Saalbach 2013 - A Weather Related Downer.

Posted: Tuesday, 16 April 2013 by Waynemarlow in Labels: , ,

Skiing holidays and just how reliant they are on the weather  can be one of those great conundrums, how best to manipulate those weather patterns to get the best ski holiday. Having ski biked with the lads late in March, we decided due to the abnormally poor snow conditions of the last two years, to go a bit earlier. So early March we all set off for our favoured resort Saalbach and Hinterglemm, let the fun begin.

The boys getting ready for the days fun.

Well as I had already experienced very very good conditions not far from Hinterglemm just a few weeks before, the dreary rain filled skies were not what we were expecting when we got there and nor the reports of warm rain, right to the top of the mountain for the previous 3 days. Well as you are now getting the picture, the snow was just sugar snow from top to bottom, you could get off your bike at the bottom and sink up to your knees, really strange to say the least but manageable on the bikes until the weather turned cold on day 3, -14C cold. Well our fun but slushy slopes now turned into one big ice block from top to bottom. And then we had snow and then we had white outs, what a downer. Fortunately the sun did come out on day 6 so we had a good day to finish on

So I have to report that the ski bikers in the party really did suffer this year and no, we as a group didn’t improve on last year's standard, ice is not fun on the bikes and some of the party really struggled to get some sort of confidence going on the slick surfaces. Early finishes, shortish days and long bar sessions were the norm I’m afraid.  Certainly those who have toughed out the couple of days needed to learn how to constantly freestyle ( standing on the pegs ) seemed to be able to handle these conditions better and seem to be moving ahead, technique wise, of those who are committed seat sitters.

So was the holiday that bad? Hinterglemm where we were staying certainly can be Apres skiing Nirvana and to say it didn’t disappoint was true to say the least. Oh there was some memorable and epic nights out this year and I still have vivid memories of a couple of the ski bikers riding the Harley in the Rock Bar at 2.00am, now when I say the Harley is 3.0 metres up, bolted to the ceiling and laying sideways, well you get the picture.

So lets get back to skibiking, and what can I report about Saalbach and Hinterglemm this year. A strange report really as all but one lift, really are not bothered about whether you have foot skis or not, often the lifties will ask that you only go up one at a time, perhaps insist on being on the inside seat, ask that you use the alternative train perhaps, but there is always one liftie who is going to be a problem,  isn’t there. The guy on the Hochalm Sesslebahn above Hinterglemm will insist that you have foot skis on. Well we went prepared and it was worth the picture on his face when we whipped out our mini skis from our rucksucks and put them on. Almost a “damn you have got me there then”.

Footskis made from 1/2 blade and ice grips

We simply cut a pair of 90cm long blades in half and fitted “ice grips “ to make sure they fitted our boots easily. The blades were £ 35.00 delivered ( Ebay ) which made 2 pairs and the ice grips were £ 3.50. I simply took the plastic ice stud out of the rubber strap and then screwed the foot part to the ski. I think I’ll modify them a bit as I tried to actually ski on them and they need some sort of rear guide, rather like a cross country ski binding. A simple light weight piece of Ali would be enough.  

Interestingly I tried to push the boundaries on where the lifties would say no, the long Barnalm T-Bar lift that you need to get from Saalbach toHinterglem and back from Lengau to Hinterglem where you have to take a short but steep T-bar to be able to get enough height, were interesting to say the least but doable. Do put the T-bar under the bike seat, against the seat stem, rather than your bottom, seems to work the best. Pomas are relatively easy contrary to Mark's experience and simply put the Poma between your legs as per normal and then sit on it. 

Over the last two years we have never really found the ideal boot solution. We’ve tried snowboard boots, but find them bulky and a bit too stiff, we tried cheapo Apres Ski boots, we’ve tried “Wellies” with thermal socks, all but the Wellies leak water within a few days and the Wellies are as cold as heck. One of the team had “Muck” boots this year, basically a toughened “ Wellie “ with a neoprene liner. They are really really good, don’t leak and are very warm, highly recommended.

We all seem to now be wearing wrist guards of some form or other, some seem to be using the standard Snowboard guards but we all seem to be moving across to the Dakine mitts with internal guards. They are not as tight fitting as the dedicated guards but do enough to suit the bikes. Certainly with the large quantities of ice about this year, they were tested pretty well with all of us at some stage being lobbed out of and over the handlebars due to the front ski tucking under ( as your technique gets better the less it happens ).

Well that’s about it for this season and looking forward to the next.