I Guess You Can Never Say Never

So I’ve been having a thought the last few days. And it is something I was sure I would never think. Ever.

O.K. Here goes…

I’m sad winter is over.

A couple of weeks ago I gave Annie’s Kindergarten teacher a memory stick to load up with pictures from the last few months. She gave it back to me late last week and I was delighted to discover that she had put 500 pictures on there, (ah, the magic of digital images) with quite a few of Annie.

Going through their activities…skating, sliding, ski week…made me realized I’ve loved this season. And now that I’m starting to catch the skiing bug, I’m going to miss the snow even more. We might try to squeeze another day or two out of the mountains at higher elevations or get a run in on one of the glaciers, but as the buds start to peak through on the branches there is no denying that winter is done and spring is in the air. And my overriding thought is “darn.” That is enough to make one ask, “Who are you and what have you done with Hillary?”

I’m thankful Annie’s teachers are so shutter happy, as the last day of Annie’s ski week, the day when parents came to watch, was windy and snowy and Annie started crying when she saw me (no idea why, as she loves skiing) so my pictures from that day are less than excellent.

Here are a few of the highlights of Annie’s winter.

Rutschblatten at the park near the Kindergarten:

Climbing up the hill at the park near the Kindergarten. (Annie is pink and blue)


Rutschblatten 2010 from Hillary Samson on Vimeo.


Annie went skating twice with her class. These are from the first session where I joined in. (Ah, the benefits of being unemployed.) Annie is towards the end of the video. (I probably should have taken the time to edit it, but then this post would never actually be posted. Patrice at the beginning is trying skating for the very first time!)


Skating 2010 from Hillary Samson on Vimeo.

Ski Week:

Every educational institution in Tirol, from Kindergarten to High School (Gymnasium) has a ski week sometime after Christmas. Last year I was constantly side-stepping gaggles of three and four year olds piled up on the sidewalk waiting for their bus. They looked sooooo cute in their helmets and ski boots! And now this year it was Annie’s turn. She loved skiing (except for the last day.) It is such a fantastic family sport (as long as no one breaks a leg), that I’m really thrilled both she and I are learning to be comfortable on the hills.

Getting ready
Getting ready
Up, up, up in the gondola
Up, up, up in the gondola
Ready to rock!!
Ready to rock!!
Magic carpet ride. Seriously, how cute are those kids?!!!
Magic carpet ride. Seriously, how cute are those kids?!!!
Learning the "pizza"
Learning the "pizza"
Annie is at the front of this line (at least, I think that is her), but you get the idea.
Annie is at the front of this line (at least, I think that is her), but you get the idea.

[MISSING: Actual pictures of the ski race.] Between needing to console a crying Annie at the start gates and user error of the video camera, pictures were a bust. But hey, life’s like that sometimes. But trust me, she was fantastic! She made it the whole way down the beginner run with her hands on her knees and chin up. And she even did great pizza turns between flags!

Proudly showing off medals and certificates!
Proudly showing off medals and certificates!

So that is it for Winter 2010. I’m sure not nearly as exciting as it was for my B.C. friends and family who were able to experience the Olympics, but it was pretty great here in Innsbruck in its own small way.

Yesterday as I was walking with Annie home from school, jackets flung on our arms, she held my hand and said “I like snow.” Yes, my love. Me too. Next year…more skiing, new adventures (cross-country or ski touring), more ski-jumping competitions to watch, more snow to play in. We can’t wait!

Simply Lovely Days

As things head into a time of major change and uncertainty, (six weeks to go before we have no income and nowhere to live. But who’s worrying?) I’m trying to appreciate my non-working status a bit more.

Last week the warm winds blew in and so, after dropping Annie off at Kindergarten, I decided to go for a hike. I strolled by the river and then wound my way up one side of the mountain. It was just stunning. After only about 15 minutes hiking the view of the river, city and the breathtaking Alps were all before me. That is one of the insanely spectacular things about living in a valley; you hike up one side only to get an even better view of the range on the other side. Snow-peaked and ragged and awe-inspring. I was only gone about three hours, but it felt like a real break.

And then on Sunday I got a Skype message from my friend Nicole. The last time we had gone skiing together she had grabbed my skis by accident. (Not really that surprising, as “my” skis are Nicole’s old skis that she had for a number of years.) So now her and her husband were away on a week’s ski holiday without her skis. She was going to take the train back up to Innsbruck and switch, but hey…I’m not working, I have time, so I offered to drive them down.  Great, she exclaimed, I’ll by you a day’s ski pass and we can all go skiing together. I was so in.

Nicole and Tom were down in Italy at the Dolomites, about one and a half hours south of Innsbruck. After getting a wee bit lost, I met them in the parking lot and we layered up (it is cold again this week) and hit the gondola. The Dolomites are the perfect ski area for a sort-of beginner like me. Most of the runs are on wide bowls, not too steep with no danger of death-defining edges to fall off of.

But what was really great was how very, very beautiful it was. I must have said “What a view!” about a thousand times. Enough to make Tom want to hit me, I’m sure. The mountains are more rugged at the top than the Austrian Alps, with more rolling hills in between, so it was different kind of beauty for me to experience.

I didn’t have the camera (cameras and winter sports are not compatible, we discovered a couple of years ago) so searched for some shots of the area on Google. Here is what I found that was closest to what I experienced:

Dolomites, Italy


And just to add to the Rockwellian picture-perfectness of it all, every few minutes we would pass Haflingers pulling traditional sleds with tourists bundled in woollen blankets.


Skiing with Tom and Nicole is also very civilized. After about an hour we stopped on one of the gazillions of mountain-side Hütten and had a drink. Hot tea with rum made the rest of the morning pass by with a warm glow. For lunch we skied to a restaurant Nicole had scouted out the day before. I ordered house-made pasta (we were in Italy, so of course) with sun-dried tomatoes, Speck and a pile of fresh Arugula on top. Yum, yum and yum.

We talked about how pretty the Dolomites must be in the summer. So I poked around and found these images of the area in warmer weather:



Yeah, I think I’ll be coming back.

After a couple of more hours of skiing I headed home to sort-of make it in time for my evening German class. That is the kind of spur-of-the moment experience that makes all of the challenges of living in a foreign country so completely worth it. And it is these kind of days that remind me that life can be very generous and that it will all, eventually, work out.