We arrived in Soelden after heavy snows had fallen but the sky was as blue and clear as an Alpine lake. ("We" being a family of three: husband, wife and a toddler named Ryan.)
Soelden is in the Oetztal region of Tyrol in the Austrian Alps. It is popular with European skiers and snowboarders but comparatively unknown to others. That was part of the appeal.
Soelden sits on a small river and moved into winter sports with a single chair lift, which still runs.
But now there is also a fast gondola from either of two bases at opposite ends of town.
Our guide for a day, Erich Wilhelm, took us to one of two glaciers. We reached it by multiple lifts and a tunnel taken on skis.
Our reward was that top-of-the-world feeling you get from carving turns on snow-packed slopes in good weather, the snow hissing as you move.
Like all good guides, Erich was forgiving about the mistakes of amateurs.
He coaxed better performances from us on turns and gave tips on skiing in the powder that would surely come from the snowfall expected in the following days.
As we sat down for lunch in an agreeably warm room at Gampe Thaya, the oldest hut in the region's mountains, Erich explained the transformation that people like us bring to Soelden annually.
"I'm a carpenter in the off season," he said.
"There's much work then to renovate and improve the hotels and guesthouses. About 4,100 people live here, but there are over 300,000 visitors, mostly in winter."
As we finished a meal of broth, sausages and, for dessert, caramelized pancakes cut into chunks and covered with confectioner's sugar, Austrian men seated themselves at our table. (In Alpine huts, there are no private tables, and anyone may help himself to an unreserved vacant chair.)
An accordionist and guitarist strolled in and our tablemates accompanied them in song.
We had arrived soon after the start of the break for Russian New Year on January 6, and there were many Russians at our hotel, the Central Spa Hotel Soelden. The Central is luxurious but relaxed - you can dress for dinner as you would to dine at home with good friends.
Seated at the table to the right of ours were a young couple from Moscow, Daria and Tim and their five-year-old David.
Ryan's new friend David would soon have a sibling because Daria was pregnant. She spent her days in town or watching David.
Ryan became friends with David, following him to the Oezti Club, where the patient Gabi looked after the children of hotel guests from morning until dinner was over, with a break in between filled, for Ryan, by a hotel staffer.
The Central's kitchen is distinguished with a flair for moderate and clever portions. And we appreciated that gourmet chefs and increasingly impressive wines are two famous Austrian exports.
True to its name, the hotel also has complete spa facilities, from a family pool area, to a clothing-optional sauna and steam bath area, to a no-clothes area with a whirlpool, saunas and more.
On our fifth day, the snowfall that Erich had said was coming and that had begun lightly the day before was now strong. At my request, we took a rest, shopping and having lunch in town.
Russian skiers are obviously hearty. Many made their way to the slopes regardless of the inclement weather; they were comparatively infrequent guests in all weathers at the bars and the hotel lounge, preferring an early start and an early bedtime.
That attitude also characterizes my wife, who usually does not let anything short of a record blizzard stop her from getting to the slopes.
That night, explosions rumbled from the mountains as snow was cleared to prevent avalanches.
In the morning, new snow came in a steady fall, and I was pleading for another day of rest, perhaps at a nearby indoor-outdoor thermal spa.
We compromised on morning massages, followed by discussion of options.
Tall and fit, Paul is a native of Liverpool who went to the Alps to live for a love of the mountains.
A rafting guide and an avid downhill mountain biker in summer, he trained in Innsbruck for what may signal the start of a more modulated life for a man of 43: working winters as a masseur.
Paul was placating the complaints of my bad shoulder when he said: "I agree with your wife. I wouldn't let that snow keep me from skiing."
So there was nothing for it but to get on those skis and follow Frau Behr up that mountain.
Many runs were closed when we arrived so we skied under low skis on the lowest slopes, alongside evergreens wearing beards of white on all their branches.
People fell in the thick powder, including Frau Behr, who lost her skis on a difficult run. I helped her get them on and so we kept going, she leading.
Soelden has many easy slopes and that came to our aid now.
We stayed upright despite the challenge, and we both enjoyed ourselves.
If you go
getting there: You can fly to either Munich, from which Soelden is three hours away by road, or Innsbruck, which is just one hour away.
winter sports: A six-day ski pass is about US$255 (HK$1,989). Our guide was from Skischule Yellow Power, www.yellowpower. Intersport Glanzer rents equipment, www.glanzer.at.