Zauchensee is a real gem for Freeriders
When there is fresh snow, Bernhard Winter will be first on the lift in Zauchensee, the highest ski region in Salzburger Sportworld, that has 75km of pistes ranging from 1350 to 2188 m above sea level. The 32-year old sports fan, who made his pocket money as a student mainly by being a ski and snowboard instructor, doesn’t admire the beautifully prepared pistes but the untouched powder descents that make his heart beat faster. „Zauchensee is far and away the best area out there for freeriders “, he says.
The World Cup resort with its challenging slopes are not just for powder addicts like Bernhard Winter with lots of experience, but offers something for powder virgins too. There are a wide range of powder fields a short hop off the piste or running between two pistes that let beginner freeriders dip their toe in, make a few turns then escape back to familiar groomed runs. And for those looking for adventure on a marked track, there are several ungroomed ski routes to choose from.
However: „You must always read the snow - even marked trails carry a risk factor“, warns Bernhard Winter, who, experienced as he is was caught in an avalanche 5 years ago, when he tried to cross to a better descent. Suddenly the snow beneath him broke away and a wave of snow carried him towards the valley. Luckily his ski friends were able to locate him and free him in time. „That sort of experience breeds respect! “, he says. The still passionate freerider cannot stress enough how important it is to always go out in company, with a shovel, probe, and a pieps tracker that you know how to use as well as your mobile. „And when you are new to a freeride area it is highly recommended to take a guide, who understands the risks and landscape of the area. “, recommends Bernhard Winter. Don’t forget to check the avalanche situation before you set off.
And then the fun can begin. Either side of the Tauernkar lift, where an open area followed by forest requires brave, precise skiing through the pines. Or swing in from the top of the „Gamskogel 2“ and enter the bowl. There are no trees because it is so steep but as it is a well used track, the base is secure and compact, a real thrill ride. „Both routes need a competant ski style, as if you fall you can slide a long way down. “, says Bernhard Winter.
The daredevils love the Schwarzwand with its dips, mounds, log piles and cliff jumps. The eastern route guarantees adrenaline rushes – from small drops to 7-m jumps, everything is there. „In this area, there is a special run, accessible with a short walk up through the forest“, confides Bernhard Winter. „There you find yourself at the start of the run with a 12 metre cliff jump into deep snow.“That is true freedom for Bernhard Winter, who knows when and where to take the risk.
The two ski schools in the hotel village of Zauchensee offer powder tours with training in avalanche awareness. This hotel village, which offers skiers skiing straight from the door after a good breakfast buffet and is the ideal location for winter sport fans – and for relaxation after a challenging adventure in the snow. Those looking for culture and tradition or want to cruise through a town full of family run shops for souveniers, should plan a trip down to the nearby market town of Altenmarkt, which has one of the most beautiful town centres in Austria.
By the way: A week in a 4-star Hotel in Zauchensee including a 6-day skipass can cost as little as 825 Euro per person sharing a double room with half-board. The liftpass is valid for the complete Ski amadé region, Austria’s largest ski cooperative with 760 km of pistes and 270 lifts.
Altenmarkt-Zauchensee Tourist Board, Sportplatzstr. 6, A-5541 Altenmarkt-Zauchensee, Salzburgerland,