Perfect Austrian Ski Tour – EU Days 2-3

Post by blogger | January 3, 2009      

The Austrians I’m with are fast. But what else do you expect? You start out in the lineup, stop for a whiz, and the next thing you know your Tyrolean berg-friends are over the next rise 500 vert above. But the mountain boys and girls like hanging out at the summit, bundled up in their puffy with a cup of hot from their thermos. So eventually you catch up. That’s what it’s like when you ski Austria; it seems like everyone is an expert, everyone is fast, and everyone is smiling.

Backcountry Skiing

Fritz took this photo of Stephen headed into the undercast that lurked below us all day. Conditions were zilch avy danger due to rain cement under a well bonded pow storm layer. Not exactly hero skiing but close to it, though once we hit the whiteout all bets were off.

Euros don’t carry much (typical pack is a shovel and a cell phone — sometimes without the shovel). So they don’t drink much. So they don’t pee much and get ahead every time a well hydrated American has to stop. But mostly they’re fit. More so, these guys have muscles used to the plentiful oxygen of lower altitudes than we tour at in Colorado (I’ve got the lungs, but until I’m used to the lower altitude my skinny high altitude legs can’t handle the amount of O2 my huffers can gather.) So there you have my excuses for dropping back a few minutes. Pee stops and reverse acclimation. Any questions (grin)?

Lou in Austria, first EU 09 turns. Photo by Fritz.

Lou in Austria, first EU 09 turns. Photo by Fritz.

It’s day 2-3 of this year’s WildSnow European visit. I’m touring with Dynafit binding inventor Fritz Barthel, along with his dad and a group of their friends. We’re backcountry skiing the Schafsiedel and another peak above the Langer Grund valley, south of Bad Haering in the Zillertal region of the Austrian Alps.

Backcountry Skiing

I caught this shot on the way up in the morning. Undercast always adds beauty. In this case, it was gradually creeping higher as the day progressed, eventually broaching timberline. Above the trees, being in pea soup can make it hard to find the gasthaus at day's end, so I kept my eye on things with some concern.

Backcountry Skiing

Summit of Schafsiedel, looking southeast.

Backcountry Skiing

Lou (left) and Fritz Barthel.

Backcountry Skiing

Manfred Barthel arrives -- this guy was walking to these ski tours back when they were all 2-day trips from town, amazing what he's seen and knows.

Backcountry Skiing

Riki the speed queen, all Dynafit, all the time. Seven Summits skis, ZZero Green Machine boots, clothing, backpack -- even her gloves?

Backcountry Skiing

Our down route off Schafsiedel.

Backcountry Skiing

Another view of our downroute off Schafsiedel.

Backcountry Skiing

Euro march to the day's second summit.

Backcountry Skiing

Paolo coming up -- the Italian Stallion won't stop for anything.

Backcountry Skiing

Like misty tendrils in some horror flick, the fog continues to seek us out. We go to meet it, and find ourselves flailing for a few hundred vert, then we break out of the bottom into flat but skiable light for the last 1,000 vert to the valley.

Backcountry Skiing

Snacks and brews at Brennhutte round out the day. (Full disclosure, I only had a bite as to not spoil Huberta's cooking.) We ended up with about 5,500 vertical feet of climbing and skiing. A bit of a leg ache what with jetleg and all -- but finally a good sized Austrian tour on a mostly bluebird day with good snow. Imagine that!


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19 Responses to “Perfect Austrian Ski Tour – EU Days 2-3”

  1. Randonnee January 3rd, 2009 11:26 am

    Lou I am curious about the skis and boots that you see used to tour there. I see that Manfred is wearing TLT 4 boots, what ski is he using? Was Ricki skiing the Zzero 4 or Zzero 3?

    Perhaps I am old and set in my ways, but I enjoy touring the lighter Zzero4 and 70 waist ski and also the Zzero3 and Seven Summit, except in deep pow. The wider and bigger stuff seems best for pow and speed, the smaller stuff has much more comfort for me.

  2. Randonnee January 3rd, 2009 11:27 am

    Correction to above, sorry-

    I like the TLT 4 boot on my 70 waist ski.

  3. Lou January 3rd, 2009 11:34 am

    Randonnee, Seven Summits very popular, three or four pair in use on the tour. Ricki in ZZero 4 C, which she says she likes very much. She’s one heck of a skier, both up and down, so her opinion is gold.Manfred on a classic pair of TLT boots with Seven Summits skis, which is also the combo Fritz tends to use. Very fast and light on the uphill but they still crank on the down if you know what you’re doing and grew up on skis.

  4. ScottN January 3rd, 2009 3:35 pm

    sorry, I had to wipe the drool off my chin……. Thanks for sharing Lou. Great pics!

  5. Randonnee January 3rd, 2009 6:42 pm

    That gear is so good…while skiing in-area on piste yesterday with my family I was skiing quite fast on my Zzero 4 and 3 on FR10 and Seven Summit. It was just too easy. I found my self passing most of the alpine skiers in the chopped up new snow when I let that gear run the way it is designed, it is very stable. Too many years of pushing narrow skis and soft boots through the mank, I guess : )} .

  6. Bryce January 4th, 2009 12:03 am

    Seven Summits are a great ski. I hear Dynafit’s making an even lighter version for next year. Can’t wait to try it.

  7. Bryce January 4th, 2009 12:04 am

    p.s. gorgeous, gorgeous photos. love the clouds.

  8. dave downing January 4th, 2009 1:27 am

    hey lou. I’m so proud of your big turns (second pic)!!!

  9. andyw January 4th, 2009 2:47 am

    Looks sweet, you try and enjoy yourself out there.

    Just wondering what kind of camera do you take on a day tour like that lou? Part of the fun is obviously the view.(3rd photo) and stopping to take photos and I suppose it`s a valid reason to fall behind any of the guys who have that as their back garden.

  10. Rob January 4th, 2009 2:53 am

    Hey Lou, great to see you are enjoying yourself over here. The comment about hanging out at the summit made me chuckle, that’s just how it is 🙂

    My strategies to stay hydrated climbing with people who hardly ever put down their backbag ’til the summit are to always bring an extra bottle of hot water and drink a lot on the ride to the resort, and also use a front-mounted bottle for quick access, much like them:

    Regarding the “shovel and cellphone” comment, unfortunately many people are careless about safety now that backcountry skiing is so popular. Safety gear has been tuned for weight too …

  11. Chris January 4th, 2009 11:06 am

    I am sitting in Iraq missing both Ski season and beer. Thanks for the pics and bringing back the fond memories of Maisel’s Weisse from my days being stationed in Germany! It is a treat to live vicariously through you 🙂

  12. Lou January 4th, 2009 11:24 am

    Andy, both Fritz and I use A series Canon point-and-shoots. I’m currently using an A720 IS, and Fritz has an A640. See this blog post.

  13. Lou January 4th, 2009 11:38 am

    Chris, thanks for the words, keep ’em coming! We hope you get back to snow sooner rather than later!

  14. FrameNZ January 5th, 2009 8:01 am

    I recall you had a repositary for Avalanche info. Not sure if the Tirol region is covered in that but if anyone out there requires it there is an English avalanche report on this Austrian link –
    Covers the area you are in and where I was just before New Year.

    The local Zillertal beer is good stuff too.

  15. Lou January 5th, 2009 10:38 am

    Frame, thanks, our list of avy resources can be found in the menu above at top of page.

  16. Pete January 5th, 2009 11:17 pm

    In regards to the camera question… I have a Canon point-and-shoot much like the A720, and I love taking pics while ski touring… so I’m thinking of getting a digital SLR for a larger zoom and for taking higher-quality pix to print/blow up for decoration around the apartment…

    Anyone else have an SLR that you take skiing? Is it too big/heavy/too much of a hassle to use out & about? I’m a bit hesitant to drop the cash, since they’re sooo pricey.

  17. andyw January 6th, 2009 4:06 am

    I got the Canon d40 with I.S. zoom lens 25- 75 mm Good camera pretty heavy though the Canon d450 is alot lighter but the d40 is more environmentaly protected which opted me to go for it. I think it would be good on shorter tours where photos are the main objective not the skiing. I was hesitant to buy an SLR for a while but I gotta say if you like photos the quality of image and the control you get is phenomonal.
    Lou`s setup looks like a good compromise with the decent sized zoom and I.S. I only got a little point and click with 3x zoom which I usually take, fun for capturing the day but not so good for image quality. I think i`m just gonna have to prioritise my days out.

  18. Lou January 6th, 2009 4:18 am

    What I like about an SLR:
    – option of long lens or truly wide angle
    – automatic follow focus (servo)
    – rapid fire

    Other than those things I have no reason to use one.

    At some point every winter I get in good enough shape to want to carry the extra weight, then I enjoy making more and better action shots with my Canon Rebel SLR. Most of the time, however, I’m perfectly happy with a Canon A series.

    Above photos were all made with A series Canons.

  19. Lou May 12th, 2009 7:36 am

    Update, I just sold the SLR rig, anticipating the next generation of point-and-shoots and the Canon G series.

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