Austrian Ski Tour — Langer Grund

Post by blogger | January 7, 2015      
NIce touring terrain of the Langer Grund.

Nice touring terrain of the Langer Grund.

We got some rather gnarly conditions after jetting over here to Austria. Inches of rain, avalanche danger, wind… But the sky finally cleared and we got a nice tour yesterday, specifically the highground above Langer Grund valley, accessed by driving through Kelchsau from where we’re staying next to the Inn valley. Parking lots were full with hundreds of ski tourers enjoying the holiday (Kings Day). Lots of terrain in this area. It gets tracked up to some degree but folks spread out quite nicely and utilize it well.

Ricki skis into the Langer Grund.

Ricki skis into the Langer Grund.

Region map at the parking.

Region map at the parking.

Lisa and I had fun observing which ski bindings were in play. “Hey, there’s a 30-year-old Dynafit!” and overheard “Mommie, what are those funny things on those people’s feet?” when some folks showed up on frame bindings. Seriously, it’s amazing how the basic Dynafit binding setup dominates this demographic. I didn’t see any Beast setups, but I saw just about everything else.

Lisa tops out.

Lisa tops out.

Comments from our readers are gold in more ways than one.  The recommendation for Ritter Sport Rum was spot on, perhaps the tastiest chocolate we've had yet.

Comments from our readers are gold in more ways than one. The recommendation for Ritter Sport Rum was spot on, perhaps the tastiest chocolate we’ve had yet.

Weissbier is calling.

Weissbier is calling. That’s Schafsiedel in the background. Lou’s skied that a few times with local friends.


Reward (though astute readers will immediately note that’s a radler in the glass for first round). Sadly, our favorite gasthaus was closed, but Alpengasthaus Moderstock is known for good food and it did not disappoint.


Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


42 Responses to “Austrian Ski Tour — Langer Grund”

  1. Erik Erikson January 7th, 2015 9:14 am

    Welcome to Austria, Lisa and Lou!
    Hope you enjoy your time here, though unfortunately it will get (too) warm the next days.
    If you wanna go a little more to the east and/or north in Austria: There are quite ok conditions right now at Dachstein, Hochkönig,Osterhorngruppe and more areas closer to Salzburg – proved and tested by myself 😉

  2. Wookie January 7th, 2015 4:04 pm

    Hey Lou! You’re 20 minutes from my place near Fugen! Where can i meet my favorite blogger?
    Too bad the snow isnt too friendly at the moment. Was out in the Tuxer Range and in the Selrain at the weekend and got shut down due the hoar under a rain crust.

    Oh…and i have seen a pair of beasts here once. On an English tourist.

    Seriously. Beers are on me.

  3. Pierce January 7th, 2015 6:05 pm

    Hi Lou,

    Sorry to go off-topic, but I was curious what people in Austria have to say and what local information is available about the avalanche in Solden that killed the two US Ski team members a couple days ago. I haven’t seen much in the news that gives any detailed information, but understand that avi conditions have been bad. It seems incomprehensible and maybe negligent that a race training course gets wiped out by an avalanche inside a ski area, but I know the Alps are a special beast, and I have not been to Solden so have no idea of the situation there.

  4. Lou Dawson 2 January 7th, 2015 9:12 pm

    Wookie, I can have a beer with you once I get back here from travel beginning today, in a week or so. Remind me. Lou

  5. Lou Dawson 2 January 7th, 2015 9:17 pm

    Pierce, people I know are just very sad that happened, no finger pointing as to who was responsible for those boy’s safety. Thing is, at many resorts here it’s quite common to ski in terrain that’s not really part of the “official” resort, you can really easily get sucked into doing so if you just follow other people’s tracks. That said, one does pause and wonder if there is any education of young developmental team members as to what they’re getting into when they ski in Europe, in terms of avalanche safety. As the victims didn’t even have beacons, one wonders if they even knew they were in avalanche terrain. Or perhaps it was a very freak occurrence? What’s double sad is that these guys are not the first of our ski racers to perish in avalanches.

  6. Wookie January 8th, 2015 12:07 am

    Hey Pierce, the Tirolean Avalanche Service reported that they were skiing on off-piste terrain, NW aspect, in very steep terrain….the LWD Tirol (avalanche service) uses specific language at all times, so very steep means at least 40 degrees…maybe more.
    It was not on a race course, nor did it slide into the resort, accourding to pictures and my expirience with the area.
    The report also mentioned with admonishment the number of people riding adjacent gullies of the same aspect and orientation as the rescue effort was still ongoing!
    This area is not hard to get to, and is heavily skied. It cant be called a freak accident by any means, as the snowpack is thin and poorly consolidated, but i myself have skied this line many times, and i have had one close call there….the snow has been late, and the nice weather of the day certainly contributed to powder fever. I wasnt at this spot on that day, but as always on days like this, I saw a lot of questionable decisions….but we all have been there. My heart goes out to all those who knew these two young men.

  7. Jernej January 8th, 2015 12:26 am

    Pierce – some info and photos here (in German) from the Tirolean Avalanche Service:

    But just to clarify something… the concept of “inside a ski area” does not really exist in most (if not all) of Europe. I already wrote a similar comment on some other post but to repeat: under the Austrian law (similar in other countries), as was explained to me, is that the resort is only responsible for avalanche control on paths that could damage the lift installations or injure people on the groomed/marked and open trails. Outside of that you are there entirely on your own responsibility and likely no avalanche control was done.

    So if you want to be “safe” you should ask yourself the question: Can whatever I’m skiing slide (spontaneously) all the way to the trails or destroy a lift? Most often the answer is no. Again, there is no area boundary as such but something more like a trail boundary. As far as avalanche control is concerned there are only out of bounds areas that can influence open runs/installations. What I’m not entirely clear about is what’s the official stance on “variants” or freeride routes marked on the trail maps. I wouldn’t bet on them being “safe” as they could (potentially) always say it was closed or something.

    I’m guessing those boys were under the same mistaken impression that they were on avalanche controlled inbounds terrain when in fact they (probably) went out almost the moment they left the gondola.

  8. Adrian January 8th, 2015 12:56 am


    in most European resorts freeride routes are controlled by the patrollers, not groomed, marked on the ski maps.

    If if a freeride route is open, it is safe to ski, and you see many ‘tourists’ going without avi gear. If the run is closed, this is for a reason, it means the runs is not safe.

    Groomed runs are always marked with wooden poles on both sides of the run, whereas freeride routes are usually marked only by poles in the middle of the run. Controlled (safe) area is officially 30 meters left and right of the poles.

    I’m not sure if going on a closed freeride route is forbidden. Technically this would be the same as going off piste anywhere else in the resort, but you do ignore a sign that closes the area. In Italy this certainly get’s you into trouble, Austria and Switzerland will probably be more relaxed.

  9. alminger January 8th, 2015 1:19 am

    As a north american and now piste owner in Austria(not actually far from the kelchsau), here is how it works. The Bergbahnen rent the land from the farmer defined by an aerial photo with lines. The rules are strict and there is no coloring outside of the lines, let’s say. So as soon as you step out of the markings of the piste you are outside of the area. This has all sorts of implications for rescue as well. The farmer could technically cause problems for some tree skiing especially if it is schutzwald (protected ground cover in trigger zones) but practically not. This is why you see the no tree skiing signs. These are also to help with liability issues.

    Now in our resort the bergbahn rents more then it mows and that leads to some variant stuff. The longer and larger routes are usually areas rented for future expansion or in some case left after the removal of lifts or development.

    Most farmers care what happens to their land but ceed a lot of control when they sign the contract. Every contract is different and as the lift companies are often part owned by the town, alot of horse trading and political backhanding happens as well. Its also important to remember that some one owns every bit of land in Austria and it is not likely the government (eg. The Catholic Church). There is lots of freedom of movement laws that allow access but this owership is the main reason of the slow development of things like bike parks.

    Lou if you to see every type of uphill travel just visit the night touring at some ski areas. We see everything from bindings from the 80’s to the latest WhizzBang in a constant line that stretches almost from top to bottom on busy nights.

  10. Wookie January 8th, 2015 1:27 am

    Another accident yesterday in Hochfügen. (Next Range over from you Lou) This time it took the life of a 49 year old employee at the resort who was digging a pit.

    Man….Maybe I’ll ski with my kids on the T-bar lift this Saturday.


  11. Jernej January 8th, 2015 5:41 am

    Thanks Adrian

    These marked freeride routes/terrains are popping up everywhere. Stuff people have (unofficially) been skiing for decades anyway, I just never found any info regarding avalanche mitigation and responsibility in those areas.

  12. Manuel January 8th, 2015 6:47 am

    Nice to read an article about my homeland.

  13. Philippe January 8th, 2015 7:10 am

    Beg to differ, at least for France.
    What you described seems to be what is going on at La grave and only there.
    Elsewhere mountains where you can ski are for the most part communal land (since the revolution). The city or village has conceded the right to operate lifts to some company. This company can also as a courtesy (or in exchange for the right to operate lifts) groom the slopes and provide security by opening and closing the slopes, ie a guy check for casualties after the last lift, if you are there with no intent to move he will tell you that after him no one will come till morning, then good bye. There is also a rescue service.
    Skiing down is the same as exercising your right to freely travel on public land.
    From time to time there has attempts to make a ski tourer pay, without success….
    The Downside : no liability for anyone but yourself. But there is a rescue service that still will look for you if you do not come back. If you want that to be efficient tell someone your itinerary and return time and stick to it. Every year a few people disappear in the mountains. mostly to be found in spring….
    It’s different when you go in national parks

  14. Wookie January 8th, 2015 8:03 am

    Same is true in Austria and Germany….public access is guaranteed (generally) making the access wars of the US an anathema. Ski slopes or ski routes are controlled by the lift providers (generally, not always) and they do have some limited liability – but nothing like the US.
    The upside of all this is that unless the land has been designated as a protected area (usually for wildlife) no one can prevent you from accessing it. This has been recently confirmed in Bavaria in a case where a lift operator tried to ban uphill traffic at their resort: (in German)

    So – in a legal sense – a resort boundary or a closed sign on a piste or ski route do not block your access. They would, however reduce or remove a lift providers limited liability – and place it entirely on yourself.

    Resort boundaries are rarely marked in Europe – you are either on the Piste, or off it. Off piste is backcountry, effectively, and the newer concept of ski routes only means that the route is avalanche controlled and generally gets a sweep at the end of the day. Slopes near pistes are controlled – but only to to the extent that they may affect the piste. They are not considered “in-bounds” in the way a US ski resort often does this.

    The thing to remember is that in Europe – the resorts aren’t really resorts. They are legally (mostly) just a company running skier transportation systems. They don’t own the land they run on, and in some cases, they don’t even lease it. There are even resorts that run on private land which is not theirs, although they generally come to an amicable agreement with the landowners.

    Exception: Garmisch-Partenkirchen’s bid for the Olympics, which was derailed partly because local landowners refused to allow the ski resort to make changes to the slope area that they owned.

    All in all – a fascinating area of legal wrangling. Seems to work well – but I wonder what will happen if the current trend of ever more extreme thrills keeps going.

  15. JCoates January 8th, 2015 9:37 am

    Wookie, I hear you. Really awful looking snow right now. I watched graupel pile up on a thick rain crust last weekend and now this latest wet dump. What a lousy year so far. Give us a break snow God…you big pu$$y!!!

    Adrian, you are confusing “ski routes” on a ski area map with what most English speaking kids are calling “FreeRide” these days. A ski route is essentially what in America is a ungroomed ski run. A freeride route is more along the lines of a “you are on your own” type route–take the ski lift up but then skiing off the resort–like down the backside of the mountain into another valley. The confusion comes because people have been skiing these routes for years and you can often buy ski maps of the area you are in that have the freeride routes. These maps will also have skin touring routes in them too, but in these case nothing is patrolled and you really are on your own (so better have rescue insurance or know what you are doing). Does that make sense or confuse the situation more?

  16. Adrian January 8th, 2015 10:23 am

    JCoates you’re right, I was referring to ski routes as marked on the ski area map. If you look at the skitouring maps (the typical 1:50000 maps in Switzerland) these can be crowded, well skied, but basically it’s backcountry terrain, unpatrolled, 100% your own decisions and your own responsibility.

  17. VT skier January 8th, 2015 12:56 pm

    Saw that Lisa is wearing an airbag; ABS? I wonder if the recall of steel ABS cartridges is causing problems for a lot of ski tourers in Yurp.
    In St Anton, Austria , when I was last there (March 2013) they were everywhere off piste!

    I may try to fly with a charged ABS to Japan in a month or so. I think I can do it with a Canadian Airline, but we will see.

  18. Lou Dawson 2 January 8th, 2015 9:25 pm

    VT, yeah, we’re sporting Alpride packs for this trip. Borrowed one for Lisa from Scott, and I’ve got my tester. I flew without cartridges and picked up a set at a retailer when I arrived. Very simple and easy. I considered flying with the Alpride cartridges but realized that success or failure in doing so could just be random, not consistent, so as to be meaningless.

    The Scott cartridge set is about 40 Euro, not cheap, but very easy.

    Reports of success or failure in flying with filled cartridges or cylinders (and pyrotechnic triggers) are appreciated.

  19. Jernej January 9th, 2015 1:14 am

    Just to make things clear and everyone on the same page.

    My original thoughts about legal and avalanche uncertainties were regarding the freeride routes marked on the official ski area maps such as the X routes on Kitzsteinhorn:
    or the dashed routes in St. Anton:

    Sometimes it says marked/ungroomed/not controlled like 23b in Tauplitz: but more often that not it is unclear what, if anything, is done regarding avalanche control.

    I treat these areas as: “We know you go there anyway, we happily added many kilometres to our resort size but you are entirely on your own and we don’t care what happens there”.

    So, is it true what Adrian wrote and they have the same responsibilities (unless specified otherwise) just as with every other groomed opened route? Or is everyone on their own and we have a case of “false advertising”?

  20. JCoates January 9th, 2015 3:36 am

    Exactly!! I wanted to clarify that as it seemed the terms were getting confused by folks.
    BTW, I can’t say enough good things about the Swiss skiing and hiking maps. They are a thing of beauty. So much information and so easy to use. Which we had them that detailed for the states as well but obviously some would disagree.

  21. gringo January 9th, 2015 4:17 am

    Hey Lou and VT skier and anyone else, Flying with ABS cartridges and triggers is actually pretty easy considering, simply download the IATA form which is available on the ABS website and e.mail the flight operator asking for a written OK for flying with the gear. It’s simply a formality and usually goes quickly and without question.

    I have done it a few times, Once to north america, once to Norway and once to Japan….no issues, just make sure you print out your OK mail from the flight operator and stash a copy of it along with the IATA form with the gear should anyone ask to see it.
    The only headache I ever had was trying to get the permission for a code share flight as no one wanted to take ownership of the deal, took a few mails back and forth but in the was OK.

    SWISS Airlines are really liberal concerning wintersports gear, skis are always free and they have always waved off as unneccesary the whole permission to fly with pyro trigger request.
    ”Everybody has those, it’s OK, you don’t need that paperwork.” I was told at the gate last winter in Zürich.

    If anyone is flying from the US to ski in the Alps I would recommend SWISS for those reasons alone.

    And finally, yes the ABS recall is a huge deal over here.

  22. Lou Dawson 2 January 9th, 2015 4:44 am

    Gringo, sure IATA for Europe, the problem is when you originate in North America. Until that’s worked out I have to say the whole thing is less than ideal. Lou

  23. gringo January 9th, 2015 11:00 am

    Jeez Lou, how grumpy are you?
    Did you even consider that the first letter in IATA stands for international?
    It took me about 23 seconds to Google which North American carriers are represented by IATA. I found: Alaska, Delta, American, Jet Blue, US Airways and United…then I lost interest.

    I stand by my experience that about 20 total minutes of download, e.mail and print equal easy travel with an ABS. But if that’s too much then I suppose you should just sit there and complain.


  24. Lou Dawson 2 January 9th, 2015 1:53 pm

    Gringo, I need more information. I spent hours looking at TSA documents and it does not look good. No way domestic flights in the US use IATA instead of TSA rules. I’m not complaining, I’m just trying to relate what works 100% and what doesn’t. You should hear me complain (grin). Lou

  25. John Warner January 11th, 2015 10:10 am

    Hi Gringo and Lou, a group of us from Breckenridge are headed to the Dolomites and I will give Gringo’s suggestion a try. But up until now, when we have flown to Spokane, Iceland and Switzerland , we have always had to fly with empty canisters, then get them filled at our final destination. John

  26. Wookie January 12th, 2015 3:30 am

    Hey John Warner – when you gonna be down there? I’m at the Fanes Hütte at the end of Jan with some mates….don’t know ya…but if you’re around…. I know the joint.


  27. John Warner January 12th, 2015 7:28 pm

    Hi Wookie, We arrive on February 18th. It would be great to meet up. John

  28. John Warner January 12th, 2015 7:30 pm

    Hi Lou, there is a great tour south of you from Brunico to the Gros Glockener called the Hoch Tirol. We did it in 2006. John

  29. Wookie January 13th, 2015 1:53 am

    Thanks John Warner – but I’m only down for the long weekend at the end of Jan. Pray for snow! Its not looking good down there at the moment! Never seen it that bare in Jan before.

  30. Lou Dawson 2 February 6th, 2015 11:44 am

    Wookie, I’m in Munchen having dinner at the big beer hall near the English Garden…more later, cant get on email right now

  31. frame February 6th, 2015 11:47 am

    Lou, time for a name that stein of beer! Ha ha ha

  32. Lou Dawson 2 February 6th, 2015 12:39 pm

    Liter, then a schnitzl, then a neusgneus.

  33. Lou Dawson 2 February 6th, 2015 12:40 pm


    Realized there are couple of big “beer hall” restaurants around here (grin). The one I was at tonight is the hofbraeukeller

  34. Wookie February 7th, 2015 1:54 am

    Heading out to blacksheep sports now to get some boots fitted. Nice shop – very freeridy though – not my thing, but well done.
    Perhaps we can meet up later.

  35. Jeremy C December 16th, 2015 2:33 pm

    News of a ski touring ban in Flachau, Austria, on the SnowHeads forum:

  36. Erik Erikson December 16th, 2015 10:29 pm

    As I happen to be from the county of Salzburg (where Flachau is located): Right, this was big in the media: They banned skitourers (only uphill of course) from the slopes in Flachau. As at the moment we have very little snow skitourers are forced to stick to the slopes with artifical snow (I myself prefer hiking before doing that…), so there are quite a few.
    Word is that many did not skin up strictly at the edge of the slope but crossed it, so there would have been a high potential of accidents between skitourers and skiers goiing downhill.
    It is a little odd cause the ban is there but nobody to really monitor it. Also a debate of principles is beginning to occur, cause skitourers are recognised as a huge economical and touristic important group.
    My personal opinion on this is: I think mountains are there for everybody. If at some point someone decides to install lifts and slopes to gain money from it, this cannot mean everyone who does NOT want to use that lifts is suddenly banned…

  37. Wookie December 17th, 2015 12:06 am

    Here we go again….
    I ski down in Tirol pretty much every weekend, and the lack of snow has forced all the tourers onto the slopes. I’m usually one of them, but I have to say that in this case, while I can’t support an outright ban, the situation I’ve seen at Hochfügen the last few weeks requires some kind of solution.
    Its not just the lack of snow – the boom in ski touring is ongoing, and the numbers of people out there is higher than ever. I estimate that there were about 400 ski tourers at hochfügen last weekend, and that they made up the majority of skiers at the resort. Certainly at least 50%. Sadly, many were being inconsiderate. Groups going up 5 wide and doing kick turns up the gut of the slopes. Like I said – I’m a tourer, but dispite my general pro-touring mindset, I was annoyed. I do see a safety issue.
    That said – this is a problem we’ve seen coming for some time. There are good ideas out there about how to handle this flow of people, and even ways to make it a profitable side-business for the resorts. (Who do deserve to get something – after all, it is their work that makes touring with this little snow even possible)
    Garmisch, after initially trying to block access legally, has lost that battle, and is now moving forward with more pro-active plans. Its a good start.
    I also think its important that as a community, we get ahead of this and offer concepts to the resorts, self-educate as a group, and generally expect others in our peer group to not be jerks.
    We can and should all get along.

  38. Erik Erikson December 17th, 2015 3:11 am

    Wookie, Garmisch “lost the battle” so now there is a precedent valid for whole Germany (where Garmisch is located)?
    If so, someone should go to court to in Austria too. If it would be cleared legally that it is not legal to inhibit tourers from using the slopes a good solution could be worked out. That lawsuit should be done by the alpine club I guess.

    I too say that it would be totally fair if the resorts should earn something from the tourers for preparing the slopes, providing parking lots, and as it is now producing artifical snow.

  39. Pascal December 17th, 2015 5:14 am

    @wookie and @Erik Erikson
    the German Alpine Club ( DAV ) has been very active on the problem of “track-tourers”. They have written ten rules at the intention of tourers. The aim is to have a basis to allow all of the skiers to live together. The mountain is theoretically a wild area and doesn’t belong to anybody. So one cannot impeed people to come in place belonguing to none. The slope preparing and building parking lots are an effort to earn money on tourists of all kind. Indeed there are places where you pay for parking your car anyway. Example : Allgäu in the western Bavarian Alps. I guess this model is going to expand. This is the summer model, where you pay fot the car, not for access. But who knows what is to come.

  40. Erik Erikson December 17th, 2015 5:37 am

    @ Pascal: “To whom belongs the mountain” is a both philosophical and legal interesting topic:
    The ski area-guys say: “We installed the lifts and slopes, sp we can decide who is allowed to be there”
    But on the other hand:Many oldtimers tell me, that ski areas where often developed in places where before there were the best powder and touring spots. So, to put it drastically: At some point someone wanted to make many from skitourism, developed a ski area and destroyed by doing so the powder and touring possibilties. PLUS tries afterward to prohibit the tourers to enter their now changed touring area where they did their thing for many years already…

  41. Erik Erikson December 17th, 2015 9:56 am

    @ Pascal: “To whom belongs the mountain” is a both philosophical and legal interesting topic:
    The ski area-guys say: “We installed the lifts and slopes, sp we can decide who is allowed to be there”
    But on the other hand: Many oldtimers tell me, that ski areas where often developed in places where before there were the best powder and touring spots. So, to put it drastically: At some point someone wanted to make many from skitourism, developed a ski area and destroyed by doing so the powder and touring possibilties. PLUS tries afterward to prohibit the tourers to enter their now changed touring area where they did their thing for many years already…

  42. Erik Erikson December 17th, 2015 12:12 pm

    Update: Another ban, 24 hours, the wholes season: Katschberg…

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