Sashimi and Käsespätzle: Finding the Goods When the Snow Is Bad

In January 2020, I left my home in Victor, Idaho, for a trip to Japan with my dad and brother. The 11-hour flight to Tokyo couldn’t dampen my excitement for the legendary powder skiing I was sure to be heading toward. Neither could losing my favorite sunglasses on the bullet train to Hokkaido. Who needs sunglasses when it snows every day?

Turned out, I did need sunglasses. It barely snowed while we were there. Meteorologists remember the 2019/20 season as Hokkaido’s most balanced winter in recent memory, in which it was bluebird just as many days as it was stormy—a sweet spin on one of the lowest snow totals in the past 60 years. While we ’shwacked through willows that were normally buried under 8 feet of snow, my ski partners posted endless face shots in Grand Teton National Park on social media. In the week I was away, January 2020 became Jackson Hole’s third-snowiest month on record.

When I booked the trip, I wanted the skiing to be the highlight. Obviously, it wasn’t, so we found a different focal point. On the clear, sunny days, we could see past towering volcanoes to the ocean in all directions. At night, it was a rotating menu of ramen, Japanese curry and sushi. My dad, brother and I still talk about the best piece of sashimi we’ve ever had: a buttery tuna that just melted in our mouths.

When Betsy Manero was planning a trip to Austria, the outlook wasn’t great. She stayed the course and found good skiing, better food and unforgettable experiences. [Photo] Christoph Oberschneider

This past January, I had déjà vu while packing for a trip to Austria. The country was having an epically bad ski season. My social media feed suggested news reports on what resorts in the Alps were doing to combat their lack of snow. It wasn’t inspiring, especially given the deep year the Tetons were having. In between untracked, waist-deep laps, while setting a fresh skintrack on Teton Pass, I played with the idea of bailing on the trip, wondering what the airline’s cancellation policy was.

After the 10-hour flight and a stint on the Autobahn, fat snowflakes started to appear as our van climbed into the mountains. The craggy peaks above the winding road disappeared in thick mists as we arrived in the town of Altenmarkt. A snowplow clearing precipitation outside our hotel woke me at 4 a.m., and I spent the rest of the morning lying awake in anticipation.

The skiing was phenomenal. I made my deepest turns of the season on quiet slopes under a blue sky. We continued to find cold powder turns throughout the whole trip as we lapped open bowls and shady glades, taking breaks only for slope-side lunches of schnitzel and kaiserschmarrn.

On my last night in Austria, our crew toured up to a 100-year-old hut for dinner, where one of the descendents of the people who built the backcountry cabin served us käsespätzle—a fancy mac and cheese—and radlers. A toast of zirbenschnaps was made to a week well spent before we carved headlamp-lit turns back to our car.

Back home, over a cup of coffee, a friend asked what the highlight of the trip was. I started to talk about the snow but quickly became sidetracked describing the meal at the ancient hut and the pine-flavored liqueur we sipped after dinner. As I recalled the mulled wine and strudel, the chalets and huts, I realized that perhaps the sashimi being the highlight of my trip to Japan wasn’t just due to the low-tide year. After all, powder turns can be found all over the world. What makes a trip unique are the food, views and experiences that don’t involve skiing.

Editor in Chief Betsy Manero has a degree in media studies, journalism and digital arts with a concentration in journalism and minors in political science and creative writing from St. Michael’s College (and the dean of students did have to take a breath in the middle of that during graduation).

This article was originally published in Issue No. 151, The Isolation Issue. To read more, pick up a copy, or subscribe to read stories like these as soon as they are published in print.

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  1. What a fun read! As a skier myself, I totally relate to those days when the conditions just aren’t cooperating. The author’s attitude is so refreshing – instead of getting frustrated, she decides to make the most of the day and seek out other mountain adventures besides skiing. Her exploration of the town and discovery of that delightful restaurant seemed like the perfect way to embrace the experience. Even when the powder isn’t perfect, there are still gems to uncover if we stay open and positive. The photos of the food made me hungry too! I’ll have to check that place out next time I’m in the area.

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