If I can think of one word that sums up Rodeln, then that is it. I never drank coffee until I came to Austria, to Mayrhofen. Rodeln and Coffee, where is the connection, you ask? Let me explain.
I was, at this point, living in the small village of Ginzling, nestled deep in to the mountains. It was where our Track was that we operated. Ginzling is about 15 minutes drive from Mayrhofen and high enough that it had a good amount of snow during the entire winter.
I had finally arrived; I had my own track (well sort of!)
The days were long, normally starting at 6am and it was usual to go through until 1 or 2 am the following morning (sleep is for the weak!). My day would always start with a Rodel run. The night previous, the owner of the restaurant Tristenbach Alm, which stood at the top of the track, would drive down in a mini version of a piste machine. The track started off the day immaculately prepared, groomed to perfection and then 5 hours of freezing to ensure that it would stay that way! How could I not be the first one down?
So each and every morning I would grab my Rodel and hike up the frozen track. I came to see it as my early morning exercise and would walk up at a fast pace to the top. The Top was a magical place. You were a couple of kilometers into a valley, and well away from the village, you can imagine how quiet it was at that time in the morning! I would always have a flask of tea with me, and I would sit on my Rodel enjoying the stillness of the morning. It was a time of reflection, of clarity, of focus.
A calm before the storm – then it was off!
Rodeln in daylight is so different, mainly in that you can see where you were going! It didn’t take long before you know the track intimately. You could anticipate corners and really push hard into the straights. It was nearly over before it started. At the end you felt alive, and a bit cold too! Enter the coffee into the story. Each and every morning, the landlady of the guesthouse that I was living in would set a pot of coffee to brew at about the same time that I went out. When I came back there was the most amazing smell of freshly brewed coffee throughout the house. It didn’t take long for it to become a part of my morning ritual too! The exhilaration felt with that morning run could only be matched by seeing the faces of our guests that evening after their first run.
It was all ever people used to say after their first run. It was some 14 hours later and during the day we had been busy checking the nets on the track (they were for insurance purposes), shaping the side banks and servicing the rodels. Firstly, the guests were ferried by coach and taxi to the restaurant at the top. Next, we gave them a quick lesson on how to steer and (more importantly!) how to stop a Rodel.
Finally we gave them a good push to get them going, and off they went. Nets, snow walls, and industrial street lighting all added to the track to ensure the safety of our guests. (It was a far cry from where we had started in the pitch black with a couple of beers!) When they got to the bottom of the track they were buzzing with excitement, just like we had our first time. Naturally they wanted more. That however was saved for later; first we would get them back to the restaurant for a drink or two. The restaurant was alive with conversation as people told their stories. Martin and I, (Yes the same person who originally introduced me to Rodeln all those years before) would sit and listen, reliving our own experiences with them.
It was an amazing experience.
At the end of the evening we would take them back to the track and give them the run home. This time fuelled with some knowledge, a bit of bravado, and some alcohol to boot! The second run would always be slightly faster and give our guests some great stories for the rest of their holiday. Some nights we would head back up after the guests had departed to have a run or 2 ourselves. We wouldn’t walk for these; instead we took it in turns towing each other up on the back of Skidoos. Oh how things had changed!
Then at some point when all was packed up and the lights were turned off, it was time to get some well-earned sleep. Waking up only to turn the coffee on and get back on to the track, Rodel in hand.