With barely a day to spare, England was forgotten and replaced with the Alps.


I try my best to plan things in a less chaotic manner, but sometimes the best laid plans are always destined to fail. As it was, the ‘student retreat’ in Obergurgl had sat on my calendar for a lot longer than the emergency England trip. But sat it had, not really evolving into anything more than some approximate dates. As the time got closer, and one would expect the details to become clearer, they didn’t. Central European efficiency might be renowned for getting things done, but this particular variety of the trait seemed more interested in suspense that info.


The idea was to combine skiing with science, meetings and communication with pleasure and relaxation. The location was the excellent University centre in Obergurgl, high in the Eastern Tyrolean Alps, and only a stones throw from Italy.  The idea had first raised a warning shot in my mind when I took a closer look at the date of the said adventure. Ski season, in my mind lasted only until mountain biking is possible (whether or not Mountain Biking is a good idea is another question!) So, to be thinking of skiing in may was outside my normal snow sports comfort zone. Leaving the Innsbruck valley in glorious sunshine, with the radiance of spring really starting to show in the foliage of the trees, we climbed up into the öztal mountains, winding through villages that seemed to be exploding with colour. As we rose further into the mountains, the slopes faded from green to grey as the grass was replaced with rocks and melting snow. The clouds loomed ominously overhead, and as we approached the resort, I was hoping the drizzles of rain would at least turn into snow by the the time we got to the top. They didn’t.


It was probably a good thing that the weather didn’t agree entirely with the recreation plan, as it was much easier to settle into some scientific discussion whilst knowing it was raining outside. Even still, it was a releif to wake up the next morning to glorious cumulonimbus clouds hanging lazily between the peaks. Having not skied for a couple months, I was a little aprehensive as to whether I could keep up with the fanatical skiers I have as colleagues, but I got ready into my old, beat up ski gear, and headed to the lifts.


I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from spring skiing, as conflicting information said that either two or five lifts were running; seemingly little for a full days enjoyment. I shouldn’t have worried, as the lift system in Hochgurgl is massive, and the piste map belied the size of the area available. Another lovely finding was that the rain that kept us inside the day before had fallen as snow on the tops of the slopes, providing a light dusting of fresh stuff to keep us occupied.


The day was a success, and I managed to keep up with the natives pretty well. I suppose skiing must be a little like riding bikes, in that I don’t think I will ever forget how its done completely.