Any day you land in Salzburg, the lovely Austrian city which was home to the musical von Trapp family seems like a good day. Dealing with a problem like Maria aside, I was eager to continue to the mountain retreat MoaAlm near Kals in the eastern Tirol.
The sun was shining on a crisp, bright spring morning with the surrounding mountains being kissed by the soft light of the seasonal sun, it was already a great day.
A two hour plus transfer to the small town of Kals flew by, pretty little Austrian villages filled with ridiculously picturesque alpine chalets kept the journey interesting.
The mountains are a constant, never straying out of view, dominating the skyline like jagged teeth often piercing the highest clouds. These are the majestic southern Alps, rocky monoliths streaked with dirty snow, gouged by deep gullies and shrouded by cloud.
The final leg of the journey required a transfer to a Landrover Defender with chained wheels to navigate the icy road up to MoaAlm. I knew long before my arrival that this was going to be an enjoyable week.
MoaAlm is a traditional mountain chalet, located away from the small town at a height of nearly 1800 metres, the snow was still lying relatively thick here.
I’d already met Hubert one half of the management team as he been my Defender chauffeur up to the chalet. Barbara the other half, met me in the community lounge, bright, cheerful yet professional; Barbara that is.
The lounge is a spacious area which acts as dining room, bar, café and relaxing room, with panoramic views and access to the outside patio.
A quick tour of the facilities, bags dropped off in my comfortable room and a coffee in my hand……. settling in was that easy!
The concept of MoaAlm was quickly becoming apparent, although it is an active holiday, it’s also about relaxation. Activities are at your own pace, there isn’t any pressure. Guests discuss with Barbara and Hubert the following days activities; suggestions are offered but ultimately guests make their own choices.
The dining area consists of a single, long table and everybody eats together, sharing excitedly the activities of the day, and discussing options for tomorrow. It’s simple, friendly and it works.
I was especially looking forward to some spring skiing, while fitting in some snowshoeing and hiking too.
The best laid plans ……
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The first day, it was decided to use the toboggans to ride down the hill before some snowshoeing. This was great fun ……. except for the final five seconds!
Towards the bottom of the road, which was still relatively steep the road had become particularly icy and rutted. Picking up speed and having to swerve to avoid my companions parked in the road, toboggan and I tried flying, with limited success; actually we flew well, landing was the issue.
The result, a badly twisted ankle, which severely hampered any plans for activities the rest of the week. No skiing, no snowshoeing, no hiking, just hobbling. The owners Xania and Craig which were also around that week did their best to get me out, driving me around to see as much as my mobility would allow.
Do you know what, although not being able to ski was frustrating, it was a strange blessing in disguise.
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Without the added distraction of adrenalin filled activities it was possible to reacquaint myself with the stunning beauty of mountains. Often just sitting silently, enjoying the tranquillity
These hills are genuinely filled with the sound of music, but it’s not necessarily the melodies or tunes. It’s the percussive rumble of distant spring avalanches, staccato rock falls, the whistle of the wind, rustle of early spring leaves or the song of snow buntings.
This is the sound of the mountains.
MoaAlm is situated just above the ski region of Kals, within the Hohe Tauern National Park in the Austrian Alps. It is also within a short drive of the Dolomites. The character of the two ranges is quite different; the Alps seem imperious, majestic grey pyramids cloaked in snow and cloud, while the Dolomites more serious, jagged almost sinister sheer walls of rock.
My memories of the Dolomites often involve cold nights spent in hanging bivouacs, sleepless, long, just waiting for sufficient light to enable my climbing partner and I to continue our game of chess with the big wall.
Climbing or ski mountaineering in the greater ranges of the world has been a huge part of my life, they are where I feel most alive, where I feel at home; it was good to be home.
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The mobility issue provided a rare chance to reconnect with them, which I probably would have missed if a week careering around on skis or snowshoes had been possible. It seemed as if it should have hindered my enjoyment, but on the contrary it enhanced my appreciation of the surroundings.
MoaAlm was also the ideal place for this, high enough up to feel among the mountains, peaceful and away from the distractions even a small town can provide.
At the end of each day the two families staying at the chalet and all the staff sat each evening around the single table for dinner. Regaling each other with their various adventures, cajoling one another about their mishaps. This was the way in which I connected with the more active side of the experience,
The injury also gave me an excuse to skip the optional morning yoga session. This was however, very popular with the other guests, enjoying the relaxing start to the day with stunning views of the surrounding peaks.
Summer or winter the opportunities to hike are obvious and skiing on the pistes of the Grossglockner Kals-Matrei resort will keep most skiers and boarders occupied for several days. The absence of ski lift queues should add to the appeal.
The potential for ski touring in the area appears almost limitless.
Xania and Craig describe the experience of MoaAlm as ‘relaxingly active’ which seems to fit perfectly. Guests are welcome to be as active as they wish, but regardless of their activity levels there is always plenty of time and options for relaxation.
It’s an escape to nature, a place to get lost in the natural beauty and sound of mountains.
Bookings can be made with Barbara through the MoaAlm website.