It’s back to work after a week up in the mountains of Alto Adige, more specifically Val Passiria just north of the gorgeous city of Merano. It’s the first time in a long while I checked out almost entirely of work, something that does not come nearly as natural to me as my decadent European counterparts—but I am learning. The region has been getting tons of snow, so we took advantage of that fact and headed up north for our first full-blown family ski trip. Alto Adige (or Südtirol) is a gorgeous province, and of particular interest because it is a border region with a distinct culture that only became part of Italy 100 years ago following the fall of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire after World War I. Each valley has its own distinct dialect, and German is the first language for most of the region’s residents. One of the towns we visited, Comune di San Leonardo in Passiria, has the following linguistic distribution amongst its 4000 inhabitants according to the 2011 census: “98.83% of the population speak German, 1.05% Italian and 0.12% Ladin as [their] first language.” In fact, Val Passiria has a long history of actively challenging its ties to Italy, and various political groups have formed to push for anything from more regional independence to secession from Italy and reunification with Austria.
So, while you’re still technically in Italy when you go to Alto Adige, it is in many ways a different country. What’s more, there is definitely some low-key competition between the Trentini and Alto-Adigians (?) regarding which region is better equipped for tourists (a common dinner conversation), which region has the better hikes, the more spectacular Dolemites, etc. I love Trentino dearly, but Alto Adige usually fairs better during these conversations and that’s even before someone brings up the
nudist naturalist spa culture in Alto Adige 🙂 But I am pretty far afield already, so let me try and rein this post in.
We spent 5 days in Val Passiria to enjoy some skiing and snowboarding, as well as some hiking. The first day we went to Pfelders/Plan which is at the northern end of Val Passiria pushing uncomfortably close to the border of Austria. This was the first day Tommy and Miles would be trying out snowboarding, and unfortunately there were no lessons available. They all got introduced to skiing last year, and took to it quick. Tess decided to stay with skiing this year whereas Miles and Tommy made the jump to snowboarding. Unfortunately, due to the shortage of snowboarding instructors, they were stuck with me as their teacher. I failed day 1 pretty bad.
The above image is the only one I took that day, and it was captured during an afternoon snack of toast with those two troopers. They spent the previous four hours trying out snowboarding for the first time. More pricks than kicks, I’m afraid. While Antonella and Tess were tearing up the slopes, the 3 Groom stooges were rolling down the bunny hill in prime form 🙂 Luckily we had friends with us, namely Giorgio, Claudia, and Ruggiero, who were able to help Tommaso use the between-the-legs ski-lift, which proved a major stumbling block. After the first day I was pretty dejected. Miles had a horrible headache, Tommy wanted to go back to skiing, and I was convinced I had beaten the unparalleled joy of snowboarding out of them by throwing them into it headlong. I was truly out of sorts as a result.
The following day we took a break from skiing and decided to take a hike near Pfelders/Plan above a town called Moos (in German) or Moso (in Italian) —not sure what the English would be 🙂 We planned to hike up to a Malga which was at 2012 meters, and while the kids hitched a ride with Giorgio, Antonella and I hiked up from 1300 meters. It took us a bit over an hour, and the hike may have been the most beautiful I have taken to date. The landscape was dreamlike covered in deep snow with a storm pending. There was a blissful silence to the place, and everything was snow white.
I took a series of photos on the walk up, and the landscape and weather conditions actually made taking a decent photo pretty easy. It was a storybook setting.
By the time we got to 2000 meters it was snowing pretty intensely, it was basically white-out conditions for the last half mile to the Malga.
Here is a photo our friend Giorgio took of us walking up:
The Egger-Grub-Alm Malga was our lunch destination, and it was picturesque.
And inside it was small, cozy, and warm as the snow outside got to almost blizzard conditions (over a meter of snow feel in that area over that week) and we ate what was definitely the best meal I have had at a Malga yet. The spiegeleier was to die for.
The walk down was during a fullblown snowstorm, and it was too deep for decent sledding, which was part of the plan:
This hike was amazing, but getting the cars off the mountain was precarious. The upside was I finally got a chance to see how chains work and no one died during the daring escape from snow mountain. The trip was getting back on track, and despite the snow which continued throughout the next day, we headed to Merano 2000—a ski resort right above Merano. It was a Thursday so it was relatively empty and the snow was falling regularly. We got to the top of the mountain around 11 AM, and it was paradise. Fresh powder, few people, and an easy slope to revisit my attempts to show Miles and Tommy how to snowboard given there were no lessons available yet again. Day 2 was much better, there were still a lot of falls, but we had time and space to work through them, and the lift back up was a full-on cabinovia which made the ski lift anxiety far less an issue for Tommy.
It was awesome, single best day of snowboarding I ever had. Spent hours with Tommaso and Miles trying to get them comfortable on their boards, and they were starting to get it. Still had much to learn, but they were beginning to get serpentine in the snow. And by the end of the day they were beat up, but the joy far outweighed the pain—unlike day 1. I really did not get too many photos of Miles and Tommy (and none of Tessy given I couldn’t keep up with her) on the mountain, but I did share a ride back up the mountain with Miles where we had a little chat about by snowboarding exploits in the 1980s. It provide some insight into my meticulous parenting style:
Like I say in the video, there was a moment during the day when Tommy, Miles and I were all upright and moving down the mountain while the fresh powder was falling out of the sky, it was pure heaven. Few moments in my dubious parenting career have been more glorious. I think I might have even been singing “White Lines” at one point.
We went back to Merano 2000 the following day, and got there right in time for the first lift up to the top of the mountain. Miles and Tommy finally got a lesson, and Anto, Tess, and I took advantage and took a few runs down the mountain before the crowds arrived. It was phenomenal.
And the dumping of snow the previous day meant the morning was gorgeous with ample snow everywhere:
We lasted a bit longer after a solid lunch spot that you could only get to through skiing or hiking:
I always wanted to go on a snowboarding trip to decent mountain when I was a teenager, but it was all but impossible both logistically (I lived on Long Island) and financially (I was part of a family of seven and the only trips we took were to McDonalds). But finally being able to do it, I was quickly reminded how much I enjoy snowboarding—it may be one of the coolest things ever invented, and I live in a part of the world where my kids and I can actually do it regularly 5 or 6 months a year. I want to do it a lot more, in fact there were a few moments I began daydreaming about becoming a snowboard bum and moving up to a cabin in Alto Adige for the winter. Not all that practical, but why the hell not? How long do I really have anyway? What better then to spend it doing something wherein you feel totally free.
Regardless, I was never really tired all four days from the activity, which does reinforce the fact that the regularly hiking all year really paid off. I felt like I was in fairly decent shape, and that gave me the patience to not only try and show Tommy and Miles how to snowboard, but reminded me that with a little time and effort I can still do some of this stuff.