Going up near the top of the mountain on the gondola is a little scary because it looks as though there are only advanced runs, but there are plenty of gently sloping beginner runs, so the kids too can learn the basics in ski school, and see the beautiful scenery at the same time. Sometimes, even when there is still no snow at the foot of the mountain, there is a lot of snow near the top, so apparently another way of enjoying yourself is to sunbake at a restaurant at the top with a beer in one hand, without skiing.
The ski resorts have complex arrays of ten or more ski lifts and the runs are color-coded. Red is for beginner runs, blue is for intermediate, and black is for the steep advanced runs, so if you get a reasonable idea of the runs in your head before you go, you can relax and ski while enjoying a variety of sceneries.
There is a traditional folk custom in Bavaria and Austria between Christmas Advent and the New Year called Perchtenlauf, when demon-like Perchten (spirits of the dead) parade. (Apparently in the Alps there is a demon called Krampus.) It is based on the fundamental, contrasting concepts in nature, expressed for example as “summer” and “winter”, “daytime” and “nighttime”, “good” and “evil”, so there are two types of Perchten: “ugly Perchten” and “beautiful Perchten”. The “ugly Perchten” wear masks called Larve, like a scary demon, and jingle the numerous bells around their hips as they come looking for any bad children.
In Japan too, in Akita, where snow falls deep, there is Namahage, who wears a frightening mask and carries a knife as he comes looking for bad children and lazy people, calling out “Any bad kids ‘round here, ay?” So, it seems scary beings like to inhabit snowy country everywhere.
Then, the highlight of the ritual dispersing of this winter’s demons is the spectacle of a horse rider cracking a long whip. The nearby sightseers skillfully avoid the danger of the whip by crouching down low.
Once the bad Perchten have passed, the beautiful Perchten’ parade arrives. Wearing masks and large crowns on their heads, the men bring with them birds and beasts, jewelry and doctors’ implements, etc. to portray dead spirits from various professions.
On a cold winter night, suddenly out of nowhere a lot of people appear in a small district, and we offer our wishes for peace and health in the New Year through this traditional ritual, as we drink Glühwein (hot mulled wine) and the children drink Kinderpunsch (hot children’s punch).