When I was a young girl, I remember spending time at my Grandfather’s house and watching him assemble enormous and complex jigsaw puzzles. Greens over here. Edge pieces over there. It was a highly organized system where the end result was, 9 times out 10, an image of an Alpen village with green meadows, snowy peaks and the occasional waterfall or mountain stream. These grand scenes punctuated my childhood so I had to giggle yesterday when, on my way to Ischgl, I drove around a corner and found myself inside one of these pictures from the ‘old days.’ The winding roads up to the village reminded me of the curves and corners on those 10,000 tiny pieces only in this instance, they were already lovingly connected and assembled into the quaint and dreamy landscape of the Austrian Alps.
I was headed to a mountaintop concert where Jimmy Cliff and his band were scheduled to sing in the sky. I packed and dressed for this gig as I would any other and that, I suppose, is where things got funny. The weather in Innsbruck was warm and sunny and I imagined that the same would be true an hour to my West. Fortunately, I was right about the weather but WAY WRONG about a couple other things. Upon arriving in Ischgl, I schlepd my 40 or so pounds of camera gear up to the Kassa to pick up my Photo Pass and lift ticket thinking that the gondola would drop me off at the ‘concert site’ and things would be predictable from there.
Turns out I needed to walk a kilometer or so to another office to snag the pass and then I was set to go. That kilometer was pretty much straight up hill so, before the show even began, I was feeling the weight of my gear in my back and legs. Once the ticket was in hand (thank you Dominik!) I headed to the gondola where I learned that I would be taking this gondola up to a chair lift further up to HEAVEN when I would then take another chairlift down into Switzerland to shoot the show. In retrospect, it is perfectly sensible to think that chairlifts and lots and lots of snowy sliding and climbing would be involved with this shoot but I must not have been thinking about that when I donned some capri pants and my low-top Chuck Taylors. Yeah, thats right. I walked into Switzerland through the Alps in my f-ing sneakers and 40 pounds of camera!! My heavily-geared pals on the chairlifts (donned in parkas, helmets, long underware, ski boots, et al) got a BIG KICK out of my stupidity and cute outfit and a few of them popped by the concert to see if I made it there without freezing…which I did, of course.
Epic is not a big enough word to describe what life looks like from the top of Ischgl. Standing at the top of a mountain where Austria and Switzerland meet and looking around is one of the most imspiring and humbling experiences ever. Words and pictures cannot capture the taste of the air up there, the sounds of the crisp and plentiful snow, the wind blowing through the mountain tops. Coming down into Switzerland on the lift I could finally spy the ‘venue’ and after a very long hike up from the chair lift I was ready to go. All this hiking and sliding and chair-lifting saw me arrive at the stage with only 12 minutes to showtime. Considering how unappropriately I dressed for the show, I was perfectly prepared in all the other ways so I guess it’s a wash.
The ‘pit’ was actullay a snowy ledge about 1 1/2 foot wide and below it was a slippery slope and limitless potential for an embarassing (and potentially) expensive fall. My choice of shoes worried me when I saw this but ended up not being a problem. Like anywhere, I had 3 songs to shoot from this death-defying perch and I made the most of it. Mr. Cliff strutted onto stage wearing a New York jacket and the smile that was periodic on my face up to that point became permanent. The sound was great, the view was truly unbelievable and the whole experience was really fulfilling. Here are some of my favorite shots from the show, though if you are inclined, you can click here to see the whole set including more photos from the TOP.
I wandered down into the crowd of about 15,000 – 20,000 ski-boot-dancing, snowboard-leaning, beer drinking, sun bathers and enjoyed the show. Watching everybody dance in thier ski boots or cruise down the arena jamming to The Harder They Come was surreal. “Dr. Jimmy Cliff” as he was dubbed by his band is so energetic and so good that I, too, put down the gear and boogied. If I could have had my friends and peeps with me on that mountain top, well, that would have been the only thing I needed to make it a perfect day.
After slip-sliding through, and standing on, snow for 4 hours in sneakers I decided that it was best to skip the press conference and ensure that I made it out of the Alps with all my toes in tact. I enjoyed the tail-end of the show from the back of the crowd and as as I was hopping on the chair lift back to Austria, Jimmy Cliff began singing Many Rivers to Cross. Just imagine, Beana on a ski lift washed in sun, high in the Alps, seemingly riding to heaven with, none other than, Jimmy Cliff singing that song. Truly one of those unforgettable moments when a concert becomes a life-affirming adventure
All the pieces came together to create something wonderful and unforgettable. The drive back to Wattens felt like that satisfied moment where, after achieving the assembly of the puzzle and the admiring of the finished picture, you take it apart and put the pieces back in the box only to save the memory and satisfaction of the experience. Fortunately for all of us, some pictures of this adventure remain.
If you want to virtually taste the mountain air, click here for a short ride in the mountains.