Sunday, May 5, 2019

Work, Snow, and Skiing

It's a little known fact that I am doing work (if you want to call it that) while in Austria.  The past three days I attended the Fulbright-Austria Seminar in American Studies in Strobl.  Strobl sits on a lovely Alpine lake and, like everywhere in Austria, the setting was beautiful.

The meeting offered the opportunity for me to interact with American students who have been in Austria the past several months, Austrian students who are going to the United States this summer, and other Fulbright scholars.  The subject areas were generally well outside my discipline, covering all sorts of topics regarding everything from terrorism and tourism to American culture and LGBTQ issues.  The attendees, especially the students, were extremely bright and engaging and it made for stimulating discussion during organized discussion periods, but also meals. 

I was asked to give a talk on climate change and its impacts on Austria, which turned out to be a great assignment since I was able to do research on the subject at the European Geophysical Union meeting in Vienna a couple of weeks ago.  I could also tap into the tremendous talent that exists in snow and glacier science at the University of Innsbruck, and my experiences and photos from the Alps over the past few months.  Below are a few slides, cherry picked from the talk. 

A primary goal of the Fulbright program is "to improve intercultural relations, cultural diplomacy, and intercultural competence between the people of the United States and other countries through the exchange of persons, knowledge, and skills."  My visit to Austria not only enabled me to acquire the scientific knowledge needed to give the talk, but also the ability to deliver it with a more personal perspective with understanding of the importance of the Alps and winter sports for Austrian culture and identity.  I was very humbled when one of the attendees, a native of the Alpine region, told me he was impressed at how I humanized the talk.  I don't think that would have been possible without having had the experiences I have had over the past few months. 

I am now back in Innsbruck and working on course materials for the last part of the semester.  It is snowing all the way to the Inn valley floor below 600 meters.  The mountains are seeing serious dumpage.  Below is the snowpack summary from and a photo from Seegrube at about 1900 meters.

I wish I was skiing, but open lift-served terrain is now all above treeline, I couldn't find a partner for touring, and places where I would be inclined to ski solo are now not bus served.  I shouldn't complain.  My son arrives on Monday and we should have a very healthy and replenished mid- and upper-elevation snowpack once the weather improves. 

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