Wegebereiter Mieming-53
27 December 2023
Post originally written in: Deutsch Information An automatic machine translation. Super fast and almost perfect.

When Andi Schatz sets off in winter, hard work awaits him everywhere. There are an impressive 250 kilometers of cross-country ski trails and hiking paths on the Mieminger Sonnenplateau, around 40 minutes by bus to the west of Innsbruck. And nobody knows these trails as well as the Mieminger trail guide working for Innsbruck Tourismus. With the first snowfalls, I was finally able to experience for myself the daily challenges that winter brings up here. My excursion into the quiet beauty of an extraordinary treasure trove.

The small tourist office in the idyllic village of Mieming is located just a few meters from the bus stop at the municipal office. Everything here is pleasantly straightforward, even the supermarket on the village square still looks like a grocer's store from the old days. I am greeted twice by Theresa in the inviting wooden information office. The third information lady, also Theresa, is off today. The pleasant village atmosphere is so welcoming that I immediately feel at home among the hiking brochures and trail information. Coffee is served immediately in the "Bürostubn" next door, where the rustic corner bench doubles as a desk. Andi Schatz stands there, bent over a huge map, tracing the colorful lines with his finger and planning today's workday. His handshake is strong and heavy, his eyes already glowing with a wild eagerness to work: "Griaß di! Can we do it?

The snow its treasurer

It's sacrificially cold. Winter is cracking and crunching outside. You really don't chase a dog out the door in this weather. But of course Andi doesn't go anywhere without Jack. A wave of the master's hand and the dog takes up position on the back seat, panting with anticipation. Even at the tender age of ten, Andi was hard to get out of the woods here, he says. The trained agricultural machinery technician is now 32 years old and is the expert on the plateau for everything to do with trails. From May to September, Jack and Andi can be found almost exclusively in the mountains, repairing paths and trails, repairing well troughs, straightening benches, cutting mountain pines (mountain pines are waist-high bushes in the high Alps) and servicing sun loungers. The duo also look after the cycle paths, the alpine park, the playgrounds and themed trails, often working closely with the municipality and helping each other out. Only the climbing routes are done by other professionals, winks the Bergfex, and Jack barks in confirmation.

Even when Andi and Jack are out and about in private, rough pebbles are kicked out of the way, pasture fences are rattled or a gate is inspected. But Andi is reassuring: That's simply part of the professional ethos among trailblazers, there's no getting away from it. Mother Nature herself writes their work schedule: clearing the larch branches after a storm in summer and taking out the clearing vehicle in winter - you just have to be spontaneous and flexible! Andi only has to get annoyed with some people - when red-white-red hiking markings are painted over again or signs are stolen (the dead end is particularly popular), when pasture fences are damaged, gates are not closed or entire signposts disappear without a trace. Only then is the job sometimes very tedious, the trail master reports.

When Mrs. Holle works overtime

Preparations for the winter start as early as October, when Manni from Wildermieming, who has known the snow up here for 30 years, also helps out. First of all, the heavy machines are brought out of their summer sleep and made fit for the winter. Incidentally, Mieming relies entirely on sustainability when it comes to snow; nothing is covered with artificial snow up here. In wet (snow-poor) winters, the natural snow is simply transported the old-fashioned way by truck from higher altitudes to the cross-country ski trail. Speaking of cross-country skiing: Today, there are trail markers and signs on the loading area of the pickup truck flatbed, 1,200 of which Andi and Jack have to set up at the start of each season. Although they always have the snow chains to hand, they have never really needed them thanks to the four-wheel drive, Andi winks.

And speaking of snow chains: the winter of 2018/19 was so snowy that the tracking device got stuck in the forest during the snowstorm. When you're stuck all alone in the forest at night, with the trees in front and behind you buckling like old toothpicks from the snow, you need a motivated guardian angel, laughs the trail master. It's not just the heavens and Holle working overtime, but also Andi: sometimes seven days on duty, keeping watch in front of the webcam at night, and going out for the first clearing at three and five in the morning. By seven in the evening, at least the dog has finished work, winks the snowman, I'll catch up.

Where there is a will ..

... as the saying goes, there are paths. Magenta-colored signs mark the groomed winter hiking trails in Tyrol, four of which can be enjoyed in Mieming. The fact that hikers still get lost on the trails is particularly troublesome, as their footsteps leave deep holes that then have to be laboriously repaired by hand. Of course, it's a bit of a Sisyphean task, but the feedback from people matches Andi Schatz's eagerness to work: a smile is simply the best reward! However, he will never forget that someone once slipped him a whole hundred euro tip - it only happens once in a lifetime, says the trail rider happily. He rarely goes down to Innsbruck, maybe to the Christmas market with his girlfriend, but the hustle and bustle quickly becomes too much for Andi. He much prefers to be up here in the quiet, smiles the treasurer into the winter sun.

Photos: The information office and workshop photos in the article were taken by the author. The cover picture, the brute nature shots and all the action selfies on the cross-country skiing equipment were taken by trail guide Andi Schatz and his faithful companion Jack.

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