High above Mayrhofen lies Hintertux, an isolated village of scarcely recognizable streets, so narrow and steep are the lanes that twist among the town's hotels and barns. Skiing at Hintertux takes place on a glacier 10,000 feet high, a clean white apron of snow ordinarily splashed by bright sun and swept by biting winds. The trails are gentle, enjoyable—ice-cream stuff again—and the view is almost forever on a clear day.
A soul-satisfying, if possibly sole-searing, experience can be had by choosing to walk down the winding road from Hintertux to Mayrhofen on a mild winter afternoon. This would not occur to many people, but Doktor Scheibl, inveterate enthusiast and rugged individualist, bellowed out to the car driver early one afternoon as a group of skiers rode down that pleasing road: "Stop the car! Stop! I am a hiker, not a rider. Let me out!" And he proceeded to lead a three-hour hike down through the winter Alps, along the gurgling River Tux, past steep drops and soaring peaks, down, down the twisting road. He led the way with sturdy, slapping steps, yodeling upon occasion, sometimes linking arms and shouting out a rhythmic cadence so everyone walked in lockstep, and once simply plunging over the side of the road and running with great jolting steps through a pasture where the snow had melted, to pick up the road again where it curved below. With typical verve, the good doktor insisted that everyone stop at the pensions, inns and bars along the way and ingest a touch of schnapps at each. Gradually the descent took on an interior dimension: in the golden warmth of the wooden booths of Gasthof Persal, a sip of Heidelbeerschnaps ("Blueberry, more or less," said Doktor Scheibl); farther down, in a brightly lit pension featuring a fat, stuffed badger on the bar, a nip of Enzian (made of aromatic mountain-flower root); at the Gasthof Teufelsbr�cke, the Devil's Bridge, a swallow or so of Meisterwurz (flower and plant roots); at a brown wood-paneled pension in the village of Finkenberg, a few drops of Obstler (apples and pears) served in delicate silver goblets on a silver tray. And so the afternoon, and the kilometers, passed, and it was growing dark as Doktor Scheibl and his party reached the Ziller River Valley, passed the towering power poles of Mayrhofen and entered its lighted suburbs.
Doktor Scheibl sighed and said softly, "It is purest Alpine existentialism."
Later, at a discotheque, the Andreas Keller, in the basement of the Hotel Kramerwirt, Doktor Scheibl stroked his beard and spoke of the recent days in the back valleys of the Alps. "Now you have seen Austria off the beaten paths. You have discussed Kasermandls, heard about our famous Countess Pocket Mouth. You have done many things Americans never do and never think of doing." Solemnly he donned a rubber Fasching nose, dipped it in a goblet of Obstler and squirted the schnapps toward a waitress, who caught most of the stream in the cleavage revealed by her dress. She giggled. Doktor Scheibl chuckled. He rose, bowed and lumbered off across the dance floor, leaving his friends with visions of Kasermandls yet to be seen and pitchers of Obstler yet to be drunk.