Grand Hotel Galya, Galyatető, Hungary.–ph. Mazarei
I wondered why the man didn’t fall down the steep snow slope. I was 15 years old and it was the first I’d ever seen snow, he the first skier I’d seen in real life.
Within a year I was back in these same snowy San Gabriel Mountains that hemmed in north Los Angeles, near where I first saw the mystery man who didn’t fall down the slope. My friend Mike and I drove on, the plowed road gently winding through pine trees heavy with snow. Two turns ahead the road widened into a small parking area. A chairlift headed up slope and out of sight. We were at the Mt Waterman Ski Area.
Hungarian personalities adorning the walls of the Grand Hotel Galya.–ph. Mazarei
Mike showed me how to step into the old rusty skis we found in his garage. Then he took me to the top. We laughed, and I fell into the powder snow a hundred times that fateful day. It was incredible.
Skiing became an obsession. I ended up practicing and partying in the mountains above LA forty-five more days that first season.
For an Angelino such as myself, I realized straight away how fortunate we were to have ski resources within easy reach from anywhere in the city. Between two and four lifts, these simple, small business, family-run ski areas shaped and taught me, and opened doors to the possibilities.
Thus I have a deeply ingrained sense of place in regards to cool little ski areas. It’s where I came from.
A beautiful setting. An hour and forty minutes northeast of Budapest.–ph. Mazarei
I received a warm invitation from Hungarian Erika Kőrösi to come ski just such a place. So the second day into my Four Countries in Four Days ski tour found me heading to Hungary, the Magyar Republic.
Getting from Poland to Hungary turned into a challenging affair. What would have normally been a long but pleasant drive was complicated by an epic snowstorm. It was a Slovakia crossing for the ages: my eyes zoning in and out with the hypnotizing surges of snowflakes blasting the windshield of my rental Renault. Trucks stuck in the middle of the mountain roads in the cold dark struggling with industrial snowchains, blizzard burden all the way.
“Little Areas that Rock,” Hungarian Edition.–ph. Erika Kőrösi
Located an hour and forty minutes northeast of Budapest in the Mátra Mountains, Sípark Mátraszentistván - like my old LA stomping grounds – is a valuable ski resource for Hungarian snow enthusiasts living in the romantic city on the Danube. Operated by the family Kőrösi, a clan of keen skiers, Sípark Mátraszentistván is a charming area placed amongst forested rolling hills. A handful of vacation homes are set off to one side and a lovely church stands sentinel over the area.
Kids are mostly the same the world over. Hungarian kids at ski school.–ph. Mazarei
After spending welcome sleep at the large Grand Hotel Galya in the village of Galyatető, I drove the few kilometers to the Sípark. There was plenty of snow and I was psyched to be soon skiing a new country. Yes, “Skiaholic” is my middle name.
Erika Kőrösi.–ph. Mazarei
I met lovely Erika. We spoke a bit; she was busy, so I grabbed my skis and went exploring.
Erika, from a family of ski instructors.–ph. Mazarei
What I found was a perfect gem of a family area, well set-up for running gates, working on technique, or just cruising with your mates. Six draglifts efficiently shuttle you up to the top of the well-groomed pistes. I met a couple from Budapest who train telemark at Sípark, and they enthusiastically told me about the Hungarian Telemark Association. Nice!
Vacation homes next to Sípark Mátraszentistván.–ph. Mazarei
After several fun runs I headed to the ticket office to see what Erika was doing. To my delight she said she would join me very soon. Yes!
Good times in Hungary with the lovely Erika Kőrösi.–ph. Mazarei
Ongoing improvements and the general running of the ski area kept her very busy, she explained. As a matter of fact, this was to be her first ski run of the season.
Ambience Hungarian-style.–ph. Erika Kőrösi
For me, it’s moments like this that have the most meaning in our sport. Erika put aside her ongoing responsibilities for a while to come ski with me. How cool is that? It was so humbling and gracious.
True ski food. Hungarian goulash whilst in Hungary. It doesn’t get much better than that.–ph. Erika Kőrösi
We skied, shot photos, and had a laugh. And we had great snow. It was truly fantastic. And the Hungarian goulash she suggested topped the whole wonderful day off.
The end of the ski day. Bummer having to leave. The hills northeast of Budapest. Next stop: the Czech Republic.–ph. Mazarei
Never in a thousand years would skiing Hungary have popped-up on my radar during those first heady LA ski seasons. It’s funny to think about. That’s the beauty of the whole thing: skiing is a sport and pastime that pushes you beyond.
Thank you Erika Kőrösi…
Special thanks to Movement Skis, Scarpa, Rottefella, Marmot Europe, Pomoca, I/O Merino, Jones Snowboards, and Sauna Beanies.