Skiing in Meran, (Merano) Italy

The third millenium was upon us this new year's eve, no y2k scare, no antichrist scare, no scare at all......well, we'll see about that one.....
So we decide to celebrate the arrival in typical european fashion, and arranged to go spend the week end in Merano, Italy. A cosy cozy chalet, halfway up the ski hill was to be our accomodations. We didn't send our ususal newsletter writer, because he always complains and wouldn't have appreciated the nice surroundings.

The drive from Vienna, our homebase, usually takes about 6 1/2 hours, a snowstorm was brewing in the area of Salzburg and we therefore took more than 8 hours to make it to the base of the mountain. We had been promised that the lifts would be open until the wee hours of the morning, but due to the storm, we had to crawl our way halfway up the mountain. The fresh fluffy white stuff that had just slowed down our drive here was once again slowing the approach to our goal as we sank knee deep with every step we took (sorry Sting...), our back aching under the heavy loads of gear (alcohol, for the festive time that was upon us). After half the night of dragging ourselves, clawing with feet hands and teeth, we managed to make it to our chalet.

As we reached the door, the earlier arrivals greeted us with a sight of relief saying:
"Glad you could make it, we're running out of beer"
and relieved us of our packs, only to retreive the precious cans we had hauled up all night.
This being Christmas time, a time of forgiving and sharing, we didn't get pissed and managed to steal back a few cans from them to finish the long, exhausting night.

Morning, saw us rise with sore backs, legs and heads from exercises of the previous night, but our aches were soon forgotten as we were greeted with a perfect blue sky, a bright smiley sun and an incredible view out the front door.(Click to enlarge)

It did not take us very long to get in our gear and go down to get our lift tickets. After getting lost, going to the wrong lift and having to hike up back to the correct one (disadvantages of staying on the hill), we went to pay for the lift tickets and found out that there were no bank machines anywhere near. Good thing that some of our group are thinking people, and, after changing some money at a hotel, we got our tickets and rode on.

The lower part of the hill is not challenging and crowded with ski schools, so we headed to the higher, alpine terrain that is not visible from the bottom and were met with wide open areas and, most important of all, barely tracked fresh snow.

(this picture taken from above the actual ski area, click to enlarge)

It seems that people there do not ski too much out of bounds as the small, but good, powder bowl (the other bolws had had the snow blown out by the wind) wasn't tracked out at the end of the day. All in all, a good day and good snow.

New Year's eve:
The lifts were promised to be opened until 02h00 and, promise was kept, all through the evening as we ate, drank and became merry, we went for a run or 2 in between to refresh our minds. Midnight and the coming of the new millenium approached, no fear of y2k and other similar horrors distrubed the fun. The ski hill itself seemed to be a big part of the festivities, as residents and visitors from the town below came up the lift, or by foot, dragging sleds behind them, only to carreen back down at incredible speeds, seemingly out of control, but as they approached corners and other dangers, fully able to avoid anything or anyone in their paths.

Suddenly, an explosion in the sky, red, then blue, then green, the sky was illuminated from all sides, the sound of the explosions and people screaming making believe that, indeed, an alien invasion was taking place. A quick return to reality made me realise that the source of all the exitement were the village belles( or should it be "bells" or both...) ringing in the new year and the celebrants celebrating. (i'm sure "celebrants" is not a real name, but i'm french, so i can do whatever i want...)

Well, since we're on the subject of skiing, let's just say the night was good, not destructive like in certain places in NA (do i hear Whistler??) and we went to bed relatively early (03h00) as the next morning we were taking advantage of the lack of crowds to go touring a bit....

An hour's hike from the highest lift got us to the top of the middle peak in the first picture and, it had been barely tracked in the past 2 days. We picked a line close to the ridge (leaving enough room for seconds...) and ripped the face open, and was so good we went for some more.

All in all it was a good week end, the ski area is not as big as some of the most famous ones, the vertical not incredible, but the snow was good, the terrain is varied and it took forever to get tracked, so in the end we probably got a s much powder as anywhere else. We will definitively return. For more info, visit the Meran2000 web site