01 February 2024
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Traveling safely in the snow

One of the most beautiful experiences in the mountains is to see them change with the seasons. Anyone who has ever been to Hafelekar in summer can hardly imagine that in winter, freeriders on skis voluntarily and with great pleasure plunge downhill here. In winter, on the other hand, the thought of lying on a flat rock and soaking up the sun on a hot day seems incredibly remote.

Every season has its advantages - and its sports. Beautiful snowy landscapes and spectacular videos on social media quickly invite you to take to the snow yourself. But what dangers lurk in the mountains in winter and how can they be avoided? In this interview, mountain guide Gerold Santer gives tips on equipment, recommends options for beginners and shares his knowledge on how to enjoy winter nature safely.

Mountain guide Gerold Santer

With the Sellrain Valley as his home and playground for his passion, Gerold has been a mountain guide for two decades. In winter, he runs his own ski & alpine school Follow Me at Kühtai and in the Sellrain Valley. Specializing in western alpine tours and the 4,000-metre peaks of the Alps, it is often a challenge for him as a family man to reconcile family and career.

Gerold has been a trainer for Tyrolean mountain guides since 2008. As President of the Association of Austrian Alpine Schools, his focus is on training and prevention. He actively promotes the safety of his guests and employees through ongoing training in avalanche and mountaineering courses.

From his point of view, what does it take to be safe in the mountains around Innsbruck in winter? Where are the dangers lurking and how can you still enjoy the winter wonderland? Here are his answers.

Expert interview

For which off-piste winter activities is the right equipment particularly important, and what are your personal preferences when it comes to your equipment?

The top priority is safety and function. It should keep us warm and dry in winter so that we are well protected from the wind and weather. A change of clothes should be in the rucksack, as well as a warm drink and, depending on the distance, food. Sun protection for skin, eyes and head too. When ski touring and snowshoeing in avalanche-prone terrain, special safety equipment such as an avalanche transceiver, shovel, probe and possibly an airbag are required in addition to experience and knowledge. A ski helmet is just as important today when ski touring.

Otherwise, functional clothing is sufficient, depending on the type of sport. I also recommend a helmet when tobogganing.

Which routes or places in the Innsbruck region do you recommend for beginners in terms of ski touring, tobogganing, winter hiking and snowshoeing, taking into account which safety aspects?

The region generally offers a lot of variety, so I don't want to emphasize any particular ones. All activities require good planning. Don't just go for it, think about it beforehand and plan with the sun, temperature and weather.

In the Innsbruck area, we have everything on our doorstep near the city and up to over 3,000 meters. Everyone has different needs and wishes and with a little research will certainly find something suitable. In general, it is also dangerous in the snow and there are many dangers to be aware of. We are immediately off the beaten track or off the slopes in alpine terrain. This requires a high level of knowledge.

I recommend joining a Guide or join an organization. There is a wide range of offers from free to private guides.

Out and about with kids: what should you consider or plan in particular for a winter hike/sledding with children?

The age determines the activity! The younger and smaller the children are, the less time and energy it should take.

Winter is more strenuous than summer. Children need lots of variety and fun! However, less is often more... Don't forget games and cuddly toys!

As an insider in Innsbruck, you certainly know many special places. What are your personal favorite places/regions in winter?

I don't want to give any information on this, otherwise everyone will want to go 😉

There is already far too much control via social media. Some places are then so overloaded that it's no longer fun.

It's best to think about what you want and what you want to do beforehand! Individual planning and not following a track from the internet, then your gut feeling, the safety precautions and the destination will be right.

Are there special times in winter that are particularly suitable for certain activities? For example, for unique snow conditions or less crowded routes?

Firstly, you should work with the current conditions and keep an eye on the length of the day as well as the position of the sun, temperature and weather. The slopes then lean in certain directions and are illuminated differently by the sun. This then determines the snow quality and the transformation of the snow crystals. So every day a different tour is good or not.

Experience, information and observation help to find the right tour for the day.

Where do you think most accidents happen - and how can they be avoided?

Most accidents happen when tobogganing and skiing on the piste. Ski tourers are more experienced and practiced and act more carefully. Accidents cannot always be avoided, even if they are completely ruled out. It simply requires more awareness of the dangers and preparation for the activities.

If articles like this can contribute to this, then I'd be delighted!

Since emergency contacts are crucial, what number(s) should you memorize in your cell phone before a tour? What other safety measures should you always take before heading out into the open terrain?

140 is the alpine emergency number and 112 is the international emergency number.

In Tyrol, we have an absolutely professional and comprehensive network of aid organizations both in the valley and on the mountain. Coordination is handled by the state's own warning and emergency center.

More info

Guided free winter activities

With the Welcome Card (available for stays of 2 nights or more at selected partner hotels and accommodation providers), guests in the region have the opportunity to participate in the free guided activity program program. Gerold leads some of the offers with his colleagues from Kühtai and Sellrain.

Inspiration for easy beginner ski tours:

Who with Gerold a Taster ski tour in Kühtai with Gerold, you can find all the information here!

Contact us

Gerold Santer
+43 (0)5239 21688

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