#Mayvember – Thoughts at the end of the season

Every year the same?

As every year, it was confirmed again this year that there are tremendously good conditions towards the end of the winter season. Whether now the number of my active years in powder snow sports are statistically significant, I dare to doubt. My photo archive over the last 10 years speaks a clear language. At the end of April, beginning of May, there were always powdershots and extremely positive memories associated with them. In times of Facebook, you are also reminded of this diligently.

Winter 16/17 was by and large only so-so, not bad, but just a bit lean. Up to and including Easter, there were actually only really fat days in the first half of January – the rest of the time we were just bobbing along – here sometimes 10cm, here sometimes 20cm, quite nice, but never really productive new snowfalls.

Winter strikes back!

And then came the week after Easter. New snow amounts beyond 1.5m at the Arlberg, in addition manageable strong to partly very low wind influence and the still existing snow cover from the winter led to the best days of this season. And like every year – few people at this time. Chilled freeriding from nine to four with some first lines for which you would have to sprint at 08:30 in high winter. That’s how you imagine it! Despite the green meadows in Innsbruck, the bike and the climbing shoes are allowed to stay in the basement. By the way – the ski pass prices in the last week of the season are also significantly lower in Arlberg than the rest of the winter, so mark this time in your calendar.

Snow horniness vs. snow depth – exceptions prove the rule?

The inverse correlation of snow depth and snow horniness of all freeriders is thus confirmed once again? Not quite! There was one serious outlier and that was the weekend around the first of May. Driven by further forecasts of fresh snow and the powder shots of the past few days in the social media, an avalanche of snow lovers with wide skis rolled into the Alps once again. The chain of circumstances – long weekend, sunshine, LOTS of fresh snow and the fact that this winter probably many have not yet quite gotten their money’s worth, led to an absolutely exceptional situation in the glacier ski areas.

Beyond Good and Evil – Lived Madness…

…or: on such days you can get out of the habit of leading, as a mountain guide colleague aptly put it. Traffic jam into the Stubaital, traffic jam at the gondola, every centimeter of 25 degree terrain up to 5m cliffs within one and a half hours, plus 6(!) avalanche operations on the Stubai Glacier alone. Hundreds of people were in the field without backpacks. Commonly known rules such as relief distances or consideration for others were skillfully ignored. An assessment of the conditions and terrain simply did not take place. Of course, as always, this does not apply to all, but only describes the general picture which showed itself this weekend in several ski resorts. Despite a considerable avalanche warning level, it was not an overly delicate day per se, only the extremely dominant human factor led to what was in the end a very tense situation.

Educational work failed?

On days like this, you ask yourself: What’s actually going on? What’s going on in people’s minds. Is it due to a lack of knowledge? Is it because of ignorance, or because white powder is a drug that dulls the senses in large quantities? Is it because the avalanche topic is simply faded out in green meadows in the valley? Is it up to us as mountain guides? Has our painstaking educational work failed? What can we do besides raising awareness of risk issues in courses and on tours?

Role model functions?

Two days later, everything was quiet again. Although half a meter of fresh snow came again, but the cross-country skiers with the wide slats could be counted on two hands. So was it all just an exception? No! A closer look at this quiet day showed that this was not the case. As I said, the freeriders, of whom I assume that they have already dealt with the subject of avalanches in their career, were only a small percentage of all those who drew their turns in the free ski area. By far the greater part of them were classic ski tourists who were following some tracks – without any emergency equipment! More interesting, however, were those who often made the first tracks: people in local ski instructor uniform without backpack … Because they knew (not?) what they are doing…

High mountains with ski – best time – now!

Well, that’s enough thinking now. The fact is that the ski touring conditions in the high mountains now become/are really good. So have fun with your tours, summits, traverses, steep face descents and ‘e-bike and ski’ adventures.