Euro Trip Report — The Zischgeles

Post by blogger | February 17, 2011      

What a crazy gear panic I’ve been perpetrating here lately! Gear is fun. Gear is important. But gear isn’t everything. A trip report to break things up, this one from my recent European soujourn.

Alps on a perfect day, Zischgeles above Praxmar.

Alps on a perfect day, launching off Zischgeles above Praxmar. Andreas raises his ski pole in salute! Click image to enlarge, and you'll see a hut in the lower right portion of the image. Amazing where they put huts in the Alps. Thousands of them, in every location you can imagine. Sometimes it's just too much, that is until you need a beer.

(Austria, January 14) So, due to lack of snow closer to Germany, the press event I’m attending changed location to a popular backcountry skiing area near Innsbruck, known as Praxmar. Thing is, even here they’d been getting rain at the lower elevations (which I’d had the privilege of touring in the day before), which in turn rotted out the snowpack. Up high, however, things glowed white and tempting. A common higher altitude goal out of Praxmar is a peak called Zischgeles. Really just another midrange alps summit in terms of elevation and terrain, Zischgeles is still a lot of fun, as well as being a good ‘view peak’ due to it being a bit of an outlier from the core peaks of the area.

Praxmar backcountry skiing, map.

Praxmar is set up as a sort of backcountry skiing resort. You find good map signs at the base, and one of the standard tours includes a system of educational billboards that explain everything from beacon use to snowpack evaluation.

Praxmar backcountry skiing.

The day began with a rather large group of guided skiers. I usually try to stay away from these sorts of things, but it's fun to join once in a while and check out how Euro guide and ski culture operate.

Praxmar backcountry skiing.

Here is where the humor began. As many of you know, an unfortunate tradition in Europe is that skiers tend to march in lockstep, rather than spreading out in avalanche terrain. This has resulted in many unfortunate group accidents over the years, as well as the frantic competition among beacon makers to produced the ultimate group search function so dead people can be found quicker. Instead, isn't it so much better just to spread the group out a bit? Guides are now getting hip to that. Thus, once we entered avalanche terrain the guide shouted back for everyone to separate 'about 40 meters.' Of course, the first thing that happened was the group stopped directly under a loaded avy path (which actually 'lanched later in the day) so they could spread out. After that, it was amusing to observe the definition of '40 meters.' Put simply, if there was an attractive ski girl in the vicinity, '40 meters' was more like 4 feet. But to their credit, some of the skiers did separate.

Praxmar backcountry skiing.

Due to avalanche danger, our guide wisely stopped the large group before steeper terrain higher up on the peak. As a smaller sub-group, I was with friends and guidebook authors Axel and Andreas. Since we could travel more efficiently and safely than the larger group, we kept going and joined up with film maker Nick Waggoner and Dynafit sponsored high mountain skier Sabastian Haag. In this photo, we're nearing the small but fun Zischgeles summit.

Praxmar backcountry skiing.

At the summit, looking south. The Alps, land of thousands and thousands of crosses. It's actually quite amazing, as nearly every summit has a rather substantial cross that's obviously well maintained. The crosses make good belay anchors, and as a Christian I like being reminded of my faith, but frankly it would be nicer if most of the summits were more pristine. Makes you appreciate our North American wilderness summits.

Praxmar backcountry skiing.

Nick Waggoner (left) and your friendly blogger getting that obligatory summit shot. I've known Nick for a while now, but I think this was the first time I'd ever skied with him. He's quite strong and game for just about anything. I guess that happens when you make your life hauling a ton and a half of film gear around the globe.

Praxmar backcountry skiing.

Nick dropping off the summit on a little pitch that tempted us. Snow conditions varied from good, to bottomless Euro muck that my buddy Fritz said 'on a scale of one to ten, was a minus ten in quality.') I'm not sure, but isn't this a fixed heel blackmail shot of a tele skier?

Backcountry skiing food.

Not a huge day, but big enough to make subsequent nourishment an appropriate option. I like the meat plates they put together at the Austrian gasthauses and huts. This one was par for the course. Combined with a radler (beer and lemonade) the snack was perfect.

Praxmar backcountry skiing.

Yes, the snow lower down was bad, but the sun was good.

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12 Responses to “Euro Trip Report — The Zischgeles”

  1. Randonnee February 17th, 2011 10:25 am

    Excellent article! Thanks.

  2. Darin February 17th, 2011 11:20 am

    Just a note, “raddler” is spelled Radler. Thanks for the trip report, truly beautiful terrain out there that rivals the San Juans I’m in right now.

  3. rider11 February 17th, 2011 11:23 am

    Thank Lou for this sweet TR. Looks awesome despite low snow levels there this year!

  4. Oli C February 17th, 2011 11:37 am

    not only a Radler, but with Stiegl beer. Lou do you drink panache in France?
    the last photo you’ve got a wiess beer though, end of the day?

    top report thanks!

  5. Lou February 17th, 2011 12:35 pm

    Darin, I knew that (grin)!

  6. gtrantow February 17th, 2011 8:16 pm

    Radlers need Euro limonade and beer. The 7-up or Sprite just don’t do it justice. A generic bud or coors make it BAD. My fav is Spaten and Pellagrino lemonade. How about a Radler rating and taste test?

  7. mtnrunner2 February 18th, 2011 12:00 am

    Wow, great pictures as always. Looks likes you’re having some fun!

  8. Christian February 18th, 2011 2:24 am

    Nice report. There are two things that drive me into a too equipment mindset: non working equipment, and not enough skiing. If I ski enough, and my equipment isn’t failing, I tend to be happy camper.

    Here in Norway we almost only have wilderness summits, and most of the mountan huts are located to accomodate multiday xc-tours. That, combined with harsh weather and short days, makes the mid-winter touring quite challenging: in todays newspaper there was a storry about 4 skiers (1 swiss, 2 -german and probably a brit(not found yet)) that were found frozen to death. In short: wilderness tours are great, but so are the more relaxed tours with radler and good companions….even though the snow might be bad.

  9. scottyb February 18th, 2011 8:13 am

    Thanks for the TR. Beautiful place.

  10. Silas Wild March 21st, 2011 1:58 pm

    When Zichgeles is good, it is very good!

  11. Kai May 22nd, 2011 2:52 am

    Hi Lou,

    what skis did you use on your last EuroTrip? The Waybacks? 🙂


  12. Lou May 22nd, 2011 6:33 am

    Midwinter in Europe Alps I usually use a pair of Manaslu I borrow while I’m there. During Dynafit press event they usually put me on a pair of demos, but they’re usually too short and skinny for the funky Euro snow that seems to be prevalent in mid winter sometimes.

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