Nude Austrian Saunas For Beginners

Intro To Austrian Saunas

There are moments in every person’s life where you pause and ask yourself…how did I end up right here, in this moment, at this point in time? For me, one such moment came in the form of a sweat covered, completely naked, Austrian man’s knee resting casually against my own in a lovely dry sauna in the small ski-town of Obergurgl.

It was my first international sauna experience and my first introduction to Austrian sauna culture.  To be frank, I had no idea what I was doing, or what to expect. The result? An absolutely hilarious experience full of culture shock, epiphanies, a whole lot of naked people, and what I think is a fantastic story.

This video is the latest in an ongoing series I’ve produced where I document some of my favorite travel stories.  The goal? To share them with you in roughly five minutes in the same way I’d tell them sitting around a table while sharing drinks at a bar.

So, without further delay – enjoy!

Oh, and for those of you who are wondering: It really was an amazing experience, and I’m now completely addicted to saunas and the Austrian approach. Stay tuned for Part II when things really heat up!

Don’t forget to view previous videos on my youtube channel and to subscribe to ensure you don’t miss out on future updates!

An Adult Learns to Ski in the Austrian Alps

Learning to Ski - Obergurgl, Austria

Growing up I never felt a strong desire to find a large hill, scale it, and then throw myself down the side at a high rate of speed. As a general matter of practice, I considered this a sign of sound judgment and a firm contributor to the fact that I’ve never broken a major bone. So, it was with some trepidation that at the age of 27 I finally decided to find some of the tallest peaks in Europe, only to launch myself down the side of them. To add to the excitement, we added snow to the hill, 5 foot long skis, two poles, and boots that reminded me more of an astronaut’s footwear than something of a terrestrial nature.

When the Tyrol tourism board reached out to me and invited me to ski the Austrian Alps near the small ski town of Obergurgl butterflies erupted in my stomach and my palms began to sweat. I thought to myself – skiing is something that people learn when they’re kids. It’s not just the art of an expensive and complicated sport, it’s the corresponding culture that goes with it. A culture with all sorts of convoluted rules, social protocols and what I’ve always perceived as an aloof arrogance that disdainfully discourages flatlanders who failed to spend their childhood making an annual pilgrimage to steep mountain peaks.

Obergurgl - The Austrian Alps

After swallowing deeply I fired off a response e-mail. What the hell, I’d cross my fingers, close my eyes and give it a go. After all, how often do you get to say you learned to ski in the Austrian Alps? I’m glad I did and hope that this post helps convince those of you who –like me – may be latecomers to skiing and ski culture to press forward and give it a go. It’s worth it. It really, really is.

As the trip approached I nervously attempted to research “skiing for beginners” which largely generated the same advice I’d gotten from friends on Facebook: “Pizza and French Fries”. This enigmatic response was repeated over and over, time and time again. Each time it came without any explanation and seemed like completely random babbling. They might as well have been saying, “Dog Moonwalk” or “Penguin Aardvark Buffalo”. It was my first run in with the enigmatic ski culture I dreaded. Eventually I found a similarly enigmatic explanation that said something about the Pizza and French Fries signifying ski positions for beginners. Assuming it must be somewhat important, but still making little/no sense I filed it away next to “Don’t eat the yellow snow”.

Obergurgl - The Austrian Alps

The flight to Austria was uneventful. Though excited for the landing at Innsbruck’s famous airport, I arrived just after dark and missed the dramatic descent into the valley that I’m told leaves some nervous travelers clutching their arm rests. The 45 minute drive to Obergurgl was pleasant, if not overly eventful given night had settled over the valley completely. My late night arrival meant that the following morning when I awoke in a comfy bed at the Hotel Josl, and stepped outside I was met by breathtaking views of soaring alpine mountains. The air was surprisingly warm, crisp, clear, and the town was covered in a fresh layer of gorgeous white powder.

I followed someone cryptic directions to the ski rental shop, where I swallowed my pride and admitted I had no clue what I needed and asked them to outfit me properly. The guys there were super helpful and jumped to the task explaining what they were doing and what I should be watching out for/feeling for. Before long I was booted up in a pair of vibrantly colored moonboots, and handed two skis, two ski poles, and perhaps most importantly for me a helmet. Luckily I had a pair of waterproof gloves, but given that I wear glasses I had opted to skip a pair of sleek ski-goggles. I figured short of keeping snow out of my eyes during the inevitable faceplant into the snow, I wasn’t likely to be flying down the hillside at significant enough speed to need eye protection. As I slowly worked on my ski-boot gait, and clunked out of the ski shop I felt I looked the part, even if I still had no idea what I was doing. I was making progress and who knew – perhaps I’d make it through the day with my dignity largely intact.

Snowshoe Hike - Obergurgl, Austria

The mid-March weather was incredible. The temperature was floating between 6 and 10 degrees Celsius and the sun was out. In a rolling ramble of uncoordinated, lanky, awkwardness I balanced my skis, and tried to keep my helmet from falling off my head while occasionally dropping my ski poles and doing the bizarre clip-clop, clunk-amble which passed for a walk while in my ski boots. Though I felt like a Giraffe walking amongst swans, no one else seemed to pay my awkwardness much mind as I made my way to the Obergurgl Ski School to meet with the private instructor the tourism folks had set up for me.

My instructor arrived a few minutes later, a 23 year old guy from Berlin, he’d been skiing for years and was eager to work with me. He quickly showed me how to carry my skis and ski poles over one should and balanced by one hand, so that I could walk more than 15 feet without dropping a pole or ski. This trick restored some semblance of elegance to my stride.

I anticipated spending the two days I had allocated on some sort of flat space, with a winch that would drag me, flailing back and forth, across a flat snow surface. So, it was with some trepidation that before putting my skis on for the first time, we made our way directly to a very long, very gentle slope. After a 5 minute intro to how to get the skis on (and off) we began to practice going straight and how to stop. It was amazing how sliding at two miles an hour left me feeling like I was racing out of control at 60.

Years before I had spent some time picking up rollerblading. At the time I’d mastered a few tricks -the highlight of which was how to skate backwards. Unfortunately, I’d never truly mastered the fine art of stopping. My first two hours on the ski slope left me fairly confident that I’d have a similar challenge while skiing.

That said, I was amazed at how quickly things came together. It quickly became clear that the biggest challenge wasn’t the skiing itself, it was overcoming the mental obstacles that popped up. I quickly learned what I needed to do to make myself turn, to pause, to stop, and to slow down. It was just that once that light sense of panic started to kick in, the adrenaline surge overwhelmed reason and left me trying to respond how I would if I was walking down a hill in hiking boots.

Despite these challenges, the first hour of our session was actually quite easy. I believe I fell down once, if that, and the moments of terror were extremely brief and fairly mild in the grand scheme of things. Until, that is, my guide expressed his satisfaction with how well I was doing and proposed we head to the bunny slope. My face went white. We had already progressed in one hour beyond what I had expected would take me the full two days.

The training hill itself looked like mount Everest to me and was similarly strewn with the mangled corpses of fallen skiers. Well, perhaps not really, but there were more than a few nasty wipeouts to be seen as my fellow students gave the hill their best.

Learning to Ski - Obergurgl, Austria

Luckily, as it turned out, there was a small path that wound down the backside and was specifically designed as a transition for folks at my level. Unfortunately for me and my dignity, about 90% of the folks sharing the hill with me were freshly out of diapers on skis shorter than my forearms. The downside was that the tiny tykes were quite often better than I was. The upside was that I didn’t have to worry about an audience of judgmental adults that I was about to sacrifice my dignity in front of, and I also had the petty pleasure of learning at an exponentially faster pace. So, while yes, I was competing with 6 year olds – at least it wasn’t nearly the traumatizing experience I had envisioned.

I survived the first three runs down the beginner route, though I lost control and ended up in a heap on two of the three. Surprisingly crashing wasn’t nearly as bad an experience as I expected. That knowledge helped me push forward, and before long I was less concerned with falling and more concerned with the burning agony in my thighs as I tried to stop myself using the “snow plow” – basically forming the V-shaped blade of a snow plow with my skis to stop myself.

After the third run my guide smiled, patted me on the back and said he was impressed. That I was an incredibly fast learner, didn’t show much fear which was a huge help, and that it was time to graduate to the third and final part of the learning slope.

Learning to Ski - Obergurgl, Austria

I was out of my comfort zone. I was also fairly confident I was going to die. Impaled on my skis or in a tangled heap with my maimed and bloodied instructor who I’d run down at speed. But, he seemed confident and hadn’t led me astray. So, off we went. Three minutes later I found myself making a slow zig-zag down the slope hands in the air, or on my knees as I used my body weight to turn. Then, something magical happened. I suddenly learned and “felt” how I could turn back into the mountain to slow and/or stop myself. It makes perfect sense of course. Going down a mountain? Turn into/back up the mountain to decrease your speed or stop. Yet, in the fog of nerves and adrenaline during the first few hours, it had totally escaped me.

Oh, I fell of course, but it was only a handful of times. Usually when I started to get a bit cocky, or was distracted by the natural beauty of my surroundings. The feeling though of gliding across the snow silently, picking up speed, and just…floating. It’s magical, unique and definitely addicting.

Learning to Ski - Obergurgl, Austria

As I repeated and mastered the bunny hill over the remainder of our time I excitement and confident grew. I’d been missing out, and the skiing thing? Well, it wasn’t nearly as terrifying or terribly difficult as I had pictured it in my mind. It was physically challenging, but not nearly as extreme as I had envisioned. It was scary and embarrassing to learn – but all new things are, and this was actually far more comfortable than most. In fact, the ski culture I had been so intimated by from the outside was in fact extremely supportive and nurturing.

As the day went on, I enjoyed friendly banter with a number of folks. Many of whom offered compliments and support. For all those years, it quickly became evident that I had pegged skiing all wrong.

…and then the day ended. The following morning, I learned, we wouldn’t be returning to the bunny hill. No, we’d be heading to the blue diamond rout on one of the primary slopes. As my guide broke the news to me, I was shocked. Not only that I’d come so far, so quickly, but also that I’d be facing the long, gradual slopes of the mountain. Slopes filled by experienced skiers, trees, and steep runs that made what I’d done on the bunny hill look like a lazy day lounging in the sun. But, he said I was ready, and if said I was ready – I’d have to get a good night’s sleep, push through my sore muscles, and pray I remembered the day’s lessons.


DAY TWO – The Real Deal

The second day was much the same as the first. The weather was glorious and peaked at 11 degrees Celsius. It quickly became apparently that I was over dressed for the warm weather. Stripping down left me more susceptible to chunks of snow slipping down my shirt and pants during my periodic faceplants, but by and large left me feeling invigorated and more nimble.

The morning started with an introduction to the large ski lifts. I’ve gotta say – getting on, and off, without falling was a proud moment. We even ended up helping some of the other ski instructors who had a small army of munchkins get their kids on, and off the various forms of ski lift. It was fun and helped ease some of the anxiety bunched between my shoulders at the thought of my first few runs down the mountain.

Learning to Ski - Obergurgl, Austria

They went well. Over the course of the day we tried a wide variety of different routes down the mountain. For some he had me race down without ski poles. For others, we did exercises straightening, then bending over and forward, both hands on one knee, and then the other to facilitate turns. Yet others were just about goofing off.

It took me a long time to accept the rules of the road, and that I didn’t have to be constantly working to get out of the way of the better skiers as they came down the slope and zipped past us. Eventually, however, I got used to it. Oh, I still got passed periodically by little kids on their snow boards, or skis but it just became part of the fun. I launched myself forward down the hill trying new things, experimenting with speed, and doing my best to stay upright.

It was awesome and by the end of the morning’s session I felt like I had finally begun to move beyond crawling down the hill, and started to actually ski! As I think back on it, I’m still shocked that I was able to transition from the ski-equivalent of a newborn foal to slightly awkward giraffe in so little time. A large part of that was the benefit and aid of having an excellent ski instructor working with me one-on-one. My 10 years in ballroom and salsa also likely helped with my balance and ability to center myself. That said, skiing in general just wasn’t the terrifying beast I had built it up to be. I’m now hooked, and cannot wait to get back out onto the slopes.

As far as the social side of ski and spa culture? Well, for that you’ll have to stay tuned, or reference my post about my introduction to Austrian spas. Needless to say, they too were far, far more enjoyable and much less embarrassing to figure out than I had feared.

Thinking about learning how to ski but feeling as intimidated as I was? Feel free to ask a question and I’ll do my best to weigh in!

A very special thank you to the Tyrol and Obergurgl Tourism board for their invite to learn how to ski. As well as to the Hotel Josl who put me up, and the Obergurgl Ski School which provided accommodation, food, and an absolutely fantastic guide.

Fresh Austrian Air – Weekly Travel Photo

Innsbruck Ski & Snowboard Competition

It’s the heart of summer so I figured a shot to help cool us all down was in order.  This week’s photo comes from the ski slopes above the gorgeous Austrian city of Innsbruck. While visiting I stumbled onto a fantastic ski and snowboarding competition where local athletes showed off their high flying spins, turns, flips, and periodic crash-landing skills.  Situated about two thirds of the way up the mountain the competition provided a gorgeous setting with an absolutely amazing backdrop out over the valley.

If you get a chance to visit the Tyrol region and the slopes around Innsbruck I highly recommend it!

Make sure to head over to flickr to see the rest of the album.

Would you like to see previous Weekly Photos? View past travel pictures here. This photo was taken on a Canon T3i (600D) Camera.

The Naked Truth – A Beginner’s Introduction to Austrian Saunas

Obergurgl - The Austrian Alps

My palms were far beyond clammy.  They were completely committed now to downright slick and sweaty. As I grimaced and wiped them on my towel, I couldn’t help but imagine them turning prune-like.  They had devolved into the type of palms that make a soft slapping sound mid-handshake and cause the person you’ve just met to grimace in thinly hidden disgust while trying to quickly retrieve their hand….desperately looking around for something or someone to wipe it on.  Which, you might think, is to be expected given my seat perched inside the beautiful and newly renovated upscale dry-sauna on the fourth floor of the Hotel Josl in Obergurgl, Austria.  After all, isn’t the whole point of a sauna to sweat?  To allow ones body to purge itself of contaminants? To sooth the muscles and to encourage a hearty rush of circulation through the body?

The catch was, I’d just entered the dry sauna and assumed my seat.  My body hadn’t had time to warm to its core. This was nerves plain and simple. I’d spent the day with fantastic guides introducing me to the finer parts of ski culture.  The gear. The locations. How to ski. The snowshoe hike. But now?  I was on my own with only a confusing mixture of poorly written online guides to sauna culture and etiquette bouncing around my head. As I sat inside the wood-lined room trying to relax and enjoying the intense heat I stared straight ahead.  I’m not sure why, after all, without my glasses on the world was one giant blur. Then, of course, there was the fact that the room itself was empty.  Never the less, it just seemed like the appropriate thing to do. Just as I’ve found myself standing at a stop light in the pouring rain at 4AM with a small group of Danes at a deserted intersection here in Denmark waiting for the light to turn. Social protocol demands it.  Even when it goes in the face of reason and common sense.

I’m not sure how or why I’d never done a sauna as an adult.  I remember them as a child, and even from my high school days, but those were different.  I just followed along with what the others were doing and for whatever reason (it being conservative Arizona a likely factor) we always wore our bathing suits. About a year ago, some of you may recall my awkward introduction to the Turkish Hamams…which…I suppose…was a very similar experience minus the naked massage and the rotund Turkish man rubbing my nearly naked body down. It was with some shock then that I strolled into the hotel’s sauna expecting the usual American structure – sex segregated changing rooms, lockers, people in swimsuits, etc. – only to discover a room full of quasi-naked people relaxing in naught but their towels with a bank of mixed-gender shower alcoves along the side wall. My face went white as I quickly realized that the jeans and t-shirt I was wearing over my swim-trunks beneath the robe the hotel had provided were grossly out of place.  I was completely over dressed. I quickly made a U-turn and headed back to my hotel room.

In a flurry of key strokes I searched the web trying to find a more in-depth write-up on the etiquette of sauna culture. My original research had obviously been flawed. After finding a few posts that argued the finer points of nudity, I toyed with tossing in the towel and abandoning my adventure.  Then, reminded by the ache in my knees and back from a day spent learning to ski, I sucked it up, stripped down to my swimsuit, wrapped my towel over it to try and hide it, tossed on my robe, and made the trip back to the 4th floor.  I was ready.  I was prepared. I was strangely terrified…and then the elevator doors opened.

Snowshoe Hike - Obergurgl, Austria

This time as the door slid open I kept my eyes peeled, watching what the others were doing and then carefully trying to emulate them while looking as casual as possible.  I kept my composure and made my way towards the three shower alcoves, only losing it slightly as an older gentleman exited completely naked and shrugged back into his robe. That’s when I realized that I was STILL over dressed.  My American prudishness was in full form….which left me somewhat annoyed with myself. I don’t mind being naked, in fact, I thoroughly enjoy it.  I also don’t have any moral objection to people spending time together socially in their natural state. Yet, at the same time I also come from a culture where even in high school after gym class none of the men would shower out of fear of being naked around other people.  Even simple things like a visit to the doctor for an annual check-up is the source of anxiety for a lot of young American men. There are exceptions of course, but for the most part young people in the US have been drilled with a puritanical message that you only spend time naked with romantic partners. Anything else opens you up for judgement and/or comes with the risk of implied ulterior motives (read: how you doin’ darlin’).

So. There I was, staring at the three open shower stalls trying to decide what to do.  Do I just go for it, pocket my swimsuit, and embrace it?  Or, do I keep the swimsuit on and chicken out? It was right about that time that the first woman I’d seen in what I had thought was a male-only sauna area emerged and walked over to the recovery/relaxation area.  Needless to say, I chickened out and left the swimsuit on. All the while internally mocking myself for being such a giant baby about it. I stripped off my robe, tossed the towel aside, and quickly rinsed off. Then in a flurry of motion I toweled off quickly, eager to re-disguise my swimsuit.  I made the brief trip to the now empty sauna, swung the door open, slid in, and plopped down on a bench.

Feeling self-conscious and convinced I was making a plethora of faux pas, I sat staring straight ahead. The door opened and butterflies lurched in my stomach. A middle-aged man made his way in, still wrapped in his towel and sat down.  Good I thought – maybe I’ve got this figured out.  Then the door opened again and another man entered.  This one yanked off his towel, spread it out on the wooden bench and then settled in. He was stark naked.  The whole time I did my best to stare at the wall with a blank look on my face.  20 seconds later the door opened and this time two women entered. The butterflies were back.  Is this normal?  Is he going to cover up?  Are they going to join?  Just how exactly does this work?

They peeled off their towels and tossed them onto the bench before settling in around me completely naked.  At this point the small sauna room was also getting somewhat full, which meant simply staring at my wall was no longer an option.  I needed to move to make space, which also meant violating my sprawling space bubble and saddling up nearly knee-to-knee with one of the other men and one of the newly-arrived women. Then it dawned on me. This was a new first.  In my nearly 28 years, I’d never been surrounded by so many naked people, in such close proximity.  Which, you can imagine, did little to help the internal narrative running through my mind – a raging debate between my intellectual brain which casually noted that naked bodies are not inherently sexual and that the experience itself was only minimally arousing.  Luckily, as I started to relax it dawned on me that it was just a comfortable extension of the shared experience we’d have all been engaged in if we were clothed. Meanwhile, my paranoid brain raged with fear and uncertainty – what if my primitive brain won out and arousal ensued. How embarrassing,  humiliating, and what sort of violation of the common norms would that be? All the while the wealth of obtuse American norms and cultural quirks polarized the experience…a fascinating counter to the much more relaxed approach to nudity and group nudity I’d encountered already in Denmark, and knew was much more common within Austrian and German culture.

All the while sweat slowly began to form all over my body and time ticked by.  It was only then, as I watched the others from the corner of my eyes that I observed and realized that the “decorations” I had seen earlier were in fact hanging sand timers which we could use to judge how long we’d been in the sauna.  It was a fitting moment of clarity and epiphany as my brain otherwise raged against itself trying to find balance.

Slowly the nervous sweat that clung to my palms was replaced by the clean sweat of relaxed perspiration. My sore muscles gradually gave way and the heat penetrated me to my core replacing the cold of a day spent outside covered in snow.  My condition as an uncertain and nerve-wracked mass of self-consciousness and uncertainty had now transformed into comfort and growing confidence.

As I left the sauna, rinsed off, and headed to the relaxation chairs I enjoyed a spectacular sunset over the Alps. I realized that the experience had been far more than an introduction to sauna culture.  It had been an opportunity to enrich and truly mature my personal relationship with the human body.  As I laid there relaxing, I realized the next time I was ready to join the others. Strange as it is to say, in a way, it felt like a small piece of me that was long neglected finally grew up.  I silently resolved that on my next visit I’d leave the suit behind and embrace the vulnerability that goes hand-in-hand with spending time naked with others. As fate would have it, I wouldn’t have long to wait before I put my resolve to the test but THAT is a story for next time.

**My visit and stay at the Hotel Josl occurred as part of a press trip arranged by the Tyrol Tourism Board and their local partners during which I was hosted as their guest**

Snowboarding the Alps – Weekly Travel Photo

Innsbruck Ski & Snowboard Competition

A few weeks ago I took my first shot at learning how to ski in Obergurgl, Austria.  It was an awesome adventure. It was also a smudge easier than I expected. Probably in large part due to the awesome private instructor the local tourism board provided for my trip.  It made one thing very clear though.  Skiing is challenging, but snow boarding?  Good luck strapping both of my feet together and getting me on one.  Which leaves me that much more impressed by the incredible shows of acrobatics I saw from snowboarders and skiers on the slopes above Innsbruck during a locally organized ski and snowboarding competition.  This photo is of one of the competitors and highlights what an incredible day it was.  I was captivated watching them jump, spin, turn, and launch themselves through the air.  In many ways it reminded me of watching a gymnastics performance….only strapped to long objects and done on snow and in 10 pounds of winter gear.  Truly fantastic!  Make sure to head over to flickr to see the rest of the album.

Would you like to see previous Friday Photos? View past travel pictures here. This photo was taken on a Canon T3i (600D) Camera.

Snow, Ice and Water – Obergurgl, Austria

Snowshoe Hike - Obergurgl, Austria

This story begins high above the alps.  It is a story of change. Of transition and of voyage.  It is a story of simple contrasts, long trips, and the small details that define the world around us.  It begins in the uppermost reaches of roiling clouds as they form along the border between the Austrian and Italian Alps. Casually adrift they eventually find themselves caught; snagged on jagged mountain peaks dotted by the sharp protrusions of evergreen treetops.  As gravity takes hold and nature pulls the clouds downward a process as old as the earth unfolds. Water vapor rises, condenses, and crystallizes. Like a master tinkerer, the cloud crafts trillions of tiny stars. Each is an ever-so-slight variation of the star shape we picture as we close our eyes and dream of winter.  These newly born stars float suspended in quasi-darkness thousands of feet above the earth waiting to launch themselves upon the world below.

Ice, Snow and Water - Obergurgl, Austria

With the gust of wind, a change in pressure, and a drop in temperature clouds struggle to free themselves of their mountain moorings. As they lighten their loads snowflakes begin their gentle descent.  Some find themselves falling quickly, others drifting as they are tossed from side to side by alpine winds. They descend towards fallen brethren.  Some revert to their watery origins – torn apart – by waves of heat.  Others are thrown together, crushed within the feathers of sharp-eyed golden eagles or the furrows of  an Alps-Crow’s black wings.  Most survive to continue their reckless descent.

Ice, Snow and Water - Obergurgl, Austria

For some their trip comes to an untimely end.  Extinguished by the heat of a child’s outstretched tongue.  Others find themselves caught in the top branches of old trees and small spring saplings. A perch that lends a fabulous view of the valley’s white slopes and snow-covered fields, but which also offers them up as sacrifice to the sun in a way reminiscent of ancient Incan ceremonies.

Ice, Snow and Water - Obergurgl, Austria

Others find themselves surrounded by their brethren as they cast a thick blanket across the earth’s rich soil.  It is a war of sorts. The war of seasons. In winter frozen snowflakes spread themselves across the soil’s surface,  blocking it from the sun and denying it the liquid hydration it demands to survive.  In summer, when the dark hues of rich humus and golden rays of the sun combine, the earth finds itself hungrily gorging itself on water that has long forgotten what it felt like to take the form of a frozen star.

Ice, Snow and Water - Obergurgl, Austria

As day ebbs and night descends a full moon’s white light is reflected off a trillion sparkling points.  Each dreams of a life spent beside the moon in the deepest reaches of space as a small part of the Milky Way.  Instead, small gusts of wind cast snowflakes back into the air, tossing and turning them before allowing them to crash back against their mates.

Ice, Snow and Water - Obergurgl, Austria

Morning’s early rays. Warmth. Blue skies. Sun.  The shimmer of heat rising, reflected off white crystalline shapes.  A reversion from tiny star to water and gas. A new voyage, this one slow but persistent. Soaking deep into the half-frozen soil.  Drifting across slicked rocks. Carried along by un-melted snowflakes.

Ice, Snow and Water - Obergurgl, Austria

The birth of a small stream hidden beneath snowbanks. The soft gurgle of water splashing over stones as a trickle grows, freed by the sun.  The promise of spring as weather warms. Tiny crystalline star after tiny crystalline star giving way to heat, sun, and the caress of water.  Moments of uncertainty as the gentle onslaught of a stream slowly carves grottos beneath the snow’s smooth white surface. And then collapse as the strength of millions of interlocked snowflakes give way beneath their own weight.

Ice, Snow and Water - Obergurgl, Austria

Moments. Hours. Days of tentative equilibrium as stream, sun and snowflake reach a fragile balance.  By day the sun beats down, forcing snow flakes to wither and drip their way toward the stream.  By evening, night and early morning the cold caress of alpine winds, fresh snow, and freezing air strive to re-claim lost snowflakes.

Ice, Snow and Water - Obergurgl, Austria

Half-exposed segments of the stream re-discover their crystalline origins.  These re-freeze on a much grander scale.   Their struggle futile. Brief. But beautiful in its grand gestures.  Others struggle in transition.  Most of their form lost. They form pillars by gravity and circumstance that stand as bulwarks against the stream’s cold bite as they loom above the churning waters.

Ice, Snow and Water - Obergurgl, Austria

I captured these photos during a two-hour snowshoe hike provided by the folks at Obergurgl Ski School and the Obergurgl-Hochgurgl Tourism Board just outside the city of Obergurgl in the Austrian Alps.  The weather was spectacular with blue skies and clean mountain air.  As we hiked along a small stream made up of snow melt, I was taken by the beauty of the ice crystal formations.  Those photos gave birth to this post.  One which I hope you enjoyed.  It is an incredible area full of stunning natural beauty.  Photos were shot on a Canon 600D.