Trip name:CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING: PERTISAU
Date of holiday: 31 January 2009.
I am only posting this record on the forum because Exodus failed to publish my email with the Pertisau trip notes and other holidaymakers responses to this holiday
This holiday was absolutely outstanding: one of the three or four best
in my life. In terms of cross-country skiing holidays, it ranks for
sheer enjoyment with the first cross-country skiing holiday I had twenty
years ago, spent with Exodus's predecessor Waymark.
Like that holiday, snow conditions were not as good as experienced on
other vacations in between. As sometimes happens shared difficulties
leads to greater challenge, improvisation, hilarity, and dare I say it
group spirit, as my fellow holiday makers and I slithered and stopped,
crashed, fell over got up again, and got better against worsening
conditions as the week went on, the sun shone, and the track went from
polished ice in the mornings to slush punctuated by dung, soil from mole
hills, tree branches and fir cones in the afternoon. I have to say that
team spirit always seems to improve faster in grade 1 beginners, for
whom the novelty of this unnatural form of personal transport known as
langlaufing has not worn off. The excitement of mastering a bike for
the first time is similar. Grade 2's can be slightly blasé about it.
Above grade 2, possibly that focus on distance travelled, and personal
bests, would make me feel uncomfortable amongst other participants, as I
used to when I ran two half marathons for fun and health.
Aside from the skiing in a variety of attractive locations, under sunny
skies, sometimes served by a good local public bus service, with a
chance to talk to my fellow passengers, many of them also skiers, in a
mixture of my pidgin German, and their better English, I should like to
analyse what made this holiday so good.
1. My fellow holidaymakers. I went on holiday on my own. My wife
mastered the basics of skiing on oversized toothpicks, with old
fashioned 'slide off and twist your ankle bindings' about 18 years ago.
Technically she was much better than me: better balance, better
control, more physically able to twist her legs into the snow plough
position. However she hates cold. She hates falling. She isn't too
keen on exercise, or aeroplanes or airports either. So I travelled
alone. This makes you even keener to make friends on holiday, and more
willing to talk and to listen to anybody you should meet. I am delighted
to say that my fellow holidaymakers were not only friendly, but
interesting to talk to as well. Many were well qualified in a variety
of professions, and brought a variety of experience outside work to the
table as well. They were articulate, relaxed, self-confident, and
amusing, just the sort of people you would want to take as friends on
2. Leadership. After day one. I demoted myself to Grade 1, after asking
the two holiday leaders. I had met, Albert, the leader of Grade 1 about
13 years previously. Throughout the week, I became more and more
impressed by his quiet, patient and thoughtful leadership style. He was
a good observer of our strengths and failings, and gave individuals,
the encouragement and modifications to their technique which helped
them. Albert was also very good at selecting the ground to match our
abilities, increasing the challenge as the week went on. At the pace he
set, there was time for the slower members to catch up, and time for
everyone to enjoy the picturesque local scenery, and observe the local
wildlife. Albert was easy to approach, friendly and a pleasure to be
with. I am pleased to say that both our leaders joined us at table, and
organised and participated in the other entertainments of the week.
3. Skis. After floundering on the slightest uphill rise with no grip on
day one, I changed the skis to a much shorter and wider pair, which were
more controllable, and slower downhill and on the flat. The shop were
very helpful, but a little sceptical that these skis would be sufficient
to support my weight for gliding. I did not glide perfectly, but this
was more than offset by the better kick down grip I got from the
standing leg. Going uphill was easier than ever before, even than when I
was twenty years younger and twenty kilos lighter.
4. Hotel. Here I wish to contradict the views expressed by Susan
Scott-Green about the Kristall Hotel, Pertisau. Like her I had a single
room. It was simply the finest single room I have ever stayed in
anywhere. It was room 109, an easy number to remember (just like the
Messerschmidt World War II fighter, but I do try not to think of the war
in German speaking countries.) The room had a huge amount of hanging
space, a double bed, separate toilet, and shower with wash basin room,
and large lounge area, with substantial desk and armchairs, leading to a
balcony with table and chairs and views across a snow covered field to
the church and the downhill slopes beyond. The sound insulation was
good. The heating was not controllable, and up too high, but this was
useful for drying clothes, and could be wastefully offset by opening the
balcony doors. Mostly as a single traveller, I have been stuck in cubby
holes down in the basement next to the boiler, or roof space so
slopingly narrow, it should be reserved solely for bats. Not here. The
hotel provided such luxuries as free dressing gowns, and slippers (a
gift), and separate towels for sitting on and for drying off in the
luxurious spa suite, with swimming pool so large you could swim more
than the usual two strokes that you get out of the length of the normal
"yes we have a swimming pool", tick in the box swimming pool that is all
too common in three star hotels. This was a proper four star hotel
swimming pool. My only criticism is that the jacuzzi feature in the
middle in it was on too often for swimming , a bit like the Bermuda
triangle whose turbulent gas bubble release produces such disturbing
effects on buoyancy, known otherwise as a sinking feeling. There were
two saunas, two steam rooms, one with smells and flashing leds, which
were pretty, and new age music which wasn't. This is Austria. You have
great musical assets called Mozart, Haydn and Strauss. Use them!
Like much of the German speaking world, the saunas were mixed and both
sexes were usually completely naked. I did not find it as hard (to
adjust) as when I was twenty years younger, but this may come as a
surprise to the shy, sheltered and modest.
The food was plentiful, and outstandingly good. Unlike all other
country-skiing holidays bar one, I did not have to go to bed feeling
hungry, or wake up in the night feeling so hungry that I could chew the
soap, the furniture, and yesterday's underwear. On such holidays,
waitresses began to appear not pretty, but edible.
Service at the Kristall was not only efficient, but always friendly.
Smiles were answered with like. I do try to be nice to hotel staff.
They have to be friendly and efficient, and put their own worries behind
them, often have difficult people and situations to deal with. I
thought the staff at the Crystal were outstanding - reception, bar
staff, cooks, cleaners, all of them.
On occasion the serving staff dressed in local costume. One of the
waitresses looked absolutely stunning in her dirndl. One evening, local
entertainers came and played a variety of traditional Austrian, and more
widely known popular tunes such as Lili Marlene, on folk instruments,
for us to sing along.
The hotel was scrupulously clean.
I should also mention that some of the Exodus guests had been coming for
several years to the Kristall, so that they were evidently of a
different opinion from Ms Scott-Green as well.
Some of us went to an evening of folksy entertainment at the local cross
country ski centre, with electric guitar, accordion and drums playing
popular Austrian tunes, beer and dancing. Forget subtlety,
sophistication, diffidence, reserve. Pitch yourself in. Dance, clap
hands, link arms and sway at the table just like the locals, it was
enjoyable. As the German philosopher of Dionysian exuberance, Nietzsche
would say: "Up for it. Go for it" I haven't had as much fun at dance
since I was at school. Above all join in with the singing of "ein Prosit
zu Gemutlichkeit", a toast to warmth, friendship and congeniality. It
We also went and played ninepins at a local hotel. A nice evening of
The last day I spent on the pleasant sun terrace of the hotel sharing
two bottles of wine with a most convivial and witty couple of my fellow
holidaymakers. It was a delight, lang loafing par excellence.
6. Flights: On time coming back. Journey shorter than expected.
Unexpected meal served at no charge both ways. Meal was unexpectedly
edible as well. Leg room was inadequate on the way back. It was not a
problem going out because I had a seat next to the emergency exit.
Please publish any or all of my report on your website. I wish to
counter the unfavourable impressions of the hotel by Susan Scott-Green,
I want this holiday to run next year and I want to be on it.