Its Monday and I’m starting my final week in Europe, so it must be time for Austrian turns. My almost 6 weeks stay in Europe is coming soon to an end, like many of the summer ski areas (Les Deux Alpes and Saas-Fee) which closed their summer skiing activities the previous day. The next ski season is close-by with snow having fallen this weekend at Passo dello Stelvio and Hintertux. Austria will see a few more Austria glaciers (Kaprun, Stubai and Solden) to re-open for the Fall-pre-season time.
Hintertux is different from the ski resorts I’ve visited in the pass month. The surrounding valleys and mountains are greener and populated with small rural villages which is the totally opposite from a place like Les Deux Alpes. The first thing you noticed at Hintertux is the facilities are modern. It takes 2 gondolas to reach Tuxer Fernerhaus and the lower extend of the snow at 2660 meters and a third gondola (Gletscherbus 3) to get at the slopes and top at 3288 meters. Each stage has a beautiful lodge and cafeteria and / or restaurant. The last stage gondola climbs towards a jagged Gefrorene Wand peak and you don’t really notice the ski terrain until you stepped out of the top station. There you notice the heart of the summer complex of Hintertux, two slopes almost face-to-face of approximately 200 meters each serviced by 2 t-Bars.
Of all the summer ski areas I’ve visited, which is 6 out of the 7 of all ski areas open in late August, Hintertux is the lowest in altitude. The snow quality wasn’t the same as I encountered in the higher ski areas in Switzerland, but the terrain was excellent with a number of runs off two different faces. You could also ski down 628 vertical meters to the lodge restaurant at Tuxer Fernerhaus and take the Gletscherbus 3 gondola back up. Hervé was explaining me that generally in summer, they are more lifts on different terrain open (Kaserer 1 + 2 and Lärmstage chair), however this being the end of August; skiing had retreated to the best quality part of the glacier.
The terrain was pretty steep and snow was hard and icy in some spots. The gondola exits on top of the Gefrorene Wand side which is mostly West facing. We started skiing on the Olberer face where the Eastern orientation facing the sun would make it more edgeable in the early morning. There were a bunch of racers at the bottom of both lifts and they were a few courses on the hill. There were even some race kids from Greece. The snow was firm at first, but became soft after a few runs. Of course, they were the exception where there was no snow on top of glacier and you just hard and / or dirty glacier ice.
There was about 3-4 groomed runs on the Olberer side and the remains of an abandoned snowpark. The vast majority of skiers were training and skiing on that side. When the snow was softer, we headed across to ski the Gefrorene slopes.
We skied down to the longer run from the top of the Gefrorene lift down the chalet for our expresso and beverage break. The trail had a few switchbacks and there was a small stretch covered with rocky chocolate chips just before the melted out terrace. As we drank, we looked on at the major construction around the station which included the construction of new lift.
We headed back up and spent now most of our time on the Gefrorene side. Skier’s right along the T-Bar was as steep as I’ve seen for glacier slopes. There are maybe 30 posts on the side of the top trail indicating the different lanes, however that would have been earlier in the summer. Today, the only course on this side was on the other side of the T-Bar closer to the gondola terminal exit. There was still a dusting of fresh snow which covered the very hard and not always perfectly smooth surface, but we found a few good lines. You didn’t need to ski straight down, you could also follow the trail along between the steep lanes and the rock face which connected with the run to the bottom. There was some mellower terrain for the odd tourists that had rarely skied. The skier’s left part of the glacier was mellower (the southern end of both sides), the other being even longer, passed between each face and lifts to continue lower. That part of become pretty pathetic and slushy and dirty as it got later.
At the end of the ski day, we ended back down for an excellent cheap meal and beer at cafeteria at Sommerberg (2100m) at the top of the Gletscherbus 1. First rate facilities and dinning at reasonable price: not what I expected. We had an excellent two-days in the Tyrol and South Tyrol; today was my biggest day of the trip with 24 runs and 5806m vertical skied mostly 200m t-Bars for 4 hours.
After this meal, we took the one last gondola down and headed to the Gaushaus in Tux, a few villages down. Hervé headed back to Germany as I decided to settled down for a few days to ski on September, write some of these TRs and close out my skiing for 2010-11. I had initially hoped to make it further East pass Lienz to ski Mölltaler Gletscher, the only other remaining summer ski areas to make the list complete, however the extra 200km was getting me further from Paris. I knew what to expect at Hintertux for September turns, I wasn’t so sure about Mölltaler as I had difficulty finding information. After 5 weeks, I wisely decided to stay put and rest and my credit card keep a load off bill which was probably already pretty impressive.
A few days later, on September 1, I managed to return and ski before closing out the trip and return to Paris by train via stops in Innsbruck and Munich :
Hintertux, AUT : September 1, 2011 – last turns and days in Europe.
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Tag 32 / 29 August: Hintertux