The best winter we (n)ever had / April 2021

Winter was not admitting defeat easily this year. It came with unprecedented amounts of snow, unusually cold weather, and lasted well beyond its sell-by date. When I visited Heiligenblut, the tiny, Austrian ski resort at the foot of Großglocker (3,798m) at the end of April, the battle with spring was not yet decided. On one side the still-three-metre thick armoury of snow, a firm frontier retreating only a few inches per day. On the other side, beyond the debris of this winter’s avalanches – a no-man’s-land of uprooted forests, smashed fences and damaged houses – spring, a ...Read more


HEILIGENBLUT : A winter like no other

AustriaSki+board / February 2021

The snow is falling, the lifts are turning, but the hotels remain closed. Andreas Hofer visits the quaint – and empty – mountain resort to speak with the locals about life during the pandemic.
While we read of fellow skiers locked up by health authorities in Verbier instead of enjoying their paid-for skiing vacations, and about all of Europe fighting the Swiss and the Austrians for trying to keep their ski lifts running this season, deep uncertainty is chipping away on our plans to ski this winter. Direct flights from the UK were ...Read more


Hit the road, Jack: skiing Japan by bus

JapanSki+board / October 2020

The taxi ride from Aomori Airport to downtown Hirosaki was both a journey into winter and into the provincial life of a Japanese small town stuck in the 1960s. The city centre, an unruly scramble of ugly high rises, post-war cottages and a scattering of quaint medieval and 19th century officialdom, was panting under relentless snowfall. Shop owners and dwellers were stoically shovelling snow from the sidewalks into open manholes, some of them, it seemed, clearly too frail and too old for the job. After a walk through Hirosaki Castle's parkland, I soaked in the outdoor onsen of the Dormy Inn, waiting for Hiro. Hirofumi ‘Hiro’ Ishizaka has been my mountain guide in Japan for 15 years...Read more


The old volcano and the sea / January 2020

Out of dense fog the island emerged with the certainty of a dream – perhaps not real, but beyond dispute. We were 71°N and 8.3°W, 550 miles north of Iceland and approximately the same distance to Greenland in the west. Since having left Iceland a week earlier we’d seen nothing but the leaden sea, churned by gale-force winds. Day and night the monotonous same, as the sun, dim as it was, never sets in the Arctic summer. We looked at a raven-black beach...Read more


Skiing the Heart Shaped Land / September 2019

W hen, in the evening of 8 February 1984, the final torchbearer, the figure skater Sandra Dubravčić from Croatia, entered the Olympic Stadium of Sarajevo, excitement seized the almost 40,000 guests and athletes, drowning out what must have been sighs of relief from the ranks of party officials. For the first time in memory there had been no snow on the mountains surrounding Sarajevo, and the planned Alpine competitions in Jahorina and Bjelašnica, as well as the Nordic competitions on Igman Mountain would have had to be cancelled. Until, just seven days before the opening ceremony, it finally snowed, in droves, as always in Bosnia, located in the centre of the Dinaric Alps. The Winter Olympics 1984 were remarkable in many respects. It was a showcase of the best of Yugoslavia...Read more


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