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 Betreff des Beitrags: Old School Bavaria Chapter 1
BeitragVerfasst: Sa, 07.02.2015, 10:30 
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Preface

First things first, apologies for the English report. I’ve lived in Germany for 13 years (Berlin 12, currently Aschaffenburg), and while I can speak and read German with no problems, a written report would contain too many mistakes.

I nevertheless want to write a report here, because so much of the research for what follows began with this forum. This is my way of giving back.

Introduction

I grew up in Seattle in the northwest of the United States, mostly skiing at small ski hills instead of the massive, expensive tourist magnets. While I cannot deny that Whistler, Verbier, Chamonix, and St. Anton offer great skiing, so do Red Mountain, Whitewater, Crystal Mountain, and White Pass. And so I began my search for small “Klein aber Fein” mountains in Germany.

My discovery, to large degree aided by this forum, was many of what I call “One Hit Wonders”: single lift, no grooming, great mountain. Because I do not want to let an inflexible definition get in the way of excellent skiing, I have not limited myself to single lift mountains or those with no grooming, but rather a more subjective classification. Some people would call it “Cult”, I just call it a feeling of being away from the masses; a secret stash.

What follows is what I hope is only the first chapter of a long discovery of what Bavaria has to offer.

The Trip

I had spent the previous week in Bad Gastein enjoying great skiing and all the trappings of a modern ski resort. Fast lifts, rocking après, extensive dining options: all this makes for a great week (there are also some “secrets” in the Gasteinertal, but that’s not part of this report).

I also experienced the massive snowstorm of 27 January in Fieberbrunn. An amazing day in bottomless snow, but again not the focus of this report.

On the evening of 27 January I drove the 65 km from Fieberbrunn to Bayrischzell in 3 painful hours thanks to the unrelenting blizzard. What I found in Bayrischzell was a welcoming mountain village full of helpful, friendly people. There is no denying that tourism is key to Bayrischzell’s economy, but the village still maintains a sense of community that has disappeared from so many mountain towns both in the Alps and North America. The chances that any of these people will ever read this report is close to 0%, but I would anyway like to thank the owners of Gästehaus Charlotte, Pension Vogelsang, Gästehaus Kirner, Sport Alm Bar, and Ponyhof Bar. All were welcoming to both me and my traveling partner.

And now to the skiing.

Wednesday 28 January

I had hoped to ski the Wendelstein, but the previous day’s snow meant it was closed for avalanche danger. I instead drove to Rottach-Egern and the Wallberg. While it hosted a World Cup downwhill in 1954, piste preparation ended long ago and the slope is now maintained as a freeride route. With day ski passes not even sold, I get the feeling that skiing is not so much encouraged as it is tolerated, and I saw far more sightseers and sledders than I did other skiers. Nevertheless, by the time I pulled in to the parking lot at 10:00, fresh tracks from the storm had all be claimed by locals getting a run or two in before work. But the cold weather and large dump meant the route was still skiing well, and it is properly steep. I also noticed many tracks in the trees, but being alone this day I stuck to the main route.

Bild
Steep section of main route

Thursday 29 January

My ski buddy arrived from London the night before, and again our intention was to ski the Wendelstein. But of the second straight day, the mountain was closed for avalanche danger so we decided to once again ski the morning on the Wallberg before heading to Oberammergau and the Laber in the afternoon.

The snow on the Wallberg was still chalky at the top thanks to the cold weather, but there are been some thaw / refreeze at the bottom. But since we were now two people we could explore a small open face below the chapel on the peak and some trees below that face. We found great powder in the trees, but without local knowledge stayed away from the less obvious lines in the trees around the gondola line.

The standard route on the Wallberg was great fun and is properly steep. There are some obvious lines in the trees that can be skied without consequence, but it’s clear that locals are skiing countless great lines in the trees with less obvious outlets. This would be a fantastic mountain to get to know better.

Bild
Soft snow in the trees.

I have skied the Laber several times, so this was not an afternoon of discovery but rather one of showing my secret stash to my ski buddy. There was deep snow at the top of the standard route, but being two days after the storm it was tracked out. Traversing far out skier’s right opens up some untracked shots, however. As is always the case, the lower you ski on the standard route the more marginal the snow becomes, and at the bottom it had clearly suffered from a thaw / refreeze cycle. But the snow at the top made it clearly worthwhile.

The real treat was the Soilasee route off the backside of the ridge. The entrance we chose was rather hairy requiring a few tight jump-turns, and falling would have meant hitting some rocks barely hidden under the snow. The payoff was deep, largely untracked snow that for me was the highlight of the trip. I had skied the Laber twice before a nice family I met over lunch in the Berggaststätte introduced me to the Soilasee route, and I am still thankful for their kindness. The long, flat ski out of the route can be tedious, but the fresh powder was very much worth it.

We did not ski the very steep, narrow chutes under the gondola line. Will save that for another day (or more likely not).

The top of the Laber standard route is possibly slightly steeper than the Wallberg, but Wallberg’s steepness is sustained for longer. The Soilasee route is a dream, but after that there are not many lines I will ever ski on the mountain. It however remains my favorite little secret.

Bild
Deep snow on the Soilasee route.

Friday 30 January

We had stayed the night in Garmisch, and our intention was to ski the Dammkar in Mittenwald. It was however still closed for avalanche danger, so we headed to Lermoos across the border for a nice day of tree skiing. It was great, but not really in line with the theme of this report.

Saturday 31 January

The Dammkar finally opened and we along with seemingly every powder pig in Munich descended on the Karwendelbahn. I had skied here two times previously, and have never seen even 10% of the number of people who were waiting outside the tram station 30 minutes before the first departure. It was impossible to get on the first lift if you also had to buy a day ticket, so it was the second tram for us and therefore no fresh tracks without some traversing. But the mountain is just so big that fresh tracks all day were still possible.

The snow was not as deep as I had expected and had clearly been quite severely wind-affected, but it still skied well, and the big mountain environment is much different from the other mountains we skied on this trip. The Dammkar is a special run and will always be worth a visit, but without touring skis and a serious climb there is not much variety. I have also noticed the price increase dramatically along with the renovated tram and new viewing platform.

Bild
Big mountain environment.

Sunday 1 February

After two weeks of skiing I allowed myself to enjoy a few more beers than usual as well as the company of some friendly locals Saturday night back in Bayrischzell. So our heads (and by this time our legs) were a little sore heading up in the first tram from Osterhofen to the Wendelstein.

The Wendelstein is a big, rocky, scary mountain. We decided very quickly that caution was needed (particularly after my skiing partner found himself standing on top of a cliff when we were expecting a gentle rollover). Judging by all the tracks we saw there are undoubtedly numerous interesting routes, but a local to guide us around would absolutely be needed. The snow was fine but had clearly suffered somewhat in the sunshine and was in many places quite thin. What looked like nice powder fields from afar often turned out to be sun-crusted. No wonder the avalanche danger had been so acute. The Ostabfahrt was a giant mogul run, but must be amazing in fresh snow.

Of the mountains we visited, the Wendelstein is clearly the most varied, and if I had to pick one to ski for a year it would be the obvious choice.

Bild
A unique mountain.

Conclusion

Again thanks largely to this forum, this report represents a beginning of my discovery of what Bavaria has to offer. Conclusion is the wrong word here, as there are more mountains to try and those mentioned above are all worth repeat visits. Also on my radar are: Hochgrat, Hochfelln, Herzogstand, Kampenwand, and Bolsterland/Hörnerbahn. Any tips on those or other suggestions are greatly appreciated. So many mountains, so little time …

In my opinion, Germany cannot compete with Austria for mass-tourism and weekly tour packages. We simply do not have the mountains and the infrastructure for that. What we do have is great historic mountains with character. Piste bashers and modern lifts cost money, and continue to cost money even in years of thin snow cover (like last year and increasingly often with global climate change and the relative low altitude of Germany’s mountains). The decision of these mountains to cease grooming is encouraging to me for selfish reasons, and I hope this is increasing the trend in Germany. Maybe for the future survival of these mountains, a cooperation would be wise: let’s call it the Bavarian Freeride Mountain Alliance. Could these small resorts band together to offer a season pass? I would buy it. Could they pool resources to market themselves to people interested in a unique ski experience that differs from the mass tourism of the Austrian ski industry? It might work. Am I spouting American nonsense, out of touch with local conditions and history? Probably. I just hope these mountains survive, and that I get to explore them before they become financially unviable.

I hope this is not the final chapter, and more reports of great Bavarian mountains will follow. Let is snow.


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 Betreff des Beitrags: Re: Old School Bavaria Chapter 1
BeitragVerfasst: Do, 26.02.2015, 9:36 
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Registriert: Di, 07.06.2011, 13:19
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Thanx for your interesting report of an "outsider" :-).
You can call me an outsider too, as I'm from Ruhrgebiet. When we stayed in Sachsenkam near Bad Tölz some years ago I would have loved to ski Wallberg or Wendelstein, but snow condition were to bad at Wallberg and Wendelstein was not open.
I could recommend you the Taubestein section of Spitzingsee resort as an "Old School Bavaria" experience. Maybe not so much freeride, but very old school. A report about the trip you can find here:
http://alpinforum.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=45&t=38594


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 Betreff des Beitrags: Re: Old School Bavaria Chapter 1
BeitragVerfasst: Fr, 27.02.2015, 14:04 
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Registriert: Mo, 07.11.2005, 8:22
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Thanks for the trip report. I really enjoyed reading.

I'm not sure if Bolsterlang/Hörnerbahn is exactly what you are looking for. The infrastructure is pretty modern with an 8-person gondola and a six-seater chairlift. Also, the main slopes are nearly 100% equipped with artificial snowmaking. If the snow conditions are good, the Skiroute Märchenwiese could be fun. I've only had the opportunity to ski it once when it was not officially open due to lack of snow. Also, you can use touring skis to climb the Riedberger Horn - an easy 1 hr hike from the top station of the Hörnerbahn. We did that some weeks ago and it was really nice. But when it comes to freeride or powder skiing, the ski area itself can't compete with the ones you've described in your report.

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 Betreff des Beitrags: Re: Old School Bavaria Chapter 1
BeitragVerfasst: Mo, 02.03.2015, 20:50 
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Thanks hook, k2k. I was starting to wonder if anybody was interested.

I had a great two days at Hochgrat a week ago. Once I've sorted the photos I'll post a Chapter 2. Last weekend was Langlauf in the Rhön: also good.

I was actually thinking about going to Bolsterlang next weekend if this week is as snowy as is forecast. I like modern lifts just as much as anybody else as long as the skiing is good, but will look at other options too. Is there anything interesting at Tegelberg? Or is it just the one piste with no variants?

Allgäu is a shorter drive than Oberbayern, so likely will head in that direction.#

Cheers


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 Betreff des Beitrags: Re: Old School Bavaria Chapter 1
BeitragVerfasst: Di, 03.03.2015, 20:36 
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First of all also from my side, thank you for this report.

k2k hat geschrieben:
I'm not sure if Bolsterlang/Hörnerbahn is exactly what you are looking for. The infrastructure is pretty modern with an 8-person gondola and a six-seater chairlift. Also, the main slopes are nearly 100% equipped with artificial snowmaking. If the snow conditions are good, the Skiroute Märchenwiese could be fun. I've only had the opportunity to ski it once when it was not officially open due to lack of snow. Also, you can use touring skis to climb the Riedberger Horn - an easy 1 hr hike from the top station of the Hörnerbahn. We did that some weeks ago and it was really nice. But when it comes to freeride or powder skiing, the ski area itself can't compete with the ones you've described in your report.

Bolsterlang indeed is not a classic freeride domain where you will head towards on big bluebird days after a dump.
And on weekends with good weather slopes can become crowded (because of the modern infrastructure).
But it's well known by locals for it's nice tree skiing opportunities (as long as you know where you have to go), and therefore a great location on days with "bad" weather (where "bad" means, intense snowfall and bad visibilty).
So if you like (deep)powder skiing between trees, Bolsterlang is definetly worth a trip on whiteout days...

You can find some pictures of Bolsterlang from one of those powder days (27.01.2015) (and some more pictures of my skiing season, e.g. at the Hochgrat) in the following facebook album:

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.823492087671064.1073741827.100000308402968&type=1&l=a1cbe30a1d

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(Freiburgs Abwehrspieler Boubacar Diarra aus Mali über seine ersten Erfahrungen mit Schnee)


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 Betreff des Beitrags: Re: Old School Bavaria Chapter 1
BeitragVerfasst: Mo, 06.04.2015, 15:15 
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Thanks for all the feedback. My ski season wrapped up yesterday (in Kleinwalsertal), so I've written a Chapter 2 with Hochgrat, Wendelstein (again), and Sudelfeld. I hope next winter is as good as this one has been.

reportagen-f8/old-school-bavaria-chapter-2-t3277.html


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 Betreff des Beitrags: Re: Old School Bavaria Chapter 1
BeitragVerfasst: Mi, 22.04.2015, 12:57 
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Registriert: Di, 07.06.2011, 13:19
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hook hat geschrieben:
...
I could recommend you the Taubestein section of Spitzingsee resort as an "Old School Bavaria" experience. Maybe not so much freeride, but very old school...

Taubenstein went LSAP end of this season - too sad. Gondola lift will be operating in the summer season though.
Link


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 Betreff des Beitrags: Re: Old School Bavaria Chapter 1
BeitragVerfasst: Sa, 25.04.2015, 11:57 
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Ah crap. I meant to go there for a day this winter, but some locals talked me in to going to Sudelfeld instead. I was looking forward to trying it next winter.

I don't know the lay of the land, but would it make sense to keep running the gondola during the winter and not the T-bars? If they didn't groom it could you ski laps off the gondola? Basically operate it like the Laberbahn? Or at least run it during the holidays in the winter, like the Wankbahn?

And a side note, what is the deal with tourers skinning right up pistes? In America the whole point of touring is to get away from ski resorts, but in Germany I see more people skinning up then skiing down. I don't understand it.


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 Betreff des Beitrags: Re: Old School Bavaria Chapter 1
BeitragVerfasst: Mi, 06.05.2015, 9:13 
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Ami in Berlin hat geschrieben:
I don't know the lay of the land, but would it make sense to keep running the gondola during the winter and not the T-bars? If they didn't groom it could you ski laps off the gondola? Basically operate it like the Laberbahn? Or at least run it during the holidays in the winter, like the Wankbahn?

In the last seasons Taubenstein was open only on weekends and in Xmas and Fasching holidays. Despite this "savings program" Taubenstein still was a deficit area. According to rumors I heard (on alpinform mainly) the gondola is the problem. A lot personal is needed to operate it.
Also there are two owners at Taubenstein: Gondola, Lochgrabenlift and Rauhkopflift are operated by Alpenbahnen Spitzingsee (that also own more than half of the other side of Spitzing - Stümpfling, Sutten, Roßkopf, I think Valepper Alm Lift). The other two T-bars at Taubenstein are operated by Obere Maxlraineralm (OMA), a family driven company ("Familienunternehmen"). Now Alpenbahnen cut off OMA from the rest of the ski area. Access to OMA T-bars is not possible without Gondola. I you like to go further into details, read threads over at Alpinforum regarding Spitzing, Taubenstein etc.
Here is a swan song from user "Taubenstein" (sic!) over at Alpinforum:
R.I.P. Taubenstein - Mein Hausberg - 14/15


Ami in Berlin hat geschrieben:
And a side note, what is the deal with tourers skinning right up pistes? In America the whole point of touring is to get away from ski resorts, but in Germany I see more people skinning up then skiing down. I don't understand it.

This is another (sometimes conflicting) discussion,
e.g. here
and over at Alpinforum. Touring ski becomes more and more fashionable. But (a big part of that) people fear avalanches and/or aren't good skiers.
I observed a lot of locals skinning up after work in the afternoon for fitness reasons I would imagine: Jogging is difficult in the winter. And skinning up offers a reward: A downhill run. That is better done on a groomed slope when it's getting dark already...


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