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Slumming at the Schloss
Wow. At the risk of repeating myself too often, wow again. Kitzbuehel in the Austrian Tyrol has that effect on you. To add to the awe its scenery inspires, it has ski lifts, gondolas and cable cars. Lots of them. And quite a few will take your bike at no extra cost. Make no mistake I enjoy a bit of climbing, try out some of the rides on this site and you'll soon see what I mean. But some of the climbs around Kitzbuehel will make non total masochists squirm. They look deceptively close from the valley, but on studying the map you realise they can be over 5000 feet, a sobering thought on a hot Summers day.

We stayed at the four star Schloss Lebenberg hotel. The things I go through to bring you these articles... I mean they had no internet connection and every night I had to force myself to eat five courses of immaculate Haute Cuisine. Drop in at the local tourist information centre and you can get free trail maps and even free guided rides. Pepi, the local ski, hiking, mountain bike guide will whisk you off up the Hannenkahm gondola lift (160 Schillings or 8) and from there ride up to a high point of some 1800 metres and drinks at a traditional Alm hut. Now I know a soft drink is what's called for, but home-made Schnapps was on offer and just too good to resist. I calculated the risk involved like this: Brakes the wrong way round + no rear suspension + Almost pure alcohol + 5000 feet of descending = imminent death. Did I mention I was on a hired hardtail Scott? They wire up the brakes with the front brake lever on the left. Motor bikers may think this is OK but to me it was a disaster waiting to happen.

In a bizarre turn Pepi extracted a (slightly dented) horn from his rucksack and played an accomplished piece or two to serenade our hosts, their cows and the odd passing hiker. Anybody heard of a more unusual piece of kit for the mountain bikers bag? Thought not. From here began the descent in earnest, not much in the way of high speed competition from two German lads who were with us, but I guessed the boot would be on the other foot in winter as they usually ski. The mostly Kamikaze style descent had mostly dodgy corners and the steep sides with no fences sobered me up in no time. The ride finished with a flat sprint back in to Kitzbuehel punctuated by a long stop for a huge piece of cake, the Austrians certainly know a lot about desserts.

Copyright Tourismusverband Kitzbuehel
Photographer Albin Niederstrasser

I gathered information from Pepi about more radical routes and when we returned I got on the Gondola again and headed towards Stochalm. The route goes down through alpine meadows and more fantastic scenery. At high speed I raced down a grassy trail not a care in the world, not a care except for the previously un-noticed barbed wire stretched across the road just in front of me..... Now how fast can I stop this thing? clearly not fast enough as I slid sideways and the wire bit deep through my brand new Specialized glove. Ouch. Even the resulting three inch long gash on my hand and the holes in my new glove couldn't take the shine off this sunny day. Entering the wood I soon learned the nature of Austrian singletrack. Rooty, very very rooty. A technical nightmare, at one point I rode over some less tricky looking roots and grimaced at the 100 foot drop just inches to my right (low by Austrian standards).

Even though the sun was intense and I got some serious sun burn the woods were still way too dark for sun glasses. We are talking dense forest and no one will hear you scream... sorry, got carried away there. It did make me think though and you really are better off with a guide, so I'm including contact information for guides who will be well worth hiring. At the end of the day it's surprising how tiring downhilling can be, a quick shower, hot tub jacuzzi and a five course meal it is then. Yet more suffering for the cause....

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Kitzbuhel Information
The tourist office in the town centre is a good place to start.They can organise guided rides for groups and individuals. Several of the local lifts take mountain bikes at no extra charge. A 10 day holiday pass (which allows travel on 6 of the 10 days) costs 595 ATS or 30.

A guide for more advanced mountain bikers can be hired through Pepi Treichl (contact via tourist office).


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