If you’re reading this then the chances are you’re a ski junkie. I had my first taste in Kitzbühel at the ripe old age of thirty-nine and I’ve been hooked ever since.
Artists sometimes suffer for their art. J M W Turner famously tied himself to a ship’s mast in a storm to capture the full force of nature.
Skiing hones the senses. Biting cold on exposed flesh; shadows thrown by late-afternoon winter sun; snowflakes swirling like shoals of silverfish; the profound silence after a fall of powder. The exquisite clarity of a newly-discovered vista.
To enter Ischgl is to enter another world, where time is manipulated and reality put firmly on ‘hold’.
Say Salzburg and you think the Sound of Music, but there’s far more to the region than following in the footsteps of the Von Trapp family.
Ischgl, at an altitude of 1377m, sits in the Paznaun Valley in the Tyrol and its ski area is the largest in the Alps.
“You’re not in Austria anymore!” chuckles Stefanie, my local Tourism guide, “This is Switzerland”.At my feet an invisible borderline runs atop the 2,760m Idjoch. Spread out below me like a scale-model in the crystal-clear air lie peaks and valleys as far as the eye can see. Behind me, Ischgl, my starting point in Austria.
Austria has long been a popular destination for British travellers, both in the winter for skiing and the summer for hiking. The Tyrol gets most of the action, but Carinthia, in the South East, is well worth a visit.
When the snow melts and the skiers head home, the Austrian Alps don’t just disappear. Some people prefer their mountains served green and pleasantly warm rather than chilled.
Along this track, as recently as the last century, young children, barely able to walk, were sent far away to Germany. Their parents couldn’t afford to feed them so, rather them seeing them die, they were despatched to work on large feudal estates. Some didn’t make it, frozen by the elements or eaten by wild animals, and most never returned.