to celebrate the newborn winter season 2014/2015, Roman and I went on a 9 day pow searching mission in Austria from friday, the 2nd january 2015 on.
our powder in the east (PIE) buddy G. came over and we hit the road to Salzburg together.
we met up with a group of PIE members in Großarl in the evening and made plans for the next day.
saturday morning, we started our first tour and hiked up to the Penkkopf, one of the most visited mountaintops in the Großarl region. Roman and I had already been up there before, so we knew that this tour was perfect as a starter. first you start out pretty mellow with a long hike along a shallow path through a dreamy winter wonderland, then the track steepens for the last hour or so until you reach the flat peak. from there, you have a great view all around, from Großarl to Kleinarl, which lies on the other side of the mountain.
after a short break on the mountaintop, we had a fun ride down. the snow conditions were pretty good, we had enough snow to ride without the risk of hitting rocks or trees situated underneath the snow and even found some entertaining pillows and small jumps.
view from the summit of Penkkopf.
on sunday, the weather had gone bad, with limited view, snowfall and lots of wind. we decided to play it safe and ride the slopes of Großarl.
as we all hadn’t had the chance to ride a lot prior to this trip, it was a great opportunity to get used to riding again. luckily, after several years of snowboarding, it doesn’t take long to get the hang of it again. i have to say, i really noticed how much my riding has improved during the last winter season. i’m very thankful for that. seems like the bad conditions were useful after all!
we played around, explored the fresh snow next to the slopes and had a surprisingly awesome day.
on monday, it was time to say goodbye to the PIE group and Großarl. Roman and I hopped into the car and headed over to Obertauern, where we were able to stay at Hotel Leitner (nice place directly at the slopes, with breakfast buffet and sauna – check it out if you seek accommodation in Obertauern!).
we met up with F., a friend of G., and plowed through the fresh snow next to the slopes. the view was still limited, so we stuck to humble tree runs but still had a great time.
good morning, Obertauern!
tuesday was the first day with sunny weather and fresh pow, as well as a national holiday, which meant that lots of people came to the resort and ventured into the backcountry. we decided to stay on the safe side (after all, we still had an avalanche risk of 3 out of 5) and first warmed up next to the slopes. we hit some drops, did some turns and after about an hour, decided to explore some of the safer routes out of bounds.
i have to say, i’m not one who chases first lines, i’m more of a safety lover. i’d rather be safe and maybe ride a slope where there’s already some tracks inside, than go out of my way to be the first to ride somewhere.
there will be times when the conditions will be just right anyways and then i will be able to truly enjoy drawing first lines.
still, we had no problem finding paths to ride that were enjoyable, occasionally scoring face shots as well as dropping and jumping around.
on wednesday we pulled out our touring gear and went on a hike to the Große Kesselspitze, which lies next to the resort of Obertauern, but can’t be accessed by the lifts.
the weather felt like spring (oh no, not again, just like last winter! ;)) as we walked through a lovely forest and then spitzkehred our way up to the top. the last few meters to the summit have to be climbed, so we left our equipment at the ski depot to check out the view on this sunny day.
we met a few other ski touring folks and talked to them about the possible descent on the south facing slope. originally, we had planned to ride down the ascent route as a safety measure, but since the snow seemed to be good, we decided to follow the tracks of the other guys.
it was a great idea and a memorable descent!
Roman checking the view on the summit of the Große Kesselspitze.
a look back to the rocky path up to the Summit.
this was our lovely way down!
thursday was our planned travel and chill day. Roman wanted to try out a new binding, so we went to the Blue Tomato test center in Obertauern, where he received a now! binding to test.
as we stood around in the shop, M., one of the shop dudes, asked if we were interested in giving him company for a short freeride intermezzo. we shortly discussed if this sounded like a good idea or not (after all, knees were sore and a freeride camp was coming up) but then made up our minds and told M. that we were going to join him.
in the mean time, his shred buddy B. had arrived and we headed up to the chair lift together.
after two warm up runs, we started to hike towards the Seekarspitze. after about 30 minutes, we reached our destination and each of us found an individual spot to drop in. my route was steep at the top and i couldn’t clearly see if there were rocks beneath me, so i decided to head to the left after dropping in, to ride around that overhanging part. snow was good and we all had a good time cruising down.
afterwards, we said goodbye and headed back to the shop, where Roman finally bought the bindings.
shortly after his purchase, we drove to Bad Mitterndorf and checked into our apartment. the rest of the day was spent relaxing, in the evening we visited Steph from Die Bergstation for a chat and a Zirbenschnaps.
Mitterndorf, here we come!
friday morning meant the start of yet another freeride day, only this time not on our own but with a group of lovely, funny people, most of them already familiar faces, as we were part of the motherland anniversary camp.
happy campers cruised and hiked, and faster than we could point out shit, the day was over.
everybody seemed sore but satisfied.
the sun setting like crazy over Bad Mitterndorf.
during the night, it started to pour down like crazy. on saturday, a lot of the snow in town had melted or been washed away. also, it was very stormy, so much that all the lifts were closed.
Steph and Markus, our guides, let us decide if we wanted to go ride the slopes of Riesneralm or do an avy training.
we all preferred to work on our avalanche rescue skills, and so we went up to the Schönialm by car, where we first got served hot drinks by the friendly Schönialm staff, although it was their day off – thanks again!
the guide team explained the proper process when solving an avalanche accident and then we went outside to work on our practical skills. we split up in two groups, got tips on our shoveling technique and then hid a few avalanche transceivers and backpacks for the other group to search.
our guides played eye witnesses who had just seen a group of people go down with an avalanche. and they did it very well – Steph pretended to be totally devastated and in panic, we hardly were able to get out any info from him and even needed to do a body check to find out if he was carrying an avalanche transceiver, which might interfere with our search.
as our group consisted of 4 people with 3 of us knowing each other pretty well, our rescue went fine and we finished solving the problem of multiple buried transceivers and probing for a backpack rather quickly. statistically, everyone could have survived, as we were finished in about 12 minutes, if i remember that correctly.
the result felt really good and i am sure that we were able to better our skills.
hopefully, we will never need to use our knowledge, but it’s good to feel prepared and able to help.
on sunday, we faced yet another slush day and roman and i decided to skip riding and go home instead.
we had had a great week of riding and felt no need in fighting with wet, heavy snow. our thighs agreed 😉
going home – happy because of the great days we had, sad that the weather wasn’t on our side for the last day.
tomorrow it’s time for the first FWQ contest of the season at the Hochkar in Lower Austria, wish me luck!