We finished off the 2021-2022 ski season in the last weekend of March. The plan was to join another couple but unfortunately they got Covid so we ventured the Ahrn Valley alone.
Part of Südtirol the Ahrn Valley is a quiet Italian refuge for spring ski touring. To get there you drive South across the Austrian German border around the corner back North. Though Italy it feels more like Tirol, AT then Bergamo, IT. Hence the name Südtirol. Here in Germany they are known for their pork, südtiroler speck. Yum.
The altitude and favorable weather patterns means it often has skiable snow late into spring. We stayed as deep and high in the valley as we could lodging in Almhaus Pfister, Casere. From there we made two ski tours Kasern to Roetalm tour and Schientalkopf tour.
From the window of our apartment we could see a waterfall. So beautiful and so close we decided to visit. The plan for our first tour was to cross the village on foot then tour up the southern side of the valley stopping by the waterfall.
Just as we stared up I noticed a squeak from my binding. To my dismay, the lower part / ski break section managed to completely detach. Luckily I found it laying in the snow a few meters back. After jimmying it back on with a swiss army knife we continued.
Detouring off the main path headed toward the sound of the waterfall.
How to reach the base of the falls was not clear. Perhaps there is a easy path visible in the summer. Here with the deep snow pack the only way was over a stream. Applying the delicate throw skis to other side and jump off balance method we crossed.
After some time enjoying the waterfall we headed back towards the trail to the Röttal valley.
We passed an old copper mine. Attempting to research this has sent me down rabbit hole challenging my German language skills. From what I gather, read more here, there was a “Schmelzanlage des Kupferbergwerkes” / Copper smelting plant in the Ahrn valley and this mines used a form of copper extracting using water. There was a “Katastrophe” in 1887 where the smelting plant burned and a damn burst submerging the near by Church, St. Martin, underwater. Now days all this is preserved as part of the Naturpark Rieserferner-Ahrn which runs the entire length of the Ahrn Valley.
This is my first time incorporating history into alpine sport. I should do it more.
As we continued up we got to know the snow more. The conditions this time of year are very dynamic. In the morning the snow is hard and icy. Then by afternoon things quickly turn to slush. Descending while things are soft but not yet slush, “corn” conditions, is this best of spring skiing.
Icy snow made for a challenging ascend in the steeper sections. Even though there was not much exposer the idea of falling and sliding on the hard snow was a scary.
Coming over the ridge into the warm sun of flatter section was a great feeling.
The geology we found was rolling hills populated with large boulders with a valley beyond.
My favorite part of ski touring is you can visit places like this. With snow covering everything you are not restricted to trails and can explore. We ventured to the top of a hill and got a view of what lay ahead.
We could see the full route. Going down from that hill it continued into the valley to the end, turned right up a steep wall, up over a cliff section, then back towards where we stood.
This being our first tour of the vacation and judging by the snow conditions we decided to descend early.
We enjoyed a bit of “corn” snow before everything turned to slush and we wound back and forth through the trees.
We was very comfortable temperature back in Kasern. Perks of spring skiing.
I’m planning on coming back to Kasern next season and doing this same route but instead of stopping where we did its possible to go further. I would like to go all the way to the end of that valley, potentially stay at the refuge there, and then loop around and return to the Ahrn valley via a different valley.
For our second tour we went continued up the Ahrn valley from Kasern to Schientalkopf.
Leaving our apartment we walked 50m to the end of the village. There the road becomes a cross country ski trail. We started our mourning touring nice and flat. Breathing the fresh air. Passing by a chapel then Adleralm the path became a snow covered hiking route.
The main face of the tour had southern exposure and very different snow then the previous tour. At lower elevations there was much less snow overall. By mid morning the snow was already warming to the point of being “corn” conditions. We were not near the summit by this point.
An earlier start would have helped but with the time change I think we were still in skis by 7:30h.
Besides wet snow the amount of sun made general exposure an concern. Here I made a make shift awning to enjoy my food in the shade.
By the time we reached the summit the snow was slush. Still skiable but not as safe as “corn” conditions.
Just before reaching the summit I noticed the clicking in my binding again 😞. It had come apart.
Luckily I was able to locate the piece and reattach it, again. Still not sure what I’m going to do for next season.
Considering contacting the manufacture or drilling a hole and wiring the pieces together.
After a quick repair session and snack on the ridge under Schientalkopf we headed down. Not really checking the map we descended into some “gnarly” terrain with steep cliffs and patchy snow. We had seen everything on the way up and knew it was all skiable but in hindsight I would have lead an easier route down. I distinctly remember shooting across the ridge with a few exposed bushes then jumping over a fold in the snow. Sure enough Masha hit the same line.
Once we got back to the trail I could not help but laugh. It was a summer hiking trail with patch of snow. The minimal possible amount.
We stopped often to step awkwardly over plants and rocks. It was a unique experience.
On the way back we stopped at Adleralm for Radler and food. It was a real Südtriol experience as well. Seated across from us and older couple lean on one another, closes there eyes, and sung beautiful mountain songs. We listened and played cards for quite some time.
As with every vacation we picked up a new card game. This time it was porrazo. I highly recommend it.
A trip to the Ahrn valley was a great way to end the ski season. I look forward to coming back next year. Hopefully with healthy friends.