Snowboarding in the summer

Traditional Austrian attire

Snowboarding in the summer? Sure. You just have to find a bunch of guys who would rather take out the dusty snowboard from beneath their bed in the middle of summer rather than lie on the sunny beach.  The idea appeared to happen in mid-July, a period usually not identified with winter sports. In essence, it will be a trip to the Austrian Alps and Northern Italy. Apart from snowboarding the objective is also to see a few interesting places. We take take the German motorways which bring us to Austria as soon as early in the evening the same day. For the whole journey we haven’t experienced any difficulties or traffic slowdowns. The bad news about Austria is that without any research even hotels can be costly. Despite the difficulties we averaged the daily budget of around € 35 per night. Slightly more expensive than choosing to stay in a cheap Gasthaus for a week (it rarely costs more than €20 per night). This option is unfortunately not an option, because we need to be flexible about the time and the place.

Hiuntertuxer Gletscher

Green grass at the bottom and two meters of fresh snow at the top

Throughout last month is has been very sunny. However the night before reaching the Hintertux glacier there was a heavy downpour, abnormally intense as for this time of a year. It has been raining non-stop, the entire night long. The next day in the morning we’re on the way to the bottom lift station . It is still raining heavily. I wonder if there is any snow left up the mountain.  Everybody lost their hope. Even the walk from the car to cashier to buy a ski pass is possible only when using snowboard as a umbrella. Still it doesn’t help much and I almost entirely soaked. Heavy summer rain drops seem to have no mercy. Let’s give it a try. We get one-day lift passes (32 €) and get onto gondola lift. The fact of reaching the top glacier makes us happy despite the miserable weather. There are three lift stages which take us to the Hintertuxer Glacier top station, elevation of 3250 meters.

The first big surprise. The snow conditions at this altitude are just perfect. It has fallen more than a half meter of fresh powder on the top of an already established two meter thick layer of old snow. That’s perfect! At this altitude the whole rain falling on the areas located in the lower part of the mountain fell as a snow. How could I ask for more? I love it. It’s July and the snowboarding is with no doubt better than ever. This affect not only the perfect snow conditions but also the availability of lifts. People probably do not realize that there has fallen so much fresh snow. No one is here, the slopes are empty so I leave the first mark on the snow every time. Groomers fortunately haven’t had enough time to prepare slopes. In addition to winter sport freaks there is an ample crowd of hikers. My special interest raises to a group of about fifteen people. All of them have turbans on their heads and are dressed as for a polar expedition to the North Pole. They seem to be inhabitants of the Middle East. I saw them standing still in the same place for more than two hours. All the time with disbelief in their eyes, their hands touching the snow curiously. What an unusual experience it makes to watch this exotic phenomenon, the snow. In addition, during the summer.

Snowboard jump on Stubai Glacier

The unexpected snowfall in Hintertux proved to be a shock to everyone. This also applies to Pisten Bullies and other facilities responsible for preparing the freestyle jumps, halfpipe and all the other snowpark elements. For this reason, unfortunately, it is impossible to ride in the park. Too bad, the board instantly stops and goes under deep snow.

The following day we drive to Stubai, another Austrian glacier. Snow conditions just perfect. Exactly the same as in Hintertux with a subtle difference. A few slopes have already been groomed overnight. However, it is not the point of snowboarding. We have a really good time freeriding untouched mountainside full of fresh powder, barely seeing the ski lifts and official routes. In some places snow has been windswept, you just need to watch out for places with sticking out lumps of ice. On one of our slopes we build a snowboard jump. Later that day we find a bigger jump which gives you more time airborne.

The line of everlasting snow

The temperature usually remains slightly below zero all year round above the line of everlasting snow. If there’s sun the temperature automatically rises and the sunlight becomes pretty dangerous at the higher altitudes. In such circumstances a reasonable man would put a cream and goggles on immediately. It’s because of indirect sunlight reflected from snow surfaces, which is much more intense than one would think. Snowboarding makes me fulfilled. There’s never been a better idea for a summer break. Now it is time to go to Venice.

Venice, a city on the water

Once in Italy we use the very first opportunity to get an original Italian espresso. Pure perfection; nothing more, nothing less. Ready to head towards Adriatic Sea. The water is far too cold for an enjoyable swimming. We decide to jump in no matter what, just to get the unique feeling of snowboarding the day before and swimming in the Mediterranean today.

Channels with gondola boats are typical streets of Venice. The city has its own romantic and unique atmosphere. Even though extensive channels sometimes stink they are really beautiful. Especially in the evening. The most popular place in Venice is definitely Piazza de San Marco. The square has therefore automatically become the main point visited by tourists. A lot of houses have no way out on the street, the entrance can be reached only by boat. I wonder how people get along when the boat is not there and you have to go shopping?

Angela, our hotel receptionist

We move to the Italian countryside. It takes a brief look to spot quite a few nice Italian girls on the streets. I really like Angela, our hotel receptionist. She has a sensual smile and speaks English with a subtle floating accent. Very nice and helpful person. She recommends us places to see in Fosso, a small Italian  town. We take a bike trip over there.

The final stage of our tour is a visit to southern Germany in the Schwartzwald area, next to the Swiss border and Bodensee lake. My little sister Luiza is staying with a German family for the holiday over there. This is kind of a student exchange program. Good opportunity to drop her a short visit on the way. The place is very quiet; nothing more than undisturbed peace and harmony. There is quite sizeable, picturesque lake nearby. A week before Luiza went on a sailboat with some friends. Soon the gusty wind swelled and at some point the boat capsized and all crew landed in the cold (below 10˚C) water. Fortunately no one has been harmed and all were rescued. This story was also announced in the local newspapers.


In summary:

The term snowboarding season makes no sense if you can basically snowboard all year round. However, you must have a bit of good luck to run in a fresh powder. I see the entire Alpine region also as a noteworthy place to visit throughout the year. There is enough big glaciers to go round.

July 2004