We asked Sarah to write a quick blog about her self, not an easy thing to do but it lends for an interesting read, growing up a stones throw from Schladming and deciding to move to the UK to ride bikes.
What brought you to the UK? - people often ask half in disbelief. No offence, the UK is a great country with lots of opportunities. But the thing is, I speak mostly to mountain bikers ...and I’m from Austria, I grew up in the Alps, surrounded by stunning mountains, next to a beautiful big lake.
Growing up in the Alps
Maybe slowly it starts to dawn on you why people are perhaps surprised about my choice of settling (whether permanently or not..who knows) on a damp island in the Atlantic with MTB descents no longer than a couple of minutes. 😉
My name is Sarah, Austrian by heart but a lover of all things travelling and exploring other places as well as a passionate mountain biker. I kick your ass on skis and race bikes. I’m new to MTBBeds managing your bookings, doing my best to keep you happy pre- during and post holiday plus working on some other bits and bobs.
Growing up on the far side of the hill from Schladming, you may think I was in a prime location to take up riding, but my life has been all about skiing until I started riding „proper bikes“ two years ago. Racing, off-piste, instructing and coaching skiing is what seemed to be my destiny.
In my teenage years, I knew there was a place called Schladming on the other side of the hill (it’s actually a proper mountain, the Dachstein - a glacier 2995m high) because I’ve been taken there for skiing. I also knew the place was popular for another rad action sport - Downhill mountain biking.
Always keen for challenges and intrigued by the sport, I’ve been trying to get hold of a second-hand downhill bike for a while to take up mountain biking as my summer equivalent to skiing. However, my environment and myself were caught up in skiing and its politics, and finances plus lack of transport (even though Schladming is only a few miles away as the crow flies you have to drive 60 minutes around the mountains to get there) didn’t allow me to get stuck into another expensive sport, I guess… And there weren’t any other mountain biking kids around, let alone riding girls. Going for an MTB ride would remain the same thing for me I’ve been brought up with for a little longer - pedalling up and down Austria’s well-maintained fire roads to get fit for skiing.
So my teenage experience of downhill was limited to a trip with a friend to Schladming on a borrowed Lapierre which was way too big for me - I loved it though.
View from home
This may give you a taste of why it was not a natural process to get into Downhill or even Enduro as a kid born in the 90s in the Austrian Alps. Even though the track in Schladming has already been popular within the Worldcup circuit through my teen years, the sport itself seemed surreal and beyond reach. Times are changing.
Austria jumps on the MTB train
Huge investments have been made over the last couple of decades in Schladming, Leogang and other skiing areas of Austria and the skiing destinations have probably the highest standard of infrastructure for winter guests worldwide. Climate change with its implications on winter tourism and the drive to create a bigger market for summer guests (sadly more the latter I assume) has led to big changes for mountain bikers. Resorts such as Schladming and Leogang have realised the big potential of their skiing areas for mountain biking over the last few years and have turned into MTB paradises. Where World Cup ski racers compete in winter you can shred your bike down in the summer months. This development is great for us MTBriders (and skiers) and the tourism industry kills two birds with one stone as no new infrastructure has to be created - a win-win situation.
Finally starting to ride
After finishing school, my ski racing career and halfway through university, working in the skiing Industry and ski seasons in Australia I was able to afford to buy my first full-suspension bike end of 2016 - a dream came true that’s always been kept in the back of my head. Another winter passed before I could get into riding properly. Having spent two summer seasons working in the Australian winter, I decided to dedicate the summer 2017 to my new bike and spend 3 months in Montriond near Morzine…but this is another story.
The answer to the question of what brought me to the UK is…well, there are two versions. Version 1 - also „The official“ - is to complete a MSc. degree in Sports, Health and Exercise Science in the UK (which I did by the way). Version 2 - „The honest one“ - is to ride my bike as much as possible over the winter avoiding the Austrian snow and bike park closures to make up for all the missed bike time of my youth.
On a trip back home last year I managed to fit a visit to Schladming in. It was amazing to see what changes have been made to provide an awesome experience for mountain bikers. In 2019 a massive jump line was built additionally to the techy downhill tracks in Schladming. Leogang added an incredible pump track to their line up and Enduro trails at Reiteralm (next hill over from Schladming) have been introduced to cater to every taste.
As Austrian, I really appreciate how Schladming managed to keep its charm despite all the development. Unlike some other resorts in Austria or France, it's not a purposely arranged cluster of houses and hotels. You find a pretty town centre with restaurants, shops and a mix of traditional and newer buildings with local farmers and houses on the outskirts of town.
Seeing how Austria gets bitten by the MTB bug, MTBBeds has made a great move to include Schladming and Leogang in their offers.
As a mountain biking travel-lover, it seemed only natural to apply for a job with MTBBeds who share the same values and have some exciting projects going on for 2020. This year is also going to be an exciting one for me - plans for racing and travelling all over the world have been forged, along with juggling all your requests for our great MTBBeds holidays.