Entering Slovenia from Austria, time seems to shift. Looking up at the Julian Alps after exiting the five-mile-long Karawks tunnel from Austria, it becomes clear that the terrain on the southern side of the border is indistinguishable from the north, but I instantly feel more relaxed. So does Matjaz Meglic, the man driving the car.
Meglic and I had spent the day skiing at Katschburg Ski Resort in southern Austria, playing around on Elan’s piste-friendly Wingman ski line while his daughter and her friends worked on mastering their edges. When we stopped for lunch, the group of 10-year-olds switched between giggling at jokes in Slovenian and ordering kids-menu schnitzel in German before Meglic told them to work on their English. After all, there was an American at the table. I spent the one-and-a-half-hour car ride from the ski area to Begunje, Slovenia, wondering why I didn’t start learning at least one other language at that age (or ever, at this point).
Since this visit to Slovenia in 2019, it’s not hyperbole to say that the world has changed. And while Slovenia has had its fair share of problems in 2020, there have also been many bright spots for the small country, particularly in the realm of sport. Over the summer, two Slovenians battled it out for first place during one of the most exciting Tour de France bike races in recent memory. NBA All-Star Luka Doncic became the second-youngest player to finish in the Top 5 for MVP voting in the bubble. Zan Kranjec stood on the World Cup GS podium in Adelboden in March and Santa Caterina Valfurva in December. And the country’s iconic ski brand, Elan, celebrated 75 years of building skis.