Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Five signs you don't know when to quit the piste

I'm writing from Obergurgl, a village so lovely I feel like I'm inside a snowglobe. Tiny Obergurgl only has a few hundred inhabitants but as the highest parish in Austria (topping in at 1930m) winter sports fans flock here. The high altitude brings dramatic weather, with snow storms that can bring total whiteout or blow a snowboard straight off the cable car.

With the phenomenal snow quality here, it can be hard to admit to yourself when it's time to stow the skis and sit out the storm. Don't be the only idiot on the piste when Mother Nature is trying to blast you off a cliff face. Here are five signs your snow addiction is getting the better of you.

1. The ski boot rack is full


Shh, they're sleeping. Full boot rack means you're either an early riser or do-or-die snowhead.
Image © Anita Isalska

The lifts opened half an hour ago and yours is the only pair of boots missing from the rack. There's your first clue you're the only nutbag to head out in heavy wind and thick snow. But hey, the ski lifts are running, how bad can it be?

2. The ski lifts are empty


An empty ski lift. Functioning only because the lift operator is snowed in to his cabin (maybe).
Image © Anita Isalska

The mysterious lack of skis dangling from chair lifts means down in the village, all the sensible folk are watching whipped cream slowly dissolve into their mugs of hot chocolate. More fool them: you have an empty piste to enjoy, and the screaming wind adds a certain intensity when you're skiing those moguls.

3. That usually bustling mountain-top cafe is empty


Who needs friends when you have a piste map? Image © Anita Isalska

The cafe owner nearly spits out his schnapps when you stagger through the door, clad in a thick frosting of snow. No fighting for a table today, though you might have to persuade someone to get the chip fryer going.

4. You can't tell where sky ends and snow begins


Stopping for a selfie in a whiteout: great way to lose your camera.
Image © Anita Isalska

In a whiteout, difficulty seeing contours in the snow is the least of your problems. Cloud and snow meet, those craggy mountain vistas are blanked from view, and piste markers even 10 feet away are hard to spot. It really might be time to seek out that hot chocolate.

5. You're eating a lot of snow


I'm totally fine yeah, I actually meant to fall like this. Image © Anita Isalska
No visibility, swirling snowstorm and now a face full of powder. It might be early, but it's time to call it quits and take your tales of survival to the apres-ski hut. Hey, there's always tomorrow.

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