Traintime — North to Austria

Post by blogger | March 6, 2012      

As part of my presentation in Torino, Italy a few days ago, I shared about our re-creation of the Trooper Traverse ski route from Camp Hale, Colorado to Aspen.

I didn’t want to be too militaristic in my talk, as Europeans are sensitive about martial America. But history is history and our 10th Mountain Division soldiers did fight some of the last of WWII in Italy against the Germans (the Italians were out of the picture due to them signing an armistice with the Allies). The 10th shed blood that resulted in 10% mortality for their outfit.

I’d not really studied the maps much before the trip, but eventually came to realize that Turin and my train route north to Austria cover the regions of Italy where the 10th Mountain Division saw the end of WWII. This especially true of Lake Garda (see maps below), where the mountain troops were doing things like commandeering private boats for possible amphibious attacks. No doubt one of the best days of their young lives was when they could just dock the boats and drink some Italian wine. Or, one suspects they may have taken a few jugs of vino out on the lake for some celebration.

10th Mountain Division soldiers during last days of the war in Italy, next to Lake Garda.

10th Mountain Division soldiers during last days of the war in Italy, next to Lake Garda. 10th Mountain Division ended war at Lake Garda, they fought only Germans because Italians signed a secret armistice in 1943, which surrendered to Allies and thus took the Italians out of the fight.

Passing through the Trento area of northern Italy, Sud Tirol.

Passing through the Trento area of northern Italy, Sud Tirol. Somewhere out of here they do a ton of rock climbing on the Dolomite limestone I'm gazing at out the train car window. Dolomite mountain range is close, to the east at this point. Interestingly, the Dolomites have a way below normal snowpack this year -- the Alps took it all.

Quite a scenic train ride. Castles abound, just south of Brenner Pass and Italy-Austria border at this point.

Quite a scenic train ride. Castles abound, I'm just south of Brenner Pass and Italy-Austria border at this point. I've done this drive now a number of times. It is hectic and crowded in an automobile. Doing the rails is much nicer, though quite a bit slower.

Returning to the Tirol from Italy had to be celebrated. At this point, the train ride didn't seem quite so slow.

Returning to the Tirol from Italy had to be celebrated. At this point, the train ride didn't seem quite so slow.

View Larger Map

Visualizzazione ingrandita della mappa

(My train route, shown on maps above, went east from Turin to Verona, where I changed to a Munich bound train that went north through Bolzano (Bosen), over Brenner Pass, then to Innsbruck area where I got off to stay with friends and do a bit of Austrian backcountry skiing.


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12 Responses to “Traintime — North to Austria”

  1. Ron March 6th, 2012 9:38 am

    Maybe you could do a post sometime describing what gear, clothing and luggage you take for these trips.
    I would like to do a trip like this and any tips would prove useful for minimizing the packing hassles associated with all the necessary ski gear.

  2. Lou March 6th, 2012 10:36 am

    Hi Ron, that’s an excellent idea. I’m not all that fanatical as some folks are, so perhaps I could do something more “real world.” Worst part of it is that no matter what, if you have skis you get dinged for an extra bag both ways. Can be around 10% of your fare if you’ve gotten a decent deal on the ticket! Truly bogus, but during this trip I had no choice.

    Some guys use a large ski bag as a single bag, then load it up to the 50 lb limit. I probably couldn’t have done that for this trip, but if you don’t have to do too much walking around with your luggage, a 50 lb ski bag, single bag, is probably the way to go if you’re on a budget. My problem is I’ve got things like a spare computer (netbook), ice axe, crampons, variety of clothing, gifts, it all adds up so with skis I couldn’t keep it under 50 no matter what. More later perhaps.


  3. Jernej March 6th, 2012 11:55 am

    small typo – it’s Bolzano (Bozen)

    a bit of trivia… the 10th MD was at the time (around V-E day) moved to occupy the Slovenian (then Yugoslavian)/Austrian/Italian border region where, apparently out of boredom and the sight of plentiful snow, they organized a GS race below mt. Mangart (June 3rd ’45) that was won by Walter Prager. Reading about these things it looks like anyone that could ski in the US back then was sent to the 10th and many were European by birth (Prager was Swiss and pre-war downhill champion, as were Pfeifer, Konieczny, Cramm… Tokel was a Norwegian ski jumper etc.).

    Perhaps one of these weekends I’ll go take a look and ski the slope where they had the race. I’m guessing there’s less snow at the moment than they had back then in June.

  4. Lou March 6th, 2012 12:11 pm

    Thanks, I fixed the typo. From my studies, I don’t think they moved all of the 10th… Fritz Benedict told me about being on Lake Garda when the war ended, but perhaps he was speaking of just the end of their Italian campaign. I’ll edit a bit if necessary.

  5. Rob Means March 6th, 2012 2:23 pm

    Cool trip. Bolzano is the home of the Ice Man, Ötzi. The museum is awesome, next time you are passing through, take a squint.

    The Cliffs at Riva look like easy stuff for a modern rock climber….not so easy with heavy packs and combat boots.

    The Italians we met seem to hold most of the historic battlegrounds as Hallowed Ground, even if there is just room for a marker,

    Happy Trails!

  6. Tom Gos March 6th, 2012 4:50 pm

    Hi Lou, sorry to keep on with the travel questions, but you mentioned having an ice axe packed. I’ve been trying to avoid the bag fee by putting everythign in a big ski bag and a carry on back pack but don’t think I can make it. Any tips on how to best pack the ice axe? I’m not going to be able to purchase those rubber covers for the sharp ends, so I’m thinking of using cardboard/duct tape or tennis balls, but thought you may have a better idea. Thanks.

  7. john werner March 6th, 2012 5:14 pm

    rob’s right about seeing otzi in bolzano- they designed & built a beautiful cool history museum for the region centered around him. a must do when you’re there.

  8. Robie Pruden March 6th, 2012 6:21 pm

    A great and sometimes humorous book on that area is”The Sunny Side of the Alps ” by Paul Hofman. Includes a whole chapter on Otzi. and a funny explanation on how locals decide if they are Austrians or Italians. No connection on my part just a great read.

  9. Ed March 6th, 2012 6:30 pm

    For ice axe transport we just cut a short length of rubber garden hose for the pick end and split a piece of hose for the adze end (duct tape it on). Crampon points we cover with short lengths of surgical tubing. Cheaper than the commercial jobbies.

  10. Lou March 6th, 2012 9:22 pm

    A few layers of duct tape can work just fine as well, depending on how sharp the tips are.

  11. Christian March 7th, 2012 3:14 am

    When I skied the Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt a few years back, I travelled in my TLT4s – and just walked in the gore-tex innerboots when going to dinner etc in Chamonix before the tour. I packed the skis in disposable clear plastic ski bags from Swiss Rail. The bindings were wrapped in my second insulation layer. The backpack was just put in a plastic back with the ice axe attached and wrapped in tape where needed. The crampons were wrapped in the skins and placed in the backpack. This setup saved us one day compared to going back to Cham to pick up “travelling clothes” etc. The backpack was sub 5 kilos with everything (except water).

    For more freeride-oriented tours I have travelled with a big ski bag taking 3 pairs of skis and two pairs of boots and some clothes. Mine is 2 meters to accomodate for my 196,5cm BC Corvus. This works great on the plane and on regular trains, but was a real pain in the double-deckers-trains: the bag was too long to stand upright, or lay across the train – and trying to manuver them around corners and up stairs in the train was pure hell.

  12. Lou March 7th, 2012 11:38 pm

    Christian, thanks for the good tips. Yeah, when packing the train factor can really change the equation. Even a regular ski bag combined with airline luggage and backpack can be almost too much at times, especially when you’re not sure about a stop…do you drag everything between cars and get it ready to go, or leave stashed? How many times during the train trip do you do this? Gets to be tedious and not very relaxing. Of course, if you know the language or find someone helpful, that changes things, but sometimes you’re on your own listening to a garbeled loud speaker… I like the LED readout they have on some of the trains I’ve been on, makes it much easier. The Italian trains were just a garbled speaker. Lou

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