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Cortina d’Ampezzo

Juhuuuu the skiing season to be continued! Several years ago we started with a tradition of going in the mountains more than once, and me getting into the university with quite flexible schedule possibilities helped that move a lot. This year our next spot was old famous Cortina d’Ampezzo, where the 1956 Olympics were held.

The town is absolutely stunning. Something different from all those similar alpine villages. Maybe because it is not in Tyrol we are used to see in winter. It actually even reminded me of Courmayeur, maybe because both Aosta and Friuli Venezia Giulia were independent regions at some point and managed to develop their own micro cultures differing from the typical Italian ambient.

I want to warn you about the facilities, though. As the resort is very old, the lifts are not modern either. For the skiers it should be no problem but as a snowboarder I sometimes was finding it quite challenging to get off the lift as it doesn’t slow down at the unloading point. There are some newer areas further away though, you just have to get there having struggled trough 1-2 old-fashioned funiculars. Don’t let it ruin your experience and just look around once on the peak – you will forget everything!

There are two separated zones in Cortina itself and the famous Cinque Torri 16km away. All three slopes networks are worth trying out! The Cinque Torri area is a place where events described in “All Quiet on the Western Front” are described and one can still see what’s left from Austrian and Italian troops’ tunnels and mines. It’s a breathtaking beautiful, too. Hard to imagine there were terrifying bomb explosions sounds there once.

Back to my beloved topic, food. Cortina differs from typical Italy here as well. Sometimes it’s a bit confusing and finding just regular al dente pasta is not that straightforward. But there are good places, definitely! I’d point out 5 Torri (simple and delicious), Stella Polare (marked by Michelin Guide, so a bit more elegant), pizzeria Porto Rotondo, Ra Stua, Beppe Sello is also said to be outstanding but we didn’t make it there – so try and leave me a feedback, if you ever find yourself there 😉 If you are ready to wait a bit longer but to get the best seafood you can find there – reserve a table at il Vizietto!

If you want to leave the mountains for a bad weather day and have a roadtrip around Veneto – you can of course go to Venice, but that would take you around 2,5 hrs. There are some small places closer to Cortina too, though! We tried Belluno – nothing new for Italy experts, but definitely very authentic for the new country visitors. Look for  restaurant (it seemed to be the only restaurant there at all, and it’s good).

The last two weeks of this winter sports season were sunny, very warm (what I love about snowboarding in March so much – plus 8 on the slopes feels just right) and just right for me to get distracted from Viennese life, spend some time with family, friends, good food and wines. Now let the spring come and see you again next year in the Alps!Processed with VSCO with g3 preset


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Ischgl

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Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all had a blast!

I spent my winter break together with my family at a wonderful location in the Austrian mountains – Ischgl. We had already been there before but that time serious injury made us cancel our plans. So we though why not come back this year?

Ischgl is indeed an amazing place that I would highly recommend to skiers and snowboarders because, first of all, it’s quite easy to reach from airports of Munchen or Innsbruck or by train from anywhere in Austria/Northern Italy/Bavaria and, second, the resort suits for any level of skiing. That’s quite a rare combination. Most of the trips to the Alps we end up spending 4h in taxi to get there or pray on black slopes. Ischgl is really comfortable in any sense and also offers a lot of activities apart from skiing.

So, the season is opened!

Every morning we would go up on to the highest point, have a look at the beauty and then cross Swiss boarder to go down to Samnaun and have a route there. Come back to the Austrian side in the afternoon when the sun is there, have lunch and snowboard more and more. And, of course, the saint tradition of après-ski!

The places that I highly recommend for après-ski aroun Ischgl would be Pardorama restaurant  with literally the best view one can find; also suits for non-skiers as the location is reachable with cable car A2. Alpenhaus is a great one for the ones who prefer to take their skis off and have a drink right away on the mountain. Idalp is fine if you book lounge on top in advance. We started celebrating New Year’s eve at Mountain VIP Club which offers really high class cuisine – but make sure to make a reservation really in advance!

If you prefer to have your final ride back to town and have an après-ski drink there – then Fire&Ice (don’t go in, stay outside, they will soon be dancing there!) and the bars around it suit perfectly. There are also a few as you go down red route number 1. Plangger Delikatessen is a must-visit for a drink and some snacks/oysters outside or at the bar upstairs as well as for purchasing some rare alcohol, salami, cheeses, spices, oils and chocolates. Last time we lived on the other side of the city tunnel and I remember one hell of a party there every evening as well. Ischgl is very cool for young audience – you won’t be bored after having taken your boots off 😉

What else I love about my family other than we all share passion for mountains – another passion that is a very important part of any experience for us. And that would be food.

Austria is not as exciting with food choice on winter resorts like France and Italy. Sometimes you can find yourself in the village where there are only sausages and schnitzels available for dinner. But Ischgl is great there, too. Restaurants choice is impressive. From all the places we have eaten at I definitely stand up for La Candela (we ate there 5 times which we never do!!!) – it’s cheap and delicious, but they don’t take reservations, so make sure to come before 7 if you don’t want to wait in a long line; La Nona is another good Italian one which is very special for us now as my sister’s fiancé proposed to her there ❤ ❤ ❤ ; for Christmas dinner we booked Sunnalm and it was so good that we made a reservation there 2 times more; Bära-Falla I find a good choice for lunch as they have good pizzas and röstis, everything there is fast and you can come in wearing skiing boots; Trofana was our choice for New Year’s Eve, the dishes on the fixed menu weren’t as creative as at Sunnalm, but they offer amazing Thai food and the best tartars at the restaurant downstairs (be ready for long waiting times, though). There are definitely many more remarkable places for meat-lovers and, in general, for those who love to eat well, but I mentioned the ones that left a trace in my heart stomach.

To conclude with, Ischgl must be beautiful during any time of the year. There wasn’t that much snow as we just arrived – and the slopes with grass and small lakes in between them were nevertheless gorgeous, so bicycle riders should also consider the spot!

Vacation is now over, I have been working like crazy and taking semester exams at the same time since I came from my trip (which was one hell of an achievement at the end). But let my next post be devoted to what I am up to now. And now I’d just thank my family again for being such amazing travel partners.

Happy New Year! Follow us to 2017 and let it rock!Processed with VSCO with a5 preset


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Madonna di Campiglio

IMG_7286Being on my way from gorgeous Hong Kong, I am trying my best to conquer the childish excitement and I-still-dont-believe-I-have-experienced-that to catch up with my trips.

Today (or tonight, hard to say while switching between 7 time zones) I am also remembering a totally different but nevertheless incredible place in my favorite country of Italy. Madonna do Campiglio. A beautiful landscape hidden among the Dolomites. My fourth and final spot for snowboarding this winter season.
Getting there is not as easy as to previous Bad Hofgastein but also not as expensive as was to Courmayeur or Crans Montana. There is a choice between airports of Milano, Verona or Bolzano, then a transfer has to be pre-arranged as there is no railway. Buses go from Trento, so I made a train connection there from Vienna and then switched to the bus. Wasn’t that bad; remembering getting to Zermatt still gives me chills, for example. And I also got to see classical dull and full of students and other drunk people city of Trento.
March associates with spring already in my head. So, obviously, I arrived wearing sneakers and ripped jeans. Parents met me and immediately made fun as there was real winter around. Hell yes! Spring doesn’t dare to touch those regions until the most desperate skiers and snowboarders officially claim they are done with the season. Loads of powder! Not only on the slopes as was in my previous trips this year when the town itself was dry. Oh no! Here snow was everywhere! From every porch and sidewalk to my naked knees. On my way back I got stuck for a whole day because the buses couldn’t make it through and I skipped my train and lost a connection. That’s what I call winter vacation!
The town itself is adorable. Typical Italian, cute and light. People greeting each other; smelly prosciutto and cheese laying outside small shops with local specialities; aperitifs starting from the very morning. Like.
The slopes area is huuuuge! I think this was the second biggest resorts chain after neighboring Sella Ronda! I thought of Madonna as of a small town and don’t even expect to be able to snowboard in so many directions with so many impressive views changing. I was lucky, parents had a;ready explored everything by the time I arrived, so I just followed them and indeed enjoyed the real pure perfect snowboarding to its fullest to later enjoy local food and wines. A very very nice short break and the best way to complete the winter sports season.
Having analyzed the four spots I tried this year, I come to the conclusion as follows:
If you want a party, if you are bunch of friends, if limoncello is just as valuable for you as sports; you want constant music around, bunch of hot instructors and constant movement; if you are experienced enough to ride quite difficult slopes and to be hungover constantly – Courmayeur is for you!
If you are a couple/family, you want to enjoy the mountain views while laying in hot springs listening to the perfect silence around; if you want dinner that lasts 3 hours and makes you feel like an aristocrat – chose the Gastein Valley.
Wanna spend a lot of money and be surrounded by posh events, well-dressed people; wanna drink champagne from a crystal glass in the morning and have a real Swiss Alps experience like one of those they promote in movies – then Crans Montana is just right.
If you are just about skiing/snowboarding and that’s the main point why you spend vacation in the Alps at all; well-prepared interesting slopes are more important than party/hot springs/luxury surroundings/whatever else – then you will love Madonna di Campiglio!
I again wanna express how glad I am we have had such a rich vivid experience this season. Thanks to my family and everyone who joined us! Looking forward to the next winter!

 


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Bad Hofgastein

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flashbacks to the beginning of February and an incredible season’15-16 follow

Good morning! It must be yet night or even previous day in your part of the world though. But I am writing from incredible Hong Kong.

So many impressions I have already received after first day here. Wanna share asap! But there are still three more notes missing from other trips. So it’s my luck that jet lag woke me up so early and I can try to catch up a little bit before going for my breakfast dim sums 😉

The valley of Gastein in Austrian Tyrol was the first place I visited in Austria. We loved it so much that came back again several years later; I switched from skis to snowboard that year. So I can thank Bad Hofgastein not only for introducing me to the Austrian culture but as well for supporting my beginnings in another winter sport that I mostly picked up from instructors there and still enjoy so much.

Who could have thought back then that I would be coming here again as a long-term inhabitant of Austria myself. It’s amazing how time flies and how unexpected our lives are. The owners of the hotel recognized me when we were checking-in and melted when found out I speak German now. We went to the same hotel as two times before, absolutely gorgeous Klammer’s Kärnten. Coming back as a grown-up to the place which I remember from 14 years old felt cool though.

This time I was without our huge squad of skiers that all hotels we have ever stayed at remember for another couple years. It was just me and Ksenia who finally got introduced to the alpine culture. Endless slopes, nets of funiculars, hot chocolate or Aperol Spritzer sitting in the chair catching some sun; people dancing in skiing boots, hot springs and marvelous views. I can imagine how impressed she was! Seeing this for the first time in life wouldn’t leave indifferent even someone who had traveled the world. And I was happy to be her guide.

Bad Hofgastein is one of small towns of the Gastein Valley. We find it the most attractive because of our favorite hotel, but the neighboring villages like Dorfgastein or Sportgastein (slopes only for professionals, be careful when booking!) are no less cozy. If you want more party – chose the town of Bad Gastein. As a beginner Ksenia was sent by skibus to the area of  Angertal, I caught up with her by having snowboarded through the mountain pass from Bad Hofgastein side of the mountain which I then repeated every morning – a decent exercise to start a day with! So she was successfully learning skiing while I was like crazy exploring whole Schlossalm area with no map and brain to later catch up with her in a mountain bar and share impressions. Mountain peaks with strong wind and no people, unexpected black slopes popping up on the way, fear and then pride for having accomplished the descent and grabbing a deserved drink at the bottom – how much I love all that, ahh! I found Angertal quite satisfactory for beginners in comparison with more complicated slopes of Courmayeur where we took my sister earlier this season. So, if you are yet a beginner, be very careful while choosing the area and pay attention to the heights: if it’s less than 1800m then you are risking to observe all the blue slopes at the bottom being covered with grass.

Another good thing about Gastein valley is it’s accessibility. Very few spots can be reached without having to pay 500euros for a taxi. Here you can get by train, from Vienna there is even a straight connection, takes about 4h. So whole trip for us was very easily organized and comfortable. We came back to Vienna with the best impressions, definitely willing to continue exploring the Alps together another season.


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Crans Montana

6iv7qdlj3dmGood morning! This is how it looks like in the Swiss Alps. Sweet, right?

I will be honest. I am not a fan of Switzerland at all. This approach when you have to pay for an additional egg in the morning and when no one would be nice for you for free puts pressure on me. But let’s not discuss that here not to ruin the atmosphere of nice alpine days. Just look at this. Once you are there you don’t really care anymore how much you will pay for all that. You just can’t take your eyes off it.

As the year began, so did continue our journey as well. We moved from wonderful Courmayeur of Italy that will be in my heart forever to the next spot – Crans Montana of Switzerland. It’s different. More ehh.. mature? Niminy-piminy. If Courmayeur was all about drunk bearded snowboarders opening bars’ doors for us with one hand while pouring us genepy with another, here it was all about evening dresses, good manners, interesting talks with important people, practicing official Italian in attempts to understand French, trying rare wines and just being on top of the world. I am not saying I don’t like it. I am just still a kid who certainly enjoys bearded snowboarders more. But feeling like a lady somewhere where most of the Earth’s population doesn’t reach is an interesting experience, too. Plus I feel how much I had grown up during the past year every time I find myself at such kind of supper table. This all is very useful and interesting.

Now switching to the main point why I was there – the slopes. They were amazing this time. If Coutmayeur suffered from the lack of snow until the very last day of our stay, Crans sur Sierre was crazy. I hardy had ever seen that much snow! It was a snowboarder’s heaven indeed. The skiers weren’t in such a good situation as the slopes were all one huge never ending fresh free-ride. But I was absolutely enjoying every lump, jump and soft landing. Sunny weather suddenly becoming the worst visibility ever – what can be more fun than adventures like that? Amazing, totally amazing. I would love to thank discreet and a bit boring town of Crans for the amazing snowboarding at least!

So far it all came out even: good party and average snow conditions in Courmayeur vs. plain town but perfect powder in Crans Montana.

To sum up, I leave a pic gallery here as well (you can click on each photo, this is not a collage).

I also wanna leave some pics of the evening atmosphere of alpine towns. This bright village in the darkness, loud spot in the mountain serenity – you hardly feel like that anywhere else. Explore the mountains. Love the mountains. They will give you a lot back.


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Mont Blanc – Chamonix

Hi, everyone!

Now I am back from winter vacation and it’s finally the time to make a review of what we were up to during the past 2 weeks. Aaaaand here we go!

This is a French part of the posts I am going to write looking back at our wonderful time in the Alps. But first – the intro. We have been skiing for 13 years; I have written tons of posts about that under my hashtag #snowboarding (yes, I snowboard now, 6 years ago I switched from skis) but as they are all in Russian let me share the story shortly once again. So, the 13th season, spots in Italy and Switzerland this year. Close to French border which I crossed more than 10 times for sure during the whole trip. That means – why not go to France for lunch? Definitely a yes!

We decided to combine our desire for foie gras with something spectacular and got up on the highest point of the Alps to take a closer look at Mont Blanc peak (4810m). Eight years ago we already went up there but from the Italian side: from Courmayeur itself there is a funicular Skyway. Back then we used the old one that had been renovated. Now there is an amazing 360 degrees panorama viewpoint which you can access from France as well.

Chamonix. A town that combines coziness of alpine village with typical french facades. I didn’t remember it well as it was very foggy when we visited it last time. Presently we were lucky and sunny weather followed us everywhere. As soon as we went through the famous Tunnel we rushed to catch more sun on the Aiguille du Midi peak. The gallery follows even though it is impossible to convey those feelings of height, space and infinity that overwhelm you up there.

I must admit it is not easy to stay up there long even for somebody who has no fear of height at all. Disequilibrium, total imbalance, very low pressure and lack of oxygen have their impact on you very fast. Soon we had to hold on something to keep moving. But malaise is totally worth it!

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crazy people who climb up there and even ski down in unreal conditions

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my sis saw the mountains this high for the first time and was absolutely amazed

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the town of Chamonix lays down there as if you were observing it from the plane

czwp-5xjak4After the adventure of being higher than anyone in Europe we got down to explore Chamonix itself…wkqy5apripk373nk0n2htuj1rqasqk6bkbywhwyzbx4w0njrgyy5bpitimwouaeeg0efhio9bmji…of course it all ends at a restaurant! snails in garlic oil, I had missed you since Nice last summer!

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Benvenuti a Courmayeur

Снимок экрана 2015-12-24 в 22.56.51Good Christmas morning, folks! Hope everyone is surrounded by family and presents now, finishing tasty leftovers from dinner and being lazy.

I met my family at Geneva and all together we drove through Switzerland and France to my favorite Italy. Here we stay at a mountain village called Courmayeur in Valle d’Aosta region. I remember it from 8 years ago, we already went skiing here. Unbelievable how time flies! We are back and all is the same at this quiet place with its own life rhythm. Even my favorite candies that were so good that everyone still remembers them after 8 years are still being sold at the same shop! I meanwhile am no kid anymore and don’t even ski now. Having switched to snowboard and being a level up now than back in those days of skiing, I am looking forward to discovering slopes from a totally different perspective.

We already opened the season and had a full day on the mountain. But I prefer to write separately about slopes and snowboarding. So, later.Снимок экрана 2015-12-24 в 22.56.59Снимок экрана 2015-12-24 в 22.56.25Снимок экрана 2015-12-24 в 22.56.36Снимок экрана 2015-12-24 в 22.56.43Снимок экрана 2015-12-24 в 22.56.04Снимок экрана 2015-12-24 в 22.56.14Our Christmas night was fun and bright. Celebration in town with music and locals (the official season starts on the 30th, we are the first tourists here this year), family dinner and good mood. It’s absolutely lovely here.Снимок экрана 2015-12-24 в 22.55.46Снимок экрана 2015-12-24 в 22.55.56Снимок экрана 2015-12-24 в 22.57.06It’s time for me to get dressed for another day of conquering the peaks. Merry Christmas!