Ain't nothin' but an après ski party

Eric Davis Photo stolen from Facebook. Thanks!
Last weekend Jeremy and I hit the slopes at Obergurgl-Hochgurgl, Austria, with the Bavarian Ski Club to kick off the ski season. As I began my third official year as a bona fide skier, I’m happy to report only one major fall and a few hidden bruises – although they didn’t come from the slopes exactly.

See – this particular ski range is home to the best après ski known to man. Perched on the mountain above the town of Obergurgl is the Nederhütte. After a hard day of punching through blizzard-like conditions, moguls and thrashing down runs, everyone gathers at the hut for a few celebratory drinks and a massive dance party. Glühwein warms the frostbitten toes of snowboarders, skiers and instructors as they pack in shoulder-to-shoulder around the bar.

The live band plays sing-along songs and encourages party-goes to climb on tables and do the twist. It really revolutionizes dancing in ski boots. Waiters deliver groups of shots carried on 4-foot long wooden ski-shaped slats and (eventually and inevitably) everyone joins in for a screaming-at-the-top-of-your-lungs version of Country Roads. Somewhere John Denver is smiling.

The party starts to die down around 7 p.m. (although it feels like midnight as you walk outside to pitch black skies and a run lit with soft floodlights). It was this time, the time when I attempted to put on my right ski, that I took a tumble and roll. Hence the bruise.

Eric Davis Photo stolen from Facebook. Thanks!

But it was only a momentary setback.

Once my skies were fully in place and strapped on, we began our caravan down the hill for a quick nighttime ski adventure. The expedition continued with the most frightening taxi ride back to our hotel. Austrian cab drivers in this area have no fear racing up the icy mountain roads – speeding into hairpin turns, egged on by the 10 intoxicated passengers in the van.

Every time I go skiing in Europe – from the lack of fences on the mountains to dancing on tables at the après ski to encouraging off-piste runs – I think, no way this would be allowed in the States.

Europe simply has the unwritten “don’t be stupid” rule. They are far from the culture of suing someone because you made the poor decision to put a hot cup of coffee between your thighs. They encourage freedom – and while stupid decisions are sometimes made, there is a certain amount of accountability held to those making the decisions.

I say this as I nurse my bruised outer thigh. Because that was all me.