Winter sports/10/30/2019

The Best Nature Trails for Ski Touring: Tips and Information

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Ski tours are trendy. But many tourers lack important know-how. Nature trails are therefore the perfect introduction for touring beginners and children. lists nature parks in Germany and Austria and explains, how nature trails work.

Nature trails facilitate the start for ski tour beginners.
Nature trails facilitate the start for ski tour beginners.

Skiing through pristine winter landscapes, enjoying the silence that comes only from a thick white blanket of snow, turning your back on the hustle and bustle of the slopes and leaving your traces in the untracked powder - ski touring has grown into a veritable trend. The number of touring enthusiasts moving in open terrain has been growing steadily for about ten years. And with it the number of ski touring trails.

Every year new ski routes of this kind are created, initiated by tourism associations or ski lift operators. "Solely n the Bavarian Alps, there are now ten ski touring trails," says Manfred Scheuermann. He works in the nature conservation and cartography department of the German Alpine Association, which has supported about half of these ski touring trails in terms of content and funding.

Display Boards Impart Basic Knowledge

The newest ski tour educational trail was created in the Austrian Heutal, a small ski area on whose slopes many skiers climb up to the Dürrnbachhorn. In order to ensure that everything runs smoothly and that there are no dangerous confrontations with skiers on the slopes, the ski tour educational trail, a cooperation between the German and Austrian Alpine Association and the Ortovox company, now provides the route.

It bypasses sensitive wildlife rest zones and canalizes the touring action. In addition, the route is flanked by display boards, which give the tourer important basic knowledge en passant.

Eine Beispieltafel vom Tourenlehrpfad Rofan
An example of a display panel at the nature trail in Rofan.
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Ski Touring Trails of Dynafit, Ortovox and k2

Scheuermann estimates the costs of setting up such a ski tour educational trail at 10,000 to 20,000 euros. Dynafit names a sum of 5000 to 10,000 euros. They are therefore realized and financed in alliance with mountain sports schools, the Alpine Club, sports retailers such as Sport Conrad or Sportscheck as well as manufacturers from the ski touring sector, in particular Dynafit, Ortovox and K2.

"As a brand of a niche sport, beginners are very important to us," says Michael Költringer, Marketing Manager at Dynafit. "We have great interest to accompany beginners from the first day on and if possible to inspire with our products."

Költringer adds: "The trend towards using the ski slope and thus a secure space is reflected in the countless evening ski tours, which are populated daily by thousands of ski mountaineers in the Alpine region".

Canalize Nature Trails and Train Tour Hikers

Scheuermann refers to counts in ski resorts: In the Roßfeld near Berchtesgaden, 3000 tourers were counted on Epiphany last year - compared to just 300 skiers on the slopes. In Garmisch, 25,000 to 30,000 people per season tracked in the ski resort. "The ski touring educational trails are intended to help guide skiers to the edge or to areas outside the slope. And they're bundling the touring business for the benefit of the wildlife."

Ski touring beginners in particular, who lack the knowledge to choose the right route in the terrain, are in good hands on ski touring educational trails. However, the nature trails differ from simple, marked ski routes in their aim to guide the skier and impart knowledge.

They often start with a LVS checkpoint to test the function of the avalanche transceiver (LVS). If the device is switched to "Send", the tour skier receives a green light. The route then passes through various information boards, which provide the necessary information on nature and environmental protection, various avalanche factors, emergency equipment and ascent demeanor.

Frequent Content Structure of a Ski Tour Educational Trail

  • Frequently: LVS checkpoint
  • Information boards on nature conservation and environmental protection
  • Basic avalanche knowledge
  • Determination of slope steepness with snowcard or ski pole
  • Use of emergency equipment
  • Avalanche factors terrain, weather, people
  • snow consistency
  • Behaviour on ascent and descent

New Ortovox Ski Tour Educational Trail in Rofan

The new Ortovox ski touring trail in Rofan follows a slightly different approach. In contrast to most Bavarian ski touring educational trails, this one runs between 1800 and 2000 meters in the terrain on the popular ski touring route to the Rofanspitze.

It was the idea of the Ortovox mountain guide Thomas Nothdurfter to set up display boards in this area, which can also be accessed safely at avalanche warning level 3, with which mountain guides can illustrate their teaching contents during training courses and avalanche beacon courses.

Nothdurfter describes the special feature of the Ortovox nature trail as follows: "If the display board shows snow cornices, these can also be seen in the background. The same for windblown dispersals. And if we're talking about steep slopes, we can compare them in the terrain." Even without a mountain guide, the nature trail is easy and safe to walk.

While Ortovox supplied the content, graphics and know-how, Achensee Tourismus contributed 15,000 euros to the implementation of the project. As in other regions, such ski touring trails also extend the tourist offer for sustainable winter tourism.

Sponsors as Competent Partners

"Of course, this knowledge is not enough for beginners to be able to independently switch to the open touring area," says Scheuermann from the DAV. "it requires extensive training." But even more experienced ski tourers could refresh their knowledge relatively quick on such a ski tour educational trail.

However, ski tourers should not automatically feel safe at all times on ski tour educational trails in ski resorts. These often run in or near the piste area. However, a ski area is only avalanche safe if it is open.

The bottom line is that everyone involved in a ski touring educational trail gets their money's worth: the Alpine Club protects the wild rest areas, the ski lift operator ensures safer slopes, the tourism association has a new product with which it attracts a large new target group and the manufacturer or retailer acting as a sponsor presents itself to this target group as a competent partner.

Only one disadvantage remains: in summer, the large display panels on the terrain disturb the landscape. Thomas Nothdurfter of Ortovox already knows the solution: "In summer they get green covers. In the medium term, it will also become a display board for a nature trail."

Ski Touring Trails in Germany:

  • Tegelberg (Allgäu)
  • Piston saddle (Ammergau Alps)
  • Kranzberg (Mittenwald)
  • Brauneck (Lenggries)
  • Blomberg (Bad Tölz)
  • Spitzingsee (Ski tour portal)
  • Unternberg (Ruhpolding)
  • Obersalzberg (Berchtesgaden)

Ski Touring Trails in Austria