Big ol' Bolzano
Written by Peyton February 24, 2014
I woke up bright and early at 4:45am Saturday morning, showered, packed my backpack, caught the 5:30am taxi and jumped on the train to Bolzano. I slept during the 3 hour train ride, but I couldn’t help but to peek open my eyes every so often to see the skyscraping mountains fly past my window. Once we got off the train, we got a taxi to drive us 30 minutes away to where our hotel was. The drive was a steep incline, zigzagging up the mountains, with switchbacks that had you holding onto your seat so you wouldn’t fly off the edge. There was a blanket of snow covering the ground, which was a great sign as we were on our way to go skiing. As we drove, I gazed at the terraces of vineyards that scaled along the slopes of the Dolomite Mountains. Though the utter beauty of northern Italy was not what was making our jaws drop. I just traveled to a German town that was a 30-minute drive from Austria but still in Italy? The architecture had a strong Austrian influence, the street signs were marked in German, but nevertheless I was reminded that I was still in Italy as we passed vineyards and Fiats.
We finally arrived at our hotel, Sporthotel Spögler, inthe quaint town of Klobenstein (does it sound like I was still in Italy?). We were very excited because this hotel was elaborately decorated in homey furnishings and ornate woodwork, all with a German-Austrian twist. We were greeted by the most friendly hotel staff, and were immediately offered a drive to the ski resort after we changed clothes. We took them up on it, made our way to the resort, rented gear, and hopped on the gondola. Let me warn you: I have only skied once and snowboarded once, so I’m not the best on the mountain by any means. I decided to snowboard this time, and felt pretty confident in my abilities since I had just learned only recently. That means I’ll do better… right?
The list of unfortunate events follows:
- Got off the gondola.
- Strapped my boots into my bindings.
- Realized that as I was sitting on the ground, the clasp to the zipper of my coat froze.
- Got the genius idea to slide my credit card though the clasp to remove the ice.
- All ready to go. Stand up. Got my confidence back.
- Realized I am sitting on the top of the mountain all by myself; the boys didn’t want to wait. But you know what? It’s okay. I’m fired up; ready to go snowboard down this beautiful mountain. I will warm up on my own and then impress them with my boarding abilities once I find them.
- Look at the signs- cant read them. They’re in German. No trail map either. One sign points down in words written in black, the other pointing to the left in blue. I decide to take the blue run. (Keep in mind the mountain is up in a windy cloud and visibility cuts off at about 10 feet in front of me).
- As I make my way to the direction that the blue arrow points, I start to sink. I realize the snow is not groomed; I guess either this trail doesn’t exist or I can’t follow German signs. I keep sinking. I try to lift my legs up. I sink more. I get “Crazy American” looks as people ski past me. I unhook my bindings, army crawl out of the hole, and grab my board.
- I make my way to the other run, put my board on, give myself a little pep talk, and begin to make my way down the mountain. I gain my confidence back yet again as I remember how to turn and lean on my board. I begin to catch speed as I go down the hills, feeling pretty cool.
- I make it to a really steep hill. This is the steepest run I’ve ever seen. Why is this happening on my first run of the day? Is this why the words on the sign were black instead of blue? I can do this and don’t really have any other options because I am by myself and don’t speak an ounce of German. I begin to make my way down, turning really sharp so that I can control my board and not fall. I’m not going to fall, I’m not going to fall. I start turning right, my board catches an edge, BAM I fall. Whatever, I’ve fallen before, I’m just going to get right back up and finish this hill. I try to stand up but I can’t because the hill is so steep that I uncontrollably slide on my butt all the way down the rest of the hill. Its chill- everyone has embarrassing ski stories. At least I am by myself. No one even saw me. I get back up and regain strength hoping to make it back to the gondola to meet up with the guys.
- I go a little further, and come to the end of the run. This run does not take you all the way down the mountain; instead, you must go up another lift to the top, where you take a different trail all the way down. I just want to find my group.
- The man operating the lift only spoke German and had no trail maps. The only thing he motioned to me is that I had to go up. So again, I went to the top of the mountain.
- I found a trail going the other direction, and decided “what the heck” because I’d already exhausted my other options. Trial and error. I began down the trail and it was super easy. I wasn’t scared of being on my own because I knew I’d find the guys eventually. Through a complicated day of miniature disasters, I realized that those are the moments that I will never forget and are what makes for great stories when I get home.
- I took this time to just soak up the most beautiful view of mountains I’ve ever seen. At that moment, I knew I was never going to be able to fully describe the scenery to family and friends when I got home. I had no way of taking pictures because my phone was dead, but it was a view I will cherish for the rest of my life. The Dolomites were truly breath-taking.
- About 30 minutes later, I heard a familiar whistle behind me and knew it was Scott before I even turned around. We snowboarded down the mountain and met up with the rest of the gang.
The rest of the day on the mountain was filled with weinerschnitzel, friends, snowboarding and a good time. We stayed together the rest of the day. We went back to the hotel, took a nap and then had a delicious 4 course German meal at the hotel. We stayed for a few drinks and then asked our friend Kai at the front desk what there is to do at night. He directed us to a 15-minute walk to downtown Klobenstein where a British band was playing at one of the local bars. We sat on the patio and relaxed, enjoyed a few German beers and called it a night.
On Sunday, we woke up and made it back to the slopes. Once we got to the top of the gondola, we realized why there were no crowds that day: there was a white out. I couldn’t see 4 feet in front of me which made it hard to read signs, see people in front of me or even the banks and drop-offs on the side of the trails. Just imagine the anxiety that was going through my head after the struggles I experienced the day before. I am not about to blindly slide on my butt all the way down this mountain. I decided to just think positively and keep my head up as we began to make our way, but its hard to keep your head up when you only see a white abyss ahead. We started down slowly, staying close to make sure we all were together and safe. The trails began to look familiar from doing them the day before, so it got a bit easier. Being only the 3rd time in my life to ever even be on a mountain, I realized I accomplished enough crazy feats for the weekend. Me and my friend Harry took the gondola up and hung out at the restaurant and drank while the rest of the guys went down the runs a few times. They were obviously a lot more experienced than me and Harry. They had memorized the trails and were catching a lot of speed down the mountains as they followed closely in each other’s paths. When they were done they met us back at the restaurant and were all grinning from ear-to-ear. Im so glad I took a break for two reasons: one being that if I had gone with them I would have held them back and slowed them down, and two I wouldn’t know how to make it to a German speaking Italian hospital if I had gone down that mountain blindly. I have a lot of experience to gain before I go through a white out again.