Many Austrians seemingly know how to ski before they can walk. In this part of Austria, with all its lofty peaks, skiing is practically the national sport, and it seems that ever other little mountain town has its own ski run. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to ski, and don’t have the time or money to invest in becoming proficient at it. As luck would have it, though, there’s another great winter downhill snow activity that pretty much anyone can take part in: "rodeling".
A "Rodel" is a sled – the real ones, made with a wooden frame and runners, not the plastic things that are fun for zipping down short hills. And for some reason, the word works quite well, even for someone like me with very limited German skills, "Rodeling" just works well to describe it, so everyone I know uses the German word even when speaking English.
Generally, it’s pretty simple: there are a number of Rodel tracks located in the mountains. Some of them are near ski areas, but others are simply roads that have been converted to winter use as Rodel tracks. So you drive out to the Rodel track, and walk your sled up the hill. More often than not, up on top, there is an ‘Alm’, or mountain hut, where you can come in from the cold, and eat some hearty Tirolean fare (and I do mean hearty: sausages, potatoes, eggs and cheese are all fairly standard ingredients, usually in large portions), prior to going back down the hill. Going down is easy – just shift your weight to steer, and stick out your feet to brake and steer as needed. You can go as fast or as slow as you like, but as long as you’re on a track that’s not too steep, it’s fairly safe, and lots of fun!
Here’s Ilenia cruising down a hill with Helen:
An amusing note: Helen, our baby, tends to fall asleep when we go rodeling.