We are fortunate, even though we are based in a large isolated cabin in the mountains, we’re not yet suffering from cabin fever. Working hard not to feel contained on a daily basis, we plot an escape from indoors and find refuge in our snowy environment.
Coronavirus situation is by no means a pleasant experience, but we are determined to rise above the things that we can control. One of the current outdoor trends we have been noticing is that due to restrictions, searching for local adventures has become popular. The winter hiking trails are being used in Kals Am Grossglockner and the desire to go ski touring has increased. People who may not normally spend time exploring their outdoor local area have been making the most of mini fresh air exertions close to their home.
Austria and most of Europe are currently in lockdown. At MoaAlm we were actually forced to focus on activities closer to home for another reason...snow and lots of it! In our region of Osttirol we had a huge amount of early snow this winter. Early December 2020 there was almost 2 meters of snow with a 30cm top up at the start of January. MoaAlm Mountain Retreat is in a remote location at 1800m and our trusted Land Rover Defender was buried in the initial snowstorm. Due to us not being able to accommodate guests until late January, we made the decision to not clear the snow road up to MoaAlm. Without access to our Land Rover, all our outdoor adventures had to start from home. Great introduction to our winter training!
Winter time in the Austrian outdoors seems to require lots of equipment, as well as lots of clothes. If you’re planning your first ever winter holiday and you are unsure of what is required, then it may be worth checking our blog post ‘Winter Holiday For Beginners’. As well as our winter clothing, we have lots of outdoor winter toys at MoaAlm. Skis for downhill, skis for touring and skis for classic cross country skiing. Hiking poles for snowshoe walking, ski poles and collapsing extra light ski poles for taking Splitboarding. Snowshoes for adults, snowshoes for children and ice chains for days when there is less snow and more ice. Ice axe for mountaineering and an axe for chopping wood for the wood burning hot tub. Various snowboards, smaller boards for playing, boards for the piste and Splitboards for touring. Shovels for taking in our avalanche backpack, shovels for snowclearing and even a shovel to clean up after the dogs! Finally we have rodels or sleds, enough for twenty people to race or leisurely ride down the hill.
With all our snow equipment we have no excuse about getting creative while being outside. Feeling alive with the winter sun, being in the cold brisk fresh mountain air can distance you from worldly problems, even if it’s for a short period of time. Being outdoors offers an emotional boost and can help you feel less tense, stressed, angry or depressed. And even winter sunlight can give your body much needed doses of vitamin D.
Solitary peace and quiet in the mountains, an ascent in deep powder snow and a descent on an untouched route, that's the ski tour dream! In our region of Osttirol as soon as the avalanche risk lowered, small groups of avid tourers plotted their uphill accent to a summit to eventually gain the downhill powder rush. Apart from the usual considerations of experience, fitness, weather conditions and avalanche report, in Austria there are no current lockdown restrictions in ski touring in your local area.
In the spirit of keeping our adventures within 1km of our home, we have been ski touring close to MoaAlm, really close to MoaAlm! A short blast of fresh tracks all within 1km of our base, which borders the Hohe Tauren National Park. Even though we are only out for an hour, there are benefits of us getting acquainted with the equipment again, the legs getting used to uphill walking on the skis and of course being amongst nature. Even on our short ski tour trip, you begin to feel the freedom of backcountry skiing.
Our current deep snow meant that any walking around our location required strapping on a pair of snowshoes. Within 1km of MoaAlm we can create a route following the tracks of a mountain hare or challenge ourselves with navigating a route through the trees. It can be leisurely stroll, listening to a podcast or it can be a way of increasing the heart rate, providing an aerobic workout. We all have our favourite podcasts to accompany us on our outdoor journey, from The Plant Proof Podcast to Tunnel 29 We always combine a snowshoe walk with a dog walk, but to be honest, we combine most of our outdoor adventures with a dog walk.
The heading may suggest we have lost the pandemic plot on this outdoor adventure but it has a very important winter role in the mountains. If you are looking to develop your skiing off piste and progress to ski touring or splitboarding then you must be aware of the risks of being in a potential avalanche. Carrying avalanche equipment, knowing how to use it, is an essential Alpine skill. Practicing and putting ourselves in mock situations, reassure our ability to use our skills if we are ever unfortunate enough to be in an emergency situation. Weirdly as none of us at MoaAlm will volunteer to be buried for ten minutes in deep snow (maybe if the lock down increases, we may have a volunteer?), we put a transceiver in a sandwich box and bury it. The rest of the group must then use their transceiver to locate the ‘body’. The probe is then used for exact positioning, finally using the shovel to rescue the sandwich box. This is actually one scenario in which we may not include the dogs (or the previous mentioned dog shovel!). They are much quicker at locating the buried sandwich box than we are and they are much better at digging, not our ideal practice situation.
Our sled track is usually the snow road leading up to MoaAlm. As we made the decision not to clear the road while we had a buried Land Rover and no guests, we used the steeper field in front of MoaAlm as our makeshift rodel track. Being a particularly competitive group of individuals, this obviously becomes a race. The exhilaration of going downhill is soon followed by the less exhilarating walk back up. Something we should never tire of, being surrounded by the stunning mountain vistas of the Granatspitzgruppe and in range of the Schobergruppe, which has 53 peaks over 3000 meters.
Whatever happens this winter, our aim is to keep a positive mindset. We will dress in warm layers to protect us from the cold temperatures and we will try to continue to find creative adventures close to home. The natural environment will help heal us from negative vibes.
We know we are very lucky to have our location on our side, but like everyone else we are looking forward to sharing our space again, being in our favourite mountain hut for a hot meal and talking about something different!
Let us know what things you are doing to get out of the house while still social distancing, hopefully see you in the mountains soon!
If you want to join us this winter for an adventure in Osttirol, send us a message for more information.