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Arlberg Off Piste

 Poster: A snowHead
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Just back from a fantastic week of off piste in the Arlberg with my wife and 4 other ski buddies. A few people have asked about how we organised it - routes, books, guides etc so here are some details

We arrived on Sunday morning and with the forecast snow tipping down went to skis the trees in Stuben (recommendation from Irbis) http://snowheads.com/ski-forum/viewtopic.php?t=74413&highlight=

Higher up the wind had scoured the North Face of Albona and dumped everything in the forest under the first chairlift. We basically lapped the first chair all day. There were lots of good lines the best of which was probably directly under the chair turning hard right at Pylon 9 above the avalanche barriers to rejoin the piste, bottom of Geisleger (Route 37 in off piste book). You could see the line nicely from the chairlift.

That evening we arrived at our chalet where I had arranged to meet Andy Thurner to buy the off piste and ski touring books he had authored on the Arlberg (25 euros each). These turned out to be really useful and I would recommend.




In addition to the books I had organised a ski guide (via Arlberg Guides) for the Monday and Tuesday. This wasn't universally popular and 2 of the guys opted out.

The principle reasons were the combination of significant new snow (increased avalanche risk), bad viz in an area we didn't know (route finding) and the restriction of needing a guide to get up Valluga (???).

The Monday didn't start very well with the guide taking us to Schonegraben - Schafliger (route 13 in the off piste book). Despite low viz the top few hundred metres were lovely in knee deep powder but the lower section, which is a long high walled gully, was full of massive boulders of avalanche debris with a thin layer of snow on top. Another guy skiing with us twisted his knee, had to walk out and that was his ski holiday over and the morning gone.

In the afternoon the weather was supposed to be clearing and we convinced the guide to take us up the Valluga. http://snowheads.com/ski-forum/viewtopic.php?t=74533&highlight= We were lucky. Arriving at the top we found the North Face (route 10) still shrouded in clouds but the west face had cleared and a group was descending the narrow entrance. He suggested we do the West Face (route 11) - and this certainly made up for the morning.

The access is down and then either across the wooden bridge and down the ridge or descend under the bridge and sidestep a narrow bit which gives access to the full slope. See here.


In fresh snow this face was great to ski. Other than the top sidestep it's not steep so you can really let go and enjoy the ride


This is a picture showing the West Face from the next day


After the face there are a couple of further nice pitches, followed by a flatter section (probably painful for snowboarders) which lead out to Zurs


The guide wanted to get back (made some comment about a full day guiding in the Arlberg finishing at 3pm?) so that was Monday over.

On Tuesday morning we started at 8.30 and headed straight back up Valluga for the North Face (route 10). This is a bit steeper at the top where you have to descend a few hundred metres round some rock bands, over a saddle and into a nice bowl (see Trittkopf pic later on). There was some fantastic deep snow.... but the disjointed nature of the run meant I didn't enjoy it as much as the West Face.


We did however see these guys descending into the "not very" hidden valley which we made a note of for a touring day


We traversed above the saddle and across a rocky section into a nice face


And there was another nice pitch on the way down with plenty of space to make fresh tracks. This brought us out in the same track out to Zurs as the day before


After lunch we took the Trittkopf cable car where the guide suggested hiking above the ridge to the "Antenne" (route 32). This was a great call. You can also see the West face (right) and saddle below the North Face (left) of the Valluga in the background


Beautiful snow here in the afternoon sunshine


After that we headed up the Zurs side and started the traverse to the Erzberg (route 36). Not sure why but we didn't continue traversing past the saddle above the Rosskopf and the run down was not particularly memorable in win affected snow. Traverse visible in the background of this pic


The girls were tired and decided to head back to Zurs but we had spotted a nice line on the face opposite, the Flexenmulde (route 30/31). The guide told us the snow wouldn't be good and went with the girls... The snow was amazing.


I've skied with some fantastic guides but didn't really get on well with the guy we had. To be fair he found us some great snow but also made some strange choices and wasn't very subtle about wanting to head back at 3pm every day. It was also very expensive due to them charging a per person rate for a private group of 6 (which I hadn't understood from his website - my mistake but still felt like a bit of a con to be paying over 500 Euro for our group v the 270 Euro private group rate).

Anyway 2 days was more than enough and on Wednesday we headed back towards Stuben to explore on our own http://snowheads.com/ski-forum/viewtopic.php?t=74596&highlight= On the way over we saw the Schindlergrat couloirs. The couloir under the chair only had a single track in it and despite a few rocks a the top was great fun. Couldn't find it in the book but it is basically under the cables by the lift, round under the chairlift station and down to the right.


Traversed left again after the first section to a nice second pitch


We headed down to Stuben, up Albonagrat and past the restaurant to the start of the 30min hike up to the Maroikopf heading for the Langen Forest (route 39)


This was a really nice route but it was important to stay left as the valley narrowed towards the frozen waterfall. There was a narrowish sidestep out at the crux (hidden on the right of this picture). Missing this would mean getting cliffed out and having to walk back up.


On the Thursday we headed decided to head back up Valluga to do the Erli Joch (route 3 in the Ski Touring Guide) via the North Face. http://snowheads.com/ski-forum/viewtopic.php?t=74643&highlight= Without a guide we couldn't use the Valluga 2 cable car but with the boot pack in place this wasn't a big problem. It's about a 30min bootpack with the onkly tricky bit being getting over the cornice. My Grivel Condors came in very handy! On the boot pack with the Valluga 1 top station in the right hand background


Here's the view from the Valluga 2 station


After descending the North Face to the saddle we descended the East facing slope at the foot of the Rogspitze. See pic of 5 nice tracks above! The snow was still great at the top but gt a bit heavier as we descended


Here's an example of a description from the book


From the Erlach Alp hut (closed) it was about an 1h30min skin up to the Erli Joch and then a nice ski back down to Zurs.


On Friday we finally got over to Rendl and headed for the Rendlspitze (Route 4). http://snowheads.com/ski-forum/viewtopic.php?t=74720&highlight= Bootpack visible here


We traversed hard right from the top of the ridge and were rewarded


There are lots of possibilities on the Rendl side. Here is a line a ski instructor had found for his client with a 2hr skin.


We took the afternoon off for lunch and apres ski in the Mooserwirt - Everyone should do this in their lifetimes!

As we had cars on Saurday we drove up to Lech http://snowheads.com/ski-forum/viewtopic.php?t=74747&highlight= , went up the North Facing Rufikopf lift and di the 20min hike to the Worster


Here is an example from the off piste book


Again needed to traverse a bit to clear the tracks but there was still plenty of space


And some great snow on the way down


In the afternoon we headed for the Zuger Horn - Abendweide (route 15). There was still some decent snow at the top but the access onto the path to Zug was south facing and a bit treacherous due to lack of snow


Even by Sunday, a week after the last snow the Schindlergrat only had our 3 tracks in it plus the guy/girl who had preceeded us http://snowheads.com/ski-forum/viewtopic.php?t=74781&highlight=


We were amazed by the size of the Arlberg - there is just so much terrain and (using the ski touring book) I'm sure we would have found fresh tracks for another week with a bit more skinning. There are 47 routes in the off piste guide and 38 in the ski touring guide. We just scratched the surface! It is also a visually stunning area and despite the lower elevation compared to Verbier / Chamonix the snow quality and depths were excellent (we were lucky with the dump on Saturday/Sunday) and lasted very well. The lift system was excellent and we hardly queued although didn't seem to be a particularly busy week.

I was asked about the comparison to Verbier/Chamonix... although the snow was as good if not better, the lower elevation meant shorter descents eg Valluga to Zurs was 2800m - 1700m compared to Mont Fort to Siviez 3300m-1700mm. And many of the peaks were around the 2300-2500m range which is lower than around here. I'd also say the terrain is generally steeper and more exposed in Verbier and Chamonix although depending on what you want that may be an advantage of St Anton. My main bugbear was that the Valluga access required a guide and if you take out Valluga the lift served comparison strongly goes against the Arlberg. I preferred the towns/villages in the Arlberg and the restaurants were good and cheaper. The Mooserwirt was great and why doesn't Verbier have a Frozen Ice Bar?

Hard for me to answer the question of do you need a guide.... Clearly it's always safer to go with an experienced guide who will know the snow conditions, risk areas, be able to route find in bad viz etc. A reduced risk compared to round here is the is the lack of glaciers. However the avalanche risk is always there (we saw a few small slabs) and many of the descents go far from the lift system where an accident or getting lost in bad weather could leave you in trouble.

With the off piste book, good visibility, a couple of days for the snow to consolidate and people to put in boot and skin tracks we felt very comfortable exploring without a guide. This is what we do in Verbier where the lift served terrain is generally steeper and more exposed. If you get a guide try and get a personal recommendation. Like everything in life there are great guides and average guides.

I'd definitely recommend the guide book. The descriptions and especially the pictures are very useful. The 3D maps weren't great for me so we also bought 2 * 1:25000 maps to cover the area we were skiing in. These were 6.5 Euros from the local book shop. We also ask locals a lot - guides, instructors, people wearing ABS's etc for advice on good routes, areas to avoid etc. When I'm on my own I often buddy up with people like this. It all helps with choosing safe routes and finding the best snow.

Hope this helps someone planning an off piste trip to the Arlberg. With half decent snow you're in for a treat!
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BobinCH, brilliant of you to take the time and trouble to do this. I found it fascinating, even though it's not the sort of skiing I will ever do. Thank you! Very Happy
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Cheers for the comparison dude. The Schoengraben can be ace, but seems to be quite avalanche prone - we came pretty close to being taken out by an avi whilst with a guide there. Is the line under the Stuben chair the same as the one in the first Candide kamera?
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Nice. How long are these routes taking you (in uptime)? Doing all this on Kuros/Dukes/alpine boots?
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Quote:

I found it fascinating, even though it's not the sort of skiing I will ever do. Thank you!

+1 snowHead
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Great thread. Brings back memories, I must get back to the Arlberg next season.
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Hiya, have enjoyed reading and seeing your exploits.... glad you enjoyed the Arlberg, it is a beautiful place to be..... If you decide to return one day I would suggest you check out this guide, he is one of the very best and not expensive 250 Euro for a full day!!

http://www.learn2ski.eu/en/

All the best
Sidney
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Great pix! Thanks for all the info. Have hugely enjoyed reading about your trip
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Quote:

The guide wanted to get back (made some comment about a full day guiding in the Arlberg finishing at 3pm?) so that was Monday over.


What a load of cr@p. I can see why you didn't get on with him. In my experience with Piste to Powder (a very different outfit to the one you went with by the sounds of it) you ski until the lifts close.

Excellent, excellent post by the way. I'm not sure I'm happy with you telling the world about The Book though wink I have a slightly older version of the Off Piste book, the new one looks to have nice maps and colour pics so I may have to upgrade next time I'm out there. In addition to the regual 1:25000 maps, there are the Freeride maps of the area too. These are a bit steep (just shy of €20 each), but look pretty nice. (see http://freeride-map.com/?cid=100&lid=2&cat_id=4
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great stuff as always
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Really enjoyed reading this. Cool Not as much as you enjoyed *doing* it I am sure.

Didn't know the 2nd lift on Valluga was for guided parties only, this must be relatively recent? Good to know and will inform my planning for next time I head out there Sad
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VamP wrote:
Really enjoyed reading this. Cool Not as much as you enjoyed *doing* it I am sure.

Didn't know the 2nd lift on Valluga was for guided parties only, this must be relatively recent? Good to know and will inform my planning for next time I head out there Sad


It's been that way since I first skied there in 1992... This is the tiny 6 (?) person lift from the top of Valuga I to the summit. You *can* go up it without a guide, but you have to leave your skis behind. Worth it on a sunny day just to admire the view.
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Thanks for the excellent write-up. I'm really glad you guys had a good time.

I agree with your views on terrain: Verbier and especially Chamonix do have more vertical and more gnarly terrain...I wonder if by and large the Arlberg may get better snow?

Interesting about the guide though. I've felt with all of Powder Club (the ski school offpiste operation), Arlberg Guides and Piste to Powder that the day finished somewhat earlier than I was expecting based on other private guide experiences (although to be fair Piste to Powder goes on until later than the other two). But I think the pricing was an absolute rip-off - double the expected rate???
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VamP wrote:

Didn't know the 2nd lift on Valluga was for guided parties only, this must be relatively recent? Good to know and will inform my planning for next time I head out there Sad
I think it has always been. (We are talking about the tiny 5 person lift that goes to the top)
Great photos and write up of just about my favourite area, but I've never had a guide in St Anton claim they end at 3.00. Sounds like he cheated you.
Another vote for Piste to Powder guides, though Graham, the boss and best guide, is generally only there in January and then goes to guide at his new Chalet in Norway (Lyngen Alps).
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As was discussed on another thread http://snowheads.com/ski-forum/viewtopic.php?t=74494&highlight=p2p it's important to compare the different guiding companies as they don't all offer the same - agree the price and finish time up-front.

Another vote for Graham at P2P - not the cheapest but you really do get a full day, we often raced back to get the last lift of the day at Alpe Rauz.
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snowball wrote:
VamP wrote:

Didn't know the 2nd lift on Valluga was for guided parties only, this must be relatively recent? Good to know and will inform my planning for next time I head out there Sad
I think it has always been. (We are talking about the tiny 5 person lift that goes to the top)


I was last there in 2001, thinking back, the second lift wasn't running due to weather. Still good to know Little Angel
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The Arlberg Guide pricing is confusing

Quote:

Preise: Personen Euro
1 Tag Privat 250.-
jede weitere Person 20.-
Gruppenpreise pro Person ab 4 bis 8 85.-
Heliskiing excl. Guide 370.-


http://www.outdoor-adventures.at/skitour.html

Translation
Price per person
1 day Private (1 person) €250
every additional person €20
Group Price 4 to 8 people €85
Helisking exc.guide 370

so the price for 6 could be

€250 + 5 x €20 = €350
or 6 x €85 = €510

Puzzled

I'd interpret it as €350 for a private group of 6 or €510 if joining a group.
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Great review and thanks for the effort and time taken to post it Very Happy

great shot of the leap off the ridge.

Shame about the guide, but at least you made the most of it.

Not as much of a shame as twisting a knee on the first day! that would have been soul destroying!!!
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DB wrote:
Great thread. Brings back memories, I must get back to the Arlberg next season.


+1
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Nice report but would of prefered if you kept it to yourself Very Happy Very Happy
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BobinCH, really enjoyed reading your thread and all the great photos. I've only ever skiied with Piste to Powder guides in the Arlberg and I've never heard one of them use the 3pm story... Sounds rather suspect to me. Schoengraben can be a bit of a mess lower down. The guide should have known this.

Anyway glad to hear you and your friends had such a good time!
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Great beta. 500 for a guide that finishes at 3pm!! Shocked

Anyone know how much a pistetopowder guide is as does not say on their website?
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After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
100€ to join a group, 400€ (1-2pax) + €50 for each additional pax (max 7pax in a group) for your own private guide.


Last edited by After all it is free Go on u know u want to! on Fri 11-03-11 11:57; edited 1 time in total
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DaveC, Most bootpacks 20-30mins. Used kuro/SM14 for all days except touring day Crusair/Titan

sidneyreilly, Tks for the tip.

sah, Good link. Bookshop said freeride maps no longer available in resort

horizon, DB, Arlberg guides pricing is confusing. I interpreted as DB did but seems above 4 you pay per skier... I've suggested they clarify this. I've also suggested they clarify what a full day guiding means.

Timmaah, p2p quoted me 400euros for 1-2 + 50euro per additional skier up to 7. This is very x
Expensive compared to what I've paid elsewhere but they do seem to get universally good reviews.
At these prices no wonder new guiding outfits are springing up.
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BobinCH wrote:
horizon, DB, Arlberg guides pricing is confusing. I interpreted as DB did but seems above 4 you pay per skier... I've suggested they clarify this. I've also suggested they clarify what a full day guiding means.


What a rip off ....

1 €250
2 €270
3 €290
4 €310
5 €425
6 €510
7 €595
8 €680

It doesn't make sense because 2 guides for 4 people ( 2 x €310) is cheaper than one guide for 8 (€680). Did you talk to the Guide company or is there a chance that the guide pocketed the difference?
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BobinCH, DB, yes that's very strange. When we booked Arlberg Guides we had a private group of 3 and it worked out very well for us at something like 290 a day (P2P did not have enough places but it would have been 270/day for the three of us as part of a group of 6+). 6 people for 510 Shocked Shocked not so good

The guide did want to finish early, but on at least one of the three days his plans were admirably thwarted by one of my friends, who took a long time fighting with some bushes on a tricky descent ...so we finished around 5.30, as it was getting dark!
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DB wrote:
BobinCH wrote:
horizon, DB, Arlberg guides pricing is confusing. I interpreted as DB did but seems above 4 you pay per skier... I've suggested they clarify this. I've also suggested they clarify what a full day guiding means.


What a rip off ....

1 €250
2 €270
3 €290
4 €310
5 €425
6 €510
7 €595
8 €680

It doesn't make sense because 2 guides for 4 people ( 2 x €310) is cheaper than one guide for 8 (€680). Did you talk to the Guide company or is there a chance that the guide pocketed the difference?


By my maths 4 people is 340 so 2 * 4 is the same as 1 * 8. So not strictly a ripoff but Usually the per skier rate goes down if the private group increases. After all you are doing the work to put the group together. Per skier rate is fine for me if you are joi I g a mixed group/organised holiday.

Additionally, on the first afternoon having got his agreement to take us up Valluga I convinced our 3 who hadn't come with guide to join at Valluga 2. So we went from 3 to 6 for one lift and descent. As he had to get back to Innsbruck for 5 pm we only got the one run. For that day he charged the full rate for 6 people ie 510 euros. Possibly defensible based on the description on the website. A fair deal - never... I called Arlberg guides at the tome to check and he said that was the price. Frankly the cost wasn't a big issue (probably 1 round in the Mooserwirt!) but it just left a sour taste...

I accept part of the blame for not having checked in advance but feel they could have done better. As said above, the moral of the story is check price and expectations when you book.
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BobinCH,

Opps! Yes I agree €340 for 4 and a private group should be cheaper.
Looks like for up to 3 they are well priced providing you don't mind finishing at 3pm.
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DB wrote:
BobinCH,

Opps! Yes I agree €340 for 4 and a private group should be cheaper.
Looks like for up to 3 they are well priced providing you don't mind finishing at 3pm.


To be fair, on the second day we went past 3 (finally met up in Sailer Cafe at 4.30pm) although it was pretty clear he didn't want to, "snow will be bad, girls are tired". When we said we'd go alone he said he'd come with us if we wanted him to. Then as we reached the bottom he changed his mind again and said he was going back to Alpe Rauz with the girls. It just seemed that his prime motivation was to get us to finish early. He lived in Innsbruck so I can fully understand why he wanted to leave but that should have been made clear up front to avoid all the awkwardness and strange end of day route suggestions.

But, enough bitching. I'm probably a nightmare client (those who've skied with me know wink). As a guide he was fine and we skied some great stuff. I'm sure Andy Thurner and other Arlberg guides are excellent guides.
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BobinCH,

To us it is our holiday to them it's a job. The ski schools have had a duopoloy in St Anton for so many years now, it's hardly surprizing the customer focus of some of their guides is less than 100%. One thing I like about small setups such as P2P is that they remember your face, remember your ski level, allocate you into the most suitable group, chat to you and throw in a lot of humour rather than just lead you into the backcountry and watch the clock.
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Timmaah wrote:
100€ to join a group, 700€ for your own private guide.
(Re Piste to Powder)
This can't be right for the private group (but it isn't on the website). 2 years ago it was a bit less than the cost for 5 singles (so equivalent of a bit under €500 now). But even then they were well over €400.
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Quote:

I'm probably a nightmare client


He was probably not expecting you to be able to ski. They get a lot of people who cannot ski very well. I suspect some of them get slightly used to dealing with several days of turn, turn splat, stop, hot chocolate, can we do the Valluga now?. If I'm closer to the upper end of the kind of client they see, then some of the others must really suck donkey balls.

On that note, I was slightly surprised by how un-gnar the back of the Valluga is. Nice run, don't get me wrong but it is about three exposed turns and then a long traverse to meadow skipping pow.

Regarding P2P, they quoted me 400EUR for the first 1-2 people and the 50 a head for each additional person - so 600 a day for 6. As I didn't end up using them I don't know how good they are. I got the impression that the pricing structure in the Arlberg is there to drive people into the groups rather than to encourage people to book privately.
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It will be interesting to see if a bout of competition now that they have opened up the market a bit will actually lead to some keener pricing options, transparency and improved customer service.

I've had some excellent days out with Piste to Powder, it has also been rather "mixed" on occasions. It has been very much down to the quality of the individual guide. Some of whom have been really interested and fun to be with, some less so. Overall good though.
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There are loads of very experienced skibums (black market) who will guide you for a fraction of the price + lunch & beers than any of those quotes wink wink
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snowball, BobinCH, Sorry! Got the prices wrong. Edited original post. It is €400 for 1-2 and the €50 for each extra up to 5. My mistake!
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stanton, How much do you charge?
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