The proposal: End with a gasthaus beer. Begin with a cable ride. Ski tour. Wear your harness for a bit. Ski powder. Ok, deal.
First stop, Riffler, 3,231 meters (look close to see the classic cross on top). Early locals stole first tracks. Click most images to enlarge.
Zillertal Alps of Austria provide yet another area in the western European mountains where deeply riven valleys and high peaks give stunning relief — and provide the height to hold good snow when lower reaches are too warm for perfect powder. For today’s adventure, we drove to one of the highest ski resorts in the Zillertal region just east of Innsbruck, on the Tuxer Glacier. A cable ride brought us to 3,270 meters, where we enjoyed the view and scored a bonus powder descent to the start of our muscle powered day. Follow us in photos (for location, see map at bottom of post):
Just as spring skiing strategy is back in Colorado, here you want elevation for the best snow. Rather than driving to a high pass as we usually would back home (or hiking dirt for hours) we catch a one-ride ticket on the well known Hintertux Gletscherbus gondola system. We could have stopped part way up for a few less euros, but opt for the nearly 1,800 vertical meter cable haul to the top of the resort. When we get there the view is worth the ride, but of course a herd of lift-served Euros are scraping of the fluffy new snow like they're scarfing lunch at the gasthaus. Luckily we have different plans, though we do join the schnitzel fueled powder race for about a thousand vertical feet down to our tour start.
Main reason we opted for the full cable ride was the view. In this case, they keep the resort piste going on the Hintertux Glacierr below the famous and quite beautiful Olperer. This peak has been climbed at least once by a woman in socks (Barthel family inside joke).
Down the semi-piste. Classic European sidecountry. No ropes, no signs, a cliff just below.
Under muscle power again, feels good.
Our first highpoint of the day will be Riffler, peak to right.
The happy honeymooners, summit, Riffler.
Lou does some Tirolean powder farming as we head down the Feather Bed glacier (Federbettkees) from Riffler. We ski quite a bit of vert off here, then find a dry spot on smooth glaciated rocks where we sit and dine on chocolate and other goods.
Riki and the Riffler pow farm.
This thing really is called 'The Feather Bed.' Fritz skiing. Classic spring pow in the Tirol.
Lisa samples the feathers.
Girls like those cozy feathers. Riki and Lisa.
Can you spot the WildSnow girl in the photo above? She's hanging from a cord, dangling over the Alps. After our first ski of the day off Riffler, we wind our way easterly up and through a series of high alps. With the weather deteriorating, Fritz leads us to an improbable passage down from a saddle next to a peak called Realspitze. I'm not highly impressed with our navigating a snow-shelf above a 200 foot cliff, so I belay Lisa across to the start of a fixed-line the guides had installed. We rope down, which positions us for a huge (around 6,000 vertical foot) descent to the valley floor, over ground that is much less tracked than other, more easily accessed places.
Riki during the day's finish, which goes from a few thousand vert of perfect powder and culminates with still skiable junk, a typical 'big vert' run in the Alps.
The finish is so classic I smile till the sun blisters my tongue. Snow leads over the pasture, through a fence, and down within a few feet of a bridge across the river. After that you have a desperate dirt hike of about 200 feet to the gasthaus sun porch (indicated by red arrow in photo.) The name of the gasthaus? Eden, but of course.
Yours truly, over the bridge.
The WildSnow girls share a laugh over traditional refreshments. You literally walk about 200 feet from the bridge to the gasthaus sun porch. A week earlier you probably could have skied every inch.
We’ll, without the rope work this could have ranked up there with the most hedonistic ski tours I’ve ever done in my life. As it was, still pretty good. Only crowds were at the start. After that, it was like touring in the relatively deserted mountains of Colorado or Wyoming.
“Hoher Riffler” marked on map below was our first highpoint. We then toured and skied northeast and north from there, eventually dropping down northerly to the main drainage.
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