly! My feet? Oh I think they are fine actually and I’ll stay in the nice warm pool. The spa part also has various saunas, solarium, steam rooms and jacuzzi baths. Did I mention that it was no swimming costumes? Poor Matt. His first European spa experience is having to get into a whirlpool with us and two naked Austrian ladies. He handles it well.
But before all of that, Matt and I decide to clear the remains of the snow from around the van as preparation for our departure at the back end of the week and to avoid the icy path around the van from becoming a death trap. I borrow a large snow shovel to start moving the snow and Matt sets about the icy parts with various tools. It takes quite a while to clear all of that snow from around the van but at the end we feel accomplished and have done a good job. It certainly prepares us for the spa experience.
After the spa, we go to the nice little restaurant at the camp and have dinner. We have come out of the spa all wearing onesies so you can imagine we get some funny looks but we don’t care as we laugh and giggle. The food is really good too with a particularly nice hot chicken on a skewer with flames below it.
Too quickly, Matt’s weekend away is over and he flies back to the UK. We’re back to just the two of us, and two cats. Some people have asked what do we do with the cats when we go skiing. Well, while the mice are away, the cats will play and we generally get back to two tired out cats with all their toys strewn all over the van. When we return, we always let them out and Clyde is keen to explore his surroundings but Bonnie isn’t one to go out in the cold and will pop out but within seconds returns to the warm. Clyde likes it outside so much that quite often we need to walk around the site calling his name to get him to come home. And five minutes later he will be moaning to go out again. During the day the cats are actually very settled, they have their spots in the van and they like being near us when we get home so everyone’s happy.
With Matt on his way home, Maria decides that she enjoyed the long run to Leogang so much that she would like to do it again but do some different runs to the same destination. This is slightly shorter but again she has a great day and we arrive in Leogang very quickly and at lunchtime. This is where we discover that the hourly bus doesn’t start until 3pm. We’re not hanging around for a couple of hours so Maria books a taxi and we get to experience the expensive way home, how come every taxi between ski resorts seems to cost €100?
The holiday is going quickly now and the bright sunshine and warm temperatures we have been experiencing are starting to change. There is snowfall due to arrive by the end of the week and this should get to us by the last ski day of our holiday. Hopefully it won’t be so much that we struggle to get the van out.
It’s the last day and Maria is keen. She is up early and we are waiting for the lift to open in the morning. That is a first! We have planned to ski the Fieberbrunn area rather than going further afield, especially with snow coming in for the afternoon and overnight. We have a plan for the morning’s ski which incorporates some favourites, that are made even better because we are the first people on them and they are immaculately groomed. After some time to get her legs warmed up and remove the aches, Maria is loving it. I am trying to make sure that we still do a fair bit of skiing and have a route in mind subject to Maria’s legs being fine. She is doing great and we take a tricky red from the top through the trees. This leads us to the top of the run where it all began ten days previously. The blue where Maria’s old boots finally signed their own death warrant. It’s actually a very nice run and Maria is loving it. In fact loving it so much that towards the bottom she suggests that we get a couple more lifts up and do an additional three runs before calling it a day! Those boots have magic powder in them. We head back up for definitely the last runs….. we eventually take a different, and harder, route home with another red run through some trees and that’s it we’re done by lunchtime. Maria pops back into Sport2000 to thank them for everything they have done and by the time we come out, the clouds are in, visibility is awful and the snow is falling. Perfect timing. Although it will mean that I will be getting the snow shovel again and digging us out before we can go anywhere – where’s your only son when you need him.
We get the skis back to the van and let the cats out. Bonnie sees white stuff falling from the sky and makes a bolt back for the van. However, Snowflake, as Clyde has now been termed, is loving the snow and getting covered. He just doesn’t care.
It’s not the first alternative name that Clyde has had. During last year’s ski holiday, Maria’s calling of Clyde in the evening was misheard by some of our neighbours who thought she was “Cedric’s mum”. We decided that Cedric was Clyde’s alter ego, so whenever he was good he was Clyde but sometimes Cedric turned up! Both cats also have some other alternative names which are probably best not repeated since they normally come out when they have been naughty or have been able to conjour up a particularly strong smell in the litter box.
Returning to the skiing, what an amazing holiday. The ski passes allow you to log how much skiing you have done and we find that Maria has done over 150km of skiing during the trip. On a couple of days Maria was nearly at 30km of piste travelled. All that hard work has also helped with our weight loss. We had been eating reasonably sensibly but we did say that we were going to enjoy the holiday and deal with the consequences. Maria had even brought our scales so that she could understand how we were doing. By departure day we had actually continued to lose weight without being on the diet. That changed on the trip back when we were driving and not being active but certainly was a pleasant surprise.
As for costs, another pleasant surprise. We had used the private spa on a couple of occasions which obviously added to the bill but the electricity and gas cost was a shade over £100 for the two weeks and the heating had been on all the time.
Probably the best review you could get of the holiday would be that we have decided to go back next year, same weeks and same place. It must be pretty good if you decide that while you are out there!