So – Sunday came around and while the weather on Saturday had been kinda bad, the night was cold and clear, and the forecast was for a bluebird day. I was hoping for a firm start, so I hauled myself out of bed at five AM and was at the base of the ski area a little before six.
Hochfügen had closed for the season on Friday….two days early. It certainly wasn’t due to a lack of snow. They announced their early closing via Facebook at about four PM on Thursday. Apparently – somebody died and everybody wanted to go to the funeral on Saturday, so, they just folded up the sidewalks and that was it.
I mean, don’t get me wrong – any time someone dies, its important. That person, whoever they were, was loved by someone, and its important to mark their passing, not so much for the person that is no longer, more so for the people left behind. Closing a destination ski area with short notice, a business that half the valley depends on to pay the bills and the host of hundreds of guests every weekend (at least) which have to make plans to get to….that’s a little bush league.
I said as much on their Facebook site. I have to admit – I’ve got a beef with these people, because they do things of this sort all the time. The details are pretty boring, but on more than one occasion, they’ve advertised a party, only to start it earlier than advertised and drink all the beer with their local friends for free – or outright rope off the party and conspicuously only allow locals inside the ropes. (Seilrennen – anyone?) I got stroppy with them, and was promptly thrown to the dogs wearing milk-bone underwear….I admit it, I may have shown my ass a little on that one – but ain’t nobody gonna have a moment of silence at the lifts for me when I shuffle forth….
In any case – the place was empty. That was rad.
It was cold until the sun came out – the car said minus 8 centigrade. I pulled up my hood and put the hammer down to get warm. The sun wasn’t up yet, so I had to work to stay heated, but I cleared into the alpine pretty soon and I got those first sun rays that are always the best.
Still saw nobody on the trail, and since my route was a non-standard, I figured I wouldn’t. I climbed up on the slopes of the ski resort, still pristine with a bit of fresh still on them from Friday night. Down in the valley, everything was green, but up here looked like prime corn harvesting time. I enjoyed the silence and the weirdness that is an empty ski area.
Saw a new memorial to the employee who died near the top, under the slope he was buried on. He was on the avalanche commission for the ski area and was digging a snow pit when he got caught. I did not know him, but he looked like a nice guy in the photo. I suppose – if you weren’t a nice guy – they’d still try to put a nice-guy-photo up for you….but nice-guyness is surprisingly hard to fake and this guy looked legit.
Doing what I do – these things always make you pause, as they should. What if that was me? Would they be able to find a nice-guy-photo of me? Am I doing the right things? Should I even be here? I always think about stuff like that – not doing so would be stupid. I always come back to the idea that life without risk is pretty boring – and life should not be boring. Risk should be the sauce though, and never the meal. I love what I do, and its the thing I love the most, but its not worth dying for – no way. I say this because people actually say things like that all the time – and they equate a skiing and mountain lifestyle with death-defying risk. I don’t. I’m just as happy cruising around on the flats as I am gripped at the top of the Murderhorn – there is no inherent benefit for me in huge risk-taking, and I do believe that the current obsession with just this kind of risk is mostly due to emotional imbalance or narcissism, or both.
I kept it up and made the ridge, just before the sun cleared onto the backside – a good time too! I don’t really keep track most of the time. I tell time in the spring by the snow condition, but I guess I was up in an hour or so. A lot faster than the last time I took this route, which was at the start of the season.
Took those turns down the backside. Nobody ever goes there. I don’t know why, there is plenty of nice treeless alpine and you can run a long way if you want. Nice and firm, which suited my gear and I went well down, losing about 5 or 600 meters of altitude and moving into a zone that looked completely untouched all winter. Funny how that ridge separates two worlds so completely….one side, Euro-Ski-Madness and on the other, the stillness of the hills. I felt really fresh, so I skinned up and went back for some more, but this time moving southward instead of straight up where I had come from.
I was moving down the ridge, but there was no clear route directly to my goal of the Rosskopf, so I thought I’d yo-yo over and get a couple runs in on the way and make lemonade out of lemons. I got back up near the ridge, but it got steep up there and the sun was already shining on the top half of that face. It was probably still cold enough, but I move like a scared bunny in the hills, especially solo, so I ripped the skins and took a nice run down again, still pulling to the south.
As always, a blast, and nothing even remotely near the magic 25 degrees. The hard snow ran fast and easy – so I slapped the fur on again for a trot up the Rosskopf, still further south.
I came up the backside. When I got near the peak, I curved around to the normal route up, which comes up from the ski area on the other side of the ridge. MAN! it was a bunch of people. I got kinda peeved, but then I thought – of course – on a day like this, this was the perfect place to be. I couldn’t fault them for making the same decision….and….best part was, I had changed it up, so these were the first I’d seen all day. I am a sly fox after all.
Took the run off the frontside this time….all the way back down to the parking lot. I didn’t bother with photos or video of that one – but what a blast! A nice long run, probably near 1000 meters, all in the sunshine, with perfect carvable corn all over it. Lots of terrain features and only a few tracks.
All in all – one of the best days out this year. The weather, the snow, my gear, fitness….I love it when I a plan comes together!
I probably won’t be out this weekend, and my kids are jonesing for some time on the Italian lakes – so I may be out a week or two….but by the looks of it, if you seek, you shall find….for some time still!
Hope to meet you in the hills!