alan little’s weblog

St. Johann im Tirol ☆☆

16th January 2009 permanent link

Times visited:five or six
Last visited:March 2001
Rating:Decent, worth a visit

St. Johann im Tirol is the place where I learned to snowboard. I have fond memories of it for that reason, and it's an ok, beginner-friendly place, but it’s not really that great.

There are a couple of decent blue runs from the middle lift station. Quite long, attractive and interesting but not too difficult. (Although one of them is quite steep at the bottom, which alarmed me when I walked out of the carpark to the lift on my first day – “I’m not going to have to go down there am I?” Er …) These are where I learned to snowboard: my friends sneered at nursery slopes. And there are a few red runs, and one black that I never did.

The ski area at St Johann is low down, west-facing and catches plenty of sun. This can be very pleasant when it’s cold and snowy, but it also means snow conditions can be unreliable. I boarded there on grass and gravel on Boxing Day 2000, and tore my board up something rotten. (Fortunately I broke that snowboard completely a few weeks later in an embarrassing collision with a building at Kitzbühel, so I could go out and buy a new one.) St. Johann is also the only place I have ever snowboarded in the rain, a most unpleasant experience that I have no intention of ever repeating.

Local tip: don’t stay in St. Johann itself, stay in the nearby village of Gasteig. Gasteig is right at the foot of the spectacular Kaisergebirge mountains. Behind the hotel there’s a shed where you can rent a sledge, and either walk a couple of miles or get yourself and your friends towed up the mountain by tractor to an alm (mountain pub). From here, having relaxed sufficiently, you return to the valley via a toboggan run. Americans think Europe is stifled by over-regulation and bureaucracy, but I can’t even begin to imagine an American ski resort’s liability insurance allowing this sort of thing. Austrians on the other hand are very clear on the inalienable human right to throw oneself down mountains in whatever way one sees fit. It is after all the basis of their economy.

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