FUN ON THE SLOPES DURING THE MOST BEAUTIFUL TIME OF THE YEAR.
Author: Bernd Tschiltsch,
sports scientist and chief editor of sportINSIDER
For some lucky ski enthusiasts, the Easter Bunny leaves a brand-new pair of skis or a snowboard in their Easter basket. Although that is actually not a bad idea at all – Sports shops have some of their best deals around Easter and springtime also happens to be one of the best times of the year to hit the slopes!
Even as a sports student in the 80s, when Prof. Hans Zehetmayer* sent us up the Kitzsteinhorn in the frosty month of February, I was always extremely cold, despite my Angora underwear**. At 3000 meters above sea level, it tended to be a bit "nippy". In the absence of Angora gloves and socks, and with Goretex® nowhere to be seen - frozen fingers and toes were the norm rather than the exception. Grit your chattering teeth and get on with it, that was the spirit.
As the years went on and working as a ski and snowboard instructor in Saalbach-Hinterglemm, the days I took students to the slopes at temperatures well below zero, were days I’m glad are behind me. The cold wind and heavy snow froze my nose and numbed my cheeks - bbrrr! But one thing struck me even then: The Dutch didn’t seem to mind at all ... hmm, are we Austrians a little spoiled in this respect?
Snow and sunshine: the best combination ever! Something the typical Dutch winter tourist might not even immediately associate with a winter holiday, as they usually comes to Austria during the Christmas holidays or in February. Although that’s not a bad thing at all, I couldn’t imagine an empty ski resort over Christmas! The advantages of late-spring fun on the slopes are clear: ‘Bluebird’ skies, the perfectly groomed slopes freeze overnight offering perfect edge grip early in the morning and soften up as the day goes on. Nothing stands in the way of perfect spring conditions. The wonderful texture of the ‘firn’ corn snow reminds us of a crunchy, grippy ball bearings on which the skis or board glide down smoothly.
Spring skiing is of course also very popular with children and youngsters, making snowsports the perfect family activity at this time of year. It’s a common sight, a helpless skier, young or old, trembling on the edge of a cold piste and refusing to make any further turns. Too quickly they find themselves back in the hotel room, in the ski hut with cocoa and cake, or, as a day tripper, already homeward bound. In April or May everything becomes more bearable. At lunch we are already sitting in T-shirts on the sun terrace of the hut! The sun chairs are lined up in a very tempting fashion, and it’s easy to then splash out on a beer or glass of prosecco after all, while the children treat themselves to an Almdudler through a straw! Some days the snow is a bit heavy later in the afternoon, that is to be expected, but there are many other ways to pass the time until sunset, the sun terrace is just one of them. Maybe we could swap après ski for something a little more sporty?
Spot of afternoon exercise after a morning on the hill? Down into the valley, on your bike or tie up your running shoes. Hiking is another great option. Or, if there is still enough snow in the valley, maybe a snowshoe hike or a round of cross-country skiing on the trails, which are often perfectly groomed until very late season. Those of you who still want to get involved, try some ski areas which are still open below the glaciers, for example, in Obertauern and Ischgl, most of the ski lifts are still open until the end of April. If you want to enjoy the wonderful conditions in May, you can even do so in the higher glacier ski areas as well, even well into June and July.
Table: Ski resorts open in late spring
Obertauern (Sbg.) until 1.5.22
Ischgl (T) until 1.5.22
Dachstein Glacier (Styria) until 1.5.22
Sölden (T) until 8.5.22
Mölltal Glacier (K) until 8.5.22
Pitztal Glacier (T) until 8.5.22
Kitzsteinhorn (Sbg.) until 19.7.22
Kaunertal Glacier (T), Stubai Glacier (T), until 5.6.22
Hintertux Glacier (T): open all year round
*Prof. Hans Zehetmayer (1927-2016) was an ingenious skiing educator who is considered by experts to be the originator/inventor of the carving ski.
**For the younger ones among you: In the old days, they used to make ski underwear from the wool of the angora rabbit