St Anton am Arlberg

The spectator sport of drunk skiers

OK. St Anton am Arblerg round 2. Here we go.

We arrived in Zurich, Switzerland sometime on Sunday and I was greeted with a very serious immigration officer. It seems like immigration officers have been looking at my passport and travel history in a bit more detail as of late and I understand why.

In the past nine days, my passport has been stamped in Los Angeles, London and Switzerland and the London stamp was done earlier in the day which meant I left Heathrow airport which would seem a bit unusual on the surface since I had flown all the way from Los Angeles. I have an American passport and I believe the officer assumed that I had a connecting flight (no stamp given for connecting flights through the UK) and then saw the stamp in London and was like, “OK, hold on. We’ve got a drug mule on our hands”.

She flipped through every single page of my passport (which contains triple the number of pages as a standard passport) and then started asking me questions like why I was in London and how long I was staying in Switzerland. I explained that I live in London and I was staying in Austria, not Switzerland. She stared at me and flipped through my passport again and then stared at me and flipped through my passport some more and five minutes later stamped my passport and allowed me through the gate.

When we finally arrived in St. Anton am Arlberg, Austria, we were tired and depressed because there was very little snow on the streets which is a direct correlation to how much snow is on the mountain. We forged ahead with our ski plans and picked up our brand new rental skis Monday morning and hit the slopes.

I had a panic attack about seven feet down the first run because the balls of my feet were cramping and my ski boots were slightly too small. Looking back, I was completely dehydrated and wasn’t dealing with the altitude change and, well, had just finished traveling halfway across the globe – from Kauai, Hawaii to Austria. I was in complete shambles and the worst part about it was that in order to get back to the rental shop, I had to ski down various runs which would take upwards of an hour.

Skiing was much more difficult for me this year than it was last year. I was not fit enough to be skiing this year. Downhill skiing is an incredibly physical sport and I should have been doing wall squats all day, every day to prepare for the trip. On the last day of our trip I told Peter that I had fallen out of love with downhill skiing but I don’t think that’s necessarily true. Had I been in better physical shape, skiing would have been easier and more fun and less “My legs are like Jell-O and this is a lot of work and I never want to do this again because it feels like hell”.

Due to the lack of snow and me having no desire to ski, I only skied three half-days out of five days. Peter skied four out of five days. Unlike Peter, I did not lose my iPhone somewhere on the mountain.

Below are two photos of the mountain which clearly show the depressing state of melted fake snow.

It finally snowed on Wednesday or Thursday (I can’t recall which day) but it was only a couple of inches (if that) and the new snow had melted by the following afternoon because it was very warm.

Up until the morning we skied on the fresh snow, I had not been feeling well (again, dehydration and altitude acclimation). I had no desire to eat or drink and was basically a bore to be around. There were times when I didn’t even want to be around myself. Then the snow came and I felt rejuvenated and we skied until about 1pm on the “fresh snow” day and then I thought it was a good idea to drink an entire bottle of wine at lunch in celebration of “fresh snow”.

After my bottle of wine, I came up with the idea of a piste bar crawl and since Peter had drunk many beers, he too thought this was a good idea. So we left the restaurant and dragged our skis about 20 feet to the next bar and drank some more wine and beer. Then we skied to the bottom of the mountain and got on the chairlift because our next bar was higher on the mountain than the first two because this was the worst planned bar crawl in this century and the only way to get to the next bar was to go up and then back down.

It was at the top of the mountain that I realized I was more intoxicated than I had estimated prior to getting on the chairlift.

“Liquid courage” I told myself.

We skied down the run to our favorite bar, the Mooserwirt. Doted the #1 après ski bar in Europe, we decided to make the most of our visit and dive right into the après ski experience. This was our fourth visit to the Mooserwirt but our first visit during which we would be there for the après ski party.

We were able to secure two seats at a table on the balcony overlooking the dance floor which made me happy because my legs were tired. I proceeded to drink one-and-a-half more bottles of wine while Peter continued to drink his beer which magically became accompanied by vodka shots. By the time we left (I have no idea what time it was), we were hammered. Completely hammered. I was more hammered than I was in Madrid and Madrid was a total shit-show of which I have almost no memories of.

The worst thing about the Mooserwirt is that it is located on the mountain which means we had to ski down the mountain to get to the village. It’s not a long run but there are no lights and due to the warm conditions that day, it was icy and Earthy. There were patches of actual Earth on the run instead of ice or snow.

I knew I was in rough shape when I couldn’t get my skis on at the Mooserwirt. I simply could not master the task of placing my boot in the bindings and pressing down to lock them into place. It took over five minutes to get my skis on. I am sure I am on some Mooserwirt CCTV blooper reel somewhere. Once I finally got my skis on, I began the treacherous journey down the mountain. It is estimated that Peter was already down the mountain and had returned his skis to the basement of our hotel by the time I got my skis on at the Mooserwirt.

There is a set of buildings in the photo below on the mountain and directly to the right of the “Alber” sign. Those buildings are not the Mooserwirt but they are located at about the same altitude at the Mooserwirt. The Mooserwirt is to the left of those buildings, behind the building with the “Alber” sign. To get from the Mooserwirt to the gondola (glass structure on the right-hand side of the photo) takes about 10 seconds whilst sober.

 

I recon it took me about fifteen minutes to get from the Mooserwirt to the gondola, not including the time it took me to get my skis on. I have no idea how long it took me because I was operating on “drunk time” but it took me a long time, partially because I took a “break” about halfway down because my legs were spaghetti.

Needless to say, taking a break was a terrible decision because I had great difficulty standing up after my break. I remember thinking, “I wonder how long it would take for someone to stop and ask me if I’m OK”?

Also in the photo above is a fence (to the right of the woman in the pink jacket). The purpose of this fence is to stop skiers from crashing into spectators. Yes, spectators. You see, until the day of our drunken debauchery, I had no idea that people lined up behind the fence to watch drunk skiers barrel down from the Mooserwirt and other less popular après ski bars. I learned of this spectator sport in the most embarrassing way.

The good news is that I arrived safely at the bottom of the mountain, took off my skis, slung them over my shoulder, and started to walk to the hotel all without falling. It was a split-second after I noticed the 20-or-so spectators that I slipped on a patch of ice and found myself staring up at the stars.

My skis flew somewhere but I’m not sure where. My poles were nowhere to be seen. I heard the spectators cheer/gasp and the next thing I knew, a Russian man was standing over me and asking me if I was OK (presumably in Russian). He pulled my arms and propped me up and then gathered my skis and poles for me. He placed the skis over my shoulder and ushered me on my way, sort of like a toddler that just fell down at the playground.

As soon as I found Peter at the hotel, I admitted that I was really, really drunk. The next day, the back of my head and my back were tender like they had been bruised. I am glad I was drunk when I fell because I think my drunk limberness prevented any serious injuries from being had – “liquid courage”.

Lessons learned:

  • Do not drink ~3 bottles of wine before having to ski down a mountain, no matter the distance you need to ski.
  • Après ski at the Mooserwirt is incredibly fun.

3 comments on “The spectator sport of drunk skiers

  1. My sister introduced me to drunk skiing when I took her to Welch several years ago. She ran into a tree shortly after our 2-4-1 vodka tonics, got up and continued to ski down the hill. I contribute that to her age since she was like 22. Either way, I still replay her running into the tree in my head and laugh out loud…Which has been awhile until I read this. Good stuff…No one really understands the entertainment of a good fall…Especially when you do it in a parking lot and your friends have to get you back up!

  2. I would have paid to see this…god, that’s funny!

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