Saturday, May 5, 2007

19 March: A Winter Wonderland (Sort of)

We awoke to a couple of inches of fresh snow on the ground and more coming down fast. We were in no hurry to get going, so we took our time at breakfast. I had decided to ski on my antique, 184-centimeter Atomics for one more day, especially considering that we weren’t sure we would even put in a full day. We got bundled up, expecting colder temperatures and stinging snow, and sure enough, it was quite miserable for the first hour or two. Visibility was terrible and I was not a happy camper. Skiing is hard enough when you can see all the bumps and subtle terrain changes; it’s downright depressing when you are out of practice and can’t see a thing except a great big sheet of white! It’s times like these that I have to try to remember why we do this by choice – it is supposed to be fun, after all. I have to admit that for me, the experience of skiing can fluctuate from sheer exhilaration to excrutiating pain, sometimes in the space of the same minute.

Fortunately we found the conditions on run 17 to be tolerable – it’s the lowest run on the mountain and takes you down into a sheltered valley, so there was no wind, it was out of the blowing snow, and the temperature was several degrees warmer. On our way down 17 the first time, my tips crossed and I performed my first faceplant in many a year. I ended up facing uphill with my legs crossed at an awkward angle behind me. John was worried that I had broken a leg, but I wasn’t really hurt – mostly just upset with myself. I determined that I had jammed my forehead into the snow and mashed my thumb, but hadn’t broken anything. Upon putting myself back together, I discovered that I had cracked the lens of my goggles right down the middle. I really love those goggles. I recovered after a few minutes but was not very confident for some time after that. We stayed on 17 for several more runs, then, once it looked like the sky was clearing up a bit, tried going up the Schindlergratbahn again. Unfortunately it was just as icy as ever – only now with a thin layer of fresh powder on top!

We went into the Ulmerhütte at 12:30 for a nice long lunch – John had the Tiroler G’röstl (fried potatoes, smoked ham, and onion with a fried egg on top….healthy!) and I had their fabulous Käsespätzle, which tasted a bit like fondue, topped with crispy fried onions. We shared a table with a quiet German couple; once they left we were joined by four German-speaking kids who could have been Swiss, Austrian, or German, for all we could tell. They ordered coffee and apfelschorle (apple juice mixed with sparkling water); only one of them ordered anything to eat and I had a feeling they didn’t have much money to spend. John and I ordered hot chocolate and the kids stared wide-eyed when it was delivered to us in big mugs mounded with whipped cream. One of the boys asked me if it was good. I said yes and he said he would have gotten some but it was 4 Euro. The kids were very friendly and I had to laugh when one of them asked us point-blank why we spoke such good German.

After our lazy lunch we took run 17 several more times before calling it a day. The sun peeked through for a few seconds and all of a sudden I could see the topography again. We got back to the hotel at about 3:45, showered and cleaned up, and then went over to rent skis for me. I got the same K2 Motos as last year. John also took his skis in to be waxed and sharpened. The guy took one look at them, grimaced, and muttered “full service” under his breath, as if it wasn’t even a question. I guess we probably should have thought about servicing our skis before the trip.

Back in our room we watched various BBC and CNN special reports about the 4-year anniversary of the Iraq war. Bush made a speech and said it would be a mistake to “pack up and go home.” Meanwhile support for the war has dropped to 30-something percent, down from a high of 72% in 2003. Which reminds me, yesterday we saw an interview with Donald Trump and he said Bush was the worst president in history. I hate that guy but he isn’t afraid to speak his mind.

Dinner tonight had an Italian theme (we picked out an Italian wine to go with it, but I can’t remember what it was) and was unanimously delicious: Antipasti buffet (with every kind of roasted vegetable you can imagine, calamari salad with sundried tomatoes, fruit de mer salad, stuffed mushrooms, stuffed peperocini peppers, tomato & mozzarella salad, smoked mussels, goat cheese wrapped in proscuitto, olives, etc. etc.), cream of zucchini soup, the salad buffet, roasted pork medallions with gorgonzola cream sauce, steamed spinach, and creamy polenta, and strawberry mascarpone cream.

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