‘Figl’ fun for everyone!
Spring skiing – conquer the sunny slopes on cool ski boards
Does the term ‘firn’ ring a bell? Well, it is just one of the many terms used in Tyrol to define texture and properties of snow – just like in Arab countries there are many ways to describe different types of sand. ‘Firn’ is that very special snow you get to experience only in late winter, towards the beginning of spring. When in March or April the snow starts softening during daytime in the springtime sun, and run-of-the-mill skiers stow away their gear, the local ‘Figl’ crowd swings into action.
As the slopes are still firmly covered with snow, their top layer offers great grip making it wonderfully easy to swish through the ‘Griess’, the soft snow located right underneath. These are the perfect conditions for the type of snow gliders locally known as Figl, a contraction of the German word Firngleiter. Just 60 cm long, and easily fastened on to regular hiking boots, Figl are a cool gadget for skiing down steep slopes and thawing couloirs.
The concept dates back to Emo Johann Heinrich, an electrical engineer and mountaineering enthusiast living in Innsbruck. In his quest of tackling – and actually enjoying - the remaining snow-covered slopes he kept encountering after his early-spring climbing excursions. In 1946 he patented his device made of spruce wood under the name of ‘Firngleiter’.
In Innsbruck, to ‘figl’ has always been trendy. Each year, as soon as the characteristic firn conditions apply, the in-crowd gathers on Nordkette for the figl season. To join the action, simply head up to Seegrube and rent some short, light-weight metal blades as well as sturdy hiking boots. Now you can either just jump head-over-heels into the figl fun, or book a half-day introductory course at a cost of EUR 120 for one to three people.
You will quickly grasp the basic technique, which is really quite simple: To accelerate, you shift your weight forward, and to slow down you lean back and press your heels into the soft snow underneath. And as the saying goes: Only practice makes perfect! Figl aficionados will tell you to simply enjoy the pure fun and thrill of the sport.