Austrian Alpine Tour – Zillertal – Grundschartner

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Being crafty ski mountaineers, the locals I ski with here don’t go for much super-alpine terrain in midwinter, as the weather and avalanche danger up high makes it tough to put together a quality excursion. But get a string of bluebird like we’ve been having, combined with stable yet still skiable snow, and look what happens.

Backcountry Skiing

Fritz, headed down from Grundschartner.

The Alps march higher south of where I’m staying in Austria, crested by a vast area of alpine terrain that eventually pushes into the Dolomites. Reminded me much of the Colorado Plateau when you get up on the Continental Divide and everywhere you look is a vast array of alpine peaks. Only here you’ve even got glaciers hanging all over the place. Too many ski lifts in some areas, but this zone is special as it is more undeveloped.

Backcountry Skiing

That's me, headed up. Summit marked with arrow. This side is pretty mellow, other side drops off as a 3,000 vertical foot mountain wall you can look over from the summit, gulp.The climb is 1,800 meters vertical. You begin by slogging a farm road for about 300 vertical meters, then up the steep brushy wall of a hanging valley, on up to an alpine massif. Reminded me of the way many 14er ascents progress, only I'd have used our snowmobile for the road portion.

Backcountry Skiing

Looking southeast from the summit, far peaks are the Dolomites.

Backcountry Skiing

First part of the descent, just below summit. Quite a few nice turns, but crust lurked as well. I've kept my Dynafit binding DIN set really low up till now because the snow has been hero and I like being super safe (ending up hurt in a foreign country has got to be the worst), but on this descent I hit some crust and popped out vertically. Result, a good digger -- naturally done in front of a complete audience (Lou's law of ski falls while traveling: you will always do your yardsale in front of everyone in your group). Time to dial that vertical DIN up a notch or two perhaps, otherwise a helmet might be desirable.

Backcountry Skiing

Another descent shot. Sun is low in the sky this time of year, meaning much of your skiing gets done in mountain shadow and you end up with lots of silhouette photos.

Backcountry Skiing

Cool thing about Zillertal is they of course have their own brewery, only they limit the amount of beer they produce, thus creating something that's a regional specialty. I thought their hefe to be quite good for electrolyte replacement, a bit more full bodied than other varieties, but seemed to have slightly less alcohol content. The object in the glass is a beer warmer, basically a metal tube full of hot water that brings the hefe up to proper temperature for the traditional taste.

Backcountry Skiing

Pretty obvious what this pastry is, sort of the national Cliff Bar. Comes in two versions, thick and thin. Piled with powdered sugar and graced with whipped cream, the perfect pain killer after to 6,000 vertical feet of fun tempered by stinging blisters. In all, one of my best days ever of EU ski touring, as most of my other trips have been seemingly endless storms and fog.


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Comments

5 Responses to “Austrian Alpine Tour – Zillertal – Grundschartner”

  1. doug January 13th, 2009 8:09 am

    Hey, Lou, looks like super fun! When will you be coming home? We’ve got a prospective worship leader coming in this weekend, he might need someone to show him around some back country skiing if he ends up in the valley. God bless, Doug

  2. Tom G January 13th, 2009 10:38 am

    The picture of the Zillertal beer brings back fond memories. I stayed in Mayerhofen about 5 years ago and drank lots of Zillertal beer – it’s great. The Zillertal is a bueatiful area but there are a lot of developed ski resorts. Despite that there seemed to be lots of BC available. The views are impressive – mountains and more mountains as far as you can see in every direction. Glad you’re enjoyig the trip Lou.

  3. Carver January 13th, 2009 3:20 pm

    Hi Lou,

    Sounds like a great trip! I heard you saying “run what you brung” when I forgot to put insoles in my boots last weekend. I had to make the best of it in 12 inches of champagne. Who needs those moulded boots? Sloppy is in.

    Speaking of “run what you brung”, have you any new impressions of the Manaslus? I’m considering buying them for a trip to the Bernese Oberland in early May. How do you think they would do in those conditions? Did you use the Manaslus last spring in Colorado or do you prefer something else for spring variability?

    That beer looks even better than the pastries. I want some of those beer warmers too.

  4. Mark Worley January 13th, 2009 8:47 pm

    Amazing place! Keep it up and report back.

  5. Lou January 13th, 2009 9:26 pm

    Carver, re Manaslu, they are not a hardpack ski though can be pressed into service as such. I prefer something else for spring variable conditions, usually a k2 Mt. Baker or Dynafit Seven Summits.

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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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