Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Silvretta Traverse

Each April as the winter season winds down at home in Crested Butte, I head over the pond to extend the season with ski tours and hut trips in the Alps. This year began with a return to the Silvretta Groupe on the Swiss/Austrian border. This week long hut based tour begins in the Ischgl ski area, leaves from the Pauliner Kopf lift and drops down into the next valley to the Heidelberger Hutte at 2200 meters.

Heilderberger Hutte

 This area of the Alps still has the legendary jagged peaks and immense vertical drops, but the glaciers are more mellow and the ski terrain less intense making it great for a skier's first visit to the Alps.
Leaving the Jamtal Hutte

Day 2 brings us over the next ridge and into the valley of the Jamtal Hutte. This "hut" is more of a mountain palace as it boasts a huge dining room, smaller more private sleeping rooms, an indoor climbing wall, two outdoor ice climbing towers, meeting rooms, showers, internet.....
Patio of the Jamtal Hutte
Our first day at the Jamtal it dumped snow with very limited visibility. We spent the morning working on avalanche rescue skills and running through scenarios before returning to the hut for some soup, yoga and drying out. In the afternoon a few hearty souls headed out for some low-vis powder turns behind the hut while the other (smarter?) ones hung out inside. 

Blue skies returned the following day and the hordes were out tracking up the fresh 30 cms of powder. It was definitely the best ski day of the trip and everyone returned to the hut with huge smiles.
We milked the fresh powder for the next few days, though the clouds hung low and visibility was an issue sometimes. If you could envision the pitch and have faith that the guide (me) was not leading you off a cliff, the skiing was really good! Some mornings we skied above the cloud, then dropped below as the fog lifted and light snow began most afternoons.
Skinning into the cloud
The final day was like skiing in a ping-pong ball as we felt our way 7,000 vertical feet back down into the valley and returned to Galtur, Austria. The team enjoyed sauna, steam room and a fine meal at the hotel before departing in the morning. I headed back to Chamonix and am currently waiting out the foggy weather in the climbing gym and hoping it clears out soon!

Steve Banks

No comments: