Go, wherever the snow will carry you
Snowshoeing in Itter in Tirol
At Gurgler Eisjoch – the transition from the South Tyrolean valley “Pfossental” to the Gurgler Ferner of the Ötztal Alps – an object was found which was even older than Ötzi, the iceman. It was a snowshoe made of a birch branch which had been bended in a round shape and which could be dated back to the Neolithic Age, a period between 3800 and 3200 B.C.. Of course, Elke’s snowshoes are nowhere near that old – on the contrary: they are brand-new. Elke is the snowshoeing expert in the Holiday Regio Hohe Salve. And even if one can walk with those history-charged saucer-shaped shoes wherever one likes, it is advisable to take part in a guided tour with our local expert. She knows where to find the most peaceful spots, the most beautiful views and the most exciting adventures.
Miss Elke’s feeling for snow
Elke is a mountain guide and has been living in the region for over 15 years now. “I feel at home everywhere in the Kitzbühel Alps”, she says. Accordingly, she knows all hiking routes and is the first-choice contact when it comes to snowshoe- and winter hiking tours. No matter what tour – flat, with climbs, granting amazing views or including rustic refreshment stops – Elke knows the right one for every occasion and focuses on the guests’ individual needs and requests. She provides the equipment to her guests and gives advice concerning the choice of material.
snowshoeing in the amazing setting at the Hohe Salve
That is a different pair of shoes
“For me it is very important that my guests have a good equipment”, Elke explains. “There is nothing more annoying than problems with the gear which keep you from having a wonderful hike”. To ensure that all participants are well equipped, Elke supplies them with her own snowshoes, poles and gaiters. The gaiters are especially for participants wearing jeans – this way no snow can get inside the shoes and the feet stay dry. But let’s start from the beginning:
What are snowshoes? You strap the big saucers onto your shoes and – since now your body weight is distributed across a bigger surface – you don’t sink into the snow very deeply. This far, so good. In the last 5800 years, however, things have changed quite a bit and since snowshoe tours have become a popular lifestyle sport by now, there is a huge range of snowshoes on the market, classified in “originals”, “classics” and “moderns”. As it is the case with any other sports gear, there are huge differences in handling and durability. “You can get snowshoes in various price ranges. A good pair runs between 120 and 170 euros”, Elke explains. She also tells us which 6 features we should pay attention to:
- The gear should fulfil the following requirements: it should be light-weighted, multi-functionally usable and safe.
- Iron pins: at the tip and on the sole of the snowshoe there are iron pins and spikes which ensure the necessary grip and safety on ice surfaces.
- Crampons: similar to touring skis, snowshoes are fitted with crampons for steeper terrains. These should be easy to handle anytime.
- Quick release fastener: snowshoes should be easy and quick to strap on in all weather situations and also when wearing gloves. Elke’s shoes have ratchet bindings which allow quick release.
- Poles: Elke is using telescope poles which are individually adjustable to one’s body height. The poles are important to save strength, keep one’s balance and give support while descending.
- Further equipment: everyone should wear sturdy Gore-Tex winter shoes. Weatherproof clothing, hat, head band, sunglasses, and gloves are the basic essentials for a pleasant tour. If you want you can also take a backpack with a change of clothes and a snack
snowshoeing: it depends on the right material
The mountain is calling
You can go on nsowshoe hikes away from the pistes and off the beaten paths which makes the range of possibilities sheer infinite. In the Holiday Region Hohe Salve, guided tours are being offered regularly as part of the weekly leisure programme. Of course, you can hire Elke as your guide directly as well – be it for 2-hour taster tours or five to six-hour day tours. “For me it is important to take the guests with me on a taster tour first, so I can get to know their level of fitness and their techniques. After that I can arrange the perfect tour considering their wishes “, Elke states. By the way, special highlights are the night tours with head lamps beneath the starry sky. Elke’s favourite tour leads from Kelchsau up Lodron mountain (1925m) which is a demanding day tour for experienced snowshoe hikers.
It is all about the right technique
After having us introduced to the gear and before taking us on the tour, Elke starts with a lesson on techniques, part of all her taster tours. Various exercises help the participants to get a feeling for their snowshoes which is important to feel safe. “If you feel confident of your gear you can concentrate on nature with all your thoughts and senses”, Elke says. First, we practice a complete turn, without poles, by keeping the heal on the ground and dragging the other leg behind. This is the safest way to make a turn on the mountain. Afterwards we practice the same move with poles. The next step would be to make the turn with closed eyes. First on flat terrain, then on a slight slope. “on every taster tour we also practice how to fall and get up again. “Many have to get used to the fact that the snowshoes tilt when they lift their feet”, Elke adds during the technical demonstration.
To be on the safe side
Of course, Elke is checking snow conditions and avalanche risks every day, because safety comes first for her and her group. Just like on ski tours in the backcountry, snowshoe hikers have to be mindful of nature conservation, avoid woodlands, and respect “No Trespassing” signs. And, of course, they should know when to end a tour – because of avalanche risk, exhaustion, poor sight or time delay. Especially then it is helpful to have an expert by your side. Those who feel like going on a snowshoe tour now can find more information in the weekly leisure programme of the Holiday Region Hohe Salve or have a look at Elke’s website.
Cornelia Schierl is an all-round athlete and loves outdoor sports activities. On her discovery tours leading all over the Kitzbüheler Alpen she explores the secret spots and hidden gems of the region. more details