THE WORLD’S SMALLEST SKI COUNTRY
Martin Söderqvist and I were returning from the Swiss Alps to Austria, and as one invariably does when traveling this route, we drove through Liechtenstein. Many people don’t even notice when they pass through this tiny principality. After all, if you happen to sneeze, you basically miss this miniscule land of 34,000 people. There are ski resorts like Innsbruck, Sarajevo or Bariloche that have a larger population than the entire nation!
In the middle of this little land, however, is the small ski resort of Malbun. It is Liechtenstein’s only ski venue. In some nations, it would take a good skier a number of years to ski all the lifts. In Liechtenstein, half a day will suffice. Malbun has seven lifts and a vertical drop of 396 meters.
Our timing was good, however, as we arrived early in the day, and it was snowing even down in Vaduz, 17 kilometers away. In Malbun, the snow was coming down hard and we first rode to the top of the Sareiserjoch. There, the resort personnel immediately admonished us for skiing off-piste.
The Sareiserjoch consists mostly of open terrain, while the Hocheck, on the other side of the valley, has both open slopes and glades in the forest. The solution to our situation was simple. For the rest of the day, we poached powder in the forest and drove on into Austria with our reputations intact.
On the next occasion that I find myself passing through Liechtenstein, I will make sure to again have some time in case the conditions are right. An important principle of skiing is that it is always better to be in a small ski area with good snow than in a large ski resort with bad snow. In skiing, as in life, timing is everything…
The complete story is in the coffee table book Skiing Around Volume I the World by Jimmy Petterson.