While others sneak into holidays at randomly possible destinations, I continue with mountain tours as a remedy against deeper frustration. Instead of first camping escapes or real travels, the incredible winter enables the 10th ski tour of the season.
Conditions are almost perfect, given the fact that we face the second half of April and no artificial snow has been spread over the slopes. The lower part of about 50-100m comes with more brown than white, but the higher the ascent, the more fairy is the trail.
Despite my overwhelming fitness, it takes – once more – about an hour until I reach the Kolbenhütte. Still, I am happy to celebrate the tour with a sip of tea before I rip off the skins from my skis, turn the ski binding a 180° and enjoy the downhill slide.
While spring is right around the corner and will be followed by summer, the holiday / travel question will become of more and more importance. But that is another story for another day…
What might be common sense in Bavaria elicits a quite different reaction from northern inhabitants. Hence, my sister joins me for a scientific examination of the possible joy of hiking.
In former times, we have been skiing passionately and prefer ski lifts for uphill motion. Nowadays, the choice is: walk it or leave it. Consequently, we start our 3-hours-uphill-promenade at Jachenau.
First, we keep it low, then turn right, then left and this is where the steep parts begin. Those arduous passages may be irksome, but change our point of view in the most beautiful way. We leave the spring- valley behind and get a first glimpse on the surrounding mountains.
Steadily, we follow the trail through mixed forest and conifer until we reach the saddle beneath the Hirschhörnlkopf. Hard to decide where to look first: the Alps lining up straight South? The Walchensee below our feet? The Hirschhörnl-peak? Or the Pfundalm, a private cottage that offers a bench at one of it’s walls… We go straight for the bench and get hold of the best place to be.
The lookout is extraordinary.
Especially the view over the glistening white peaks is fantastic and ranges from Bayerische Voralpen and Karwendel up to the Zugspitze.
Looking at the Hirschhörnl peak to our right, we decide to skip it. Been there, done that (me, in January) and there is not so much of a view as far as I can tell. Instead, we celebrate a decent picknick with summer rolls and sushi and the endless landscape.
After a while, it is time to switch the perspective towards downhill.
With the optional route via Kotalm being a bit of a bore, we rather take the ascent trails for our descent. It is a meet & greet with late risers and inappropriate equipment: fashion sneakers, loafers, out-of-breath slackers with a towel around their neck… Finally, all those couch potatoes have heard the call for sporty action, evidence to successful health insurance campaigns. Compared to those, we look like a female copy of the Huber Buam, up for any kind of alpine excursions.
Endless winter… Despite the short-sleeved sun, some areas are stuck in one of the best winters in this decade. Consequently, I pack up skis and equipment and head for Garmisch.
Today, I choose another trail, starting at Hausberg, then up on the lower parts of the “Horn”-slope until Toni-Hütte. From there on, I continue on snowy forest roads, pass by the lower station of “Kandahar Express” and continue all the way until I reach the Kandahar hills. I leave the forest behind just above the final two scarps of the world-cup route, realizing that I still have quite some altitude difference ahead of my ski tips.
Unfortunately, the slope gradient depends upon perspective: When running down the Kandahar, the passage between the upper scarps and the final section seems relaxed, almost flat. My sister and me appreciate this part for technique training, as it presents just the right mixture of speed and control. Now on my way uphill, it is steeper than I had expected…
Finally, I reach the tunnel and clench my teeth for the final sprint. From here on, it is a piece of cake – at least that is what I tell my tired muscles. After 2:45h, I kick off the skis with a silent sigh, queuing up for “Würstl” and coffee at the Kreuzalm. It is great to be here, between Alpspitze and Kandahar, and it is good to see that the Kreuzalm-crew has at least a bit of a business, selling snacks and beverages out of their kitchen window.
Spring temperatures and sun soften the snow, enabling a smooth way down. Today. I choose No. 2 “Hornabfahrt” and enjoy the mogul slope that it is these days. Twenty-five minutes later, I am back at my car and immediately get rid of three layers of clothing. Down here, 15°C feel like a summer’s day. I go home in my sports shorts with an exhausted grin on my face. The muscle soreness that will kick in later is so very welcome!
The air is full of snow and the same is true for the streets, the hills and the icy seats of the gondolas. With the latter being locked down anyway, the fresh snow is nothing less than fantastic.
Today’s conditions come along with the perfect ski buddy and the trail from Grafenherberg to Sudelfeldkopf. The weather enfolds sort of charming in the lower part. It gets more interesting in the white-out, when leaving the trees behind. By the time we reach the Sudelfeldkopf, the panorama is a monochrome one.
Due to -10°C and breezy snowflakes, we seek shelter at the gondola station. These days, no lift guard complains when tourists pose in the middle of it’s concrete walls.
The descent is a dream of powder: fluffy snow up to our knees turns into pure joy. At least the joy kicks in once we have found out which direction is down. At first, it is hard to distinguish between the cloud and the snow. Cautously, we fumble down until we make it to an alternative ski trail and orient by means of voices and traces. As soon as we reach the timber line, we are back on track and enjoy the zig-zag through the deep white powder.
And then… Then the evening approaches and I find myself facing snow from all sides again. Star of the night is the sled I have found in the back of my basement. I pick up one of my sporty neighbours and, soon enough, we head for the mountains. Fading daylight and intensified snowfall make us stumble into a picture postcard scenery.
Step by step, we make our way through the continuous snow as we try to ignore the exaggerated romantic athmosphere.
Forty-five minutes later, we come to a halt at the gate of “Obere Firstalm”. Meanwhile, the night has settled in and we discuss the best technique for the next section of our excursion. Face the dark night in the forest and go down slowly, always prepared to stop when others come along? Or put on a “Hirnbirn” (headlamp), sending a clear signal to upcoming strollers, such as “Get out of the way, this is us in full speed!”? Of course, this is nothing we need to discuss thoroughly…
Finally, the downhill slide is great! We keep our paste as high as possible, only stopping two times when colliding with a drift of snow. Lucky us (or: them), hardly anyone is out here late at night, so the conclusion of the day is a simple bottom line. Playing in the snow is so much fun!!
This is the 5th lockdown month and my mood does not care about how “light” it is. It has been a year since clubs closed, two years since my last travel-holidays and something like forever since tomorrow had been full of promises. I know that positive aspects come with Covid, and I appreciate them. Still, I am haunted by a strange feeling, something between half-empty and unfulfilled. And I am stunned by the rush for Mallorca-reservations, packing up piles of people into tight aeroplanes, while it remains forbidden to spend a night in my camper van.
And there is more: all those desperate road signs “Bayerische Schmankerl to go”, the click-and-collect-food, online-reservations for offline-shopping, all those that run bars and clubs for their living (and for great evenings with friends and encounters, hence for us!), all the artists and travel agencies – all closed down and sad, so sad.
Unfair or not, I have to admit that I am blessed with a positive job situation, with youth, beauty and fitness. Not to mention the very best Covid-investment = my family-sponsored touring ski equipment. Although the thwarted operations around (ski lifts, mountain huts …) cause tears of frustration, it is good to go out, acknowledge the absurdity and slide into a form of notwithstanding. Hence, back to another ski tour.
The weather is in-between-seasons and it lures bikes, hikers and ski fans. I choose the snow leftovers of Sudelfeld ski area for a relaxed morning tour, starting at Grafenherberg. Around 9:30 a.m., a handful of ski tour cracks make their way up, and so am I. I shift one ski ahead, then the other, slowly finding my pace.
Thanks to snow cats’ work from optimistic times, the slopes offer a solid layer of snow, yet limiting the range of action. Last time we combined different uphill and downhill routes. Now what-you-see-is-what-you-get, there is no in-between cross-country skiing anymore.
Finally, I turn around after a mere 50 minutes, just before the paths run out of snow. Meanwhile, more ski fans have made their way up, so I try to hurry up, aiming to pass through the narrow section before dozens of uphill skiers get in my way. With all my focus on time and efficiency, I have forgotten to switch my boots from “flexible movements – uphill” to “solid grip – downhill”. It only takes seconds until I lose track and land on my back, presenting a hell of a show to the pile of people. Compared to this stunt, the rest of the slope is a bit of a bore, but, of course, all worth it.
Despite the wonderful winter, global warming takes it’s told and dissolves the white layers on most of the hills around. Still, the slopes in some ski areas offer good conditions, and so I start once more for the Kolbensattel ski tour.
The higher I get, the denser is the cloud around my head. I think of the endless possibilities offered by the logics of quantum electrodynamics, and from all options I choose my favourite scenario: Arriving at the Kolbensattelhütte, there will be deckchairs with woollen blankets and a bar will offer hot caipirinha for 1,-€ per glass. The air will glisten with frozen fog while the sun breaks through the clouds and enfolds a wonderful Alp panorama. Entirely motivated, I continue uphill in recordsetting pace, reaching the chalet after 65 minutes.
Even when fantasies refuse to come true, it is easy to have a good time: I am surrounded by snowy mountains, greeted by other hard-boiled outdoor freaks and look forward to the muscle soreness that will increase the feeling of gravity later on my couch.
Hector is sincerely annoyed and yearns for overnight-escapes, holidays and a sabbatical. The bucket list “back to real life” grows week by week, while on the other hand I am rewarded with unexpected spare time. The no-concert, no-theatre, no-bar, no-restaurant, no-climbing, no-pool and no-party block is only half-way eaten up by work, cooking and ski tours.
Consequently, there is room for new sport disciplines. Like cycling-TRX-muscle-wine-tasting or interval-jogging or: skate-yoga.
All you need is a private yoga class, a skateboard and a neighbour. Step 1 = leave the yoga mat behind and hop on your skateboard. Step 2 = try out any balance posture you can think of.
The next level is: get the entire yoga class on the board. What sounds difficult at first is easy enough in lockdown, due to the reduced number of participants around.
From here on, it is all laughter, wiggling, wobbling, more laughter and the re-sorting of components.
Two persons on a shaky board seem like a Mexican wave performed by a bulk of centipedes. Still, minute by minute, we align better and gain stability, thanks to fantastic inner core muscles. It might as well be beginner’s luck, but who am I to judge?
After a full second that feels like nothing less than a minute, we call it a patent-worth invention and finally give in to gravity. Before we open up our own skateboard-yoga-strength temple, we will try out further fusion sports, such as slackline-dancing, bike-climbing or dumbbell-swimming.
The best Covid shopping I did in 2020? Touring skis! Saturday comes again with frosty sun, just right for a common ski tour with friends.
In former times, I used to see friends when going to bars, concerts or theatre. Now I meet the sporty ones during ski or hiking tours.
The Kolbensattel offers perfect conditions and a choice of three uphill routes. Today, we take the most charming one through the forest. In fact, there is not much to tell about today’s outdoor action. The base line is: It’s wonderful; it’s marvellous.
Spring time is right ahead and will lead to a mixture of in- and outdoor sports, combining skateboard and yoga. But that is another story for another day…
Here it is, our traditional Kreuzalm week, spent high above Garmisch. Days are filled with umpteen runs down the Kandahar slope while the evenings come with good food, a bit of wine and tough scrabble games. So much for the plan of it.
Obviously, this year is different. Still, we manage to realize the main components with the utmost flexibility.
It starts with snow in Frankfurt. Excited, we witness the change in sound and landscape. The waste collection car sounds like a snowcat and the jogging course is as cold and deserted as the Hausberg-slope at 8:00 a.m.
The silhouettes around are different, though. Instead of Kramer, Alpspitze and Waxenstein, we face the “Mainhattan” skyline.
Another tradition is the combination of Garmisch-days with other preferred ski areas. Consequently, I follow the cold and head South. I approach the Sudelfeld slopes just in time to enjoy fresh snow and a tour with one of my preferred ski buddies.
I may lag behind during the uphill part of the tour, but as an experienced sports pro I appreciate every minute of the exercise. I am well aware that the tough ones only endure long-lasting exertion.
On the last 50m, the route gets narrow and one of us shortly stops for changing the ski setting. I take my chance, pass by in the most nonchalant way (“Ich bin schon da!”, sagte der Igel) and reach the highest point with a lead of ½ second.
The downhill part starts with a shift in perspective (not so much of a real handstand today) and with the joy of seeking untouched white powder, at least a few inches of it.
The last chapter of today’s experience contains a stubborn car, an uncharged key and the constant noise of the alarm system. But that is another story…
Days get blurry and it is hard to tell what distinguished Monday from Tuesday. At least, I know how to create an outstanding Saturday and throw my touring skis into the car.
Apart from zoom meetings, online yoga and virtual ukulele sessions, it is fantastic to feel real snow flakes on my face. Who cares about sunny days as long as winterwonderland offers snow-covered forests and cold fingertips?!
The Kolbensattel offers a levelled ski slope to pros who are willing to pay 15,-€ parking fee. It is a good deal, given the minimized avalanche risk and the joy of winter action. Just like last weekend, I recognize smiling faces and good mood all around me – everybody here is happy to do outdoor sports, and it is done best far away from crowded hotspots.
The tour is an easy one and leads up to the Kolbensattelhütte, now closed of course. I remove the skins from my skis, turn the binding a 180° and put on my helmet. Not that a light-blue slope with a handful of people requires full safety equipment, but it is comfortable and warm and looks utterly professional.
I am thrilled to try out my touring skis in the powder. This is exactly what they are made for! The same is true for me, by the way. Someday I will hop down in un-touched, fresh snow, but as of now, I take whatever the slopes offer.