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Where the sun never shines alone

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Where the sun never shines alone

A ski tour in Bregenzerwald full of snow, sweat and wheat beer and of course plenty of smiles.

Close proximity and wide ranging views: For Andreas and Gaby Feurstein, ski touring in winter is the best way to experience the very best of their home area. To find the sun above the clouds, they joined the author on a tour to the Hirschberg on a foggy winter day.

Heavy fog and minus 9 degrees Celsius: Today the winter weather in the valley is not the kind you’d like to see every day. The car park in the Hütten district of Bizau is easy to find. On the practice slope nearby, a group of kids are taking their first runs and in front of me I can just make out the old Hirschberg chairlift, which was decommissioned some fifteen years ago. Andreas and his sister-in-law Gaby are waiting to greet me. “We’ll need about an hour and half to make the ascent,” says the 35-year-old baker with a confident wink. Let’s get started.

I’m a novice ski tourer and the technique, especially with the free-moving ski boot, feels awkward. “You don’t have to lift your knee so high,” explains Gaby. “Simply push your ski ahead.” That’s better and soon I am even managing the hairpin turns for the most part. The less I think about my next steps the better. Unlike my two companions, I haven’t grown up ski touring like Andreas or have ten years of experience like Gaby. “I love to hike and ski touring allows me to be on the move in the mountains during wintertime as well.” So whenever they have time and the weather is right, the pair team up to get out at least once a week.

When climbing we see only one other person for the longest time. Later, three others descend past us on skis. Is this area some sort of insider’s tip? “No, actually it’s quite the opposite. Usually there are more people, especially when fresh snow has fallen,” says Andreas with a smile. I’m enjoying the peace and I appreciate that we don’t have to create our own tracks. That helps us to save energy. In between conversations there is silence, save for the sound of the skis as they tread upon the snow. Otherwise it is tranquil. Once we arrive at the middle station, we emerge from the fog and view the silhouettes of the Hangspitze and the Niedere mountains. The crystalline snow begins to glitter in the sunlight and it feels as if my pores are doing overtime with so much sweating. We complete the last ascent about half an hour later at 1,400 m elevation with the magnificent Kanisfluh before us. What a view! We’re all smiling with exertion.

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After a quick change of shirt, my companions grab a few wheat beers, proper beer glasses, and some chocolate cookies from their backpacks. It quickly becomes clear that I’ve chosen my company well with these two experienced mountain rescuers. When changing my shirt, I briefly examine my avalanche gear. What do my two companions think of the current risk? No one has ever fallen victim in this area, but that doesn’t mean that something couldn’t happen.

 

That’s why they recommend that no one ever go alone. The right equipment and careful planning are also essential for safety. The great advantage of this tour for the pair is that they live nearby, Andreas in Reuthe and Gaby in Bizau, so that arriving here takes just ten minutes by car. “In two hours I can be back home and will have completed a proper tour. This is optimal for me and for my kids,” says Gaby. “It’s the perfect way to escape the fog,” adds Andreas, nodding in agreement.

It’s time we get going downhill. Saying goodbye to such a magnificent view is hard. Those with interest can continue further upwards. Another advantage of this tour: Because the area used to be a ski resort, there are so many different variations. In the end, we decide to take the easy slope down into the valley that leads back to the station in twenty minutes. A quieter option for those seeking peace, ski touring has become an increasingly popular alternative to downhill skiing and I can see why. Getting up hill may not be easy, but along the way the sun and views make the effort easier. I could certainly get used to such experiences.

Author: Thorsten Bayer