And all of a sudden…

… I realized that there is only one month left in Austria. Better use it to the maximum.

View from my room in the middle of the Gesaeuse Natural Park, Steiermark. Not a lift in sight, and only little snow here and there. And still it feels so Perfect. There’s so much more to the mountains than sliding down the slopes.20160215_103207

Why Austria?

If you had to choose a destination to spend 3 months of your life, paying hard-earned money to stay at a carefully picked location, with enough solitude to feel like a soul-searching trip yet close enough to civilization to be able to leave your house on foot and access stores, local ‘wildlife’, transportations and whatever it was that drove you there… would you choose a country that speaks one of the most unintelligible languages of Europe (at least for us Latin speakers, but I suspect we’re not alone on that one), and a region that boasts the most unfriendly, inaccessible and harsh geography on the Old continent?

Well I did. Austria was always the choice to spend The Perfect Winter. And despite the obvious disadvantages (language being number one), here’s why.

– It is beautiful. The Alpine landscape here is just breathtaking. And yes, I am aware that the Alps start in France and cross Switzerland, Liechtenstein, good ol’ Oesterreich, Germany, Italy and all the way into Slovenia. In all these countries the mountains look good. But there is a special care with the landscape in Austria that is truly heart-warming. Especially compared to the landscape raping you see in that country that starts with an F and has baguettes.

– It is cheap. Ok, it’s not cheap. But it is definitely cheaper than any other Alpine country. Yes, I know, choosing wisely you may find here and there cheaper places in other countries. Or not. After having been in every one of the latter (except Germany) for snow holidays, I can tell you, for example, that the cheapest beer in any French resort costs more than the most expensive beer in Austria. And it always tastes better here, hands down. Food is cheaper too – try eating out in Switzlerland. Or even in Alpine Italy, and you’ll see those €€ flying away so fast you won’t have the chance to say goodbye. Even the lodging is cheaper, but that’s not the main plus about it…

– Everything always looks brand new. Everything. The houses. The roads. The cities. The streets. The gardens. The buildings. The infrastructure at any ski resort, it is mind-boggling, it’s always spanking new. How on earth do they do it? At every apartment I was in during holidays in Austria, everything was just clean and perfectly set. No paint coming off on a hidden corner. No patch of rotten wood on the back of the house. Brand new furniture. How do they do it? Go to a restaurant. Nothing looks remotely used. Go outside. The buildings look perfect. What materials are those? How often are they maintained? As I said, mind-boggling.

– Things work. Maybe it’s because of the proximity with their German cousins – or maybe due to their common origin, better yet – stuff works. Rules and regulations apply, oh yes. But it simply works.

– The people are a strange and balanced mix of German stiffness and southern warmth. Strange but it works fine for me.

– Did I mention the mountains look amazing? It is just breathtaking.

There are of course other negative aspects (other than the language, and even that, I must say, I am growing fond of). But everything is bearable. Except for one detail.

The hedious music exhaling from the aprés-ski bars. Oh dear. We are in the country of Mozart, for goodness sake. Or Parov Stelar. Or Kruder & Dorfmeister. How can they assassinate so much good music with the euro-dance garbage puking out of so many overly loud speakers everywhere around 4PM?

But hey. It ends soon, and then you have those mountains around you. And it makes everything fine again.

Resort review – Hochzillertal

They told me and I knew it too: it’s not the size that matters. In this case, small Alpine resorts are much more likely to have the x-factor than big, famous ones.

That said, Hochzillertal Kaltenbach is a medium sized resort in the northern tip of the Ziller valley. It boasts 88km of prepared slopes, 2 snowparks (that are still closed at the time this review was written) and an impressive infrastructure in parking lots, ticket offices and ultra modern gondolas and chairlifts.

20160118_102909

The area by the main gateway through Kaltenbach – Stumm is interesting, with nice pistes (including the Stephan Eberharter Goldpiste black run all the way to the gondola – that’s almost 1200m of vertical drop), and great views over the valley. A word of advice: they get busy and ultra bumpy quite fast.

 

 

However, it is when you transit into the area of Fügen that things get really juicy. This area can be accessed through the Neuhuttenbahn state-of-the-art chairlift (those plexiglass covers came in handy today, with -14ºC at the top). This is a true freerider paradise, with many slopes available and untouched for the off-piste enthusiast, right from the top of the lifts. In these cases, there are even avalanche beacon testers for safety. While this is still not full-on backcountry, it is still quite impressive to see these beautiful open faces just waiting to be tracked.

20160118_115214

However, I must say that I resisted the temptation as I watched an avalanche being triggered by a snowboarder that wasn’t carrying safety gear (at least neither the probe or the shovel, and probably not the transceiver). Fortunately no one was hurt but the warning was there. Mental note – buy avalanche safety gear and take a backcountry awareness course.

But there are many more freeride lines in this area. With a little bit of research and with the right knowledge, a pot of white gold will open before you. Search and you shall find.

The cherry on the cake came by accident. To find some shelter from the cold and get some hydration (i.e. beer), I bumped into on the most spectacular alpine huts ever: the Wedelhüte, just by the top of the Wedelexpress lift. Oh man. DJ on the stunning terrace (spinning good music, for a change in the Zillertal…), live performance by a sax player, chilled environment, and the view. The view. While not being cheap, it still costs less than anywhere in France. And even for Austrian standards (where everything seems to be brand new – how do they do that?), this was something else. Definitely worth those extra €€.

 

If you are in the Zillertal, Hochzillertal is a great place to ride your vehicle of choice down the slopes!

 

 

TPW – official presentation

Friends, good music and great venue – what could be a better environment to present The Perfect Winter?

This is a simple clip of a great evening that gathered friends and mountain enthusiasts to learn about The Perfect Winter. It was hosted in downtown Faro, at a beautiful venue called Mezzanine Wine bar on November 27, 2015.

The images speak for themselves, I guess. Thank you!

 

Bem vindo Malaca!

O gosto pela montanha é algo que, tal como num bom vinho, se adquire, se saboreia e que amadurece com o tempo. E nesta colheita de apoios que o Inverno Perfeito tem vindo a realizar surge um que tem tudo a ver com o nosso espírito: arriscar, acreditar e colocar mãos à obra. É por isso que damos as boas vindas aos vinhos Malaca, uma marca Algarvia que tem dado cartas nas melhores mesas por esse país fora. Plantados sob as encostas da Serra de Monchique, os 9 hectares de vinha que dão origem ao Malaca têm apenas 5 anos – mas entretanto já ganharam vários prémios e, acima de tudo, a confiança dos apreciadores. É que a sabedoria de gerações de vinicultores que deram origem à Quinta de Malaca faz-se sentir num vinho de qualidade superior.

Que melhor imagem para um serão de Inverno do que um grande nevão a cair lá fora e um copo de Malaca tinto na mão, a antecipar o powder fresco do dia seguinte?

Malaca Tinto 2012 prova

And so it begins…

A soul searching trip from the south of Portugal to the Austrian Alps: this is the story of my great escape.

I am João Saraiva, 38, living in Portugal and passionate about the mountains. I decided to let go of the daily routine and search for the essence of life in altitudes above freezing level. Destination: the snowy peaks of the Alps of Tirol, Austria. This is my discovery of the The Perfect Winter.

//

Uma viagem de ‘soul searching’ desde o Sul de Portugal até aos Alpes Austríacos: esta é a história da minha grande evasão.

O meu nome é João Saraiva, tenho 38 anos e sou um apaixonado pelas montanhas. Decidi deixar para trás a rotina do quotidiano e procurar a essência da vida nos cumes do Tirol. Esta é a minha descoberta do Inverno Perfeito.

IMG_3964