I know, I know! I'm very lazy when it comes to blogging! But I'll keep working on it, promise! This is the tale of my trip to Austria for the 3rd stop of the Freeride World tour in Fieberbrunn. I was feeling good about my results in Andorra and was happy to have a couple weeks at home to hang with the hubby and bask in puppy love from Lana. I worked a few days and got to ride Utah pow! The trip home seemed short, but I was looking forward to my next European adventure! I've always loved the trip to Austria, the people and hospitality are warm and welcoming, the scenery is amazing and Fieberbrunn is a really fun mountain providing some of my favorite pow days, though the competition venue here has proved tricky in the past. I flew into Munich, arriving a few days early to head to Saalbach for the Audi Driving Experience. I rented a car and grabbed Jonathan Penfield as my co-pilot. Our drive to Saalbach was lovely, even with the few missed exits leaving the city. We made it to the resort about noon. I was pretty tired from the travel and feeling unmotivated, but Jonathan was keen to get on his board and I luckily I fell into peer pressure and headed to the hill with him. Europe was still battling a poor snow season, it felt like late spring and had been a handful of days since the last snowfall. We didn't have high expectations for snow quality and were very surprised by what we found! Immediately under the gondola, there was a short, north facing slope loaded with untracked pow! We were very curious to why it hadn't been ridden, it was straight forward, but did have some areas at the bottom that could cause trouble for the inexperienced skier. We did a couple of laps under the gondola then went exploring and continued to find soft snow! We ran into some locals and they showed us around for a couple of runs. The boys wanted to go ride another face, but I was starting to really feel the travel, so I decided to call it a day. I was headed down the mountain via our first run under the gondola and it was still amazing! So instead of going in, I lapped it 3 more time for a total of 8! Later I met Jonathan and the boys for a beer in the afternoon sunshine!
The next morning Jonathan and I had a lovely breakfast at our hotel, we checked out and then worked on killing time before we were to meet for lunch provided by Audi before the driving experience. We went on walk and explored the area a bit. We found a fun obstacle course and played around on it until we worked up our appetites for lunch, Jonathan being rather skilled at it and me, very ungraceful. We are very lucky to have Audi as a sponsor for the FWT and getting the opportunity to participate in the Audi Driving Experience is icing on the cake! The Audi Driving Experience is phenomenal! We were treated to a posh, five star buffet for lunch, then we get to race around in Audi S4s on an ice track! Not sure it is the wisest of moves to throw a bunch of adrenaline seeking ski bums behind the wheel of a high performance vehicle and let them rally it on ice, but it is fun at its finest! We did some hard braking/maneuvering exercises, learned to drift, then finished the day with a timed race lap. I had the second fastest women's time, behind Nadine Wallner, who is from Austria, and an Audi athlete and has her own Audi. Favoritism? Nah, she was just faster! Audi also provided our lodging for the night in Saalbach, lucky us! We enjoyed dinner as group and hit the town for a bit of night life after and in the morning everyone would make the short trek to Fieberbrunn. The drive was grey and rainy, snow was in the forecast. Now to get into competition mode.
We arrived to Fieberbrunn with much needed snow in the forecast and the plan was to wait for new snow and to hopefully allow it to settle before comp day. This meant we had time to kill. We stayed at the Austria Trend hotel, which is a very nice 4 star hotel, the accommodations are very nice, it has a very relaxing sauna and pool (the expectation is nudity in the sauna), and we are fed very well, with full breakfast buffet and 3 course dinner every day! The riding was quite variable and on inspection day I think I rode every type of snow condition imaginable, from soft pow, dust on crust, gnar ice and spring slush. But luckily the higher elevations were quite good and this boded well for the competition venue. The tour is always working hard to organize activities for us during down days and in Fieberbrunn they arranged an outing to schnapps tasting at a local distillery. This was a really cool opportunity and was embraced by nearly all the North Americans, and none of the Europeans (maybe the Europeans get their fill of schnapps regularly?). We were welcomed with open arms by the owner Gidi and his family, they shared their schnapps making secrets, let us taste every flavor of schnapps imaginable and entertained us with traditional music! This was an unforgettable experience and I am thrilled to be a part of it! The next day was inspection day and we had to get to work, luckily the schnapps tasting didn't provide any hangovers. Inspection day proved to be a great day for studying lines and we were able to get in some pretty good pow runs too! I had a line picked and was starting to get excited for comp day, I was looking forward to riding the Wildseeloder! Competition morning was gorgeous! We were on the hill before sunrise and watching the sky change colors in the morning is a great way to calm your mind. I was last to drop for the day, so I had plenty of time do some more inspection and to watch the men compete. I enjoy the trek to the start gate on the Wildseeloder, it allows for plenty of time to calm the mind. I arrived to the start early, just as the men were finishing up and had plenty of time to visualize the line I had picked. The snow conditions looked great and I was ready for my run! Dropping last is interesting in that when you drop it's only you and the crew, It always seems like you get a little extra encouragement from the staff, could be they are excited the work day is nearing its end ;). I was able to find my line, although the middle section was a bit tricky and the snow was hard where it had slid in the gut of the main couloir, so this section wasn't nearly as smooth as I had imagined, after I exited the couloir I found some wonderful untracked pow that led me to my final two airs which I executed well and a smooth run to the finish. My run put me in second place and I was happy with my result, though I am always critical of my run and want to push myself to have better lines. Marion was the winner of the day with a great run and Audrey finished with many solid airs! The most exciting thing about placing second here is that it confirmed qualification for Alaska and Verbier stops and It qualified my for the tour next season! After the awards ceremony I jumped in with Lorraine, McFly, Jonathan and Davey to hike for some pow! We found some of the best runs of the season and they were only a 20 minute jaunt from the gondola! The snow was deep and every turn was an overhead faceshot! We were lucky to get 3 laps in before we had to be to the bottom for the prize giving! It was the icing on the cake of a fabulous day! Fieberbrunn is lower elevation and has been tricky in the past for competitions, the Wildseeloder can be a tough venue if snow quality is poor, but I have had some of my best days here, I love the relaxed atmosphere, the playful mountain, the kind people and their hospitality and of course the food (hooray for Weiner Schnitzel)!