Free Falling – Four Teenagers on their First Ski Holiday
TEXT: TANYA FALENCYK & JÖRG KOOPMANN
Welcome to Tirol! A first look at the resort from the top of the ski lifts.
What do the mountains of Tirol feel like when you come from a place more than 1,000 kilometres north, just a few metres above sea level? Sisters Asta (18) and Hannah (14) from Copenhagen wanted to finally go skiing in the winter school holidays, which despite the lack of mountains in Denmark are still known as "ski holidays" in Danish. The two sisters had already tried skiing once, four years ago. Since then they have been dreaming of doing a real ski course in the real mountains. Together with their friends Albert (18) and Linnea (14) they took the train to Innsbruck. After one change of train in Hamburg, then another in Munich, they found finally themselves in the heart of the Tirolean Alps.
Your journey from Denmark to Austria lasted a total of sixteen hours. What was it like travelling from Copenhagen to Innsbruck?
Linnea: I have never been on a train for so long.
Albert: We had wireless internet on all the trains and brought along plenty of films to watch, so it didn’t actually feel that long.
Asta: And it was a great experience to arrive in Innsbruck at night and to see the mountains out of our window the next morning.
Albert: I was glad that we travelled from Innsbruck to Munich during the day on our way home – otherwise we would not have seen how quickly the landscape changes as you head out of Austria and into Germany.
The tallest mountain in Denmark, the Himmelberg, is 147 metres high. The bottom of the ski lifts in the Axamer Lizum resort is at over 1,500 metres above sea level. Did you immediately feel the difference?
Hannah: The mountains were higher than the sky. I felt so small.
Linnea: When we stood at the bottom of the ski lifts for the first time, Hannah and I first had to lie down in the snow and gather our thoughts. It was all so exciting.
High in the sky: The mountains around Innsbruck appeared to Hannah "higher than the sky".
Linnea, 14 years old, travels up on the funicular railway for the first time.
Heavenly: No winter holiday in Tirol would be complete without a snow angel!
You spent your first hour on skis on the flat beginners' slope. How did it go?
Hannah: I heard that they call this place "Idiot Hill". That may be true, but I still found it pretty difficult!
Albert: The start was terrible: the helmet, the boots – you feel like you're in concrete! I could hardly move and was so busy getting used to this strange feeling that I couldn't even listen to our ski instructor properly.
How did you get along with your ski instructor Christian?
Albert: Everything he said in the first lesson sounded more like a physics lesson than sport to me: angling, radius, friction, acceleration, centre of gravity. Then he made me do this embarrassing weight-shifting exercise known as the "Superman".
Asta: I was glad he kept you busy with all that kids’ stuff. It gave me the feeling that I was already much better!
Albert: I have to say I was really glad that Christian was there, especially on the steeper slopes. He was a nice guy and good instructor – even if he looked more like a surfer than a ski instructor.
Applied physics: Radius, friction, angling – skiing is physics in action.
Hannah, Linnea and Asta, did you benefit from already having a little bit of skiing experience?
Asta: After the first turns I remembered all the movements. From then on I found it easier to deal with the coordination side of things.
Hannah: I was shaking quite a bit. But that was probably also because Linnea and I were giggling the whole time.
Were you afraid when you stood at the top of a slope for the first time?
Albert: I had quite a lot of respect for the sport – two of my classmates came back from last year's ski holidays with plaster casts on their arms. But they are also total posers – I guess they must have exaggerated.
Hannah: It was a bit foggy on our first descent. I actually just followed Christian's flashy jacket and luckily I didn't see how high and steep it was around us.
Linnea: To be honest, I was really looking forward to the challenge and the speed.
Asta: You're almost as crazy as those Austrian toddlers who whizz down the slopes. Totally fearless. They probably learn to ski before they learn to walk.
Meal with a view: Getting in the calories was more important at lunchtime than enjoying the views.
Some people ski for the landscape, others love the thrill and the adrenaline. What is more important to you?
Linnea: When I go downhill I concentrate totally on the sporting side of things. But when I stop and take a deep breath, I have time to notice the incredible landscape around me again.
Asta: Even on Idiot Hill I couldn't really pay attention to the landscape, although it was really spectacular. With a little practice it will become easier.
You stayed in the village of Götzens. How did you like the location?
Hannah: On the bus ride back home we could see the whole Inn Valley in the evening light. Linnea and I fell asleep after the third bend in the road...
Asta: I always had to wake you up after 15 minutes so that we wouldn't miss our stop next to the village church.
Linnea: We stayed at the Lenerhof. Every morning the sun woke us up through the window. The breakfast eggs even had a few feathers still attached! I guess the farm which runs the holiday flats also has its own chickens.
Hannah: Yes, definitely. A rooster woke me up every morning.
Albert: The kitchen in the flat was so big that we could always cook together. We also had dinner in the village and in Innsbruck. The Indian restaurant there was really great.
Linnea: The only thing we didn't make ourselves was Kaiserschmarrn. I definitely want to try it next time.
Rise and shine: Hannah, Asta, Linnea and Albert (from left to right) were woken each morning by the local rooster at the Lenerhof farm.
Life in the valley: There was just about enough snow in Götzens to make a decent snowman.
How did you like it in Innsbruck?
Asta: I was surprised how big the city is. But on my second visit I already recognised a few places where we had been first time around. The feeling of being in a city surrounded by mountains is totally crazy.
Albert: The narrow streets, the pastel colours and the romantic atmosphere reminded me of a Mediterranean city.
Linnea: There were old carvings on many of the buildings. Innsbruck felt like a very historic place.
Asta: After three days of skiing I was totally exhausted and very grateful for the break in the city. One evening we even went to a few bars in Innsbruck. I liked the mixture of ski trip and city break.
At the end of your trip you even dared to go on a blue slope leading from the top of the resort all the way down to the bottom. The top of the resort is at 2,340 metres – 800 vertical metres above "Idiot Hill". Was that long run something you were keen to do before your holiday came to an end?
Linnea: I found it really exciting. I could even feel my ears pop as I rode the funicular up to the top of the resort.
Albert: As I stood there with Asta and looked down the slope, all the way into the Inn Valley, it felt a bit like that moment at the top of a rollercoaster when you are about to go into freefall.
Asta: The run is three kilometres long – that’s longer than our walk to school back home in Copenhagen!
Linnea: Christian said it would take us about half an hour to ski down. And he also told us that a German racer, Rosi Mittermaier, won Olympic gold here on this slope in a time of 1:46:16 minutes. That’s impossible!
Albert: After about half an hour we were all safely down at the bottom. That was a great feeling.
Hannah: All the way down we repeated our magic spell, which sounds like something out of a Harry Potter film: "Axamer Lizum, Axamer Lizum, Axamer Lizum."