Pacific Northwest Ski blog (and a few other places!)

Lots or reports from skiing around the Pacific Northwest, with some East Coast excursions thrown in for good measure

Lech am Arlberg, Early March 2014

Context: A somewhat below average snow year, topped up with about 50cm just before we arrive. The remnants of deep pow are everywhere as we arrive at the station at Landeck. And so is the deep blue sky and sun that will dominant for the foreseeable future. Here’s our ski diary:

Day 1: Warth/Schroecken: Sunny, warm and new terrain waiting to be explored. I guess a Friday at the end of a holiday week always meant it was going to be busy, not unbearably, but some lift lines got to the 5-10 minute range. After a long day of traveling and with jet lag, a pleasant cruisey exploration was in order anyway, noting new terrain, aspects, and where might be good on a powder day. This is the snowiest place in Europe after all, so with fingers tightly crossed, this information might be put to good use someday.  There’s certainly plenty of fine-looking off piste  should such an occasion occur. 8400m vert.

Day 2: St Anton : Crowds-wise, Saturday always seems a good bet in St Anton. And on the early evidence of the snow on the north-ish facing slopes of Galzig, it was a good skiing bet too. We lapped the Zammermoosbahn many times, thriving on excellent steep black groomed and various lines of bumps and lightly used fresh off Galzig’s various flanks.  Then it was Rendl for lunch, where a cool breeze amazingly kept the higher slopes quite firm despite the blazing sun. The run down was great though, as was the descent from the top of the Schindlergratbahn to our bus back to Zuers. A couple of lifts and delightful slide down the Madloch and we were back at the Laerchenhof (our hotel) for a beer and sauna. Great day. 9500m vert

Day 3: Lech:   A local day, when timing was everything. The higher groomers were primo early, and some tests on Nordhang revealed quality snow on north-facing slopes. By late morning, Sudhang and its steep bumpy descent was lap-able – 3 times in fact. Huge dollops of corn were served up in the afternoon off the Steinmaehler chair – Spring skiing at its best with endless lines to rip. 8800m

Day 4 Lech/Zurs: On a beautiful sunny morning, it’s a no-brainer to head up the gondola from Lech, rip a short run down to the poma lift below, and indulge in the perfect steep groomed of the Langerzug (37) run. It’s scenic, holds good snow, and in the morning you’re guaranteed a fast run out to the village. Soon we were back up the gondola, enjoying an improvised White Ring type day, and even finding some untracked leftover pow off the north-facing edges of the runs in Zuers. Not bad for 5 days after a storm.  10,200m

Day 5 Stuben/Zuers: I’d never traversed from the top of Albonagratbahn II and dropped into the incredible looking terrain that lies beneath the ridge line. Until today. When I did it 3 times. The advantages of Spring skiing and high, north facing slopes is (right now anyway) stability and perfect, mid-winter like snow. A 40 degree pitch at the top levels off a little into superb high-speed off groomed terrain. Just watch the rock bands.  The groomers at Stuben were pretty fine and fast too, and we topped the day off with some sloppy fun off the Seekopfbahn at Zuers before an 8 minute top-to-bottom bump-a-thon down the Madloch to our hotel front door. 8900m

Day 6 Warth/Schroecken:  Much of Warth faces north, and hence is an excellent destination on warm Spring-like days. This was a serious exploration of the area, and the results were excellent.  The 6-pack Salober-Jet an Jaegeralp chairs serve some superb terrain, both on and off piste. The former is ringed by blacks that aren’t terrifying, but hold good snow and are perfect for ripping, In-between and around the edges lies chalky bumps that will keep most people happy all day. The terrain off the Jaegeralp is more serious, including one ski route that held some of the best snow of the week.  With more off-piste runs to the skier’s right of the chair, dropping through a cliff band, this was truly great skiing. Warth might not be the snowiest place in Europe this year (it statistically is), but the skiing is still excellent. Oh to be here on a snowy year ….9100m

Day 7 Zuers/Lech:  A regulation Weisse Ringe with options. We got to the Muggengrat as early as possible, and the first time it was  a dream run down on perfect soft ‘roid, surely good enough to repeat. There can be few more scenic runs anywhere, and when the piste is carvable butter, with a couple of north facing bumps fields as options, it’s a wonderful place to be. 9100m

Day 8 Stuben/Zuers: Back to the Albona. Laps from the top of the lift-served ridge. Traversing into the bowl and shredding  fast fall-line turns on a 40 degrees slope, watching your slough race past you and the feeling the light wind blowing your spray from the previous turn in your face. This is epic skiing and epic terrain, and there’s so much of it in this area. It’s why we come to the Arlberg. 9200m

Day 9 St Anton:  A tad of cloud in the morning, and distinctly cooler. The forecast weather system was starting to announce its imminent arrival. Galzig was yet again the place to be early, with the steep bumps running down the north side skiing beautifully. We did a run down to Nasserein, which (with help from snow guns I suspect), was actually quite deserted and quite fun. Rendl was skiing well apart from a still frozen higher slopes. And then about 2pm the wind arrived. We got to the top of the Galzigbahn, only do discover virtually every other lift was closed. It was time for a bumpy ski down and a bus back to Lech. 8800m

Day 10 Lech/Warth:   About 2 inches of snow-like substance fell over night, and so we headed to Lech to get some carvable mung before it warmed up and turned to less desirable substances. Although the viz was grim high, the early skiing on groomed was fun. Who knows what had happened the night before, but off groomed even the north-facing terrain had turned to heinous icebergs. Suddenly about 2pm, the clouds lifted and the great glue maker in the sky came out. Up high, this created great creamy corn, worthy of 9 minute laps of the deserted Steinmaehler chair.  But down low, progress was sticky. leg-burning slow. Beer was definitely earned by 3.30pm. 9500m

Day 11 Lech/Zuers: A perfect, sunny last day. Headed high and south facing in the morning for more corn gorging. Then up the gondola for lunch and over to Zuers, where the skiing, both on and off-piste around the Hexanboden chair was darn fun. On the other side of the valley, there was even first tracks to be had on the softening breakable crust that yesterday’s weather had deposited. It was surprisingly good fun. Then down the Madloch one more time, where a long traverse brought more untracked crusty fun in the late afternoon sunshine. A really wonderful Spring ski day. 10,000m

11 day total 101,500m vert

Season Totals: 47 days, 389,900m vert

6 powder days

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