LifestyleOvercoming fears and finding euphoria: a beginner's guide to skiing in Tyrolean Austria

Overcoming fears and finding euphoria: a beginner's guide to skiing in Tyrolean Austria

In Tyrol, there are excellent conditions also for beginners.
In Tyrol, there are excellent conditions also for beginners.
Images source: © "WP Tourism" | Magda Bukowska

12:09 PM EST, January 22, 2024

Admittedly, I was overwhelmed with a mix of fear, spikes of euphoria, and bouts of mild panic. I quickly found that the ski trail heights of the Stubai and Hintertux glaciers, where I planned to ski, ranged from roughly 4921 to 10663 feet. High indeed!

As I searched online and looked at photos, my admiration battled my terror. To my concerns, I received one reply: the glaciers in Tyrolean Austria are ideal for learning to ski. There were dedicated areas for beginners and, once I cultivated more confidence, I could look forward to long, safe trails. Furthermore, multi-lingual instructors were available on-site. My requirements were minimal: I was no linguist and hoped I wouldn't have to communicate in German, but instead, in a language they patiently understood.

Suffice to say, the reality for beginners in Tyrol was much friendlier than I had anticipated. Right from the first step at the equipment rental, through the lift operation, the numerous instructors, to the preparation of the trails and slope etiquette, everything exceeded my expectations. All I needed to concentrate on was the instructor who on the first day decided I was ready to venture beyond the learner's area and onto a proper trail. After that milestone, pure skiing bliss followed!

Not just for skiers

Of course, I had a Plan B in case I didn't fall in love with skiing. Besides, I enjoy variety, so I was also looking forward to exploring non-skiing attractions in a region I was visiting for the first time. Skiing was so enjoyable that it consumed most of my four days in Tyrol, but I also managed to make time for other delights such as dining, relaxing at the hotel, and discovering the beauty of Tyrolean nature.

I was short on time, but I knew there was one place I absolutely had to see - the Ice Palace Natur Eis Palast near the Gefrorene Wand viewpoint (at an altitude of 10663 feet) on the Hintertux Glacier. The entrance to this icy kingdom is deceptively modest, hidden by unappealing doors concealed within a thick layer of snow on the glacier slope. However, what lay behind the doors was truly spectacular. Magnificent ice formations beautifully illuminated by colored lights, narrow icy corridors and a glacial lake, which you can cross in a small boat, created a breathtaking scene.

The narrations of the guides, including natural glacial fissure discoverer Roman Erler, and the realization that 30 meters above me, skiers were on their way, added to the magic.

Tyrolean cuisine

Between skiing and sightseeing, sustenance was necessary. I knew little about the region's cuisine before the trip. I never imagined that food was such a significant part of life in this part of Austria. Meal times surprised me as they lasted as long as Christmas Eve dinners. Each group, whether family or friends, spent hours at the table.

Dining appeared to be a cherished ritual. Course after course arrived at the table (sometimes presented so beautifully it was breathtaking), local wine was poured generously, conversations flowed, and laughter filled the room. After a full day on the slopes, dinner was the second major event of the day.

The food itself proved to be an experience. It was apparent that local restaurateurs prioritized local, seasonal products. The menu usually boasted traditional regional dishes such as delicious broth with dumplings, dumplings filled with cheese, spinach or speck - the local version of smoked ham. Apart from dumplings, other classic dishes included spaetzle and meats, such as Tiroler Gröstl casserole.

The options were seemingly endless, and my four-day visit was too short to discover even half of the local delicacies.

Tyrolean seasons

During my visit, the mountain stations were capped with thick snow, unlike anything I've experienced in Poland in years. Curious as to when was the best time to return to avoid the crowds, locals, Tyrolean instructors, and experienced skiers advised me that there were periods in the skiing season when the slopes were less crowded, ski passes were cheaper, and accommodation prices were reduced. Both January and March usually see lower visitor numbers. But the ultimate experience, according to these experts, is spending the May long weekend on a glacier in Tyrolean Austria. Some resorts even offer summer skiing, although many people trade their skis for a bicycle during this season.

The more adventurous visitors also try paragliding, another one of Tyrol's attractions. I didn't get to experience it in winter, but I'm definitely planning to return in summer to appreciate the majestic landscape from a new perspective and in a different season.

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