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Breitenstein skiing, March, 2006

The weather was terrible, but Riki, Josef and Angie were able to get out for a morning of skiing. We drove to the Spitzstein and began skinning up in a light snowfall. It snowed on and off all day, and views were held to a minimum. But it was pleasant skiing up a mix of open slopes and forest paths. Eventually we came to a kind of tough section with tight switchbacks in the trees. I broke trail from here to the summit, getting a good extra workout. I was a little worried about an icy section below a high pass, and the final ski to the summit was a little nervy due to a big drop off on the left. Several times we heard the boom of avalanches or maybe just slabs collapsing. One, heard from the summit, was really dramatic and powerful. We were happy that our route was safe from such dangers. We skied down, having lots of fun in fresh powdery snow. Of course, I spent a fair bit of time buried in the snow too. The trip was marred only by terrible traffic jams on the way home. Ugh. Had we been able to see anything here is an example view from the website clasohm.com.

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Hirschberg skiing, February 19, 2006

Our neighbors Ricki and her husband Arne are new parents. Ricki is also into backcountry skiing, but hadn’t gone in a long time. So we arranged for a Sunday morning “Dawn Patrol.” Ricki has a car which made it possible! She and I left town at 5:30 am, and were hiking up along a ski area below Hirschberg, a mountain of the Bavarian pre-alps near the Tengernsee. Icy conditions caused our skins to slip a bit, but after a great ski up we were on the summit at ten minutes to nine. The air was very clear, with great views of the Zugspitz, the Karwendel Mountains and even (I think) the Grossglockner far in the distance.

The ski down was kind of hard for me. First, I skied right into some kind of hole on the slope on the schluss down from the gentle summit. I got a facefull of cold snow and lost a ski temporarily. Later, there was a steep slope which Ricki skied down masterfully. I was intimidated by it, so I tried to go an easier way, but ended up having to make kick turns on an icy chopped up slope. Finally I could traverse over to the lower part of her slope and it was better. The trip down was really just a matter of minutes. Even though we stayed on the summit for 30 minutes, we were down by 10 am, and home at 11. Really fun!

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Lenggries skiing, February 15, 2006

I took the day off and we got a baby sitter so that Kris and I could go skiing together for the day. It was tons of fun…it definitely sped by too fast! Kris had learned so much in her lessons, we could go down all kinds of red (blue in the U.S.) runs together. She found a few things difficult, like skiing on roads that populate this small ski area, and the narrowness of some of the runs. But overall she was teaching me how to ski better. We had a nice lunch, and then had the great fortune to run into Kris’s friend Vivian from the ski class. She was there with her friend from Birmingham, England. We talked on the train home. It was a great day!

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Spitzstein skiing, February 12, 2006

A fun backcountry ski morning with Josef and Angie. Again, fun skiing, beautiful sunny views and a great quick trip up and speeding down!

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Lenggries skiing, January 28, 2006

Another very short trip to Lenggries. This one wasn’t as fun because there were big crowds and long lines. Oh well.

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Lenggries skiing, January 21, 2006

Kris was out of town this weekend on a ski lesson. I couldn’t let her have all the fun, so thanks to a very nice babysitter for the boys I was able to hop on the train to the Lenggries ski area. It was my first time to go to an official ski area in Germany, and I learned a fair bit. First off, I was ecstatic about the price and convenience. At the train station I purchased a combination train-and-ski-lift ticket for 33 Euros (like 38 dollars now?). It covered the hour long train journey there and back, and also my lift ticket for the whole day. That was a pretty darn good deal I thought. I read “All the President’s Men” on the train, nearing the exciting end. What a tedious but instructive story.

In Lenggries, I hopped on a bus for 10 minutes to reach the Brauneck cabin lift. It was neat to see mountains again after two weeks. At the top, I started skiing, pretty delighted by conditions and my not-completely-forgotten small reserve of skill. I had watched a video the night before by a ski expert named Lito Tejada-Flores, and it really paid off. I explored different lifts, having to get used to the German-style rope tow which is strange but good. I conversed in broken German with a twenty-something guy who worried where the United States was heading politically. This is a standard conversation!

Anyway, the skiing was really fun, although the moguls were pretty severe on steeper slopes because it hasn’t snowed in several (gorgeous) days. The upper mountain was in a thick cloud, but at the middle level I saw pretty blue and white surrounding peaks. These are the Bavarian Pre-Alps, so they were mostly forested, with little limestone outcrops. I skied for about 3 hours then headed for home. I met some Americans on the bus who knew about our Avid.com office near Boston. Crazy. They were in town for 2 days, and were amazed how easy it was to suddenly decide to go skiing. Of course they were wearing slacks and had leather driving gloves, not having planned for it.

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Gröbner Hals, January 7, 2006

I decided to try a “Dawn Patrol” kind of trip here in Munich, which seems really odd to folks. Of course it seemed odd to folks back in Seattle too, but makes perfect sense for the busy dad on the go: a chance to get out and breath the mountain air, and be back home in time for city errands or playing with the kids!

I picked an easy ski tour to a pass called the Gröbner Hals. It is near a very pretty mountain lake called the Achensee, and a town at it’s north side called Achenkirch. I escaped the perpetual fog over Munich and was parked at the Kinderhotel at the base of the route after an hour and twenty minutes of driving. I began skinning up a very flat valley at sunrise, admiring the snowy peaks at the end. Eventually I realized I was on the wrong side of the river, following a groomed cross-country ski path that would surely end, while I wanted a road that switchbacked up the other side of the valley. I took off my skis and toiled across a creek, only getting my boots wet. I decided to walk a while on the other side until it got steep again.

When this happened I ran into some equipment trouble. I tried three times to put my skis back on, but one or the other kept falling off. I eventually figured out what happened: during the walk, compacted snow froze into ice deep in the metal binding holes of my boots. My superficial cleanings weren’t enough. Without a good sharp tool (like a nail) to clean the holes, I finally had to take off my boots and breath on them to melt the ice. Argh, in total this cost 30 minutes of precious time! Oh well, it was something I had to learn sometime.

Skinning up a road, I admired some waterfall ice on the other side of the valley. They were very short, looked like 20 meter high routes. Soon I broke out of the trees into open slopes of the upper valley. Admiring the peaks on both sides, I came to three farm buildings, closed up tight for the winter. Another 30 minutes of climbing brought me to the Gröbner Hals, where a stunning view of the Karwendel mountains awaited me. They have no glaciers, but especially in the area around the Eng valley, they are tortured, black and dramatic. I wish I brought my camera! The mountains were extremely quiet all around, and the blue sky and warm sun were restorative.

Now it was time to ski down. Unfortunately, the steepest part of the ski was right from the top, and I wished I could get kind of “warmed up” on something easier. Naturally, I fell after one turn, and to add insult to injury, a ski came off and slid 100 feet down the hill, past the interesting steep section! As I waded down the slope I cursed for effect. Oh well, I still had plenty of challenges ahead. Because the snow hadn’t had much time to be warmed by the sun, there was still an upper crust which, to my dismay, made it harder to turn. So I pretty much “survived” my way down, not enjoying it as much as I’d hoped (considering that it’s a very easy route!). Lower, I took a wrong turn and left the road. Falling somewhere along the way, I saw I was committed to a more advanced ski descent. Still, it looked possible, so I kept going, only falling once when I skied into the skirts of a tree. Later I reached a hut in the forest, then after another hundred feet of shaky skiing I found the road again. Now I could just stand and coast the remaining two miles (roughly?) to the car.

Cool, I’ll have to get a lot of these ski tours under my belt, happy to be starting now!