Sunday, March 13, 2011


Skiing in Europe, especially in Austria, has a much older and robust tradition than in the US.

In the US, skiing caught on as a recreation starting around 1950 as a result of ski training provided to the 10th Mountain Division troops during World War II so that they could fight wars in the Appenine Mountains of Italy. After the war ended and soldiers went home to make normal lives for themselves, many former 10th Mountain Division troops opened up commercial ski areas like Vail and Aspen, spreading alpine skiing around North America like Pied Pipers.

In the US, perhaps the most famous 10th Mountain Div soldier is former Presidential candidate Bob Dole, whose famous pen-wielding handicapped arm remains damaged after being shot in the battle of Riva Ridge. Those of you who have skied Vail will no doubt recognize the name Riva Ridge, as it is the name of one of the longest and most fun ski trails on Vail Mountain.

In Austria, skiing started several hundred years earlier as a way simply to get around during the winter, and to survive. Alpine skiing in its current form was brought to continental Europe and specifically to Kitzbühel by a guy named Franz Reisch in about 1880. If you want to read or hear more about it, either read the award-winning book Chronicle of a Myth by my good friend and ski partner Dr Michael Huber (aka Dr Hahnenkamm), or come to Kitzbühel, take the Hornbahn cable car up to lunch at the Alpenhaus restaurant at the top of the Kitzbühelerhorn (, and ask for Franz Reich IV. Franz Reich IV, whom I have met, is the great-grandson of the guy who basically invented alpine skiing in continental europe, and to this day his family owns and operates the Kitzbühelerhorn.

After countless business trips, ski trips, and ski days in Kitzbühel, I am still learning great new stuff every day about ski and mountaineering techniques and traditions here. The latest is a beverage called "schiwasser" (SHEE vass urr). It has existed for hundreds of years in Austria. In the winter it is served warm to defrost and energize a shivering skier. In the summer it is served cold to refresh the tired mountaineer.

Schiwasser is made with a delicious, sugary syrup added to either cold or hot water. The best syrup is made by D'arbo, but there are plenty of other brands.

This is D'arbo schiwasser syrup, Elderberry flavor.

This is D'arbo schiwasser syrup, wild raspberry flavor.

The most common schiwasser flavors appear to be wild raspberry and strawberry, which yield a pink fluid (when properly mixed) that is remarkably refreshing. But there are dozens of flavors available.

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