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TR: Freeride Experience 2012 - Fieberbrunn (long report - 14 photos)

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
This is a comprehensive report on a course I took part in last weekend, 9th-11th March. I have detailed what we did in depth and hope that may be of interest to some sH's.

Course: Freeride Experience 2012

Aim: Off-piste skiing (included touring)

Length of course: 3 days

Where: Fieberbrunn, Austria

Organiser: Volker Hölzl of PROGRAMAT e.U.
For web site see

Cost: €299
Included hire of touring skis (Völkl Amaruq in my case, others had Scott skis),
rucksack with avalanche search transceiver, shovel and probe
Ski guide to lead group; our guide/instructor was Robert Trixl, S4 Snowsports Fieberbrunn
Any taxi fares during the day (for touring)

Extra costs to be paid: Lift ticket (I already had a season ticket), food and accommodation.

Language: The course was held in German, although the guide and, I think, all the participants also spoke English.

Day 1, Friday:
I had registered myself as a rooky for the course, which reasonably described my off-piste experience. However, it turned out that only 6 skiers had signed on for this weekend, so there was only one group (there had also been a course in Fieberbrunn the previous weekend with four groups).

Our group (near the Wildseeloderhaus)

After a first run it was decided that I could manage along with the group. Of our group one young woman was about my standard, the others were much better skiers in deep snow. However, no mercy was shown, I would say, and I found the weekend very strenuous, testing me to (and beyond) my limits.

On Friday we started with two runs which, though challenging for me, weren't too extreme. Both led to the Zillstattalm, from where we had to skin back up to the Streuböden, the middle station of Fieberbrunn's red gondola. This was the first surprise for me: I hadn't really anticipated that the course would involve considerable ski touring. The second of these runs also involved skinning uphill before the downhill skiing came. We followed the tracks that can be seen on the ridge in the middle of the photo below part way up the Platte (the mountain in the background is the Wildseeloder and I'll explain the cross added to the photo later).

Tracks on the Platte

The descent from the middle of the Platte started reasonably easy and became steeper through trees. Here's the easy bit.

Skiing down from the Platte to the Zillstattalm

After lunch, we went up the Reckmoos Nord gondola and then took the Hochhörndl chairlift up to the entry of the off-piste area, leading round the back of the Henne to the Wildseeloderhaus. The photo below shows the view down to the Wildseeloderhaus. We skied down the right side, the flank of the Henne and continued on the right round the Marokka, that is the face seen on the left in the 'Tracks on the Platte' photo above.

View down to the Wildseeloderhaus (and frozen Wildsee)

We did that a couple of times, the first run leading us back to the middle of the Reckmoos Nord piste, the second bringing us out near the Wildalmen via a steeper slope. After that we returned over to the Lärchfilz area and finished the day by skiing down through the trees there to the path that brings you back to the main car-park.

Day 2, Saturday
Saturday started early. Very. I rose at 0530 and we went up the red gondola at 0700. This was because on Saturday there was also the competition of the Swatch Freeride World Tour, the pros, on the Wildseeloder (you can see clips of the action on the web site). To transport them and the various organisers the lifts ran early. As you can see from the photos, the weather for the competition and for our course was superb for the first two days (it had even snowed on Thursday evening). Up the hill we had breakfast at the Hochhörndler Hütte and then life got serious again.

We started with a "warming up" run that took us from the Hochhörndl lift back round past the Wildseeloderhaus and down to the Wildalmen.

Descent to the Wildalmen from the Wildseeloderhaus

The talk had been that once the official competition of the World Tour was past, we would climb the Wildseeloder and ski down via the run called the Herrgott Rinne (God's Gully). This gets its name from the fact that snow lying in it takes the form of a cross, as I marked on the photo above. The gully is used for the women's competition on the World Tour. This plan filled me with some concern, for I had been on the top of the Wildseeloder in autumn and had seen how steep it looked. The plan did not come to pass. I breathed a sigh of relief - but maybe too soon!

Instead we skinned up from the top of the Reckmoos Nord lift onto the Rabenköpfe. There Robert Trixl led us to a slope that he said was 39°. It was certainly steep. This is the view from the top.

Steep drop on the Rabenköpfe

I managed one or two turns but then fell. This was my mega-fall of the weekend. I became a rolling snowball, getting faster and faster (I was told). Luckily I didn't hit anything (the advantage of having an experienced guide who can choose slopes with minimum dangers) and after probably about 200 metres I stopped, with only a scraped lip to show - I was lucky! It took a while to collect the gear I had scattered around the slope during my descent - skis, goggles, sun specs and one ski pole. I was lucky there too, for we had almost given up one of my skis when the last member of the group down the slope, who was walking rather than skiing (he had strained his thigh on the first run of the day, ironically in a fall on an easy bit of piste), came across the missing ski; only my sun specs remained lost. The photo below shows the view from where I ended up - the start of my slide was about the trees above the three skiers.

Big fall

Gathered together again and back up the Hochhörndl our group split up. Four went off to watch the World Tour competition while one man and I went touring with Robert Trixl. Our route took us first down from the Seenieder, the ridge south of the Wildsee and then we skinned up for almost an hour to the Jufen (Jufenhöhe), the shoulder before the Hoher Mahdstein shown in the photo below.

Jufen with Hoher Mahdstein behind

Being unused to such uphill work, I found it hard going in the sun. However, it turned out to be worthwhile, for the descent through the Hörndlinger Graben was probably what I enjoyed most in the weekend. You can guess which track is mine in the photo below!

The run down from the Jufen

Once we reached the valley floor at the Hörndlinger Grundalm, there was a level stretch, very picturesque, and then a quarter hour climb on foot up to the bottom station of the Reckmoos Süd gondola.

In the Hörndlinger Graben

We returned to the Hörndlinger Hütte for refreshments and waited for the rest of the group to rejoin us. I had my second major disaster of the day there, when I managed to spill hot chocolate all over the back of a woman's jersey Embarassed - that called for a round of Schnapps as compensation.

Once we were together again, we took our now well-known route back to the Wildseeloderhaus but this time then traversed across the face of the Wildseeloder and skied down the lower slopes of the area that had been used earlier in the competition.

The lower slopes of the Wildseeloder

Whether it was the Schnapps or, more likely, just exhaustion after my previous exertions, I fell a couple of times on these slopes that were relatively easy. Robert suggested repeating the circuit but I dropped out (and joined the friend I had staying with me for a few runs on the piste - oh, blessed pistes!). When we eventually skied back down to the bottom of the lifts, meeting the rest of the group on the way, we found the award ceremony for the World Tour in progress.

Swatch Freeride World Tour

Day 3, Sunday
The weather had deteriorated for our final day. It was overcast and the visibility was poor. But we soon found ourselves back up at the top of the Hochhörndl chairlift, ready to go off-piste again. Although for the last day we had been joined by two snowboarders, our group was already smaller because the man who had hurt his thigh the day before had called off. And before we set off properly on the new morning's tour another couple dropped out and returned to the Wildseeloderhaus slopes we already knew.

At the top of the Hochhörndl chairlift

Robert's plan for Sunday was to take us back up to the Jufen, the route we had climbed the day before, but this time down into the Pletzergraben, on the other side of the mountain, to the north. The day did not start well for me. Descending the first slope from the Seenieder I had a slow, twisting fall in crusty snow where the binding did not release properly. At first I thought I had done something really nasty but then found that I could still stand on the right leg without too much bother (now I know that I strained my ankle and twisted my knee a little; however, I could still ski the next two days, though I had to hire boots, for I couldn't squeeze the injured foot into my own boots).

I continued. Luckily we didn't have to skin up quite so far on the Jufen as the day before, probably only a half hour's climb this time (the snowboarders had snowshoes). I was skiing like a beginner, maybe because of the bad visibility or more likely because I was exhausted by the cumulative efforts of the past two days. However, without much style I did manage down into the valley of the Pletzergraben. The final section was down a tractor track where two skis could just fit in a tyre track - I thought it felt like skiing the Cresta run. The run was interesting, dropping under fallen branches and skirting round avalanche debris.

Avalanche debris in the Pletzergraben

Eventually we reached a waiting taxi near the Gasthof Winklmoos (remotely set but recommended to anyone visiting Fieberbrunn). That took us back round to the main lifts and we had lunch at the Gasthof Streuböden. The plan for the afternoon was to do the same tour again. Though it would have been interesting to see whether I could have skied it better second time round, I pulled out. Discretion is the better part of valour! I was exhausted, hurt and I also thought that the others (by this time we were down to just one other of our original group and the two new snowboarders) would enjoy the run better without me holding them back. So I returned to piste skiing with my friend while the others went back to Jufen and Pletzergraben.

General comments
This is really a course (at least as in the group I was in) for skiers with freeride and touring experience and a high general standard of skiing. Maybe if there had been several groups, there would have been one better suited to rookies. The skiing involves serious steeps and deeps. There was more touring (climbing) necessary than I had imagined (though there are indeed considerable lift-served off-piste areas available in Fieberbrunn, which we also skied). For anyone wanting to extend their freeride experience and, in particular, see what Fieberbrunn has to offer, it is excellent (there are also courses at other locations).

The guide (qualified mountain guide and ski instructor) we had, Robert Trixl, was excellent. For our group the instruction as such was restricted to a few tips ("complete your turns to control your speed", "keep the skins flat on the snow", etc.). However, the choice of lines and areas to ski could hardly have been better. And Robert made skiing down the steepest, deepest slopes look like a blue run - it's frustrating!

For me, especially after my last day fall and injury, the course wasn't unadulterated pleasure but it is an experience that I am glad I made. And I'll certainly remember it, no matter how much or how little I stray from the pistes in future Smile
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Excellent report.

Many thanks for sharing.

And don't be discouraged.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Excellent stuff - the road to the BC is a great one Cool but often tough...keep at it.
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 You need to Login to know who's really who.
You need to Login to know who's really who.
Thanks for the encouragement!
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
espri, - great report and some cracking photos - just back from Stubai Tal and now back to the drudgery of the office, reports like this keep me focused and ready for the next trip. Toofy Grin
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 You'll need to Register first of course.
You'll need to Register first of course.
Hi Espri@espri, When traversing from the Hochhorndl lift to seenieder and then jufenhohe did you traverse straight across? or climb the eastern ridge of Wildseeloder and then drop down to Jufenhohe?
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Our route to the Jufen was the same as we had taken on the second day, when we skied down from the Seenieder (I don't remember exactly where) and then skinned up to the ridge at the Jufen. This time we turned right earlier rather than continuing along the ridge and that was the entry to the valley of the Pletzergraben. We didn't climb up the Wildseeloder at all, although another group did ski there the week before (though not, as I had feared, on the the front with the Herrgott Rinne where the free ride pros skied).

I can take this chance to add a couple of postscripts to my report. Skiing down from the Jufen to the Hörndlinger Graben it is now possible, snow permitting, to ski right to the middle station of the (relatively new) TirolS gondola and take that up to the bottom of the Reckmoos Süd lift, rather than having to climb up to that.

And in the following May I had an unexpected visit from Robert Trixl, the instructor on the course. On his mountain bike he had gone back to the slope where I had my big fall and now returned my lost sun specs! That's what I call a service over and above the call of duty!!
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
Thanks espri
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