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snow of tomorrow

Snow of tomorrow | Freetouring in the mountaineering villages of the Carnic Alps

Natural freeride tourism in a south-facing location

by Jan Salcher • 12/28/2020
The mountaineering villages of the Tyrolean Gail and Lesach valleys lie hidden under a thick blanket of snow. The record precipitation at the beginning of December has once again underlined the Carnic Alps' reputation as a snow-sure region. The basis for a winter full of tours has thus been laid several meters high and will continue into the spring.

The Lesachtal and the Tiroler Gailtal can call themselves mountaineering villages of the first hour. The philosophy of nature-oriented alpine tourism has been practised in the area for over ten years, so it is hardly surprising that mountain sports enthusiasts looking for untouched alpine landscapes come to this region on the Italian border. Those who want to combine "gentle" tourism with exciting freeride tours will find what they are looking for here!

We asked a local some questions and asked him for a few tips: the mountain and ski guide Josef "Pepi" Klingesberger runs a partner business of the mountaineering villages.

Jan Salcher: Pepi, please tell us something about your professional background, your alpine career?

Pepi: I came into contact with the mountains late, during my school days at the HTL in Hallstatt. Eventually I ended up in Carinthia and through outdoor activities, such as canyoning, I ended up training as a mountain guide. I worked as a ski guide on the Arlberg in winter for a few years, and also in Central Asia with ski tour groups, but since Helene and I bought the hepi lodge a few years ago, I've mainly been out and about here in the Lesachtal and the surrounding mountain ranges.

Do you see yourself more as a freerider or a ski tourer/alpinist?

A difficult question, I would say more of a ski tourer. I'm not the one who climbs the highest mountains with the lightest equipment, but I want to work my way up the slopes myself. Since I'm a downhill-oriented ski tourer, my skis are a bit wider and heavier. I think that's called freetouring now, isn't it?

In your opinion, where do you make the best turns in the snow if you want to do a tour in the Carnic Alps?

My favorite is the Schönjöchl, right behind the house. A wide, north-facing gully runs from the pass down to the Enderberghütte, where there is usually plenty of space. Maybe I shouldn't say that too much now! In the valley there are lots of opportunities for touring, some tours are very well-known and a little more popular, on others you are often on your own. In the East Tyrolean part, the Reiterkarspitze (see TouringTip) and the Spitzköfele are my favorite tours, because they offer a lot of space for skiing.

How would you characterize the "Carnic Alps" touring area?

Varied, that's what immediately comes to mind when I'm asked this question, varied! Each side valley has its own character, with massive limestone mountains towering in one valley and black rocks and dark walls dominating the neighboring valley. At first, I found it a little annoying that you have to start below the tree line and walk for almost an hour along mountain streams into a valley on almost every tour. Now I find this appealing, as it gives you the opportunity to get in the mood for the tour, warm up your muscles, have a nice chat or time for reflection. In all the valleys, the route follows alpine paths to the end of the valley, meaning that the first part does not require any particular concentration or present any technical difficulties. As already mentioned, this is the ideal "warm-up", because as soon as you reach the end of a valley, the ascent becomes steeper.

What should you pay attention to when you're skiing in the area?

Of course, you should pay attention to your safety, I just assume that everyone who skis in winter pays attention to this. Personally, it's very important to me not just to seek adventure, perfect powder or spectacular descents, but to move around in nature with the necessary respect. The Alpine Association and the mountaineering villages are also currently working on this topic, I read something about it recently, didn't I? A certain eye for nature, a certain degree of sensitivity is necessary. It's best to stay close to the ski touring routes described in many guidebooks. The same applies in the forest areas below the alpine meadows. We should remember that there are other users who are in the area and use it, e.g. the mountain farmers, some of whom make it possible for us to go ski touring in the first place through their work by keeping many areas open. However, we must also remember that our recreational area is a habitat for other creatures and that winter is a particularly challenging time for wildlife, especially here with all the snow.

What equipment, what type of skis would you recommend for tours on the Carnic main ridge?

The tours in the Carnic Alps are not extremely long, most of them are between 1000 and 1400 meters in altitude. I've already said that I'm downhill-oriented and value a wider, longer ski. Given the length of the tours, you can definitely use heavier equipment. Especially when it's powdery. In the area, everyone can move according to their own preferences in terms of equipment.

What is special about the hepi-Lodge?

The special thing about the hepi-Lodge is that it is our dream, which we are trying to live out there. We want to develop a new rural lifestyle. How can you be successful as a young family in the countryside with a good work-life balance and create a livelihood for yourself - as close as possible to and with nature and a down-to-earth way of life? Life here is very much characterized by work and experiencing and enjoying the beauty of the surroundings in the midst of this is the challenge and at the same time the claim of the hepi-Lodge, or in other words "the simple ART in Lesachtal"!

One final question: Can you still wag? I wag often. That's what ski mountaineering, freetouring or freeriding is all about, adapting to the terrain and conditions, not just on the ascent but also on the descent!

Thank you for your time and the interview!

Take public transport to the tour

In the Tyrolean Gailtal valley, several ski tours can be easily combined with a public journey, as the valley is served by a well-scheduled bus service (from Innsbruck, the best option is to take the express bus to Tassenbach and then change to the regional bus). Some tours start directly from the bus stop on skis, others only require a few minutes' walk to get to the start of the tour. Here is a small selection sorted by bus stop:

  • Kartitsch-Rauchenbach: Ă–fenspitze and Hochegg

  • Kartitsch-Ă„uĂźerst: Dorfberg (Gailtal Alps)

  • Obertilliach-Leiten: Resslerknollen, Tscharrknollen, Filmoorhöhe and GroĂźe Kinigat

  • Obertilliach-Biathlon Center: Hoher Bösring

  • Obertilliach-Hotel Weiler: Golzentipp (Gailtal Alps)

  • Obertilliach-Bergen: Spitzköfele and Reiterkarspitze

  • Untertilliach-Winkl: Reiterkarspitze, Cima Manzon, Huitlahnerkogel, Hochspitz

Bersteigerdörfer partner businesses in the Tyrolean Gailtal:

Hotel Waldruhe
Strasser family
Neuwinkel 154, A-9941 Kartitsch

Hotel Weiler
Scherer-Weiler family
Dorf 1, A-9942 Obertilliach

And the Hepilodge mentioned in the article:
Helene Windbichler & Josef Klingesberger
Obergail 10, A-9653 Liesing

Further information on the mountaineering villages in the Carnic Alps, how to get there, other mountaineering-friendly partner businesses and tour suggestions can be found at www.bergsteigerdoerfer.org

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This article has been automatically translated by DeepL with subsequent editing. If you notice any spelling or grammatical errors or if the translation has lost its meaning, please write an e-mail to the editors.

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