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Stories off the slopes


Like clouds

Conquer new paths with newly developed snowshoes. If you are looking for secret places, special views and exercise as an experience, you should hike through the snow in Zillertal.

Sun. Deep snow. Happiness. Could there be any better conditions for wintry fun? Katharina and Leonie gaze over the snowy hills that peak out between the imposing mountain massifs and look forward to a new adventure. They have been hiking through Zillertal on snowshoes for years, always looking for and finding new (secret) paths. But this time everything is a bit different. The two women stand on the edge of the forest in new snowshoes, smiling and keen to share their experiences with the modified technology.

There are inflatable models on their feet. Which not only catch the eye with their unusually cool design. But are above all a further development in terms of practicability. Small, light, handy, they are really practical to stow in your backpack ... and then quickly inflate for great fun. Into shoes that look like small inflatable boats and give the passionate sportswomen an even larger buoyancy surface than the usual walking aids that prevent them from sinking deep into the snow. The need to facilitate progress over the mountains and through the snow has an astonishing tradition. It was in 2003 that Italian surveyors made an extraordinary find on the Gurgler Eisjoch. The glacier had unfrozen to reveal a snowshoe. Its analysis showed that it had to be a specimen from the Neolithic period. The 1.5 metre long birch branch, which was bent into an oval frame and connected by strands, is therefore just under 6,000 years old. Which shows: human creativity to save energy step by step has a long history.

Immersed in silence

Katharina and Leonie quickly find their balance, walking technique and ideal rhythm. Their path leads them along a quiet forest road with blue sky shining above them and the sun sparkling through the trees. A magical winter wonderland that simply could not be more impressive. The snowshoes crunch in the snow and the sporty duo is surprised at how light they feel walking in them. They make their way deeper and deeper into Zillertal’s unspoilt nature and hike single file to a magical stream, which is adorned with magnificent glistening icicles in several places.

The effect their shoes have on the deep snow is clearly noticeable. Indigenous North Americans, Mongols or Caucasians, who relied totally on the development of good snowshoes as the basis of their survival as hunters, would probably have sent up a quick prayer to heaven if they’d had these kinds of opportunities. Nowadays, hiking has long since become a recreational sport rather than a necessity for our existence.

And so Katharina and Leonie set off making their way through Zillertal’s deep untouched snow. The feeling is more than just walking, it’s almost like floating on clouds. The opportunities to explore their own world seem endless. And suddenly they realise the fascinating appeal of snowshoeing in all its dimensions. Immersing themselves in the silence – around them and within them, each at their own pace. Conscious of finally being at one with themselves, of being able to clear their head, of being guided by the sparkling snow crystals. While an eagle soars above them and the fresh mountain air sets energy free. When walking works wonders. They walk for several hours, as time does not matter here. Before they finally return at the end of the day. Tired ... and yet so wonderfully invigorated.

Image: Thomas Pfister and text: Michael Hufnagl
Zillertal magazine winter 2022/23

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