Ulfas, Passeiertal — SouthTyrol (Südtirol) Destination Ski Touring

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A gray day but beautiful nonetheless.

A gray day but beautiful nonetheless.

It seems the initial bill is usually half the final cost of a rental car. So when a letter from Avis arrived a few weeks after our trip to EU, we expected another loud ding to our VISA. Unfortunately, we weren’t disappointed. With kind regards, the “Traffic Offence Team” informed us that we got a speeding ticket and their charge for giving the authorities our contact info was a mere $40. The Italian traffic fine is still to come. Oh well, it was worth having wheels, especially since the car gave us flexibility to weave backcountry skiing into our tight schedule of industry visits. We found good snow and discovered yet another alpine paradise — the Passeier/Passiria Valley.

Located about 40 km northeast of Meran/Merano, nestled between the Ötztaler, Stubaier and Sarntaler Alps, the region is technically part of Italy but is proudly Tyrolean in spirit. Because of this, each place is known by both by its German and Italian name which can be a bit confusing if you’re not prepared. I wasn’t. From his past European travels, Lou has found it’s helpful to have a list of towns to pass through to ensure you’re traveling along the correct roads. I learned this the hard way by ignoring his advice completely. After leaving St. Anton, I keyed the name of our hotel into the map app on my iPhone and as co-pilot, instructed Lou to drive to Timmelsjoch mountain pass via Solden. We drove for three hours, climbing higher and higher on a narrow winding farm road. With daylight fading into dusk, the road dead-ended into a wall of snow. Pass closed for winter. Only 10 km southeast of the pass on the other side was our hotel. Oops.

Amid increasing snowswirls, on an icy road seemingly narrower than a driveway, Lou did a 5 point turn and we headed down the steep Timmelsjoch Hochalpenstrasse, hairpin turn after hairpin turn. I sheepishly dug out the list of town names and we headed for Reschen Pass about 60 km (40 mi) to the west. We passed through Meran/Merano to Moos in Passeier/Moso in Passiria. Arriving late and tired, we quickly went to sleep in a classic Tyrolean feather bed.

A word about the feather bed: All the EU beds we’ve slept in lately have been queen or king size, and they come with two twin-sized down comforters, each folded in half, one on the right and one on the left. This individualized “his and hers” bedding system eliminates any fighting over the sheets during the night and is still warm and cozy. The smaller comforters are much lighter than one large one and easier to handle when making the bed in the morning. Since WildSnow is dedicated to all things lightweight and efficient, it’s a clever design to note. Now on to the skiing.

Moos in Passeier in a deep alpine valley.

Moos/Moso, nestled in the deep alpine valley of Passeier/Passiria.

As we head up the farmers' road, the road gets cleared.  We're excited to see the snow!

As we head up the farmers' road, the road gets cleared. We're excited for the snow!

Lou skinning through a forest above Ulfas.

Lou skinning through a forest above Ulfas.

We woke to a gray, snowy day. Thrilled about the fresh snow, we headed for Ulfas, a tiny mountain hamlet of about 40 inhabitants, at 1,369 m. In the parking lot we ran into local mountaineer, (and exceptional woodworker Lou introduced in his previous post) Wilfried Pfitscher and skied with him through a gently sloping forest toward a high mountain pass. The foothills were covered in a beautiful blanket of consolidated powder. Low clouds obscured the ridge so we turned around below the pass and enjoyed smooth bouncy turns down the rolling countryside.

With warm hospitality so common among the Tyrols, Wilfried invited us to his family’s farm for a beer, which led to a plate of bread and speck, which led to homemade schnapps.

Homemade wine, speck (Tyrolean bacon) and schuettelbrot. Classic Tyrolean.

Homemade wine, speck (Tyrolean bacon) and schuettelbrot. Classic Tyrolean.

Wilfried's father toasts Lou with a glass of homemade schnapps.

Wilfried's father toasts Lou with a glass of homemade schnapps.

Schuettelbrot is rock hard bread. In the old days, mountain farmers only baked twice a year. They shelved the thin loaves of breads with space between them, letting them harden in the dry mountain air which prevented molding. Using a knife hinged to a cutting board the loaf is hacked into thin slices. The bread has a sourdough rye flavor and is delicious with smoked speck. The crunchy crumbs can be used later in soup.

The traditional bread oven hut where a six month supply of schuettelbrot is made twice a year.

The traditional bread oven hut where a six month supply of schuettelbrot is made twice a year.

I love these types of maps getting a visual sense of the area.  Click to enlarge.

I love these types of maps getting a visual sense of the area. Click to enlarge.

Comments

16 Responses to “Ulfas, Passeiertal — SouthTyrol (Südtirol) Destination Ski Touring”

  1. Jack February 17th, 2014 2:02 pm

    Smoked bacon, homemade schnapps and thin-sliced hard bread. That sounds really tasty! Keep feather comforters and hard bread in the rental car just in case one of those “oops, the road is closed” adventures goes awry. Fun article, Lisa!

  2. stuart February 18th, 2014 9:06 am

    Where are the recipes Lisa?

  3. Jim L February 18th, 2014 9:23 am

    Such a different/civilized form of touring compared to the typical NA backcountry day.

    Thanks for sharing the adventure.

    Jim

  4. Lou Dawson February 18th, 2014 9:36 am

    Indeed, Jim, my impression of Alps after 8 years and more than 100 ski tour days over there is that it’s all about variety. You’ve got Cham, but also thousands of places with full amenities, existing skin tracks, and supurb choices in terrain that doesn’t have to be extreme, but can be if you want. The North American ski media has done a very poor job of reporting this over the years. I hope to see more information as the sport progresses and so on. Lou

  5. ben February 18th, 2014 10:20 am

    Jim L. If you ever make it to Switzerland the Grand st Bernard pass offers endless touring with the choice of a hearty meal in the monastery or a descent down the Italian side – where the proprietor of the Croix blanche restsurant will pick you up in a beaten up van and you can spend an afternoon in a setting where the wine list is bigger than the menu. To top it off, you get back on the bus at 4pm and go back to the Swiss side.
    That’s a european day tour.
    That said, I also love PNW powder and a burger afterward.
    It’s tough being a skier.

  6. Lou Dawson February 18th, 2014 10:28 am

    Ditto on the PNW

  7. Francesco February 19th, 2014 8:29 am

    Now there are some English – speaking guide-books recently published by Versante Sud Edizioni, like “Ski mountaineering in Tyrol “, “Ski mountaineering in the Dolomites”, “Freeride in Dolomiti”, and I think more in the future…

  8. Lisa Dawson February 19th, 2014 10:09 am

    Stuart, yes I dropped the ball on this one! I need to convince Mr. WildSnow to go back to Passeiertal in summer to document the semi-annual baking of Schuettelbrot….and the wine festivals…and the farmer’s secret spice recipe for smoked Speck.

  9. Jim L February 19th, 2014 10:24 am

    Ben- Funny you mention Grand St Bernard pass. I’ve been to the Alps once in my life, spring of 1989, for a month. Flew from Portland, Or(home) to Milan. Over the pass to Verbier for a week, really low snow year but bluebird conditions. Amazing steep skiing/stable conditions. The weather moved in and and we left for central Italy for 2 weeks(Rome, Florence, Sienna, Pompeii, Amalfi). While we were in Italy it dumped 2 meters in Verbier. Came back to Verbier for a week of bluebird pow. unforgettable. On Silvretta 404′s I believe.

    Lou- You are right, my home PNW is incredible. We are often blessed with non-stop freshies, like this week. It’s looking like we are being set up for spring/summer big Volcano vertical :-) We also have some of the worlds best IPA on tap, pretty much everywhere. I’d love to explore the Tyrol area, on my list. Gotta see the Ice Man too!

    Thanks

  10. Silas Wild February 20th, 2014 11:09 pm

    Perhaps you were there before this happened? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5waSw2mMfY Or not near your visit.

  11. Lou Dawson February 21st, 2014 7:50 am

    Hi Slias, we were at that location but the avalanche happened after we left. Pretty normal stuff for the Alps, with the huge vertical as well as variable temperatures. Been going on for thousands of years. We did notice that everything on that mountain wall was loaded up and primed for an avalanche cycle. We stayed away from it while ski touring. I recall the video link you shared was also shared a few times on previous Sud Tirol post, it’s indeed quite something! Lou

  12. Gentle Sasquatch February 23rd, 2014 5:29 pm

    We just had our second part of vacation reservation canceled because the person running the hut got ill and is in a hospital.

    Can anyone recommend a hut to hut tour 3 to 4 days in near St.Anton or or anywhere between Cournmayeur and Dachstein (lol) by mentioning the hut names in proper order and perhaps the region so that I can google it and plan it out quick. We are leaving on Feb 27, are all set until March 6 but the next 6 nights got canceled. Thanks.

  13. Lou Dawson February 23rd, 2014 5:31 pm

    Dang!

    Gentle, I wish I was more expert on the classic hut tours that work during winter. But I’m clueless.

    Anyone?

  14. Dan Powers February 23rd, 2014 6:57 pm

    Gentle, if you have time, check out the Bill O’Connor books, two volumes full of ski multiday tours throughout the Alps. Great place to get started. I think the Stubai, Otztal and Silvretta tours are closest to St. Anton.

  15. Geoff February 23rd, 2014 7:31 pm

    Gentle, take a look at the classic Silvretta traverse: Heidelbergerhütte – Jamtalhütte – Wiesbadenerhütte. You can also take a slight detour via the Tuoihütte in Switzerland if you want to extend it some. It’s a little flat, quite easy and very popular, but the huts are big and will almost certainly have enough space on short notice.

  16. Gentle Sasquatch February 24th, 2014 6:15 am

    Thanks Geoff. I am checking it out today. :-)

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Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information opinion website and e magazine. Lou's passion for the past 45 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about backcountry skiing and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free back country news and information here, and tons of Randonnee rando telemark info.

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