|Never underestimate the value of cars as ski lifts.|
Innovation. Desire to do something new is not enough, you also need an opportunity and a catalyst. This time the opportunity was returning from a ski trip in Austria, with a flight leaving late in the day. And the catalyst was finishing the excess alcohol we had in the cabin. Suddenly I found myself staring at the Google Maps screen. The route via Liechtenstein would be almost the same length as going straight back to the airport in Munich.
Why not? Ten minutes later we had changed our plans for the next day. I had a burning desire to ski in a new country, and while the skiing would not be as good as in Austria, it would be a new place. And my friend Teemu was interested in finding local geocaches. The next morning we head out. Patrik, another friend headed for the same flights joins us, trying to survive a flu in the back seat.
The day start out as a foggy one, however. Our navigator guided us through tiny, scary roads in increasingly difficult visibility and snow conditions, towards the ski area of Malbun. This is Liechtenstein's only ski area, a tiny village with only three chairlifts. The area is at 1600 meters, and the highest lift runs into 2000 meters.
And I only had an hour, as we had a flight to catch. This was enough to ski the most challenging in-bounds parts of the ski area, however. In fact, I have now skied all black runs in the entire country of Liechtenstein. Both of them. Very nice runs.
Although on my first attempt I ended up skiing outside the ski slope, not realizing that the nicely groomed run next to me was actually one of the black runs. And I had left my boots open. Perhaps a telling sign of the difficulty of these slopes.
Further out of bounds the would have very interesting opportunities. But not in this visibility.
|Malbun ski run views|
My favorite runs in Malbun are the ones from the Hochegg chair. The black runs are here, and in general this lift serves steeper runs than the longer Täli chair. I did not have time to try the third, highest chair, Sareis. The piste map there looks interesting, however.
Teemu did not find the geocache in the ski area, but he found one on the way down from the mountain. As we say in Finland, "tää maa on nyt niin nähty". We've done all there is to do in this country.
|On a ski lift in Malbun|
But the skiing did not end in Liechtenstein. We still had to get back to Munich for our flights. As we crossed the border to Germany, there was still a little bit of snow. While I have skied in Germany, I have only done so indoors. We decided to take the first exit. After driving around a few minutes, we found a small road to the top of a small hill with cell towers. Put the skis on, ski down, and Teemu picks me up at the bottom of the road. There. Germany, been there done that.
|Germany. Been there done that.|
We took the west route from Austria, drove a bit in Switzerland, back to Austria, and then north to Germany. This was certainly a more interesting route than the usual Innsbruck - Munich one.
Malbun is 14 kilometers from the largest town in Liechtenstein, Vaduz. However, I would recommend taking a route via Landstrasse rather than Bergstrasse, particularly if the weather is bad. There is no way to pass oncoming vehicles on the narrowest parts on the Bergstrasse.
A day ticket costs 45 CHF in Malbun. In addition to the three chairs, there are a number of beginner lifts, and a very nice children's practice area. There is also an ice tower for climbing.
|Ice climbing tower.|
So where does this leave my mission to ski in as many countries as possible? I have now skied in 34 countries (South Africa, Lesotho, The Netherlands, Andorra, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Austria, Latvia, Norway, Poland, France, Sweden, Germany, Slovakia, Slovenia, Finland, Switzerland, Czech, Estonia, UK, Liechtenstein, USA, Canada, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, New Zealand, Indonesia, India, Japan, China, United Arab Emirates, and Hong Kong).
|Innovation in progress? The evening before Liechtenstein.|
For comparison, the Swedish skier Jimmy Petterson describes skiing in 47 countries in his book, "Skiing Around the World". (It is a wonderful book from a man who truly loves skiing, recommended! The book is also out of print, but I just succeeded in buying a used copy.)
But for me there are many easy countries to "collect", even before I have to start skiing in places like Iran or Kazakhstan. I just need to visit Bulgaria, Kroatia, Turkey, Russia, Iceland, and other familiar places. Just a small matter of finding time to for all these trips :-) For what it is worth, in the last year I have visited seven new countries.
|Finally in Munich|
Photo and video credits (c) 2013 by Jari Arkko and Teemu Rinta-aho