Planneralm, AT: 02/06/19

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Planneralm, AT: 02/06/19

Postby jamesdeluxe » Thu Feb 21, 2019 6:45 pm

If you want to know how I landed on this under-the-radar region for a visit, it's due to this TR of Planneralm from New Year's Eve 2013. Titled "Volltreffer" (meaning jackpot or bullseye), this guy clearly had a good day there and something about the simplicity of the setting really hit my sweet spot. For the next several years, I kept thinking that it would be fun to go on a road trip to a bunch of low-elevation ski areas in this region, with Planneralm as my main attraction.

From where I was staying in the village of Aigen, it was less than a half-hour drive through the village of Donnersbach ("Thunder Creek") to Planneralm on the left or Riesneralm on the right, which I was planning to ski the following day.
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It always helps to tout a superlative and Planneralm claims to be the highest lift-served ski area in the region of Steiermark with its summit at 2,200 meters/7,200 feet. Because of its favorable location, they're able to get away without snowmaking: 100% natural snow, which is advertised in a poster at the base:
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Basically a 1.5-mile-wide bowl with three lifts and a vertical drop of 2,000 feet:
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The offpiste there had stiffened up a bit since the last snowfall so I stayed on the groomers doing high-speed laps most of the day. The natural snow felt fantastic, especially where it had been warmed up by the sun.
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Skier's left had photogenic trees on the lower half:
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The pride of the ski area is the 1973 Gläserboden t-bar:
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... which culminates in a convincingly steep stretch at the top:
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Traversing across the ridge:
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Looking out over the BC backside of the ski area -- you can see a set of tracks down the middle:
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Around 2 pm, I stopped for a late lunch at this cute hut:
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Vegetarian spätzle with a side salad, a Weihanstephaner beer, and the obligatory apple strudel: 17 euros/$19. An excellent deal and my most expensive meal of the entire week.
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An outstanding day: Planneralm absolutely lived up to expectations.
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Re: Planneralm, AT: 02/06/19

Postby jamesdeluxe » Tue Apr 30, 2019 10:15 am

While planning for my trip to Switzerland during the second week of March, I originally considered the Oberstdorf/Kleinwalsertal region along the Austria/Germany border, but was advised against it due to the middling elevation at that point of the season and redirected to the St. Moritz region, which worked out nicely for the most part.

Planneralm is at a similar low/medium altitude as Oberstdorf and Kleinwalsertal: 1600-2000m along the main ridge with a 2200m peak at the looker's right, dead north orientation, with no snowmaking.

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Looking at this recent Alpinforum report from the third week of April, conditions don't look substantially different from my visit there at the beginning of February, as seen in the TR pix above. I guess my question is -- should we be reflexively dismissing anything but the highest ski areas in early March? My instinct is always: go where you want but have a bailout option nearby for a worst-case scenario.
Last edited by jamesdeluxe on Tue Apr 30, 2019 2:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Planneralm, AT: 02/06/19

Postby Tony Crocker » Tue Apr 30, 2019 12:52 pm

Note from your 2/6 report:
jamesdeluxe wrote:The offpiste there had stiffened up a bit since the last snowfall so I stayed on the groomers doing high-speed laps most of the day.
At a higher resort the off-piste would still have been fine. See Andermatt-Gemsstock and Engelberg-Titlis as good examples.

My 2017 days in Saalbach were similar. Groomer skiing was great across the board, but off-piste 10 days after the last snowfall was not.

jamesdeluxe wrote:should we be reflexively dismissing anything but the highest ski areas in early March? My instinct is always: go where you want but have a bailout option nearby for a worst-case scenario.

The presumption should be to choose a high altitude area with a good proportion of north facing in March or later. But if you leave your schedule flexible to the last minute, you can always go to a lower place that just got enough fresh snow to bury the old subsurface. My guess is that you will end up at a low altitude place less than 15% of the time in March.

Another observation: I suspect Austria has a more continental climate that the Alps farther west. So at the same altitude rain risk is lower and you also have the midwinter inversions to hold down low altitude temperatures. So if you're using an altitude algorithm, it's probably accurate in dinging Austrian ski areas late season, but January/early February are often better than raw altitude numbers would imply.
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