After five nights headquartered in the region of Steiermark 90 minutes southwest of Salzburg and Day 6 at Hochkönig, I relocated for my two last nights to a hotel in the middle of Salzburg that's only five minutes from the airport. Somewhat unique (and convenient) that a mid-sized airport is so physically close to a city.
For Day 7, the last of this trip, I went back to Alpinforum for inspiration. My legs were pretty tired after seven straight days of turns; still, I wanted to do something on skis that was fun but not too demanding. I remembered a TR from Zwölferhorn
in the lake district of Salzkammergut 45 minutes from Salzburg. It's right alongside picturesque Lake Wolfgang in the village of St. Gilpin, which is well visited by Europeans and UKers, as well as busloads of Asian tourists, absolutely none of whom ski. My pix below aren't much different from the TR linked above; his are much better quality and it was a clearer day.
For lift freaks, Zwölferhorn is a real throwback with only one mode of uphill transport, a 1957 gondola, which is an attraction in and of itself. Instead of scrapping it and installing a brand new tram, the entire lift was out of commission for a year for a complete renovation, and they kept the original 37 red and yellow cars. While I've ridden several gondolas of this vintage in Switzerland, it''s a real rarity in Austria. This being a German-speaking country, they don't mess around with stats. Here's all the necessary info:
Waiting my turn for these oldtimers:
They secure your skis to the back of the car with ropes:
Capacity is four passengers and it's a very snug fit, even for slim people. It takes about 16 minutes to cover the 3,000 vertical feet and the ride is so smooth and steady, it feels like you're floating. Had a great chat with these locals; they were shocked to be with someone from NY/NJ who could speak their language.
They were curious about skiing in the northeast U.S. so I put in a plug for the Catskills, ADKs, Greens, and Quebec. I underscored that our mountains were far older than the Alps. low elevation (with the associated effect on conditions), and underwent a lot of glaciation so they're not topographically dramatic, but offered fun skiing if you hit 'em at the right time, blah blah blah.
It was still pretty overcast by the time we reached the top:
Chinese visitors: reminded me of a similar situation three years ago in the lake district of Switzerland,at Rigi
. Not sure I would make the effort to go to the top of these mountains if I couldn't ski them.
Even though they could certainly make this more of a typical ski area with extensive marked trails, snowmaking, etc., they've left it mostly "undeveloped" and on 100% natural snow. The headwall down the gut of the mountain is ungroomed for the first 1,300 verts and a nice steep pitch.
Further down, you ski right under the gondola:
The lower 1,500 verts are through a dense forest.
At this fork, going left takes you to a very short t-bar at the bottom for beginners, going right takes you back to the gondola:
Hardwoods likethe northeast U.S.:
There were far more people skinning up than taking the gondola, literally hundreds:
Back at lake level, you take off your skis and walk five minutes through the village main street back to the gondola.
Here's the view from the gondola about a third of the way back up:
For the second run, the sky was clearing up and conditions were transitioning to spring sugar:
A nice view from a mid-mountain clearing:
I should've taken more pix but by this time in the trip, I was OD'ing on being a shutterbug. I only did three T2B runs and that was just right. Had lunch in the village then headed back to Salzburg.
At the airport the next morning was an advert for an international prep school in St. Gilpen targeted at the 1%. The pix say it all: a European version of Andover Academy or other finishing schools (is that what they're called?) in England, I suppose. Your guess is as good as mine what it costs.
And with that, this road trip to off-the-beaten path/low-elevation Austria was in the can. A fun visit, the only thing missing was a powder day. I realise that very few people are interested in these kind of places and prefer reading about the more high-profile circuits, but here are links to the others reports if interested:
Day 1: Werfenweng
Day 2: Tauplitz
Day 3: Wurzeralm
Day 4: Planneralm
Day 5: RIesneralm
Day 6: Hochkönig