The current time of travel restrictions and lockdowns is really a huge challenge for any outdoor fan. Of course, we look forward to the return of freedom. Since it is difficult to foresee an end, we still try to occupy ourselves as far as possible. No long trips, not even a detour to the Dolomites, which we love so much, is possible this year without major complications. So we make the best of it and look for goals at home. Benni Purner is always there when it comes to exciting journeys of discovery into new worlds.
Living in a ski paradise
Since the first large snowfall in December, the snow conditions in the mountains of Tyrol have been perfect for activities on skis: a long cold spell brings a stable avalanche situation and perfect powder snow until the beginning of January. Every time I drove from Innsbruck across the Inn valley towards my new home in the Ötztal, the northern foothills of the Sellrainer mountains stabbed me in the face. From the Pirchkogel in the west, over the Rietzer Grießkogel to the Rosskogel in the east, a monstrous-looking mountain range with impressive north flanks rises above the Inn Valley. There is an altitude difference of over 2000 meters between the peaks and the valley. There must also be opportunities to ski from the top down to the valley, I thought to myself.
A question of timing
It’s all a matter of timing. The conditions have to be exactly right in order to find a safe line for the entrance on the more than 40 degrees steep north flanks. At the same time, the white splendor has to reach all the way down into the Inn valley, but this is rarely seen. Finding the right combination is almost impossible. But now the time has come – the time has come for a try.
Preparing the perfect run
Benni and I meet at my home at the Liberty Ranch, because our starting point is the nearby Kühtai. My wife Vroni takes us there and we start a new adventure with our skins and without the help of any ski lifts. We studied the topography of the departure line in the maps and satellite images, but where exactly we would get out below was unclear. We agreed to talk to Vroni on the phone when we knew exactly where we were going to get to the valley.
Perfect powder and clear views
On an extremely cold 11th January 2021, we start from Kühtai up to the “Hochalter” in order to get from its summit over the northern flank to the Obere Zirmbachalm – a test of the conditions and a warm-up for the actual descent. The very first descent already offers the most ingenious powder and, above all, very stable conditions on the north side. We are relieved and know that our project has a good chance of success. From the upper Zirmbachalm it goes up to the “Rietzer Grießkogel” and from its summit we can already see the villages and towns of the Inn valley. You’d think you can look into the windows of the houses and watch people reading the newspaper, that’s how clear the view is directly from the summit over the 2200 meters down to the valley.
Producing new memories and bringing back old ones
We fix our entrance line and start off. In the dreamy powder snow it goes downhill meter after meter, the houses in the valley are always in view. Focused, we pass our reference points on the map and find a way to Rietz in the Inn Valley. There Vroni picks us up at the Antoniuskapelle, where we got married 14 years ago. “A special place for special occasions,” I think to myself. With a grin on your face, the unforgettable impressions of this “little expedition” and thus strengthened with new energy, you go home again. For us, this is the best way to stay strong and thus defy the current challenges of everyday life.
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