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.
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.
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.