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The  Kuhtai

23 January, 2006

Yesterday, may not have been the deepest, steepest, longest or sunniest powder I have ever skied, but for all-around powdery goodness I think it may have been the best lift-assisted powder day I have ever had.

We only had a morning.  We had to catch a train back to Jena from Innsbruck at 16:46, and the only buses back from the ski hill we wanted to check out were at 13:00 and way too late.  So, knowing we would only have around 3.5 hours we left a cloudy, snowy Innsbruck at 8:00 headed for the Kuhtai at 2020m.

We had skied Axxamer Lizzum on Saturday, and although we found some fine powder the visibility was mostly crap  until the end of the day.  The forecast was better for Sunday, so we had already planned to head to altitude.  We almost bailed on this decision given the low cloud around Innsbruck, and the possibility of skiing longer at a lower, closer resort.

However, we haven't yet seen anything resembling glades in Europe, so weren't optimistic about low altitude skiing despite the freshies that had been falling all weekend.  They tend to groom everything, so the only places with enough space to find untouched snow are above treeline.

Cloud all the way up.  Longer bus ride than we expected and we pull into Kuhtai just after 9am.  No idea what to expect.  Cold getting off the bus.  No wind though.  No sign of anyone skiing anywhere.  Open powder slopes everywhere but disappearing into the clouds.  No lifts running.  A flash of worry.  Whatever, we trudge over to the ticket booth with some 10 other skiers from the bus.  There are half-day tickets good until 12:30 available for 16 Euros.  Perfect.  Two please.

I notice a lift has started.  After some time I see two people on one chair.  A T-bar also going now, but with no one on it.  The chair where we are standing starts up.  It goes to the top at around 2500m (ok, not the biggest vertical, but when it's all pow who cares?), we get on.

Pretty cloudy, and still not one skier in sight.  Eventually we spot two skiers ripping down a groomer.  Everything else is totally untracked.  We get off.  Foggier than we thought.  Sadly we can't really see enough to ski the pow, so we head lower.  Some forays off piste are very promising, very light unconsolidated fluff to just below the knee on a firm base.  We find some outstanding turns, but there is still not enough vis.  We cross the valley.  Much better.  Ok vis, all untracked, no one in sight.  We ski some fine turns down to an empty T-bar, not even a liftee.  We load ourselves, and head up.  Roughly one in twenty T's is in use.  Of the ten people working this lift, only five appear to be farming pow.  We assess the competition.  Weak.

We start right beside the T, all the way down.  Untracked, knee deep.  Sweet.  Still no one here.  Up again.  Move skier's right; farm down.   Vis steadily improves and we can see other skiers on other lifts, all skiing groomers.  Still no one comes.  Three and half hours later we start to occasionally cross tracks… our own, but only near either the top or the bottom, where we have on one run or another been indecisive about which section of pow to take! 

Every run, we are howling with laughter at our fortune.  It's just too good.

Our tickets expire at 12:30 (you have to punch them into an automated turnstile, so there's no cheating… and we need that Bus at 13:00).  Our last ride up is at 12:29.   On the last run down we finally stop to take some videos and photos.  A photo is below.   The video is here.  Seriously folks, these were taken around 12:40 on a Sunday, not 50m from a lift!  Almost every track is ours.


Kuhtai powder  tracks

Euros don't ski pow...

Last updated by Hugh Thompson 23 February 2006 all rights reserved