Ed Leigh Garmin Blog 3, 26/01/11

It’s snowing at last! Break out the snorkels and powder boards because it hasn’t stopped snowing since Kitzbhuel. We’ve been locked deep into the central Austrian Alps just south of Saltzburg for the last five days and the snow hasn’t let up. After Kitzbhuel we headed down to Schladming for the night slalom for a couple of days and while unlike Kitz, the hill hadn’t seen much snow before our arrival by the time we left it had got a solid 30cm of fresh.
Graham and I had a day off before we had to head to La Thuile at the other end of the Alps and after much excited planning Graham made the call on a tiny resort called Hochkonig. It’s sat in a tiny valley just to the North West of Schladming and having studied the snow conditions minutely over the course of all our travels we decided that this area would have seen the most of the extremely localized dumps that have been hitting the area.
With only one day to make the most of the snow the pressure was on, but winding our way up through the village it became apparent that we had struck gold. Rooves, tree branches and rickety looking barns were groaning under the strain of close to a metre of fresh. The flakes looked more like pizza’s in the carpark and for two old(er) men who have seen a lot of snow between us we still dance round like school girls when it’s this good.
Graham had opted for his biggest skis, but I had dusted off a board I have been waiting a long time to use, the Jones Snowboards Hovercraft. This board is designed for floating in very deep snow when the hills are shallow pitch and you need to do some proper dodging round trees. So in essence I was tooled up perfectly.
A new resort, no idea where we were going and the anticipation of how great the snow would be. In terms of route finding we opted for the default strategy in a thick white out, which is to ride under the cable car. 
The first hop off the piste made me gasp and then hoot, I was sinking past my thighs in impossibly light snow and still not touching base. Kicking up huge rooster tails we dropped into a steep pitch and let fly. This is why I snowboard.
The feeling of throwing yourself of everything and knowing that if you stay centred you’ll just bounce through everything below you is as close to flying you’ll ever get, it really is like riding clouds. Your mouth fills up with so much snow if you dig in a speed check that you need a hot rod blower attached to your face just to keep breathing.
We spent the day working our way across the small interlinked valleys and as you can see from our tracks there was one chairlift that allowed us to explore a ridge further and further, lap after lap. There were some big drops and a lot of tree stump clipping, one I hit hard enough to crack the core of the Hovercraft, but my theory is you don’t need edges or a flex pattern to ride this kind of snow though, they’re nice but I reckon you could probably do it on a door.
Eventually with noodle legs we decided to make our way home. The last track of the day was an accident, we committed the cardinal sin and followed tracks and in this case despite a short hike it paid off. We got treated to some huge open bowls as well as an amazing bouncing gully. By the time we made it back to the car we were spent and the prospect of eight hours on the road was not ideal. But after so many ski races back to back I also felt like I had recharged my batteries, got a little bit of soul back if you like.
I split the tracks for the day into three parts and you can view them all here.

The secret powder day

 The epic run home

I now realize that I haven’t spent nearly enough time exploring the Austrian Alps. What they lack in altitude and gradient that make up for with privacy and snow fall. This is my gift to you today, put Hochkonig in your little black book of stashes for a snowy day. Half an hour from Saltzburg it is a forgotten gem that on a week day in January can barely muster 100 people. Paradise.