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Love in the Mountains: Elena & Mario

Updated on 13.02.2023 in People

Every year people from around the world fall in love with the mountains and culture of Tirol – and some even fall in love with a local. We asked international couples about the role the mountains have played in their relationship.

Elena Barbist and Mario Käppeli love each other and the mountains of Tirol. Mario, who originally comes from Switzerland, appreciates the Innsbruck lifestyle – and the fact that there is always someone who has time to go climbing.
Elena Barbist and Mario Käppeli love each other and the mountains of Tirol. Mario, who originally comes from Switzerland, appreciates the Innsbruck lifestyle – and the fact that there is always someone who has time to go climbing.

A shared understanding of work-life balance

Without the mountains Mario Käppeli, 32, and Elena Barbist, 20, would have probably never met. Three years after their first climbing date, the couple - a student and a former professional snowboarder - still spend most of their time exploring the mountains around Innsbruck.

Mario: Two years ago I was working part-time in a snowboard shop. All of a sudden, Elena came in.

Elena: I actually went there to buy a present for my boyfriend at the time!

I found out her name through others who worked in the shop. At some point we arranged to go climbing in Telfs. That was the perfect first date for both of us.

After that, I went to Sri Lanka for a month. We had time to reflect and realised how much we liked each other.

When Elena came back, we went skiing together. We spent as much time as possible in the mountains.

As a child, I was always climbing, mountaineering or skiing. As I grew up, I started to go less and less, but through Mario I rediscovered my love for mountain sports. The many sunrises and sunsets we experienced together on different peaks created a bond between us.

That's also the reason why I like living in Innsbruck so much. In Switzerland everyone works all the time, putting money aside without really knowing what it's for. In Innsbruck, people work so much that they can make ends meet - and the rest of the time they spend in the mountains.

Part of that is that Innsbruck is a very young city. All the students want to study here because they can go skiing before their lectures.

True. In Innsbruck people are always up for doing something in the mountains. It has never happened to me that I wanted to do a ski tour or go climbing and no one had time to join me. Things are different in Switzerland.

Because people in Innsbruck are out and about in the mountains so much, they also have a great affinity with nature. I have the feeling that people here pay special attention to the environment.

Mario & Elena

Since I've been with Elena, I pay much more attention to protecting the environment. We also follow a vegetarian diet. It was difficult for me to give up eating meat. There were certain meat dishes I tasted for the first time here in Tirol and really liked, so it was tough having to stop.

Love in the Mountains

This article is part of the series "Love in the Mountains". In talk to couples living in Tirol. One of them is a local, one comes from another part of the world.

And I've adopted the Swiss dialect from you a bit. At the beginning, I did it for fun because I think some words sound so cute in Swiss German. But now I automatically say "Natel" instead of "Handy" (mobile phone).

I also wanted to learn Tirolean dialect. The result is that for the Swiss think I am no longer one of them, but the Tyroleans can't work out where I am from either. Many think that I am from Vorarlberg, the province in Austria between Tirol and Switzerland!

One thing that hasn't changed is Mario's love of cheese. If he is typical for people in Switzerland then it really isn't a cliché that the Swiss love their cheese.

Wolfgang Westermeier rides to the office every morning. On the weekends he likes nothing more than trying out new sports in the mountains – from hot-balloon rides in winter to trailrunning races in summer.

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