Austria Trek: Waltz, Wonder and Wiener Schnitzel in the Alps

This winter break offered me the unique opportunity to become more involved in the HBS community. Arriving as a partner in the second year, the Austria trip with the HBS Ski & Snowboard Club was the perfect time and place to make new friends. As one of the organizers, I was able to show my home country to over 40 students and partners which was an exciting thing to do.

The trip started in Vienna just before New Year’s Eve with a private lesson at a professional dancing school where we were introduced to the Waltz, Polka and “Quadrille.” Having originally attended dancing school at 16 – the typical age Austrians attend dancing schools to prepare for debuting at balls – this lesson offered me a needed refresher. After having dinner at The Palmenhaus, which is situated in the former Emperor’s green house, many continued exploring Vienna’s nightlife at The Passage-a daunting move since clubs fill up only after 1:00 a.m.

The next day began with a much-needed Austrian lunch of “Wiener Schnitzel,” “Gulasch” and Viennese sausages, followed by a sightseeing tour encompassing the Giant Ferris Wheel, the Ringstrasse, the UNO and the Winter Palace Belvedere. We then prepared for the big night – New Year’s Eve at the “Kaiserball” at the Imperial Palace. The evening started with a pre-party cocktail at my parents’ house to get us in the mood and we then headed to the former residence of the Austrian Emperor where the ball took place. Having attended not this, but other balls in Vienna, I am still very impressed by the wonderful flower decorations, guests’ dresses and the whole atmosphere. Nearly everybody practiced his/her new waltz moves until HBS finally overtook the dance floor with rock and roll moves.

The next morning started early as we headed to St. Christoph / Arlberg, which is seven hours west of Vienna. Though tired from the long train ride and a rough evening the previous night, the group’s spirits improved as we neared our destination and thoughts of skiing and snowboarding took over. One quick break in the trip allowed the group to apply TOM skills to optimize moving 40 people plus their luggage and skis from one train to the other in three minutes.

Over the next six days, we explored Arlberg together with professional ski instructors who were not only eager to improve our skiing, but also showed us the best slopes and the most original ski huts. After a snowy start, we were very lucky for this time of year and had three days of marvellous sun and powder snow opening up the unique opportunity of skiing off-piste, which I had never done before.

The unique Austrian “AprŠs Ski” scene where people enjoy mulled wine, beer or “radler” (a mixture of beer and soda) at the ski hut while dancing on the tables brought a necessary distraction from our sportive endeavours. According to the pictures and the loud screaming (which can’t be appreciated in the pictures), people enjoyed themselves. It was difficult to follow a presentation about the development of skiing by the former trainer of the Austrian National Team afterwards. Of course, in true HBS fashion, every night, the most hardcore of the group closed down the town’s dance clubs with whatever energy they had left after a long day on the slopes.

For me, this holiday was really special. The memory of spending time with so many different people, who were fun and interesting to talk to, will stay with me for some time.