Austrian sports (AKA skiing)

Austria isn’t known for football, soccer, baseball, or really any sports other than skiing. So they do skiing big. Ski competitions and races are a huge deal. This month I’ve been lucky enough to go to two ‘big deal’ competitions in Tyrol. The first one was at the Bergisel ski jump in Innsbruck. I went with a few of my class mates and we had a blast. It is so crazy seeing the guys literally fly through the air. This competition was a part of the “Four Hills Tournament” in which the Bergisel was the third hill. Reinhard and I watched the first two competitions on the TV to prepare me for the event. I really liked listening to the Austrian commentators. It’s really cool to watch it on TV, but even more impressive in person because the jumpers look like they’re just falling out of the sky! We didn’t have the best of “seats” (in quotes because they were just standing sections), so the view that we got was the guys flying out of no where – we couldn’t see their take-offs.

The girls and I had fun. We painted our faces with little Austrian flags and one girl brought a bunch of flags to wave. There was one American guy, so I cheered extra loud for him. But I definitely waved the Austrian flag most of the time. There were plenty of German flags being waved too. I was told that there’s quite some competition between the Germans and Austrians… The fans went crazy when their favorite Austrian jumpers had their turn. They lit bright torches (the security checks at sporting events are a bit different here…) and blew their noise makers. Unfortunately the Austrians (or American) didn’t win, but we were still pretty impressed.

The second big competition I attended was in my favorite town, Kitzbühel. Reini and I went with his sister Kathrin and her boyfriend Thomas. With Reini’s excellent local connections, we ended up getting free admission, beer, and wursts! (A funny side note about beer: I think beer is really gross when it gets warm, but at an outdoor skiing competition, it stays frosty until the very last drop!) It was really cold that day and most of the spectators were snuggled up in their ski attire, too. I was happy to have warm boots, but my toes even got cold toward the end. The layout of the competition is pretty cool. They have two big slopes near each other. The first one is for the downhill ski race and the other is for slalom. The downhill competition happened the day before we got there. Arnold Schwarzenegger got lots of camera close up facial reaction time for that race (Kitzbühel is a town that attracts lots of celebrities). Then next to the downhill slope is the slope for the slalom competition. We climbed up along the downhill slope to get to where we could see the slalom race. It was funny watching all the people who had a bit too much of that frosty beer try to climb and descend the slippery, steep slope. The smart people packed little plastic saucers to slide down the slope after the event! But we eventually got to our viewing position and had fun watching with the crowd. Lots of cheers and flags for sure! The Americans were a bit better at the slalom, cracking the top 10.

Look at the awesome mountainy view!
  

Hiking up the ski slope

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Christmas tree auction

The Kelchsau orchestra is kind of a big deal for the town. Out of the 800 people in the town, 40 people are in the orchestra. So when they have their biggest fundraiser of the year, everyone shows up to support someone they know! Every year the orchestra hosts the Christbaumversteigerung, or the Christmas tree auction! Reinhard and his good friend Armin (a trumpet player) go around to the local businesses and ask for donations to be auctioned off at the big event. Reini said that the businesses expect them and other pairs because they do this every year. They always have something to contribute. They tie little items (branded hats, CDs, eggnog bottles) to tree branches and number bigger items to go with them. Then they auction them all off.

The orchestra first plays a few songs so people are reminded of what they’re supporting. Reini looked especially cute in his band uniform – I’m sad I didn’t get a closeup picture of him! Glühwein, beer, sausages, and goulash are all sold to get people in the mood to spend more money. Then the exciting activity starts! Tree branches and goodies are brought out to the front of the hall (I think was the elementary school gym) by orchestra members and then auctioned off. Some participants even brought their own paddles to raise to submit their bid. Others were content to just raise their hands. People got some interesting things – handmade bird feeders, gift certificates to a nice dinner, new cell phones, chickens (yes, LIVE chickens). It was fun picking out what the local businesses donated. The hunters donated deer meet (to be already processed and delivered upon request, not sitting at the auction in a cooler thankfully); the Fohringer company (transporters of big construction equipment) donated a bunch of branded hats. Lots of the branches included bread from the bakeries and big hunks of cured bacon. Once all the branches had been sold (prices ranging from 100 euros to 300 euros) the whole tree was auctioned off. Those branches were loaded with goodies. The top and the bottom halves of the tree went for 1000+ each (one was an obligatory donation by the mayor). After the “stuff” was actioned, the group then proceeded to bid for chances to conduct the band. Wealthy tourists loved this part. They bid it up big for their turn.

Oh what a fun event and opportunity to raise some money!