Jürg Tarmann, aged 60, is the experienced head of the grooming crew and provides a superb training ground for ski teams and upcoming professionals from all corners of the globe at Hintertux Glacier, the only real year-round ski area in Austria. Hintertux is open for skiing 365 on the namesake glacier. There’s a terrain park, summer camps and some exciting terrain. Plus, Hintertux Glacier consistently offers some of the very best snow conditions in the Alps during the summer months—and that’s why world class teams come from all over the world to train at Hintertux Glacier from May through December.
Jürg Tarmann spends countless hours to provide the perfect training setting for the athletes—above all, it requires many organizational skills. Thus, it was a long wait before I was able to reach him for an interview. Eventually we managed to talk to each other while riding up the mountain in a gondola. “Today, 30 teams were training on the glacier,” he tells me. “In the last year, the race training facilities at Hintertux Glacier were used by 57 national ski teams, including ski racers from the United States, South Korea, Australia, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Bosnia, Lebanon, Turkey, Cyprus, Greece, the UK, France, Spain, and of course from Austria.”
No Way for Cheating.
How does he decide which team to train on which track? “In the summer, we have roughly 30 training tracks available. This means that all teams have to train in the same area. It takes a lot of organization and coordination to arrange the training plans. Children ski in a different radius than adults, and women ski in a different one than men. Basically, the level of those who train together has to be in like manner,” he explains. “There are some coaches who try to cheat by telling me that his team is best. However, there is no way for that. I always look at them and compare skier’s performance against another along with FIS rankings. In addition, I step in if it is needed – if one team claims too much space, for example. On the whole, it’s all about logistics. If teams from overseas join us for a three-week training camp to prepare for the upcoming season, everything must run smoothly and according to schedule. All must follow the International Ski Federation’s FIS Rules of Conduct and the International Competition Rules. Safety always comes first. All teams have to sign an agreement before using our training facilities. Meanwhile, this agreement comes in 16 different languages.”
Everyone’s the Same.
I ask him whether World Cup winners have certain ‘advantages’ based on their status that aspiring racers vying for a spot on the national ski team do not have. Jürg Tarmann wouldn’t even listen to my question, immediately making a gesture of refusal. “Oh no, everyone’s the same to me. I don’t make any distinctions between professional ski racers and upcoming talents. After all, the next generation is our future. ”
“Are there any attempts to bribe you for getting the best tracks?,” I ask him. Again, Jürg Tarmann refuses, laughing: “No, there aren’t any. It wouldn’t work out anyway. Recently someone brought a delicate cheese and I told him: Cut it into pieces and enjoy it together with the other coaches.”
When he is talking about his job, I can feel his passion for what he is doing. With great enthusiasm, he tells story after story. “It really works great here with us at Hintertux Glacier. New friendships develop here all the time. The US and the Iran ski teams even exchanged jerseys at the end of their camp. Unexpected things happen in sports. Things like that just don’t happen in politics.”
I want to know if recreational skiers can hit the trails at Hintertux Glacier without being disturbed by training teams. “Of course, there are slopes for everyone. There is plenty of skiable terrain for vacationers seeking a challenge. The downhill and Super G training tracks are located at places where recreational skiers and riders usually don’t go to, such as beneath ski lift pillars. These tracks are exclusively groomed for ski racing. Obviously, many skiers and riders come here to watch the teams preparing for their next season. In fall, with the racing events teeing up, the roster of current and upcoming World Cup skiers populating the glacier is at an all-time high and autograph opportunities abound – a primo time for autograph hounds. It’s quite easy to get lucky and score a skier’s autograph here.”
Working in a ski resort that is open 365 days a year means living and breathing powder days all days, every day. It takes a lot of dedicated staff members to work on the groomed-to-perfection slopes of the glacier and to make things run well in all other areas of ski resort operation. “In the summer, we have 120 people working here for us. In the winter, we need even more staff as the skiable terrain expands. All in all, there are roughly 170 people working on the slopes, at the ski lifts, at the ticket windows, at the restaurants and in administration during the winter season.”
And which season does he like best on the glacier, summer or winter? Once again, Jürg Tarmann starts to laugh: “During the winter season I am not the head of grooming here at the glacier. This is when I am on skis myself as I am the ski school director then. Actually, winter never ends, for me.”