“Two Planks, Perfect Snow, Hurrah!“
50 years skiing in Heutal
50 years ago, the era of ski sport as a mass movement came to Heutal but long before this, daring youths made their first turns and jumps in the “wilderness“ of Unken.
They must have seemed a little crazy to the residents, this handful of idealists who started trying out skiing around 1920 but they were fired up about this new sport – and this was infectious. So the village doctor was able to inspire the youth on the “Doktorfeldwiese“ to make their first turns. In the 30s a baker took the children under his wing. In the morning he baked bread rolls and in the afternoon he trained the students on the “Moarwirtsleit'n“. They came with simple ash skis with a belt binding and were keen to learn. For ski poles they used hazel sticks, pointed at the front and everyone had to trudge up the mountain to reap the “reward“: the pleasure of the descent through the white splendour while the wind of the new times whistled around their ears.
A sense of freedom and mobility was awakened, especially for those grown-up wild boys who were looking for a challenge and indeed risk: races from the Sonntagshorn, the village mountain in Unken, began in 1934. Participants came from afar, even from Norway. The particularly “dashing“ among them conquered a 400 metre long gully – the dreaded “gun barrel“ - in one direct line, in one “schuss“. The more cautious incorporated turns, such as Franz Bauer, who later became a cartwright with a ski hire business, and established a small ski museum at home. “Falls were the order of the day and there were always fractures because the skis weren't released without a safety binding“, he remembers. Those who survived a fall uninjured offered a quick prayer up to heaven, brushed the snow off their loden trousers and woollen jacket and skied on. At the bottom, someone made a note of the time with numb fingers, using an aviator watch from WW2.
A “technical“ mishap didn't mean the end of the world to these pioneers. Once the hand stopwatch failed because it was iced up. “Did you fall often?“ the skiers were asked as they arrived at the finish and their position was decided according to the descriptions they gave. The particularly active people in the village built a jump on the “Lohweberleit'n“. They emulated the famous “Bubi“ Bradl, who was the first ski jumper in the world to surpass the 100-metre mark. Franz Bauer and his friend Herbert Saringer were able to jump once in Zell am See with this star. Or as Bauer, the 90-year old, humbly explains, “Jumping a little with him“. Meanwhile, ground-breaking things were happening on the ski slopes: the first drag lifts – one behind the church and another small one in Heutal – took off in the 1950s. With the success of the Wildalm lift in 1968, Heutal became a hub for the future popular sport and became a training ground for the five world cup skiers from Unken: most recently Reinfried Herbst celebrated nine world cup wins; won the silver medal in slalom in the Olympic Games in 2006 and the slalom overall world cup in the season 2009/10.
1968: The “Christkind“ brings the modern lift
You can feel this awakening vividly when Hans Dax describes the development of skiing in Heutal, the idyllic high valley at 1000 metres above sea level. The money was raised using joint forces: every share sold showed the community spirit of the inhabitants and was a step into a new future. After the transfer of land belonging to alpine farmers and forest owners, tree removal began followed by the levelling of the slope with a caterpillar excavator. As Dax describes this exciting time, his eyes show this gleam of new beginnings: he was already an associate as the lift company began operations. Later he became the managing director. But the first director – for over 18 years – was the main initiator of this ambitious project, Sebastian Vitzthum. He presented the inhabitants with a very special gift from the “Christkind“ on the 24th December 1968: the new diesel-powered lift with a length of 1200 metres and a speed of nearly four metres per second. And then it began, the practical test for the lift operators: they had to pull down the short wooden hangers for the skiers hundreds of times a day. As sure as Amen in a prayer, by the time evening came they had pulled muscles.
Falls by skiers were also predestined. Sometimes deep holes appeared in the lift track which were filled up with a snow shovel now and then. The skiers carved freestyle downhill over the bumpy slope. Right on the slope there was a water ditch which was a problem when there was too little snow. Despite all of this, there was no end to the euphoria; the queue for the lift was long. The 70s and 80s were the “golden years“ in Heutal. Skiing had become a mass sport and the Heutal road was made into two lanes. A second drag lift came into operation in 1986 and then the third, the so-called saddle curve lift. This made a connection to the Bavarian Winklmoos ski area possible. Today, the ski area relies on more offers and cross-border cooperation. Heutal is a member of the “3-Länder Freizeit Arena“ with Tyrol and Bavaria since 2017. It is a small, fine and open ski area – and therefore an eldorado for families. Ski tourers are also warmly welcomed here. As a response to the boom in this sport, there is a new separately prepared ascent track together with a ski touring learning trail. Yes and away from the ski piste, Heutal offers a great atmosphere for cross-country skiers and sledgers.
Numbers and Facts Ski Area Heutal
- 1 hashtag #heutal
- 2 ski schools and live webcams
- 3 Länder Freizeit-Arena
- 4 lifts
- 7 stations on the ski touring educational trail
- 11 kilometres of pistes & 40 km cross-country skiing trails
- 65 € for a family ski ticket for 2 adults and 2 children
- 1,000 metre altitude on the ski tour to the Sonntagshorn
- 1,460 m above sea level – the starting point of the toboggan run from the Hochalm
- Countless happy moments and holiday memories