Snow Kings (and Queens)

Last updated 10.12.2018Guest AuthorGuest Author
TEXT Gero Günther | PHOTOS Roderick Aichinger

People have developed a love-hate relationship with “shovelling snow”, as the Tiroleans refer to snow clearing. It is exhausting, on the one hand. On the other, there is almost no other job where you can see the results of your efforts so quickly – especially when the snow piles up as high as it did during last year‘s record winter. Ten Tiroleans tell their snow story.

Joseph Heidegger, 77, shepherd

“I reckon this shovel is around twelve years old now. It still works well for powder snow, but is not so good for old, hard snow, for which I use a normal spade. I have already cleared snow off the roof and behind the hut. It took two hours. The barn dates back to 1783. Today it is home to seven goats and a few sheep. In bygone days, it housed up to 30 goats. The neighbours have motorised snow blowers. That is too expensive for me – and I have a healthy respect for these machines.”

Philipp Hofmann, 26, nurse in training

“This amount of snow is so extreme, it is going to take a while for the big snow plough to arrive. Which is why I, together with a few lads from the village, am clearing the paths between the houses. Clearing the snow was fun to start with, but I have been outside for eight hours now and at some point, you have simply seen enough of it. You have to be concentrated and make sure you don’t bury yourself in with your own tractor. Situations like these bring us closer. We talk and work amongst ourselves, all pull together. Everyone helps, even the guests lend a hand.”

Kati Früh, 35, Olpererblick landlady

“The most important thing, of course, is that I clear the entrance area. So that the guests can enter the inn, drink beer, eat something. Especially in winter, the inn is a social centre. A colourful mix of old and young, locals and guests, tour hikers and cross-country skiers, for example, meet here. I certainly don’t need any more exercise today. I cleared the snow and that is better than any workout.”

Traudl Praxmarer, 78, farmer

“My husband died very young. I have six children and had to run the farm more or less alone. It has been hard. I have shovelled a great deal of snow in my life. But that is alright. That and all the other work I have done means that I am strong and healthy. I walk in the mountains a lot and enjoy cross-country skiing.”

Helmut Schafferer, 48, winter service highway engineer for the State of Tirol

“I can’t talk for long, because I have to put the snow chains on quickly and start clearing. You can see the amount of snow we have to contend with. Nowadays, we are well prepared for these levels, because the weather forecast is normally very accurate. I am going to clear the road up to Brenner next and have just loaded five tons of salt from the silo into my wagon. I should normally finish work at 19.30 hrs, but it is going to take longer tonight.“

Thomas Puellacher, 53, winter service manager for Innsbruck Airport

“Our runway sweeper, an Øveraasen RS 400, measures a total of 12.7 metres in length, the blower output is 40,000 cubic metres per hour and the tank holds 1,000 litres. The front is equipped with a plough with a clearing width of 5.50 metres, then comes the rotating brush, followed by a blower that blows away the fine snow residue. I could spend all day telling you about the facts and figures. The normal clearing crew here at the airport consists of twelve men, who are on duty for twelve hours each. I’ve been doing this for 18 years now, during which not a single plane has been cancelled due to snow conditions.”

Sophie Kneringer, 5, Kindergarten child

“Kindergarten was closed today because it snowed so much. That is why I am outside all day with my sister and friends. I have often helped my dad clear the snow at our farm. I have been helping him since I was four years old. Papa just has to get the snow blower out for me and help me turn it around. I never really feel the cold. We ski, of course. Downhill and cross-country. But now I have to throw snowballs at my dad.”

Patrick Stadlwieser-Höllriegl, 40, farmer

“When it snows as heavily as this, you have to clear it two or three times. It doesn’t bother me, I like the snow. After all, I worked in the ski school for 20 years and am an enthusiastic skier myself. I train my son now. Fabian has demonstrated real talent in slalom. A second Marcel Hirscher. That’s why we are going to go inside first, to watch the World Cup slalom, and then we’ll continue here later.“

Ulrich Lentsch, 50, Kaunertal Glacier cable car employee

“I have just cleared the driveways. Maybe I should clear my carport roof next. I also deal with snow in a professional capacity. I work at the Kauntertal Glacier Cable Car Co. Piste rescue, slope maintenance, avalanche detonation. You have to live together with nature in the mountains. When an avalanche comes down, you realise all over again just how small you are. I used to be an avalanche rescue dog handler, was on standby for years. Fortunately, I was never involved in an emergency. Snow is beautiful. But snow is also very dangerous.”

Alexander Mader, 9, schoolboy

“I clear snow all winter long. I really enjoy it. I clear the area in front of our garages and down the whole street. Our priest lives over there. You can really help others by clearing snow. I like that. If it snows hard, I spend the whole day clearing it away at weekends. My friend, Clemens, helps me sometimes. I actually prefer clearing snow to skiing.”

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