Another in our somewhat random (sorry) trip reports from our January in Europe. The journey was as much about doing gear journalism as it was snow riding, as the backcountry skiing industry these days is going crazy with new and evolved products. But contrary to myth we do try and ski during such trips! Problem was that only one region in our travel area had good snow: the Alps south of the Austrian border known as “Sud Tirol,” (southern Tirol, spelled frequently as Sudtirol or same with umlaut U)
We cast out for Sud Tirol specifics. Friends from Dynafit and Salewa turned us on to the Passeirtal Valley north-westerly of the city of Bolsano, as well as the local Pfitscher family who are big ski tourers (as well as amazing wood workers and designers). Passeirtal is a large valley full of vinyards and farm villages, with lots of side drains and complex alpine terrain. After we’d been skunked by the weather for a few days and realized we might have one bluebird day free before we started driving again, Wilfried Pfitscher suggested Rotenspitze. This is a popular alpine ski touring area with a bunch of varied terrain that works with higher avalanche danger, due to available lower angle terrain and down-scale size runs connected by flatter areas. No trees of course, so airbags are a popular and wise choice in avalanche safety gear.
The ski down was one of those long rolling affairs that make you feel like you’ve somehow acquired bonus vertical. Surprisingly, considering all the tracks, we found enough fresh powder to justify the glowing blue sky. A gasthaus is of course located at the trailhead mere meters from where you park, so that was enjoyed as well. In all, Rotenspitze is a highly recommended ski tour that can easily be self-guided with a GPS, map, and a few chats with the locals. As for the dirndls, I think we’ve got one of those kicking around WildSnow HQ, somewhere.
Map below gives an idea of the area. The trailhead is a bit over a mile on the road northeast from Plan-Pfelders (named on map) at a small group of buildings I believe is called Berg Cristall. It’s easy to GPS. To start the tour, just head up the most obvious driveway keeping to the left (easterly) of the creek. This will funnel you up to a farm road that lifts you quickly to a flat alpine valley where you slog a bit before the real climbing begins. We stayed in both Pfelders and Moos, you can find both on map. Rotenspitze is in the alpine southeast of Pfelders, but doesn’t appear to be named on the map.
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WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.