I’m in my thirties, and I find it hard to have major firsts these days. Nothing reminded me more of this than when my sister and nephew visited me last summer. At only a year-and-a-half, he’d been to his first national park, saw the ocean, rode his first ferry, saw orca whales, and the list goes on as you can imagine. I was a late bloomer and didn’t have most of the mentioned firsts until I was in my teens.
Travel is one thing that has always allowed me to have new experiences, and Austria would prove to be no different. Even though I haven’t been to Austria, I rarely celebrate adding a new country to the places I’ve been these days. What makes it memorable is how the trip is different than my other travels.
So how was Austria different? All my built up excitement started when we booked flights as it would be the first time I’d ski in Europe, but that wouldn’t be my only first.
First Time Train to Ski – Sort of?
Waiting for the train at Radstadt Station.
I’m not 100% sure I can count this as a first since I wasn’t physically dropped off at a ski resort or skied right from the train station, so I’m going to semi-count it. Originally, Andy had booked a rental car for our time in Austria. After getting used to being without a vehicle, we both forgot our driver’s licenses in our London flat. Oops. Not being able to rent a car meant taking a bus to the train station. Fortunately, we were meeting up with a friend that lives in Austria, so she was able to provide some of the transportation around the Pongau region of Salzburg.
First Time Skiing in Austria and in Europe
Europe is a long haul from the west coast and can be expensive. I’m glad we waited as the flight was only 1.5 hours to Salzburg.
My first day skiing in Austria was at Obertauern, which was recommended by our friend. The morning was spent on piste as it’s the European way and the low visibility made it hard to navigate on a new mountain. Andy was my compass down the slopes since I tend to get vertigo when in whiteout conditions.
Most of the day was spent learning the mountain while skiing the round-the-world tour. We tried to ride all the lifts and followed a suggested route on the trail maps. After catching last chair, it was time to celebrate with brews and Uno.
First Time Backcountry Skiing in Europe
Getting ready to tour.
It’s just a little walk, but we count it. Our local guides (aka friends) took the day off to show us the mountains of Dachstein. The gondola climbs up the steep, rocky faces of the mountains that have a hard time holding snow. The first objective was to attempt the Dachstein summit itself. The snow was a glossy ice-skating rink with the melt-freeze weather cycle. Instead of skinning the entire way, I strapped my skis to my backpack and booted up to the base of the via ferrata.
Why didn’t we pack ice axes and crampons? Thinking it would be spring in Europe during our adventures, Andy and I chose not to pack axes and crampons, which would have helped us reach the summit. Instead, our friends, who were prepared, scouted the route. After returning, they confirmed sections were still covered with snow where having the crampons and axes would’ve help. We made a good decision and instead enjoyed the views of the Austrian Alps.
First Time on a Via Ferrata
A via ferrata is a way to travel on a mountain with protection from falling, usually in the Alps, and consists of cables and ladders. The routes normally installed for military or mining travel. Dachstein has more than one via ferrata, so our friends climbed their second of the day and this one would be our first.
Local friends, and guides, taking a moment to enjoy the views.
A much simpler route, we climbed up the rock while passing our protection on the fixed ropes. At the top of the via ferrata was a tunnel carved through the mountain. After the tunnel, we had a small traverse before putting our skis back on to descend the mountain.
Harvesting corn, aka the slushy spring snow.
The descent was perfect spring corn conditions, which went by way too fast. At the end of the run down Edelgrieß Gletscher, we flipped back to touring mode to return to the car. Before heading back to town, we ended the day with a prost and meat delicacies.
The last first is similar to the prior one and is taking a via ferrata to ski. We definitely wouldn’t have had this experience if we planned the trip ourselves and were happy our friends took the day off of work to show us an amazing ski experience for the ages.
What firsts have you had on your travels? Share in the comments below.