Cross-country skiing in the Heutal

Happiness in the Tracks

Our breath forms small clouds as we pull on our gloves and grab our cross-country ski poles. A freshly-prepared track lies in front of us in the middle of the snow-covered, wildly romantic Heutal – a narrow, accurate trail, carved out through an otherwise completely untouched winter world.  

We got up extra early this morning– our first cross-country skiing day of the season – to fully enjoy the atmosphere of this silent winter wonderland. And it also has something magical, as we set off and the winter sun sends its first rays over the mountains. The Winkelmoos circuit, for which we have found an extensive description on the online tour portal, leads us from the carpark in Heutal via the Herbstalm and the Kreuzbrücke to the beautiful Winklmoosalm. On the way, we glide past the Tanzangerstube and the Möserstube – which at 1193 metres, is the highest point of the tour. From the Kreuzbrücke, the track returns the same way. In total, we conquer 958 metres of altitude – an intermediate cross-country trail for somewhat advanced cross-country skiers. The tour can be extended up to 50 km and 1250 metres of altitude to Reit im Winkl. Even though some parts can be abbreviated by shuttle and cable car, it is only for hard-boiled cross-country skiers and therefore we stay with the short version.

Along the edge of the forest and over plains

We start off leisurely over the first metres and give our muscles time to warm up. We hear nothing apart from our own breathing and the quiet sounds of our cross-country skis gliding in the tracks. We ask spontaneously how often a track has to be prepared and neither of us has an answer. We plan to find out next time. We continue on casually, our muscles are already warm and we take our time so that we can enjoy the surrounding landscape. The Winkelmoos circuit is varied – sometimes the trail nears a small forest, sometimes it runs over open plains.

Nature in all its glory

As we glide alongside the edge of the forest, we observe how the powdery snow drifts down to the ground from the trees. These moments of silence, self-reflection – and the beauty of nature which presents itself in all its glory – these are the reasons why we step into our cross-country skis time and again. Here in Heutal we find all of this in abundance. We feel close to nature and do something good for our body. Fantastic! In open terrain once again, we see a few tracks in the untouched snow next to us – maybe rabbits, we think. Soon we have passed the animal tracks and look ahead once again and enjoy the imposing panorama. A couple of fleecy clouds sweep over us and underline the blue of the winter sky.

Happiness in the tracks

Our legs are gradually starting to tire and we use up the last of our energy reserves. The wind blows my hair out of my face and I close my eyes just for a moment and simply enjoy the moment. As I open my eyes again I have the wonderful mountain world in front of me. We have arrived back at our starting point. Exhausted but happy we step out of the bindings. And in that moment when we stash our skis in the car, we look at each other and know that we’ll be back here again soon.

In Conversation: Manfred, Trail Manager at Salzburger Saalachtal Tourismus

Manfred, how long have you been preparing the trails in the Salzburger Saalachtal region? This winter, season 2018/19, is my ninth winter preparing the trails. I’ve been at the Salzburger Saalachtal Tourismus for ten years now.   How often do you have to prepare the trails? Normally we prepare the trails every evening unless there is new snow in the night, then we drive twice, once in the evening and once very early in the morning. Actually, all winter long, you can never predict whether you will have to drive in the morning or the evening. The fact that we live in a valley basin means that the weather pulls in relatively quickly and it can be really icy overnight. So when it snows in the night, then we have to drive again in the morning. We organize that so that we are finished at 9 am at the latest and in the evening, when the last cross-country skiers have left the trails, we start to prepare the tracks. We make classic and skating tracks everywhere, in Heutal there is even a separate skating track. In total we are always out and about for between three and a half to four hours.   How does the track making work exactly? There’s a definite learning phase until you know how to operate the device properly. Just getting in and driving off won’t work (laughs). You need a couple of winters at least to learn. You also have to learn how to drive to make a nice loop with no corners and you are never finished learning because there are so many factors at play – such as the weather and the snow cover. Sometimes it still happens even today that I stand there and think to myself: ah, that could be better.

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