It’s 6pm on a clear, frosty evening as we gather on the bridge in Mayrhofen. The ski lifts have just closed and après-ski is in full swing on Mayrhofen high street. As we wait, skiers pass us, heading into the warmth of the bars to shrug off their heavy ski jackets and celebrate a good day on the slopes with a few cold beers. However, we are wrapped up warmly with woolly hats and mittens, thermals, ski pants, ski jackets and snow boots. Rather than cold beers, we are passing round hip flasks of warming whiskey and schnapps, because we are headed back up the mountain to enjoy a different winter sport – tobogganing.
From skiing to tobogganing
It’s only been two hours since we were skiing together in the sunshine on the Penken. A friend of ours has a birthday, so it’s been a full day of celebrations. A quick trip home to freshen up (via Sport Hanzmann to hire our toboggans) and we are ready for our next adventure. As we wait for everyone to arrive, there is excited chatter in the group as well as quite a bit of hopping from foot to foot, blowing into our hands and snuggling into scarves to keep warm. We are keen to get going – a clear night in January means the temperature is already well below freezing.
Up to the Wiesenhof and cheers!
Finally, the last of our friends arrive. Toboggans in tow, we turn towards the Ahorn, walking past the thumping music of the Bruckenstadl après bar and the Ahorn car park as we head into the Kumbichl suburb of Mayrhofen. Looking up at the mountain we can see the distant lights of our destination- the Wiesenhof hut – halfway up the Ahorn home run. We make a quick stop at the “Blechhotel” Imbiß for a cheeky Jägermeister to toast the birthday boy. The sticky, sweet and herby liquor is cold in my mouth but warm in my tummy – extra power for the hike ahead!
Crunch, crunch, crunch…
After a few bends on the quite road, we leave the lights and sounds of Mayrhofen behind us as we enter the dark of the forest. We turn on our head torches and the snowy track ahead of us glistens in the dim light. Crunch, crunch, crunch; as the path gets ever steeper the chatter in our group quietens and the only noise we can hear in the silent forest is the sound of our footsteps in the snow and our heavy breathing as we hike uphill. We listen out for the sound of taxis – in winter taxis can drive halfway up the road to the Wiesenhof hut – but we encounter none.
Where is the hut???
Every 20 minutes or so we stop for a rest; sitting on our toboggans, rehydrating with water and reenergising with some “Zelten”- a dense local fruit cake. Of course, everyone also has a good few sips from the hip flasks to keep our spirits high! The forest around us is picture perfect; snowflakes glimmering on the pine trees and hundreds of stars clearly visible in the sky above.
Finally arrived at Wiesenhof!
After about an hour and a half we arrive at the Wiesenhof hut. Hot, hungry and invigorated from the hike, we bundle into the warm hut, strip off our jackets and fleeces and take our seats at the table we have reserved. It’s a quiet week of the season and there are only a couple of other groups in the restaurant. We order beers and food with the friendly hut owner and soon the table is full of steaming bowls of goulash soup, plates of Schnitzel and chips and pans of “Tiroler Gröstl”. Another toast to the birthday boy and we tuck in.
Stomachs full, we allow ourselves time to relax, chat, laugh and joke. The time ticks by and soon it is 9.30pm. A little reluctant to leave the warmth of the hut, but excited to get going on our toboggans we pay up, wrap up warm and head back outside. The cold air hits us immediately – but that’s maybe not a bad thing as it reverses the effect of some of the beer consumed during the meal! We sit down one or two to a toboggan and off we go!
Downhill it’s going faster than uphill, haha!
The path is gentle to begin with but we are soon flying down the track. Typically, the boys are racing; so I find myself clinging to my husband, screaming with exhilaration as we fly down the mountain. The trees become a blur and the wind and lightly falling snow are cold against my face. “Man down!” a couple of our group have been run off the trail and into the soft snow banks at the side of the track. They pick themselves up, dust the snow off and the race is back on.
Party is still on
All too soon we are rounding the final corner. The final descent to the Ahorn base station is the steepest part of the run and I panic and break with both feet. Much to my husband’s dismay, I lose him the race. But, as we walk the few metres into the Brückenstadl to continue the party in town, there is nothing but good vibes and banter.
Perfect snow conditions, an exhilarating race, good food, good company and plenty of schnapps – our tobogganing evening has truly been a night to remember.