A ski tour in the Kitzbuehler Alps
(Photos by Josef Goebel)
I was eager to try out my new touring skis. They are a pretty cool setup: Dynafit boots, bindings and skis. Very lightweight but sturdy enough for lift skiing too. Josef and Angie invited me on a New Year’s Eve tour to the peak called Feldalphorn. It is an ideal beginner location, and really good for everybody because it combines good snow on moderate slopes safe from avalanche danger with easy routefinding and a nice ability to start skiing with a great view right from the car.
The day started out pretty poorly though. First, while quietly gathering my things in the morning, I fell down the stairs! Kris heard bouncing noises punctuated by groans of pain, and a final low moan. I was pretty upset because I didn’t want the boys to wake up. I had slipped partially because of some very slick socks. It’s a spiral staircase, and the width of the stairs becomes infinitely small on the left. I misjudged the size of the step and then was unable to stop the fall. So, I skied around with a stiff neck.
The next problem happened once I was on the train. Happily thinking of the day of skiing ahead, I wasn’t too concerned when the train stopped in an industrial area near Grafing. But soon, because I had two connections to make, I started to wonder. An hour later, when I’d hopelessly missed my connections, and was wondering if I should just go home, I came into Rosenheim. From there, I got a new schedule, and after a phone call with Josef, a new plan was in effect that would only cost 30 minutes.
Naturally I was pretty upset when this new train ground to a halt in a scrub forest area somewhere along the way. I was sure lightning couldn’t strike twice, but as the delay stretched over an hour I wondered miserably “why me, God?” And dang, Josef and Angie would be waiting and waiting, possibly without knowing what had happened! Finally the train started moving, though the damage in my mind to the prestige and exactitude of Deutsche Bahn was considerable!
Josef and Angie were nonetheless in good cheer despite the extra hour and a half of hanging around, which I was grateful for. I felt pretty bad for them! And when Josef said that the tour wasn’t ruined or anything, I felt even better.
We drove a few minutes out of Woergl and were soon parked at the trailhead. We got going pretty quickly, and soon were skinning up the trail. This was really fun - the sun was out, with mysterious clouds burning away to reveal mountains across the valley. It felt like spring, and the cool, dry air seemed very healthy.
We passed a barn, and then occasionally smaller huts and hay storage buildings in meadows. A trip through a small forest led us to higher open slopes. After a while, we gained a ridge that curved rightward above a bowl to the summit. Skinning up on the ridgetop was great, because we had views to the north and south. A fellow just ahead was having trouble with his skins, so I broke a new trail to the right. I definitely think it’s easier to travel in deep snow on skis than in snowshoes. You just have to push your foot forward rather than lift it out of the snow, and stomp a new print. More “elegant.”
We reached a summit, and took off our skis to walk a hundred feet to the true summit. What an excellent scene! Josef pointed out the Grossglockner in the distance. He and Angie had skied mountains to the south just the day before, and their lunch for today was still frozen from a cold night. Sadly, they had to eat icy carrots! But Angie had made some amazing cookies, and I was especially excited by a gingerbread cookie that had a paper-like substance affixed to the bottom of each cookie. It tasted great! I was never a fan of gingerbread, but after this intriguing time with the pseudo-paper, I will seek it out again.
Now it was time to go down. I was a little scared, remembering my last backcountry ski experience 6 years ago, before I really knew how to ski at all. Continually perplexed by deep powder, I tested my companion’s patience by constantly collapsing into a pile somewhere behind him! I wasn’t sure how my several weekends of practice on lift-served slopes two years ago would fare in this nice deep snow.
But there was no more time for uncertainty, Josef and Angie were already gone! I followed, making tentative turns. Wow, they worked! Even though I couldn’t see my boots at all. We continued, with Josef pointing out the best way down the next section. Though I was working too hard, with lots of tension in my legs, it was still really fun. Just the whole idea of climbing thousands of feet in the skis, and then getting down with them is pretty neat.
The descent was pretty uneventful, it took us about 30 minutes with plenty of stopping and looking around. Near the bottom I took a pretty big fall and a ski came off. It was easy to get it back on. Overall, I was happy with the equipment, though one binding needs an adjustment and a boot has a frayed lacing.
We got back to the car, and Josef and Angie dropped me off at home, now in steady rain. Thanks for a great trip!