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Hello my friends! I am finally back in Germany after an amazing month traveling throughout Ethiopia and a quick stop in Djibouti. I have so many postings to do and literally thousands of photos to sift through/edit. Honestly, I am feeling a bit overwhelmed at the moment! Also, I am leaving again next week for another African adventure. This time I am spending about a month in Tanzania (to include visits to Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Crater, and climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro!), then going on to Rwanda and Uganda. As you can tell, things are slightly hectic right now, but I will try my best to get all my postings about Ethiopia done before I head back to Africa.

Welcome to Austria

Before I start divulging about Ethiopia I wanted to tell you about my incredible weekend in Austria. I have been itching to go snowbaording for months now but just haven’t had the time. Although I have snowboarded in the US and Japan, I have never stepped foot (or board) on European snow. To remedy this problem, I literally flew back from Ethiopia last Friday, ran home, grabbed my board, and then drove three hours to Austria.

On Friday night I decided to do things a little different and booked a stay at an Igloo hotel. That’s right- a full-fledged Eskimo type igloo. Some close friends of mine recommended the hotel, Schneedorf, and said it was a very memorable experience. Always up for an adventure, I decided to book one night.

The hotel, or rather igloo village, is located in the town of Oetz, directly on a ski slope.  The only way to reach the hotel is by a gondola ride. The gondola stops running at 4:30pm and unfortunately we got there at 4:40pm…talk about just missing it! Fortunately, the staff at the Schneedorf were incredibly understanding and sent someone to bring us up the mountain by snowmobile.

Snow Corridors

When we arrived at the hotel, we took a quick tour. It was pretty much the coolest thing I had ever seen. The igloo village was comprised of one large main igloo (which houses the dining room and snowbar) with a row of smaller 2-4 man sleeping igloos attached to it by snow corridors. There was also two separate buildings, one housing a warming room and mountain sauna, the other one for bathrooms.

After quickly unpacking, everyone in the hotel met in the dining room for a dinner of fondue. There was a ton of veggies, bread, and meat provided. There was also an assortment of beverages available, but I decided to stick to Gluhwein (traditional german hot wine).
 

Main Igloo/Dining Room

The Schneedorf offers a mix of different activities, to include skiing, snowshoe hiking, snowboarding or toboggan. After dinner and a few more cups of Gluhwein (seriously necessary to combat the cold!) we decide to go sledding. Some of the other guests went on a guide-led walk up the mountain. Thoroughly exhausted from sledding, we spent the rest of the night drinking, dancing, and having a wonderful time by the fire and under the starry winter sky. When it was finally time for bed we were given warm expedition sleeping bags and fleece liners. That night I nestled into my sleeping bag on top of sheepskins and fell fast asleep.

Snowbar

All the guests were woken up around 8am and then led across the slope to the Panorama restaurant for breakfast. Afterwards, we were presented with the problem of how to get down the slope and to the parking lot. Unfortunately, I had not brought my snowboard up to the hotel with me (mostly because I had no idea it was directly located on a ski slope) and so boarding down was not an option. We could walk…but it was a pretty long walk and we were on a tight timeline because we still had to drive an hour to our next ski resort. Our solution? We decided to sled down- packs and all.  It was incredibly fun, although it did take me awhile to figure out how to turn and not wipe-out every two seconds or so. However, we managed to get to the bottom in one-piece and only slightly snowy (ok ok…very snowy).

Pick your route...

After our great Igloo adventure, we headed an hour south to the Arlberg Ski region. Arlberg includes the ski villages of Zurs, Lech, St. Anton, Stuben, and Oberlech. It is known to have some of the best snow conditions in the Alps and the longest season. We decided to stay in Oberlech because it sits at the highest altitude and has many ski-in/out accommodations. This time we chose a more traditional hotel (with heating and hot showers), called the Burgwald. The Burgwald was very nice and is located right on the slope and a couple of steps away from one of the main chairlifts.  As soon as we checked in, we dropped our bags and headed straight to the slopes.

The next two days were spent exploring the resort and savoring the perfect snow conditions. The views from the top of the mountains were incredible and there were so many runs to choose from- Im pretty sure we never repeated a single one. There were hardly any lines at the chair lifts and no crazy little kids running into you. The village of Lech and Oberlech are very charming and there were many cute stores. The apres-ski scene was also a definite highlight- many bars to hang out in and mingle with the locals. Oberlech was an amazing place to spend the weekend and easily one of my favorite ski destinations.

I am going to try to get in one more ski weekend before I leave next week. I am thinking about Switzerland or Chamonix, France but was wondering if anyone has any recommendations. As always, thanks for reading and stay tuned for my trip overview of Ethiopia.

Enough said....

Until then, travel well and travel often!

~Maia

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