Back from Germany

Well, I’ve been back from Germany about a month now. I should have updated earlier but have been busy with jobs and have also been slowly working through the photos from Germany (still haven’t done anything with the Taiwan photos from March). From a photographic point of view it wasn’t as productive as I’d hoped. I’ve been to Munich and therefore Germany over 20 times in the last 10 or so years, so it’s definitely a city in which I feel at home. The problem is, because I’ve seen it so many times, it has become too familiar and therefore the motivation to go out and create images is sometimes lacking.

In any case, KF and I met up with a few friends for skiing in the Zillertal region of Austria over the Easter long weekend. The weather offered perfect clear blue skies in the mid to high teens each day. Unfortunately the snow was a bit soggy below 2700 metres, but I guess that’s to be expected in the middle of April and one week from the end of the season.

Here are a few of us up on Penken at about 2100 m:

Thanks to Elisabeth for supplying most of these photos. Note to self: Get a better looking toque.

This was on the afternoon we arrived. Got up to the top at around 2 pm after visiting a rental shop that morning and by then the runs were all chewed up. For someone who skis only once in a while, it was a rough start in the heavy snow. If I recall, I ended up trading in the boots that first day because they were too loose and I had difficulty controlling the skis when turning. KF did the same thing after a few days too. Unfortunately she didn’t do it earlier and I think it had a negative impact on her overall enjoyment the first three ski days.

Here I am snapping pix of Elisabeth and Frode, meanwhile she got me in action. My camera of choice here is the Panasonic LX3. Yup, it’s a point and shoot, but a very nice one with a 24mm equivalent wide angle to start off the zoom, has tons of manual controls, shoots RAW as well as 720P video. The choice was between this and the Canon G11. I decided the extra coverage on the wide end would offset the meagre 2.6x zoom. Overall very, very pleased with it (it also survived a spill in the snow when I was shooting video while skiing and was cutoff by another skier..).

Elisabeth and Frode:

BTW, they flew in specially from Norway for the get together. They mentioned this winter was very good for snow there, so perhaps they were a bit disappointed with the snow in Austria. But while they were visiting it rained heavily in Norway and melted much of the snow, resulting in some serious flooding in some areas.

We’re up on the highest runs over at the Hintertuxer Gletscher (glacier) and that’s the Olperer peak at 3476 metres in the background. You can see the ski plan for Tux and Finkenberg here. Download the pdf to see the ski runs in better detail.

KF and I stuck to the easier blue runs most of the time, but to get to those we had to go down this fairly long and steep red run, which resulted in a few stops along the way and this photo op (you can kind of get a sense for how steep it was). At least here the snow was still frozen, which made skiing much easier than the previous day on Penken. Naturally it was much colder 1000 metres higher. As we discovered, taking a 30 minute free bus ride to Hintertux was the only option if we wanted relatively well groomed snow.

Here’s a nice view Elisabeth captured from the viewing platform above the gondola station at Gefrorene Wand (frozen wall) at 3250 m:

KF, Julia and I were at the same spot in June 2008 and there were people skiing then too, though it was definitely warmer and the snow was soft… For some reason I didn’t even think to head up to the platform this time around to grab photos of my own… I guess I just wanted to get skiing. Or the effort of moving around at 3000+ metres was too tiring.

Lunch was at the Gletscher-Hütte. Notice anything strange in the photo below?

Yeah… for a moment there I thought I was in Canada, not Austria. Never did figure that one out. BTW, the view here was very nice and the mountains in the distance are in Italy. Looking the other direction towards Innsbruck and the brown pollution haze was quite startling.

Overall I’d say the skiing was a mixed bag of experiences. There was some frustration with slightly ill fitting rental equipment combined with insufficient physical endurance for full days of skiing. I also made due with non-ski clothing. Generally that worked fine with a lightweight Gore-Tex shell and pants with fleece underneath. But I need to get longer socks as they were just long enough to stop right at the point where the boots pushed the hardest on my shins. After a few days my legs were quite sensitive there. And it added to the fatigue my out of shape legs felt after a couple hours each day. I think one of the mistakes was to ski a couple hours, break for lunch, then immediately start skiing again. I just never felt quite right after lunch. The last day was probably the best. We hit Penken early for a few hours until 1 pm, then headed back to where we were staying for an afternoon bbq. We were some of the first on the slopes and got to enjoy the smooth runs for a short while. By noon it was all chewed up as usual, so heading home at that point wasn’t a disappointment.

Compared to skiing the same slopes in January 2008, it was nice to have 15˚C on Penken and not freeze at night, but the quality of skiing certainly suffered. Julia didn’t seem to mind that as much, but I think I would take -15 winter weather with good snow over warmth and wet snow.