Scenic Tannheimer Tal Valley is a spectacular outdoor playground, well known for Alpine skiing. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the activities on offer here—strapping on a pair of snowshoes, for example, is more than just taking a refreshing plunge in some snow! I have taken an exhilarating snowshoe hike in the company of local mountain and ski guide Leo Ammann.
If you can walk, you can snowshoe. That’s what people tell you. Well, in fact, my first steps on snowshoes left me reeling and stumbling like a newborn bear cub. I did not expect to march about in exaggerated, ungainly steps. “Take your time,” says Leo Ammann, “go slowly and walk steadily. We’re not in a hurry for anything!” I have been asking him about snowshoeing again and again, and eventually the experienced ski and mountain guide said, “Well, then let’s just going and doing it. Dress for the elements with winter boots and skiwear, I will bring snowshoes and poles.”
It’s late in the morning and freezing cold. Time to enjoy the deep blue sky that only occurs in January, breathe crisp mountain air and meditate on the rhythmic sound of crampons biting snow. Seeing the glistening sun shining over sparkling snowfields. Watching a tree shed its load of snow with a ‘whumpf!’, the branches springing back green and vibrant. As I am on vacation, I have enjoyed a good night’s sleep and a wonderful breakfast. Leo Amman, instead, started working in his outdoor office at 05:00am. He is responsible for grooming 28 out of Tannheimer Tal Valley’s 140-kilometer cross country ski trail network. If fresh snow has fallen over night, the skating and classic stride cross country ski trails have to be groomed in the morning. If no snow fell during the night, the tracks are prepared in the evening. Leo Amman spends on average six hours a day on his grooming machine.
60-year old Leo works as a backcountry ski touring guide; cross country skiing and snowshoeing are his private outdoor pursuits. “I have been working in nature all my life. When your office is the outdoors and your desk the mountains, you live life a bit differently,” he tells me as we climb up the hillside on snowshoes. “My grandfather took me hunting when I was a little boy and I helped my father mowing the Alpine pastures in the summer. The wisdom of nature is handed down from generation to generation. I learned all that naturally, just as kids today learn about computing.” I can feel how my circulation kicks in and my muscles start to warm up. I breathe deeply, taking in the crisp mountain air. I feel calm and relaxed and completely at ease with myself. “I find that snowshoeing is good for the soul,” says Leo. “It gets you outdoors and keeps you fit. Moreover, strapping on a pair of snowshoes and disappearing into the forest for a couple of hours is a perfect way to reconnect with nature and with your inner self.”
Having reached the destination of our snowshoe hike, Adlerhorst Mountain Inn, we take a rest leaning on the cabin’s timber wall, which is warmed by the sun. We enjoy some hot tea and delicious venison ham, cured and smoked by the mountain innkeepers’ themselves. Scanning the horizon, I let my eyes wander, from the picture postcard high valley and beautiful Haldensee Lake below to lofty Krinnenspitze Peak towering above. I ask Leo “are you a winter or summer person?” He immediately answers, “I like the changing of the seasons! I like those long summer days and the lush and verdant meadows. I do like winter when it gets dark early and you can feel how nature and your own body slow down somewhat. And when the snow melts and nature awakens in February, March… that day when spring has sprung – it’s about the promise of good things to come!”
You can find more information on snowshoeing in Tannheimer Tal Valley at www.tyrol.com.