From snow chains ohje to snow chains olé!

With a degree in my pocket and courage in my heart, a luxurious change of scenery was settled on at the beginning of December 2017. I swapped beautiful, flat Lower Austria for the top ski area at the Katschberg. Why not – there were no pets or plants that would miss me at home. I am curious and looking for new challenges!

Six times greater height above sea level and a climate change in a class of its own

Before departure, my to-do list included unusual items such as “getting a sturdy ice scraper” or “looking for sturdy winter shoes with a good tread”. At the bottom of the list there was also a big item called “organising snow chains + dry run”. I admit it freely: a foreign word with an unpleasant aftertaste! My first session lasted about an hour and included a picnic blanket and the beginning of an intimate relationship between me and my car! After a good two months we are still in the getting to know you phase, but we are slowly warming up!

Well prepared, we set off towards Katschberg. My destination: the Falkensteiner Hotels Katschberg. Four federal states and 290 kilometres further on, the world looked quite different – hills turned into mountains and lush green turned into brilliant white. My expectations, based on Google Maps, were far exceeded!

Changing views

Once you have made it up the mountain, you are more than rewarded with breathtaking views in the sunshine. Even the ones from my office are not bad at all! Even if on some days there are only two possibilities: flickering white or a beautiful, sunny and far-reaching mountain panorama, depending on whether the sun manages to penetrate the thick cloud cover!

But even in gloomy times there is a lot going on. At night, when the hustle and bustle of the slopes is slowly coming to an end, I recommend a look out of the window. Instead of sheep, you can count snow groomers, diligently driving their cats to ensure daily skiing fun. Next to the view from my office on the fifth floor, my insider tip for a beautiful view is at the Gasthaus Bacher. From there you have a clear view in all directions, even below the opaque cloud cover – just try it out!

Am I still on holiday or am I already living here?

I have exchanged a commercial and industrial city for a top ski region and you can feel it in every corner. Tasteful and thoughtful architecture wherever you go. From the comfortable waterbeds with fascinating and extensive views in the relaxation room of the Hotel Cristallo to the lovingly decorated buffet variations in the Club Funimation and the playful attractions for children throughout the town. Grey and dreary is clearly a thing of the past.

The noise level is also different. My ears were used to hearing trains and motorways. Today I consciously listen to the silence and the rustle of the wind that travels between Aineck and Tschanek. I watch the wandering cumulus clouds tickled by the peaks.

Small necessities vs. big shopping fun

In spite of checklists and meticulous preparation, not everything necessary ends up in the suitcase. The things missing are mostly the little things, including contact lens fluid, plasters and screwdrivers. Inventive creativity to change the function of items you have with you finally peaks and then it is time to go shopping!

The holiday destination of Katschberghöhe does not sufficiently satisfy a full-blown wish to go shopping. The nearest option to counter such desires lies at the foot of the mountain. This also means that the shopping mood is closely linked to the actual weather and associated road conditions. The more complex a valley and mountain trip seems, the faster shopping fever disappears and also necessity shrinks surprisingly fast. I speak from experience when I say, “It’s worth the wait!” Because when the sun is shining brightly and the streets feel safe, you can also enjoy more of the surroundings.

If the weatherman predicts a longer snow period, shopping from the living room is an attractive alternative and usually even saves money!

A cheerful feeling even off the beaten track

It was on a trip to Villach that I first noticed I had already forgotten what apartment buildings look like and how crowded shopping centres can be. But above all it was the contrast between the behaviour of the people on the mountain and those in non-tourist areas that amazed me. On the mountain you meet open and courteous people who look you in the eye and wish you a good morning. Whereas in the city, for instance, I was lucky to be able to avoid a collision at the last second with my newly won slalom skills. I’ve never been so aware of those blinkers.

I have also learned to appreciate greatly the character trait of the people at the Katschberg when we were “snowed in”. Helping hands arrive surprisingly quickly. In situations in which the car is jiggled out of the parking space or when combined forces manage to dig four cars free, the good mood is not lost.

My conclusion: In some situations I yearn more to be at ground level and with familiar people who already know my secrets. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I am still enjoying my luxurious change of scenery to the full. Every day I look forward to meeting new personalities and growing with the challenges. Only those who leave the nest learn to fly!