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stubai revisited

24th March 2009 permanent link

The Stubai Glacier, revisited eight years almost to the day after my last trip there, turns out to be much as I remembered it. I can see now, more so than I used to, why some people don’t like the exposed, bleak terrain and the lack of trees and traditional wooden Alpine huts to have lunch in. It was damn cold up there too. You never know in late March. I planned to go the the glacier because snow conditions at lower resorts can be very unreliable and unpredictable late in the season. The last time I was in Stubai at this time of year, the snow up on the glacier was fine but the run down to the valley at 1,750 metres was distinctly soupy. This year March has been cold and there was cold, dry, fresh snow in the valley all the way down to around 1,000 metres; probably most Austrian ski resorts still have decent conditions. Which at least meant that up on the glacier was quiet. We had to make an emergency stop at a ski shop to get one of those neoprene face masks for my son, who was suffering from the icy wind on the highest lifts and runs, but after that we were fine.

Anyway, you don’t go to a glacier for scenery & atmosphere. You go there because nothing has thawed since October. Because, as the landlady in your bed & breakfast explains, every centimetre of snow that falls stays. You go, in other words, for powder. And the powder was great. I didn’t go far off piste on my own, but in Stubai you don’t need to – there’s plenty of great snow right under the lifts and between the pistes where you can get that amazing flying feeling where your snowboard isn’t resting on the snow, but floating through it. Which, as I explained to my wife, is what you bought a snowboard for in the first place. Pistes are just for learning.

I found a nice little game to play with my son, too, to start getting him used to his first off-piste turns: slaloming round the piste edge markers. Just one turn in the deep and/or bumpy stuff isn’t too challenging, then back onto the piste. Turned out to be good training not just for him, but for me too – for example practicing that awkward powder-to-piste transition where I always used to fall over, but don’t so often any more.

Stubai from Munich has the added benefit of being only a fraction over two hours door-to-lift. If you go the direct way over the mountains; if you’re lucky with the traffic and can take advantage of the fact that the A95 from Garmisch-Partenkirchen to Munich is one of the few remaining autobahns where “no speed limit” still actually means you can drive fast.

related entries: Snowboarding

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