… Of a mountain!
Lars and I have both stayed in some pretty amazing places, with some pretty amazing views, and pretty amazing histories. But none have come as close to Bouda Na Pláni in Špindlerův Mlýn. For two weeks were we lucky enough to called the Bouda Na Pláni lodge home, and lucky enough to share it with the most amazing, rag-tag group of people and friends.
One week into our Workaway the group was informed that we were to leave our original accommodation, the Hotel Styl, and move “up the mountain”. “Up the mountain” was all that anyone was told, so on the day of the move we all made our way to the Svatý Petr chairlift, luggage and all, and began the task of ferrying people to the top. Just imagine the sight of 15 people with large backpacks and suitcases riding the lift in amongst skiers. When we got to the top of the ski runs off came our bags, and the walk began. Luckily for us we were able to put my suitcase on a snowboard to pull it through the snow. And even luckier for us, we were able to score a ride (at least for our bags) on a snowmobile with trailer.
Since we didn’t 100% know where we were staying we followed the fresh snowmobile tracks along a cross-country skiing path that cut through the trees, away from the chairlift. It was the most amazing place. Thick snow clouds meant the viability was all of about 50m, the trees to either side of the path had a thick mantle of snow, and a 2-ish metre think blanket of powder covered everything that hadn’t been packed down by human activity (i.e. everything that wasn’t the track we were walking on). After a kilometer that seemed to go on forever, we rounded a corner, down a small decline. The visibility meant that with squinted eyes we thought we could faintly make out the shape of a building. Indeed as we grew closer, the Bouda Na Pláni lodge slowly revealed itself. We made our way in out of the snow, removing scarfs, hats, and hoods like something out of a movie. All 15 of us piled in, shut the door from the cold, and met Dude in charge. He sternly laid down the rules, assuring us that if any of us so much a though of breaking them, then “accommodation kaput!”. We were all a bit perplexed, but after being shown to our rooms (which were really quite nice), and being given a chance to take it all in for what it was, everyone ended up being super happy with our new mountain-topped home.
There are some interesting quirks that came with living at the top of a ski-field, as one can probably imagine! The first being the fact that we were all completely at the mercy of the chairlift operators. The chairlift stopped operating at 4pm as the ski runs closed at sunset. We were told that despite this there would also be a lift running at 6pm, to take the workers down from the top of the mountain. However, it quickly became apparent that this was not true at all. So, 4pm was when we had to be back at the lift and on our way up. Otherwise, that’s it. Your options are limited to finding alternative accommodation, or somehow managing to score a ride up in a Snowcat (which is what our American-Ozzie friends managed to swing one evening when they missed the chairlift by all of about 10 minutes!)
The walk, although not super long, was an absolute trudge, which meant that the supplies we took to the top (i.e. beer) was always limited, and became a semi-precious commodity. Which in a way was nice, it took forward planning, and meant that ‘lending a beer’ became a much bigger gesture.
With the lack of good WiFi, no access to any outside sources of entertainment, and the intrinsic isolation of the place, our group really bonded and close friendships were soon made. Every night the cards would come, the music would come on, the drinks would be poured, people would be laughing, taking, dancing. It was incredible to live somewhere, where something was always happening. At one point or another someone of the group would have some new game, some new tradition, or some zany idea that was shared with the others. Random dance parties/ lessons would break out, or extreme games of Egyptian Rats Screw would be entertaining more than just those playing.
One evening, at the height of the Christmas build up, the amazing Mexican couple Andres and Ana bought colouring pencils, and adult colouring books for everyone to make decorations. A few days prior I had helped Andrés to drag a fallen tree to the front steps of the lodge to act as a Christmas tree. Upon arriving home on the Evening Of The Decorations, he had managed to bring the thing inside and prop it up in a bucket! One of the French guys Tomás happened to have some coloured origami paper, and with the help of my swiss army knife, and medical tape we had all we needed to spend the rest of the evening making decorations for the tree. The tables got pulled together, drinks were poured and shared, and in the most wholesome evening of my entire life, we all came together and shared stories and laughter while making bunting, stars, origami snowmen, Swedish Hanging Hearts, and snowflakes.
Aside from the evening’s merry-making, the best thing about Life At The Top, was that we were up the top of a ski field! The privilege of ‘first run’ is normally reserved for keen lifties, or ski instructors. So knowing that my skis could carve the first tracks on freshly groomed snow was an incredibly exciting prospect (and Bragging Rights forever in the Scott-Quickie Ski Team!). The first chance I got I was out the door at 7:30am, with the chairlift opening at 8:00am I would have enough time to walk the 1km flat track in my ski boots, then don my skis for the first run down. It was as good as it sounds. The sun had just come up, it was cloudy, but the viability on the run was good. The only marks were the groomed grooves from the night before. I went hard and fast, although I did stop a few times to just take in the fact that I was the first, and only person on the entire ski field. It was glorious! But when I reached the bottom, at exactly 8:00am, I realised my slight error; the chairlift doesn’t start until 8:30am… I guess you can be too eager!
Life At The Top was one of the most amazing and unique experiences we have ever had, and one that certainly doesn’t come around all that often. It’s hard to capture in words how truly magical it was to wake up every morning and look out on a world buried in fresh snow. Thank you to all the amazing people that we shared all of our amazing experiences with, and thank you to the Snow Gods for providing us with the most perfect powder. Life At The Top indeed.