My wife and I try to take at least one trip every season without the kids or other friends to go touring together. Skiing is what brought us together and we’re skiing all the time, but with the kids, either one or the other of us is always having to keep watch over our little pro-team, or we end up in groups of friends for tours around the world. Taking the time to go out together has become one of my skiing highlights every year – and I say this even though my wife is a splitboarder.
This year, we were all gunned up to go back to the Italian Alps someplace, but the snow’s not that good there, and booking a place to stay was a hassle. Sabine suggested just staying at our hut near Hochfügen, which has a lot of possibilities, a fair amount of snow, and is cheap to boot – so we collected Oma at the train station, said goodbye to the groms and headed down to our home sweet second home for a four day weekend.
Friday was a bit touch and go with the weather. There had been some fresh, and it was still snowing, with marginal visibility and kind of blah weather. Since it was a short day anyway (we left Munich after breakfast) we decided to just run up the Sonntagsköpfl – which is probably the closest thing I’ve got to a standard. I think I’ve been up there about ten times this season – but what it lacks in adventure, it makes up for with options, access, ease and comfort.
This is one of the most popular tours in all of Tyrol – so I was suprised to be putting in a track the whole way up. The snow was hot pow – only about 5 cm, but it was enough. We dodged snowfall and clouds the whole way up, but topping out the sun shined through and made for some nice turns off the left hand side of a spine that points to the northeast, meaning on that aspect I can usually find good pow. We did.
Cappucino and Aperol Spritz at the coffee bar in Hochfügen were well appreciated by Sabine as well.
Saturday was the best day of the trip – with bluebird skies and warm temps well into the teens. We hit a tour I’ve never been on, despite its proximity to the hut, the Kreutzjoch. There is a very small parking spot right behind the Gasthof Schellenberg on the road to Hochfügen – about halfway up – next to a dirt road/track going up and to the east. There is only space for about three cars if you squeeze, and there is no visible skiable terrain from the road. These two things together mean that very few non-locals frequent this tour.
I’d looked on the map and seen that above the treeline, the road empties out into a high cirque, and while the amount of skiable vertical didn’t look that great – the terrain features looked beautiful. I was excited to be getting in there with Sabine, and on such a nice day too.
We followed the road up, got impatient, bushwacked, climbed up a streambed and engaged in general mountain orienteering sillyness. Yes – we knew where we were, and yes, we got where we wanted – but no….the road wouldn’t have been a bad option. Yes – it winds and winds up and down, but I think it would have been faster in the end. Simpler for sure.
Those road-building-guys kinda know what they were doing. I think its notable that they usually try to keep a 15 degree angle whenever possible or less. This is pretty much a perfect skin-track as well. I’m gradually coming to the conclusion that if there is a road going where I want to go – always follow it. It will almost certainly be the more efficient option.
Topping out into the cirque – the scenery was fabulous. The walls to the east, and especially the west, are so steep, and the whole place has a pleasing aesthetic. Here again, we saw no one the whole way, and took our time until Sabine heard a giant wumpfing in the snowpack. She was standing on the flat base of the cirque bottom, so no direct slide danger, but the snowpack had spoken, so we ripped the skins right way and picked our way out through the mashed potatoes of the afternoon.
I’ll be back to this place next winter for sure. There are many small chutes on either side of the cirque which could be a lot of fun for the right crew.
Sunday the weather was coming in, and since we started late – we took the lifts up into the ski resort and dropped off the backside of the Pfaffenbichl intending to then skin up all the way to the Rosskopf, which overlooks the entire massif.
The drop into the next drainage over from the ski resort in the sun was a dream. Amazing how a resort so known as a “Freeride Mecca” has NO TRACKS anywhere on the backside. Despite the marketing hype – most of the guys on Dukes and Beasts don’t actually have or use skins….a fact I’ve learned to count on and exploit.
On the way up, we were moving fast. Sabine’s Phantom Bindings and hard boots have really made her quick compared to most splitboarders, but it wasn’t enough to beat the weather that was moving in from the southwest. We bailed on our plan, took a shorter route to the ridge and the sub-peak of the Kleiner Gilfert, and then dropped off the ooposite side of the ridge back to the sledding track that leads all the way down to the base area of the ski hill.
The next day was really crappy weather. Rain, and lots of it – so we had a long breakfast and went home early to the kiddos. As much as I like the time alone with my wife – life is kinda slow when they’re not around.
There is still so much to see and do right the hut. I’m looking forward to another month or more of touring up high – and I hope to meet some of you out now that the casual tourists have gone!
Have fun – and see you around!