Silvretta Traverse – Day 1

Post by blogger | April 4, 2009      
Backcountry Skiing

Silvretta Traverse

Is slogging up a ski area for five hours the way to start a classic backcountry skiing tour in the Alps? No. So day one or our Silvretta adventure involved a few ski lifts out of resort town Ischgl, which then morphed to an easy short tour leading to the Heidelberger Hutte. Resorts get big over here, kind of like Vail, so finding your way to an exact location may require more navigational savvy than GPSing your way over a glacier. A bit of trail map study did the trick, though I’ll admit to taking notes like ‘first take lift B3, then go to B2, then up C1.” The groomer ice wasn’t on the trail map, but was interesting nonetheless. Good we had tuned skis.

Backcountry Skiing

The trip starts in one town, and ends in another a few kilometers up the road. So we parked at the finish and rode a convenient ski bus down to the start, where the cable ride was purchased.

Backcountry Skiing

We stayed at the Barthels last night. This is Cato, Manfred Barthel's beast. Cato wanted this trip badly, I could tell by the way he gnawed on my leg. Sorry Cato, you'll have to sit this one out. Kerasote is of course a best selling book author, and the book happens to be about dogs, so Cato made an immediate friend.

Backcountry Skiing

Our route from the resort climbed over this easy saddle then descended down to the Heidelberger Hut. The dots indicate choices for tomorrow to continue the traverse. Today a bit mundane, but the perfect start when you're still a bit jet lagged and been autobahning all morning. Besides, the first day of any ski tour in the Alps is a high no matter what. Spiked summits rise up in the distance, with big alpine cliffy things more spread out than is normal for places like the Rockies. In a word, vast. You have to work hard in Colorado or Wyoming to reach places where you can't see a tree for miles. Here, you ride cable for a few minutes, hike a little longer -- and the alpine is your world.

Backcountry Skiing

Ted at the saddle, or 'joch' as they seem to be termed.

Backcountry Skiing

Passport can remain stowed when you cross the border here, though they do have a sign indicating Austria.

Backcountry Skiing

The skiing was great. Not exactly corn snow, but a firm pack with sun softened creamy surface that skied us to the front door of the hut.

Backcountry Skiing

Carrying a computer, however small, kinda blew my Black Diamond Alias backpack packing system. I borrowed a stuffsack from the Barthels and rigged this classic NOLS style sack and lash system to haul some extra swag. Not exactly the 'shovel and cell phone' system of a true Alps ski touring expert, but you run what you brung.

Backcountry Skiing

Ted at the Heidelberger front door. As huts go this one is of average quality, meaning quite nice. Our room had the classic continuous bunks, with what must have been about fourteen souls crashing out. I thought I got a good night's sleep, but this morning a couple of people in the room asked me if I was okay. Turned out I was waking everyone up with my shouting and moaning. Ted said I got so bad he thought CPR might have been required. Talk about embarrassing! And there I was with the ear plugs to block out all the other noisy sleepers -- and I'm the worst! Must have been those little white pills. Sure felt like a good night's sleep, even if the hut spirit did have his hands around my throat half the night. I'll try half a Xanax tonight, and it's a private room. The nine hours of log sawing was good though, other than the dream about sawing off my right hand...

Backcountry Skiing

And here is the serendipity. Ted and I are calmly sipping brewskis with me tapping away on the Acer. Then I hear this voice, 'LOU, IS THAT YOU?' And there is Susie Sutphin, who worked for Couloir Magazine for a while back when, along with her friends Dan and Janine Patitucci and Andres Irsada, doing a Smartwool photo shoot. What better place for that than in the middle of the Alps! So we all hung out together, with the Patituci duo regaling us with Dolomite tales and photography adventures as Ted related the backstory of his life as a writer -- along with necessary harassment of Susie's penchant for telemarking (even though she can out ski Ted and I both going up, and down.) Quite an evening!

Tomorrow, the classic alpine tour over to Jamtal Hut. Oh, and the Patitucci website. And the Kerasote. Oh, and all photos for this trip by both Ted and Lou.


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14 Responses to “Silvretta Traverse – Day 1”

  1. Derek April 4th, 2009 4:31 pm

    Wow, the woman on the left has some nice arms;)

  2. Lou April 4th, 2009 11:21 pm

    All, we’re at Jamtalhutte and headed up for a day of touring. The Smartwool photo crew is over at Weisbadener and headed back here tonight, I’ll show this to you know who and see what she has to say (grin).

  3. Dale Persing April 5th, 2009 6:38 am

    If you like her arms (she is gorgeous), check out her outdoor/skiing CV. Wowsa! I’m betting she’s smart and funny, too? Nice friends, Lou.


  4. april north April 5th, 2009 8:12 am

    Lou and Ted’s excellent adventure!! This all makes Jackson and the Tetons seem so tame. Have a wonderful time!

  5. Tony April 5th, 2009 8:38 am

    Lou, looks like a fun trip. Here in Tahoe they are talking of a foot of snow up high early next week. Question: What skis did you bring and how did they handle the firm snow you talked about finding? I know you have a pair of Baker SL’s, and I find it a bit disconcerting when it is firm and steep.

  6. Lou April 5th, 2009 9:11 am

    Tony, we’re both using the Baker SLs and they did find their limit on the white ice, at the length we’re using, with touring boots, they’re just not going to bite the frozen junk enough to slice nice carving turns. But they have enough edge hold to keep things under control so long as you keep your speed down. The Dynafit Manaslus would also work well for most of this, as so far most of the skiing has been everything from boot top pow to manageable breakable crust, but I brought the Bakers because they’re shorter and lighter, and this tour involves quite a bit of low angled and lengthy slogging, so I brought the lightest skis I had that I felt could still handle the ice and also carry easily on my backpack. What you bring is always a dilemma if you have a quiver, but the right attitude is what’s important in the end — run what you brung and smile while you do it!

  7. Robie April 7th, 2009 7:39 pm

    Lou ,

    That’s the best explanation of ” run what you brung ” yet .

  8. Mark April 7th, 2009 9:07 pm

    My Baker SLs have not yet been on such a cool tour as the Silvretta, but have recently done amazingly in CO powder and almost powder. Enjoy the tour with these great skis.

  9. Conner April 8th, 2009 3:48 pm

    Wow! Cool adventure, keep blogging!

  10. JCoates November 20th, 2013 4:50 am

    If you are researching this tour: Congrats. Its a very nice introduction to European hut tours.

    For something like 10-15 euro, the Heidelberger huette will also give you a ride in their re-supply cat if you show up late and can’t catch the last lifts (or don’t want to spend 40 euro for a lift ticket). Call them ahead though to arrange time and location of where to meet the cat.


  11. Andrew Schmidt June 19th, 2015 9:00 am


    I was thinking of skiing the Silvretta or Ortler tour next winter/spring. I was curious as to whether you have skied both and whether you have any recommendations? I am planning on taking my fiance, who can make it down most terrain, but I would like flexible terrain options in case she doesn’t feel comfortable. It will be her first Euro tour. I have done the Haute Route once. It seems like both tours have flexibility, but that the Silvretta tour might be slightly lower-key. Any advice would be welcome.



  12. Lou Dawson 2 June 19th, 2015 11:47 am

    Silvretta is quite mellow. Ortler can be a bit more advanced. I’ve done Silvretta and studied Ortler quite a bit on the maps, and skied some of Ortler. Silvretta is probably easier if self guided, less complicated as to what huts and how long… Lou

  13. Lou Dawson 2 June 20th, 2015 6:59 pm

    I should say that I’ve skied some stuff that’s on the Ortler routes, so I do know some of the area… Lou

  14. Andrew June 23rd, 2015 7:01 am

    Thank you Sir!

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