Thursday, January 22, 2015

St Anton's powder healed our depression

Well, the forecast was wrong... in the worst kind of way!

It rained (as forecasted), but more and for a longer period... After 2 days of profound depression and waiting for the precipitation, the forecast changed.
Not only the temperature was going to be warmer than previously planned, but now there was now less snow on the forecast!

Patience is not my prime quality, and we were totally done of waiting. It is also always a though call to do to leave a place that got plenty of snow as a base and which can be really snowy. It is also far enough that we knew we wouldn't come back this year.
Piet and Sarah decided that they would stay and visit family on their way back to southern Germany.

We left Voss and headed to Bergen from where we booked a ferry back to Denmark the following day. We didn’t really enjoyed our evening since there was a real heavy rainstorm happening.

Fortunately for us, the weather was much better the following morning and we strolled around its old neighbour of  Bryggen.  As we were cooking food next to the ferry terminal, Amelie realized that it was kind of weird that there was nobody at the terminal about 2 hours before departure.
After checking, we learnt that the ferry didn’t make it to Bergen the night before because of the bad weather. The plan was now to drive south to Stavanger. A journey of about 200km that will take us around 5-6hours due to the 2 ferries and the typical twisted road of Norway.

We eventually got to Stavanger in time and got on board without further problem.
Since it was an overnight ferry, we booked the cheapest way to get on board. Since it looked more like an economy-class airplane seat, we stayed at the bar as long as it was open before finding a piece of floor to crash on.

After a not so good night, we were all set to drive the 14 hours separating us from our next stop: St Anton am Arlberg in Austria. From the latest forecast we checked, there was some snow on the forecast there and we would get it just at the right time.

I need to say it one more time, but driving through Germany is really not the funniest thing in the world! Even if you can speed on the highway, it still takes quite some time to drive it from north to south.

We got near St Anton around 11PM and we went to sleep with a little dust falling.
I was really excited to go check out this legendary resort, which is known for some, as the birthplace of modern skiing.

Our excitement slowly disappeared as we were climbing up the road and that we were able to see some evident traces of recent rain. After picking up our ski passes, we went up and conditions really looked shitty. The lower mountain was snowless with iced up runs.

Things got better at mid-mountain, were we saw that snow had replaced rain!
We quickly made our way next from the officials where there was already people tracking fresh snow.
We followed them and got great warm up runs!

After tracking over and over a slope next from the Kapali summit, we headed out towards the Schindler Spitze. We were really lucky as we timed our move just after they opened the lift giving access to some great couloir!

We again scoped some lines on the way up and looked where people were going.
We dropped into rocky sketchy couloirs from which a vertiginous traverse was going to a nearby couloir. We made our way there and gave a try to the next couloir where no tracks was leading.

And BOOM! We found exactly what we were looking for: an untracked steep run!
Our afternoon went from great runs to other great runs.
We were totally amazed about how much terrain was available and how awesome the snow was!

We eventually stopped around 16h and realized that due to our excitement, we had skipped both breakfast and lunch. We started our day with beer and hot mulled wine (gluhwein)! We were pretty proud of how well we managed this powder day from newcomers at such a big resort.
Since I was preparing an article about St Anton, the resort graciously offered us a guide for the following day! After we told him what we skied the day before, he had a plan. We were to start from the top of Valluga and down from it. Usually, the lift that makes it up to the top of this mountain is for sightseeing only; you have to be accompanied by a guide to ski down from it. We saw a bunch of fellow skiers that were slowly bootpacking their way up to access the run.
The conditions at the top were not the best since it had been wind blown.
Conditions were better lower.
We were impressed the day before by the amount of freeriding terrain that was available, we were now totally blown away by the backcountry terrain that was accessible from the resort! We spent the day following the guide and going from one lift to the other without really knowing what was the plan. We had again good snow higher up and shitty snow lower down. That was really cool to have someone to show us around and not loosing any time.
The sun had warmed up the southern and western aspect and the rain had ruined everything that was below 1800m. After looking at the trail map and Google Map (which now shows quite a lot of ski lifts), we made the plan to go to Zürs.

The domain of St Anton, actually connects a few different town through a maze of 97 ski lifts that you can use with a single lift ticket that goes for about 50 euros. We haven’t really ski the lifts starting from Zürs. The terrain was quite tracked out, but we found some good freshies without to
 much work.
We did another great day of skiing that we had to cut short since we had to drive back to Grenoble because Amélie was working the following day. After an (other) gluhwein on fur seats, we headed back home!

I have to say that St Anton now sits pretty close from the top of my favorite ski resorts in Europe! One of the main downside of this region is the lack of pure ski touring options. The mountains are so steep that you have to climb for quite a while before making it to a ski-tourable terrain.  Fortunately, single-ride tickets are available at Rendl.

I’m not that thrilled about going back to Grenoble since ski conditions are supposed to be quite crappy around there!

Hopefully, I’ll find something good!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Voss is unrevealing some of its skiing potential!

As we were driving around in Voss in the morning, we crossed Piet, Sarah and their friend Armin that they just picked up in Bergen.
They have looked at the maps surrounding Voss and found out that the Raundalen valley, just east of Voss probably had some pretty good options.

There was quite a lot of snow as we were driving up in the valley.
We eventually stopped after seeing some tracks on the Klårafjellet Mountain and parked the car to follow the already put on skintrack.
It was a really nice day with pretty much no wind and some really good visibility. It was only about 400-500m vertical to the top, so we lapped the north face twice to get a bit more vertical.

We were lucky with the snow again as it was fluffy and dry!
The temperature was -19 °C around 7 pm. Amelie thought it would be really cold that night and wasn’t really interested in staying up high in the valley. I didn’t really know how cold our diesel was able to support the cold temperature and I didn’t want to let freeze a pretty empty tank, we drove down to Voss. We left Piet who had smartly filled up his van with Norwegian diesel and the German crew in the valley in their heated van. After 45minutes of driving, it was around -18... we both kind of felt that we really didn’t won much!

When we woke up the following morning in Voss, there was a nice 10-15cm of cold snow on the car. We quickly made the plan to drive up to Myrkdalen resort to check it out.
 Visibility was on and off in the morning and even if we were Sunday in the Holidays, it was really not busy in the morning. People eventually showed up late in morning but even then, it was really not busy! This resort has a really nice mellow terrain that reminded me about some resorts in Japan. The policy about backcountry is really opened and there is pretty good terrain to ski around the resort!
The clouds cleared up and we were able to have some really nice visibility with a sunset light that lasted all afternoon due to being around the 60th parallel. We went to the north end of the resort where there is a really nice slackcountry option. After a really short hike up (5min...), it is possible to traverse and ski a really nice and long run all the way down to the main road. The snow had been preserved and had’t been skied for a few days, so we had a really nice last run!
We were also fairly lucky to be able to ski on the road where we landed quite far.
We drove back to the valley to catch up with the Germans. They also received a nice cold mini dump and had a great day there. We went to Vollrandane which is just south of the road and opposite from Klårafjellet.
It was quite a bushwhack to get up to the opening that we were aiming to ski.
Once we were up though, snow was really nice.
Amelie got some really good turns for her birthday!
Armin had some problems with his skins has they weren’t really sticky anymore.
We did two laps and it was really nice to ski some cold fluffy pow (again!!)

We went back to Myrkdalen to ski the mountain just East and opposite to the resort.
Temperatures were much warmer than the previous days. It was around 0 Celcius as we left the car to skin up.
Snow was clugging a bit under the skis and was really wet and warm.
Visibility was far from perfect either with a little mist coming down on us.
We made it down on some really wet and heavy snow that everyone had problems to ski.
Snow was packing under my boot and I was able to do only 3-4 turns before I felt that I was skiing on high-heels!
Conditions didn’t call for a second lap and we came back to the car pretty bummed.
Worst is that the temperature is supposed to worsen with rain/sleet on the forecast for the next 2 days...

Hope weather forecast will be wrong for once!