As I hit the “Confirm Purchase” tab on the airline website, my stomach wrenched in doubt. I had just purchased a roundtrip ticket from Durango to Zurich and there was no turning back. As I don’t live in a cave, I was well aware that Europe was having the worst winter on record. Not only had it been dry since January, the 2 week forecast didn’t look promising for the white stuff.
However, skiing in the Alps was still skiing in the Alps. Having been fortunate enough to ski in the Alps more than a dozen times, I had still never had a trip that wasn’t epic. Sure, I had had some sub-par trips for snow, but I had always managed to gorge myself on buttery pastries, good strong coffee and exceptional regional cuisine.
Our team (myself, Canadian photographer Henry Georgi, writer George Koch and fellow skier John Trousdale) all managed to arrive at roughly the same time in Zurich complete with all of our luggage. We crammed into our wagon and headed into the Austrian Alps.
Solden was the first port of call. I’d be lying if I said I was getting really excited for the skiing. As we entered Solden, it was apparent that it was nearly summer in the village. The valley was carpeted in lush green grass an
d the trees were well along their way to summer splendor. I knew it was a dry and warm season in the Alps, but now it was all very tangible.
Motivation was waning the first day, but that all changed quickly when we got a magic carpet ride for the first 6,000 vertical. As we exited the top cable car we were welcomed with an amazing view of the Alps.
Although the lift-served north facing slopes still had un-tracked snow, we needed to stretch out our jet-heavy legs so we A-framed the sticks and headed skyward. After a 30-minute climb, we topped out at the highest point in the neighborhood.
It had been more than a month since the last good snow and the region had been rocked with record warmth. But this is the Alps, and they do not disappoint. After our minimal effort, we were about to reap the bounty of nearly 6,500 vertical feet of un-tracked powder. The line started with some granite navigation and then dropped into a bowl well stocked with the white stuff. After 1,000 vertical we rolled into a tasty couloir of chalky white perfection that ate up some 2,000 vertical feet. The couloir exited onto an apron that eventually took us through a valley of huge rock spires and a lifetime worth of couloirs. Here it was, the worst winter ever and we were skiing un-tracked snow in perfect weather.
We eventually hit a piste that took us the rest of the way back to Solden. As we got closer to the valley floor the snow got thinner and we were eventually navigating a ribbon of white amidst a luscious carpet of grass. As we skied by summer chalets the flowers were already in bloom. We managed to ski right back to the base of the lift system. From town only a faint ribbon of snow was visible tumbling from the peaks above.
Who knew that this run started with powder? We did, and that’s why I’m booking my next ticket to Europe today!