Hintertux: Like inversion?
The Ski Club’s Online Content Editor Chris Taine visits Hintertux Glacier, deep in the Austrian Alps, to discover sunshine (and powder) at 3000m.
Like inversion? Get it? Meteorological puns based on a three decade old Madonna song? Err, sorry. Let’s try and move on, shall we.
Skiing in pea soup – fog so thick you can barely see your own mittens – will dampen the spirits of even the most relentlessly enthusiastic skier. So there’s not much better than preparing for the worst, only to bust through the cloud into blazing sunshine and deep blue skies. Looking out across the top of the cloud, cloaking the valleys like a woolly grey carpet, you know it’s a good day to be at 3000m above sea level. If you score some fresh powder as well, that’s a bonus.
Hintertux glacier lies at the very end of the Zillertal. Past Kaltenbach, Zell im Ziller and Mayrhofen. Past numerous Tirolean villages, up the Tux valley at the very end of the road. This is as close as you’ll get to the Italian border, at least with four wheels. Lift infrastructure that operates the whole year round does a good job of getting you closer though, not to mention a whole lot higher.
Arriving at 7.30am, as we did, you’ll be sharing the gondolas with hordes of race kids whose backpacks are bigger than they are, en route to early-season race camps. The only early start is a small price to pay though, when the catsuit-clad kids head straight to their gate training, leaving you staring across down the barrel of pristine, empty pistes.
It’s mid-November, which means turning left and turning right – an action that has been performed thousands upon thousands of times – feels oddly unfamiliar. Spurred on by the wide pistes and grippy snow, muscle memory returns quickly enough. Lapping the T-bars under the 3476m Olperer and 3250m Gefrorene Wand, it’s possible to pack in a lot of skiing, even if the runs are relatively short.
The south-facing Schlegeis-Gletcher catches a lot more sunshine than the rest of Hintertux. Even at 3000m, the sun will soften the snow on this aspect, so we head over the back, where the Italian Dolomites can be seen far in the distance. Not far from the groomers there’s fresh snow there for the taking. Although early-season conditions dominate, the glacier has good cover, and we enjoy a few powder turns in deep, consistent fresh snow.
As the sun warms the snow, it’s eventually time to head back to north-facing aspects. While Hintertux is primarily known as a glacier resort, offering a quality snow park during the summer months and acting as a training base for national ski teams during the pre-season and the spring, it really shouldn’t be over-looked as a winter destination. Even in November, there’s quality snow and good cover below the Tuxer Fernerhaus (2660m) all the way down to the Sommerbergalm (2100m).
The refurbishment of the Tuxer Fernerhaus is the big news for the ski area this season. The centrally located lodge underwent a €13 million transformation over the summer months, and now features a full table service restaurant as its centrepiece. I’m more than happy with a hearty Tiroler Gröstl from the huge self-service area. Not the most complicated dish, but exactly the sort of fuel that’s perfect to keep you going on a near-perfect early-season day.
Hintertux Gletscher is included in the Tirol Snow Card, which provides access to 4000km of pistes, 1100 lifts and 86 ski areas throughout the Austrian Tirol. It is also included on the Zillertal 3000 lift pass, which covers Tux-Finkenberg and Mayrhofen.