It has been a while. Summer was long. After a lot of ups and downs at the end of last season I was already eager to see my Tirol friends and shred some snow. But with the leaves starting to turn gold it was time again to get on the road and winter season 2018/19 started. It was time for our annual migration to Kaunertal. In it´s 33. incarnation this year there was a lot of new stuff like a whole new snowpark! Also could I still ride park 😛 ?
It was a Thursday. I was just getting started driving all the way from Maribor to Innsbruck. After moving back to the capitol of Styria my Tirol commute has gained an hour, but being used to it, not to bad. Having six hours for yourself in the car is epic for retrospective. I love it and it made me even more hyped.
Last season left me with quite a after taste and I learned that unfortunately even in mountain culture, not everyone is genuine. A hard lesson for me. At times at the end of last season thinking of these things had me quite dishearted. I was also a bit angry about ignoring all the red flags my friends pointed out and underestimated how much some people take and how little they will give back.
But fortunately for me in Tirol all is still cool, even thou I had neglected my locals a bit over the last two seasons. I decided to get back at it and do more adventures here again. For once I even managed to get opening planing on the road a month early.
As I was driving I remembered all the fun adventures we had in Kunertal in almost a decade of fun in this diamond of the alps. That is also the main reason why KTO is my favourite opening. There is just no other event that chill. With the climate change and the receding of the glaciers, evidence of climate change can be seen here maybe more then on the local hill next to your home town.
The funpark here used to be on the glacier next to the old schlep lift. The problem with that location was manly logistical. For the opening the amount of riders used to clog up the lift and you waited far to long. Also as it was on a glacier it was forbidden to make artificial snow. With a very warm October and only one snowfall two weeks earlier that would not have provided good conditions.
But the people of Kauenrtals Lifts were way ahead of usin their foresight. In cooperation with BlueTomato a whole new park would take shape for 18/19 under the Karlsjochbahn. I few days before heading out I got a park plan and boy did it look ambitious. To be honest I had my doubts if the shapers could deliver this kind of a setup in the warm conditions. I was in for a epic surprise :).
As I drove into Innsbruck we had already set up the logistics. My Ferrino tent for the winter had not arrived yet so we would take two regular tents for two people. We were four. Shredqueen and Bavarian Innsbruck local Gäbbs, Lucas the viking from Sweden (no pun intended :P) and from downunder Lee “thearmchairtravaler”. There also would be my all time shred buddy Jernej Smole and tons of Blue Tomato friends from Alen to Babsi. Actually four cars with Maribor nummber plates could be found at the Kauni parking lot 😛 Home represent haha. The fun of KTO is spreading :)!
We had quite the plan. For the two nights we would camp out at a spot I had scouted a season earlier, only this time we would also use one of the fireplaces to make a nice bonfire under the stars. For food I do love my Katadyn Trek”n”eat stuff but since Lucas and Lee know how to cook (unlike myself and Gäbbs :P) we would use my optimal Optimus cooker for a few gourmet dishes and epic breakfast at 2.200 m at the parking lot. I also had all my skimo and climbing gear with me, just in case 😛 Boy did the Wißeespitze look tempting again…
SHRED THOSE RENTALS AND STOP BEING A PUSSY
As we arrived the ski and snowboard test area had already been setup. Sure there were more snowboard then ski brands but with LibTec and Armada thait was all we would needed. I got myself a pair of Armada Edollo 172 for my first run of 18/19 and we took our first look at the park. The Edollo surpirsed me 🙂 Such a responsive stable park shredder. BiG like…
And the park… so many fun obstacles and for once they were not oversized. Everything in the park seemed to cater more to the fun aspect. That got me thinking. Did finally someone take a hint and make a park setup that caters to 90% of us fun seeking park rats. Not just bigger, more spins, more kinks, higher. Fun… put the fun back in funpark. And fun it was.
As for my riding at first I had been sceptical. Did I still have the stamina or know how to do all these fun obstacles. I had claimed a “to do list” from the park plan and boy I wanted to do them all. I started with small tubes and stuff and then preceded to the bigger once. Basic stuff kinda worked and I did not fly on my bum once. This was solid.
I also did a few speed runs on the kicker. First one I got a bit short and landed flat on the nucle. Ah nucle flat pain. Had forgotten how that fells like haha. Jernej definitely did the best of all of us in the park. Gabi managed to do a super smooth down rail that I even managed to capture on image 😛
Second ski I tested was a Armada ARV 96 177. Having owned one of the first of these ARVs way back I really never felt confident on them. And that has not changed in 18/19. Not my kind of toy so I switched back to my trusted Atomic Infamous 171 quickly. As we shredded those laps I thought that over the three days I would not last. Fortunately all the enduro biking over the summer made my legs a lot stronger so I was able to survive three park days, even thou my core was a bit weak #wheredmysixpackgo haha.
I also had not been on trampolines for a while and Kaunertal has even that covered. Next to the Karlsjoch bahn cable car there is a big tramp setup where even us old timers can show the kiddies how a proper cork looks like. I had to try it and I still rip tramp, but damn it is exhausting at altitude. As we were riding and even teaching a few friends snowboarding I saw a cool motto on a shirt. “Stop being a pussy”. I think I might make this the motto of 2018/19.
SLEEPING UNDER THE STARS
In Kaunertal we always manage to do something new and this time we decided to camp out for both of the two days and basicaly for the first time skip the hardcore parties. We found an epic spot not to far down from the top next to a climbing site and a Via Ferrata. We also had access to a fireplace and pristine glacial fresh water.
We also had super gourmet food. As we started cooking the Optimus overdrive fire option was epic for heating food and water up quickly. We were at around 1.800 m and the temperatures would be around 6 degrees for the night. In reality the first night it actually fell to around 0 and froze the cars windows, but on day two it was around 10. Quite the temperature range. A western warm Föhn wind had us a bit intrigued. On day one the temps were a lot lower, but on day two it felt a lot colder than it was.
Lucas started of with his swedish skills and quickly made a bonfire while we setup the tents. As we were preparing night fell and the stars came out. wow. I had forgotten how epic the night sky is. You could see the milky way, Mars, Saturn the northern star etc. We were laying there as Lee was playing her guitar and chilling. It was pure bliss. There was no crap, no drama, everything was so easy and nice. I thought back and remembered that that was what a lot of last season was missing. I hope there will be more of that this time around and with this kind of start it definitely will be.
CLIMBING TIME OR HOW TO TEST YOUR 40 EUR VIA FERRATA SET
But our action did not end at the #naturerun of the snowpark. Since we were crashing next to a Via Ferrata and I had just gotten a cheap Ferrata Set for 40 bucks I decided to try it out. Gabi was game so we climbed up yet another side of a waterfall.
Ferratas are fun but being a climber I still find them kinda odd. You have this cable everywhere and do not look where you go in the same way I do while really climbing. It seems to be quite popular in Tirol too, a lot more then back home in Slovenia. I Put on my La Sportiva Nepals and took it in as training for sketchier Skimo traverses routes.
The route itself was rated B which is like a cakewalk but the views of the falling water and the glaciers in the background hold something magical. I got a little sentimental and thought for how long one will even be able to see these in the future. A decade max I recon.
COLD WATER IS NOT FOR PUSSIES
Before we left Kauenrtal for good there was one more thing that has become a tradition of mine every year we come here. As my ride back home takes a good 7+ hours, after 3 days of non stop park shred, party and camping out it is good to get a reboot.
And what better way to do this then to throw your drained body into a cold glacial lake. Last year I had to do it alone as my ex-adventure buddy Jan was to much of a pussy, but this year I had no need to try convincing the crew. We were all game from the get go :). I think I might make this my ultimate friend test. Would save me a lot of heartache. As we were running shouting into the ice cold water we attracted quite a crowd with our stunt again and got a lot of praise and applause :).
Going on snow for the first time is always special and Kaunertal always delivers a little escape and tease of the winter to come. We cherish the adventures here and the magic of this event and the whole valley always brings us back. Fun, friendship, skiing, snowboarding and mountains is what we live for and what makes our journey to this places worthwhile. It makes us feel BLISS. Let´s hope the rest of 2018/19 gives us more of that ! The plans are big, and we will make them reality 🙂
Next up I will share a few bike experiences with you and then bring you guys up to speed with the first two adventures of my latest project #betweentwoworlds.