Mysterious Austria and tourism, skiing

Austria: the ski, the snow and the mountains, and the flying balls

Continuation of the story of a trip to Austria. Part I – read here: Zell am See – a little paradise! Part II: Fog over Salzburg, or 24 hours of tourist life Part III: Austria – trips, walks, meetings…

The first time my husband decided to go skiing in the Austrian Alps and invited me along, I refused for a long time. On the mountain skis I do not ski, because I’m terrified of sliding down the slopes, so I was perplexed, what will do on a ski resort. But still succumbed to the enticements and did not regret it. On the beautiful Austrian town Zell-am-See, I have already told in the first part of my notes. But surprisingly, this sports vacation came to taste not only skiers, but also a skier of the plain. There I skied the wonderfully paved trails on cross-country skis. In addition, the healing mountain air, combined with the lake air, completely got rid of my bad cough.

But I will tell you about everything in order. And first I will give a little background information.

The first ski club was founded in Zell am See back in 1906. Now the resort of Zell am See (757 m above sea level) together with the glacier Kaprun (786 m) form a famous European SportsRegion (ESR). The ESR includes two large ski areas: Schmittenhohe (2000 m) and Kitzsteinhorn (up to 3029 m). Skiing season lasts from late November to mid-April. Almost all of the ski slopes of Zell am See start at the top of Schmittenhohe.

There are several gondola, or cabin, elevators in Zell am See. The closest to the center is cityXpress.

In Schütdorf is the Areitbahn.

When we were walking up the city street, we were surprised that skiers in full gear get on the bus going up the street. Already later on the map, we realized that there, about 2 km above the Zell-am-See, there is another elevator. You only need to go up them once a day. Above skiers go on a chairlift, which with change you can go all the way to the top.

The elevators are conveniently located; you can start from any lower station at any part of the resort and continue up to any other track via the remaining elevators. The altitudes here are not too high, but this is made up for by the competent arrangement and quality profile of the slopes, which are distributed in approximately equal proportions by the level of complexity. Beautiful slopes, wooded, gorgeous view of the glacier Kitzsteinhorn. When there is no fog, and the clouds do not close visibility, from above you can see Lake Zell and the houses on its shores. Here is Zell am See, here is Schütdorf, in the distance you can see Tumersbach.

Next door is Kaprun with its extensive glacier ski area, very popular with many skiers. It’s only a 15-20 minute drive from Zell am See. The bus connection between the two is free for skiers, with a single ski pass. The maximum altitude difference reaches 2272 m, which is very good for the best ski areas in the world. Undoubtedly, the true connoisseurs of the first-class prepared slopes will be satisfied. The Austrians know and love to prepare the slopes, and they are in very good condition.

Every evening – after, and in the morning – before the skiing day, ratracks (special crawler machines, similar to tanks, bringing the slopes in order) crawl on the slopes, and on the busiest slopes sometimes pass in the daytime. However, towards the end of skiing, the condition of the lower slopes is not ideal.

Elevators start working at 8:30am, but from 8am the lines of skiers are pulling up to them. Those who live nearby are on foot. Some stomping in heavy ski boots, and some are carrying them in a backpack and change their shoes at the elevator. Some people carry skis and snowboards by themselves, while others leave them in the storage room and walk light. Get to the elevator in cars and buses, good thing the fare for those in sportswear, free, they say, they don’t even look at the ski pass. Many are waiting for buses to Kaprun – at the ski lift can ride in any weather. And on weekends, full tourist buses from other cities in Austria and even from neighboring countries come to the Areitbahn elevator in Schütdorf. Some need to have time to buy one-time tickets or, more often, ski passes, season tickets for several days of skiing, others proudly go to the turnstiles and put them with his left hand – usually skiers put the ski pass in a special pocket on his left sleeve. Near the elevator are stores and rental stations – here you can buy or pick up everything in your size. Sellers help in making a choice, instructors explain something to groups of beginners, tour agents hold mini-meetings with newcomers and arrange excursions – life is boiling! And for beginners in the city there are a lot of ski and snowboard schools, where you can learn all the wisdoms of skiing.

Up in the mountains, there are rest areas with racks, where everyone leave their skis, lots of cafes and restaurants, you can eat, sunbathe in the mountain sun, chat with friends.

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There are also medical centers, playgrounds, places for cross-country skiing and even a church – Elisabethkapelle – at an altitude of 2000 meters.

Near the church, my husband saw and photographed “a lady with a dog” – a woman walking a large, greyhound-like dog. I do not understand one thing – how such a large dog managed to get to this height on the chair elevator?

Weather in the Zell-am-See can be different, but it is always good there. And above it is very beautiful in any weather.

The slopes are majestic, overgrown with forest, magnificent views of the mountains and the glacier. Snow-covered spruces glide past the elevator, the snow glistens in the sun…

The skaters’ bright costumes blossom on the snow-white slope. But the greatest pleasure is to fly down the slope, feel the wind on your face and the crunch of the snow under your skis!

Speaking of the weather in the mountains – it’s often different from the weather below. For example, there may be a cloud on the slope. Or it can be cloudy below, and the sun is shining brightly on top.

Once once for two days it was sunny and warm, on the third day – light rain and fog, and many did not go skiing because of bad weather, but did not get upset about this – walked the streets, went to the stores and cafes.

In the morning for breakfast at the pension Herzog sounds German, Russian, English. Everyone eats with appetite, while looking out the window at the mountains in the distance – how is the weather up there? Sometimes there is a strong wind up there, and sometimes everything is covered with frost. On one of the skiing days it was snowing hard and wet. The fur trim on my husband’s hood and his mustache were covered in a snowy crust. And some mother, pointing at Yuri to her child, said: “Look, it’s Santa Claus!”

In general, there are a huge number of children skiing. We saw very tiny toddlers, they were not very confident yet, but they waddled in heavy ski boots. For children near the elevator in Schütdorf created a special playground for children, Kinderwelt, with colorful fairy-tale figures and real small elevators. Here, under the guidance of instructors, children of all ages learn to ski.

There is also a similar “Children’s World” high up in the mountains. So parents can not worry about their kids.

But many kids go down the mountains on a par with the adults and even better than some of them. Yura told me how one mother put a skinny kid on the chairlift right next to him and Yura was afraid he would slip out from under the holder. And at the top station the child jumped off the chair and galloped dashingly down the mountain.

I write so cheerfully about skiing in the mountains… Unfortunately, I don’t ski from the mountains and haven’t experienced what I wrote above myself. But, skiing on regular cross-country skis can be just as much fun as alpine skiing. True, it doesn’t always snow downhill. Of our three visits, only in 2008 was it cold, the lake frozen and there was fluffy snow everywhere. In Schüttdorf, near Porsche Alley, there is a lighted ski trail with forbidding symbols – it is forbidden to walk, take out dogs and horses here. Nearby is a large plan of cross-country ski trails in Schüttdorf, because there is not just one track, but many, of varying lengths, and they are well paved.

Along many of them there are lighting masts. Only instead of snow on the tracks twice were dirt and remnants of unmelted ice. And I carried extra load of cross-country skis with me for nothing. But in 2008 I really had a blast, especially since the track was not far from our house! When my husband went to the mountains, I took my skis and in five minutes I was on a completely free track. Rode all the time alone, only a couple of times I saw in the distance the same lonely skier. I had a great pleasure! Once I decided to go on a new trail, it turned out to be a circular one. I got to some unknown village, to a car stop. When I finally finished the circle I was totally exhausted – I had already been skiing in my usual spot. But it was impossible to cut the road – virgin land, deep snow.

I went back home and had a very long rest. A couple of times I was skiing in the fog, and it was a very interesting feeling – as if there was only me and white snow in the world! By the way, it was while skiing that I first saw people doing Nordic Walking. I used to walk up the trail to the road, and then I would turn back. And one day I saw a group of people walking along the road. They were walking briskly, talking and laughing, and everyone had what seemed to me to be ski poles that they used to push off as they walked. I looked at them with some surprise – these were not elderly people who need poles for support. There were both young and middle-aged people. Already then I thought how nice it was to walk with poles but without skis – not everywhere and not always there are conditions for skiing. And now in Moscow, in our Troparevsky Park, there are plenty of such walkers. And my husband and I were among the first!

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Since we’re talking about flatland skiing, let me tell you about the annual colorful festival that takes place in January in Zell am See – Balloon Night, or Nachtballone. The nightly show features glowing balloons, acrobatic tricks on skis and snowboards, traditional drinks, music from trendy DJs and fireworks. To see it properly, you have to go up the mountain a bit. Unfortunately, the last time we were late for the holiday, it was three days before our arrival. But in the snowy 2008 we were able to join it. Colorful “Nachtballone” posters were posted everywhere long before the appointed day. The day set for the event was very sunny and with a light drizzle. In the morning the balloons started to be tested, with their many-colored and brightly-colored logos.

Jura went to ski from the mountains and I went to the wonderful plain track. And for three hours, if not more, I enjoyed the magnificent snow, the soft glide of the skis and the sight of slowly floating above me, or suddenly flying out, as from a magic box, colorful balloons (maybe it would be more correct to call them balloons? But it was the balloons that figured in the name of the holiday). By the way, there were also balloons with Russian logos, that is, they were driven by our, Russian teams.

When Jura returned, I began to persuade him to go to the festival in Zellam-See. Although the next day we had to get up very early, because we were going on a tour, still decided not to miss such a spectacle. We started late, the narrow gauge train did not run, so we did not want to take the bus, and, as usual, we walked. There were no people on the promenade, we walked slowly in complete darkness, and suddenly we heard bells ringing, stomping, and some shadow flashed ahead. It was a good thing that the path we were walking on curved around a little resting-place at this point. We bounced onto it, and a real trio rushed right past us on the bike path at breakneck speed, though without a rider. Apparently, the owner of the three had taken guests from Schüttdorf to Nachtballone and was now on his way back. I think he was also quite surprised to see people walking in the dark on the empty promenade at night. (By the way, during the day, when I was skiing, I saw horses grazing near one of the houses, and a stroller nearby, maybe the same one that had just flown past us.) We reached the town and in the darkness we saw, in the distance, on a mountain, brightly glowing flames, flaring and fading, the burners heating the gas in the cylinders. The balloons themselves glowed mysteriously in the darkness, illuminated by these lights.

There was heard the music, was reached the noise… We went a little more to the side of the elevator and realized that without skis would unlikely go up to the top, to the center of the holiday. We stood some more, admired the fire show and went back to our place in Schütdorf. We left the town and about a third of the way back, we heard gunfire. We turned around: one of the most beautiful fireworks we had ever seen was blossoming over Zell am See. We stood for a long time, mesmerized by the wonderful sight. When we hit the road again, we saw that we were not alone – two girls, obviously acquaintances, from our own pension, were also in a hurry to get home. “Girls, aren’t you from Pension Moser?” – we called out to them, but they got very scared and picked up the pace. We didn’t catch up with them. And the next day at breakfast, the girls excitedly talked about Nachtballone and how they had been startled on the way back by two mysterious strangers. “So it was us!” – and everyone laughed amicably! Thus ended the adventure.

By the way, night walks along the lake shore were not uncommon for us. In the same year our good ski friends were resting with us in Zell-Am-See. And since our skiing mode was a bit different, we mostly met in the evenings. Their room was larger than ours, and the location of the hotel is more isolated. And so we were walking in the dark, in the cold and wind from Schütdorf along the lake shore to visit our friends in Zellam-See. And then, warmed up, and not just with tea, we went out again into the piercing night and returned to our pension.

But all good things come to an end, the most wonderful vacation comes to an end, and so do my notes.

We looked out the window the morning before we left in the warm, low snow year of 2014 – everything is white and white, and it is snowing hard! You just couldn’t see the lake and mountains across the street! True, the snow covers the ground and grass, and immediately melts on the sidewalk. Well, maybe those who come after us will be more lucky with snow in the mountains and on the plains. By the way, in Moscow I saw in the news Austrian houses covered with snow so that it is impossible to open the door.

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When we were leaving in early morning in 2008, it was also snowing in Zell-Am-See.

It was snowing all night, covering the roads, and the buses were going very slowly, especially since the law-abiding Austrian drivers kept a very long interval in such unsafe weather. The traffic jam on the autobahn stretched for many kilometers. The driver of our bus made the right decision, as it turned out later – he took us not along the freeway, not through the main mountain tunnels, but down a country road, through small towns and no different from them well-kept villages, past waking houses, stores opening, trucks unloading goods. We drove over bridges over rivers and streams, up and down again. And all the time we were admiring these beautiful places, the beautiful mountain scenery, and the cozy villages. Of course the trip took longer than expected. But at the airport in Salzburg we nevertheless were the first! Our neighbors on pension, students from Iceland, left two hours before us, and we were sure that they have long been here, and maybe flew away. And what was our surprise when about an hour later a group of skiers walked into the airport lounge and our neighbors were among them. They had taken 3 hours longer than us to get there!

That ends my completely subjective notes. I hope that someone will also want to visit these blessed lands, and someone will remember his stay there and say: “No, we had it all in a different way! Well, everyone has their own memories, and I make no claim to the absolute truth. Thank you readers for your attention!

Text: Natalia Kutenina. Photo: Nataliya Kutenina, Yury Kutenin.

Material is reworked specially for

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Top 30 ski resorts in Austria

Austria’s ski resorts open their doors to tourists from late fall to late spring. Timing varies, depending on the location of the slopes. The cost of a ski pass affects details: e.g. the availability of luxury hotels nearby, the length of the slopes, and the qualifications of instructors, etc. However, all the resorts without exception offer a basic set of services for a comfortable holiday.

Usually the alpine tourist areas are adjacent, some of them are even united by a common ski pass and ski-basses run between them. The close proximity of the resorts helps vacationers choose the more suitable one. For example, Galtur is quieter and cheaper than Ischgl, but between them is a short distance, and the difference will feel only an experienced skier.

The most popular ski resorts in Austria.

List, photos with names and descriptions of the main ski resorts of the country.


The most famous ski resort in Austria. The town is called elite, and the rest here corresponds to this notion both in price and in comfort. Unique nature and rich life off the slopes is a wonderful addition to skiing on snowy slopes. The length of the tracks is about 180 kilometers. The longest of them is 8 kilometers long. There are places for snowboarding, cross-country skiing and other winter sports and recreation.



Popular holiday destination on the border of Austria and Switzerland. On the Swiss side also operates a full-fledged resort of Samnaun. Height difference is one and a half kilometers. The total length of the tracks is 235 kilometers. There is enough snow in the high season, but for a better skiing adds about 10% more artificial snow cover. Due to the peculiarities of the climate the tracks are not covered with ice.



Located in the Öztal Valley along with several other resorts. The region is considered the most visited in Austria. The total length of trails Sölden – about 165 kilometers. The highest points of the resort – the glaciers Rettenbach and Tiefenbach. Sledding, mogul and cross-country skiing tracks, as well as a snowboard park and opportunities for freeride and night skiing allow for a variety of leisure activities. You can take classes in the area of interest at one of the four schools.



You can go to Mayrhofen in one of the four ski resorts that are perfect for beginner skiers and pro skiers alike. From 142 kilometers of trails 28 belong to the category of the most difficult. 123 snow guns are ready to cover the whole skiing area with artificial snow cover if needed. Several snowboard parks are scattered throughout the valley. Instructors teach both adults and children how to stand on a board or ski.



The local slopes are designed for both resort recreation and international sporting events. In Seefeld will appeal to beginners: extreme sports are almost unheard of, even the most difficult slopes will be conquered after a couple or three lessons with instructors. The length of the trails is modest, just 23 kilometers. You will also find things to do for snowboarders, but cross-country skiing lovers will have a lot to do here.


Bad Gastein

The “Alpine Monte Carlo” is located next to the more budget-friendly ski resort of Bad Hofstein. There are 200 kilometers of pistes in the valley, most of them in Bad Gastein. Here mostly rest experienced skiers, as the slopes have their own characteristics, and to them it is necessary to get used to. Snowboard arena, a separate half-pipe, a fun park and flat slopes will diversify the rest of fans of extreme sports.

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Zell am See

The town stands on the shores of a picturesque lake. Tourists are available not only skiing on the slopes of Mount Schmittenhoe, but a variety of shopping. To save money on lodging is better to stay in nearby Schuettdorf. The total length of the slopes – 75 kilometers, the ski area is at a relatively low altitude. A large selection of equipment for rent is offered in more than 20 locations.



Two villages of the same name stand almost side by side, so they form one ski resort. The 124 slopes are divided by levels of difficulty. The southern slope is considered to be a shady one, while the northern slope is usually flooded with sunlight. There are all conditions for mountain slalom, snowboarding and mogul skiing. The use of ski elevators and ski-basses is included in the price of a single ski pass. The prices vary slightly depending on the peak season.


Wilder Kaiser

This area is characterized by an abundance of snow. Therefore, the area is so picturesque, and tourists come not only to conquer the slopes, but also for the purpose of hiking in the mountains. The length of the trails is 279 kilometers, almost half of them are blue. Restaurants, bars, sauna, and masseur’s services are available to the guests. There is an ice rink, an open curling hall, and an indoor tennis court.



Located among the Tyrolean mountains on the high plateau. The region is sunny, which makes skiing pleasant aesthetically. The total length of the tracks is 215 kilometers. There are separate areas for recreation and entertainment for children. There are two ski schools. In summer the resort continues to operate, changing its specialization. On its territory there is a zoo, a rock climbing wall, attractions, a huge sandpit, a tower for jumping.


Zillertal Arena

Located on the territory of two Austrian regions. The number of elevators exceeds 50 and continues to increase from season to season. The length of the tracks is more than 140 kilometers. The pride of Zillertal Arena is the steepest black slope of the country. Ten schools offer snowboarding or skiing lessons. The villages and towns in the area are famous for their national cuisine and hospitality.



Two small villages merged into one thriving resort. The skiing area is located at an altitude of 1500 – 1900 meters. Some pistes are laid directly through the picturesque Tyrolean forest. The area is ideal for couples with children. For the kids there are separate classes at the ski schools, they can be left at the kindergarten or arrange a family hike on one of the easy trails.


Lech Zürs

United Ski Area. Lech is one of the oldest, most expensive and comfortable resorts in Austria. Zürs is higher and boasts involvement in the history of skiing in the country: the first Austrian ski elevator was built here. The sunny southern slopes will suit the beginners. The northern slopes are more complex. Skiing on the virgin lands is another advantage of the area. And the developed transport system allows you to quickly get to other resorts.


St. Anton am Arlberg

It is the center of the big resort area in the Tyrolean Alps. The total length of the tracks is more than 300 kilometers. For freeriders and snowboarders has built a separate park. Tourists should visit the local museum, which keeps exhibits related to the emergence of mountain skiing and the development of this sport. The town is a starting point for hiking: an elaborate network of trails winds through the entire area.



The steepest and most challenging ski slopes in Salzburg can be found here. However, the resort is also suitable for beginners: there are training opportunities and easy slopes. The total length of the slopes – about 100 kilometers. Popular entertainments are night and off-piste skiing. Separate sections for snowboarding. Prices for the main and intermediate seasons differ within the margin of error.



It is part of an impressive skiing area in the Tyrolean lands. Light and medium slopes stretch for 228 kilometers, the difficult – 22 kilometers. The village of Zell is connected to the ski area ski-bus system. People often come here with children to try skiing for the first time. Instructors help learn not only the skis, but also snowboarding. Rent all the necessary equipment, including snowmobiles.



Respectable Trypillya resort. Medium difficulty slopes occupy more than half of the 43 kilometers of the total length of the slopes. Twice a week there is a nighttime 3 km slope available. There are pistes for cross-country skiing and trails for hiking, both on foot and on snowmobiles. Cuitay has a certificate of family resort. A hobby club, exercise area, and play area are open to children.



Partially located on the Italian territory. Height differences are about 1.5 thousand meters, the hotels are also built on high ground. The total length is 113 kilometers, they vary in difficulty. The resort has the longest chairlift in the Alps: 6 kilometers it overcomes in 20 minutes. The ice covered surface of the lake Pressseggersee was turned into an ice rink. For snowboarders there is a park with ski jumps.

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The highest mountain village of Austria. At other resorts at the point of 1800 meters already end ropeways, and here the ski area is just beginning. Night trail has a length of 8 kilometers and is available according to the schedule of the season. The total length of the ski routes is 113 kilometers. A ski school and equipment rentals are available. Free Wi-Fi covers the entire territory of Obergurgl.



Off-piste skiing on the slopes of the Dachstein mountains is the main reason to visit the resort. There are plenty of regular runs of varying difficulty here, too, and they are 191 kilometers long. Night skiing is allowed on weekdays. The number of elevators exceeds 80. Snowboarders have a whole complex for recreation. In addition to a full snowboard park equipped slopes for bordercross and freeride.



Kaprun is located in the province of Salzburg. The resort is conventionally divided into two parts. Maiskogel is more suitable for inexperienced skiers, and Kitzsteinhorn is characterized by the presence of difficult slopes. The length of the slopes is not very long, but it is compensated by the impressive altitude difference. Open on two half-pipe and snowboard park, as well as a fun park and a super-pipe. Accommodation is available in 3 and 4-star hotels and pensions.



A certified family recreation center. The resort is divided into 4 ski areas, including the eponymous glacier. The 43 kilometers of trails are divided on the complexity with a predominance of blue. The longest slope is 10 kilometers. There are opportunities for freeride and hiking. Excursions, group and individual lessons with an instructor, and recreational activities are organized for children.



The resort takes stages of the World Cup, and its slopes are suitable for training professionals. There are not only black slopes among 111 kilometers of slopes: the red ones have the longest length – 74 kilometers. There are 130 snow guns installed in Flachau, and the artificial snow cover is used on 70 percent of the area. A separate park is built for snowboarders. Hotels, pensions and apartments in close proximity to the ski area can accommodate 8 thousand people.



The largest ski area in the Vorarlberg region. The length of the slopes is 220 kilometers. The valley is divided into 8 zones, which are united by a common ski pass. Traditionally, winters are snowy, although artificial snow is also poured to create better conditions for sliding. The resort is predominantly designed for beginner to intermediate skiers. Children’s parks and recreational activities for the little ones make Mantaphon a suitable destination for families.



Adjacent to Ischgl, but different from the more famous resort: it has less hustle and bustle. The length of the 17 available slopes – 40 kilometers. Kindergarten, half-pipe, snowboard park, 4 areas for skiing on the virgin lands, ski school with separation by age and skill – the distinctive features of Galtur. Avalanches happen, but local services quickly eliminate the consequences of snow drifts.


Bad Kleinkirchheim

A small village in the northern part of Carinthia is not only a ski resort, but also a thermal resort. It is in the neighborhood of the Norkberg National Park. The total length of the tracks is more than 170 kilometers. In addition, there are cross-country trails, you can ride on the virgin lands. 25 elevators cope with the workload even in the high season, which lasts from late December to late March. 4 schools teach beginners to conquer the slopes.



A village in the Ötztal Valley. It is only 10 kilometers to the resort of Sölden. The altitude difference is within 1600 meters. The 50 kilometers of trails are divided roughly equally in terms of difficulty levels. The longest piste has a length of only 2 kilometers. Nighttime skiing is available in a designated area. There are also sledging and jogging tracks and 2 snow parks. In the evening there are clubs. Lovers of quiet time can arrange a romantic evening in the apartments.



The distance to Mayrhofen – 18 kilometers. On the glacier of the same name you can ski even in the summer. The impressive height differences are an excellent base for creating the pistes of increased complexity. There are 21 elevators serving 42 kilometers of slopes. For snowboarders there’s plenty to do: the half-pipe and fun-park are impressive in terms of equipment and size. Ski-buses take skiers directly from the hotels to the slopes.



Stretches out in the center of the Zillertal Valley. The season runs from December to April, and on the nearby Hintertux glacier all year round. The total length of the mountain routes exceeds 140 kilometers. The flat trail is 20 kilometers. Routes for hiking, both on skis and snowmobiles, as well as on foot. Ski jumps, half-pipe, fun-park – modern and well-maintained. Developed nightlife.



Part of the largest region of the Alps for winter sports. The city is crisscrossed by two mountain ranges: the Kitzbühel in the south and the Kaiserbirge peaks in the north. The altitude difference is up to 2 kilometers. Elmau is rapidly developing, but it is not yet as crowded as the more famous resorts in the country. Therefore, those who do not like unnecessary hustle and bustle come here. The season is long: from early December to mid-April.

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