Turning Back the Skiing Years?
18 people found this feature helpful
It was some 45 years since I had last spent
a ski holiday in Mulhlbach am Hochkonig. Would going back prove a good or a bad
Helmut Plenk was in his 30s then, head of
the ski school with the profile and maturity to turn the heads of younger women
in my beginner ski class. Bambi on ice would have been a good way to describe
my technique. But in my defence, ski boots were still made of leather, laces
had only just given way to clip fasteners and skis, held on with cable bindings,
were so long it was like turning an oil tanker. So I never forgot the glow of
pride when Helmut, having watched me slalom on the village baby murmured to my
instructor appreciatively: “Ein grosser Fortschritt” – great progress.
He’s in his 80s now, patriarch at the
Bergheimat, the hotel he developed from its early beginnings. His daughter
Sieglinde and her husband run it now. Helmut still presides, sorting out ski
rental from the property’s own store. No more those unwieldy Kneissls, measured
when stood on end from ground to the tip of my upstretched fingers. Now it’s
carving skis that come up to my chin. Helmut picked me a pair of Atomic carving
skis. “You must be a good skier now”, he says. “Well”, I reply, “Your ski
school taught me”.
Muhlbach is in Austria’s Salzburg province.
The Bergheimat is some way above the village. Unless my memory is fooling me we
went up there with fellow travellers on an Inghams package for a fondue - and
then careered back down the road on toboggans. The Bergheimat remains rustic in
its use of wood, but it has all the accoutrements of smart four star hotel,
including a basement pool and spa.
Then there was one single seat chairlift in
the village and half a draglift (it stopped short because the lift operator
couldn’t reach an agreement with the farmer who owned to top field). There were
a couple of short drags at the Jagerteehaus – known to the Brits as the
Yackertyhouse – where the eponymous concoction of rum, schnapps and tea was a
serious risk to those intent on skiing home a cross the Alpine meadows. And
there were two or three T-bars at the Arthurhaus, a short way above the hotel
beneath the great mountain rampart, which includes the Hochkonig.
Now the slopes here are part of a huge area
marketed, with a nod to Mozart, as Ski Amade. Large parts of it, though not
all, are connected by lift. Most of its slopes lie beneath the tree line and
are suitable for competent intermediate skiers. I have never encountered a ski
area with as many places to eat by the pistes. Even on a busy Sunday it was
easy to find a free table.
We warmed up for our visit with a few days
in another section of Ski Amade, making our base at the delightful four star
Hotel Alpenhof, just above the resort of the same name. The hotel ran a shuttle
to the main lift base but we could ski back in the afternoon, with a short walk
through the farmyard which provides the hotel with its veal. Like the
Bergheimat, the Alpenhof had an impressive spa and served copious buffet
breakfasts and five course dinners. We skied the wide open slopes of Alpendorf
and neighbouring Wagrain – and crossed to those of Flachau via a cable car
slung hung across an intervening valley.
Today it is possible to ski all the way
from Muhlbach to the Aberg above Maria Alm - and back which, with lunch at the
turning point, takes most of the day. It’s lovely skiing, particularly down to
Hintermoos (though in spring one run on
the return journey is so close to south facing that its snow covers quickly
turns to wet sugar).
Was it a mistake to go back? True, I felt a
slight yearning for the days when tourist were so few that half the village
seems to come drinking with us in the evenings. But would I prefer those days
of lifts that clouted me on the calves, flabby footwear and cumbersome skis
when over detachable, high speed chairs, custom fitted boots and carvers that
turn with a raising of an eyebrow?
No to all the above. Muhlbach was once a
copper mining centre. Sages claimed it would never make a ski resort - but it
has proved them wrong. I feel privileged to have witnessed the transformation.
Further information at:
Ski rental Alpendorf at www.snoworld.at
18 people found this feature helpful