An Austrian Alps Snowshoe Adventure
|Location:||Silvretta Alps, Austria|
|Elevation Gain:||2,250 feet|
Berggasthof Hotel Piz Buin and Wiesbadenerhutte are high alpine mountain huts. Mountain huts are generally in the mountains and are only accessible by foot. The huts are a building built for mountaineers, climbers, hikers, snowshoers, skiiers even mountain bikers. Huts are available all over the world and provide different types of services. Some are full-service where food and drinks are served and some are self-service. Mountains huts date back all the way to the 1863.
The first mountain hut in the United States was built in 1889 in New Hampshire. In the Western United State you will not find any full-service huts and because of this, I like to go out and take advantage of hut systems beyond my abode. This wasn’t my first time at a hut, but it was my first time snowshoeing to a hut; better yet it was in Europe.
*hutte is a mountain hut or refuge
Wiesbadenerhutte is located in the Silvretta Alps; it is a very good starting point for plenty of tours of the mountains surrounding it. Some of the great peaks around include Piz Buin, Litzner and Piz Linard. To reach Wiesbadenerhutte walk along a well maintained summer/winter trail in the Oschental glacier valley. In the summer it takes about 2 hours walking time, for us it took about 3-4 hours on our snowshoes because we went off-trail a bit with our guide.
Wiesbadenerhutte accommodates 180 people, 80 beds and 100 small bunks. It is a full-service hut that is very popular for climbing the glacier of Piz Buin nearby. If you stay overnight, you will receive half-board which means your dinner and breakfast are paid for.
Wiesbadnerhutte Website – for reservations, information
First things first go to the Vermuntbahn where you will park your car for the night and take a lift and a tunnel bus to Berggasthof Hotel Piz Buin. This is during the winter, during the summer you are able to drive straight to the Berggasthof.
From Landeck get on E60/S16 from B171. Follow E60/S16 to B188 in Bludenz. Take exit Bludenz-Montafon from E60/S16. Follow B188 to Bofasrtasse/Innerbofa in Gaschurn for 27.9 km (17.5 mi).
Address: Vermuntbahn 6794 Gaschurn, Austria
Vermuntbahn and tunnel bus is your gateway to Bielelhohe, Verggasthof Hotel Piz Buin where you will begin the hike. A 1 day Vermuntbahn and tunnel bus ticket costs 30.10 Euro. You can buy your ticket ahead of time or instead buy on-site. Make sure you buy your ticket down too unless you will walk all the way down to your car.
There are options to hire a guide and do one of their tours. Here are some links to some companies that offer these tours.
06:15 Leave Zurich area
09:00 Arrive Partenen, AT
09:20 Take Gondola to Bielerhöhe, Gasthof Piz Buin. Vermuntbahn (Gondola) Partenen > Trominier then Tunnelbus > Silvretta-Bielerhöhe
10:15 Meet guide and receive equipment
11:00 Start Hike, 4h – 5 hr
16:00 Arrive at Wiesbadenerhütte (stay the night)
08:30 Leave Wiesbadenerhütte, head back to car
There’s things that you would only try once and then there’s things that you do for the first time that may become your passion later. I haven’t been snowshoeing ever before this trip and I now want it to become a hobby.
I would like to recommend that if you have never been snowshoeing before especially to a place you have never been, hire a guide. To reach our guide, we took the Vermuntbahn (cable car) to Partenen. Here a taxi service takes you in a tunnel bus through a 4 km long tunnel and then a cleared road only for this tunnel bus to Bielerhohe. During winter months this is the only way to get to Bielerhohe. It was quite an experience going through this tiny tunnel in the mountain as the bus perfectly fit into the tunnel.
We searched around for a little and there he was all ready for us. Our guide Kristof was ready with our snowshoes and poles. The only reason it took a little to find him was we were mesmerized by the beautiful valley we were standing in; I immediately felt like I was dreaming, it was completely white everywhere. Kristof gave us our snowshoes and poles that we attached to our backpacks. The beginning of the hike was done on foot and hiking poles. We were crossing the Silvretta-Stausee (see is lake in German) as I saw a gentlemen doing a run around the lake. Quite the workout I must say.
After we passed the lake, Kristof instructed us to put on our snowshoes as we were entering into backcountry where there was no groomed trail. An interesting fact in the Alps is that tree line is at much lower elevation because of the harsh conditions and cold temperatures. It is much different than what I am typically used to here in the Eastern Sierras. Alpine territory is unimaginably beautiful, almost like someone painted the mountains white and didn’t miss a spot.
The hike itself was moderately difficult seeing that we weren’t going on the groomed trail, but higher up along the ridge of the mountain. The snow was deep, but every step I took I was mesmerized by what was around me. During the hike, we came close to these birds called snow chickens (I believe its official name is Rock Ptarmigan). Initially I thought the snow was moving, but it was actually the snow chickens. These birds are known to change colors from white in the winter and brown in the summer; another way to say this is they “seasonally camaflouge”. The snow chickens were the exact color of the snow we were walking on; I don’t believe we saw any other wildlife this entire trip.
The hike took us about 4 hours, obviously this time length would have been much faster in the summer months or if we took the groomed trail. Kristof took us off trail and I remember seeing the groomed trail just below us almost the entire hike. Of course that played with my head during the hike, but I didn’t mind much. I was having such a fascinating time with this hobby. The first thing we did after we reached the hut was order a Radler (beer mixed with carbonated lemonade). I learned of Radlers years ago on my first hike in Switzerland and guess what they are imported to the U.S. now.
We enjoyed the warm weather in the sun while waiting for our room to be available. They had a few benches outside that numerous amount of people were relaxing on. They overlook the valley where we came from below and have a perfect view of Pitz Buin (3,312 m). Pitz Buin borders Austria and Switzerland; so just on the other side of the mountain we were looking at was Switzerland. We were able to witness some people who were ski-touring up to reach Pitz Buin and ski back down.
Wiesbadenerhütte sits at 2443 m (8,015 ft) and Bielerhohe where we came from sits at 2023 m (6,637 ft). The next day we would go back another way which also meant we were climbing the mountain behind Wiesbadenerhutte; this looked like a difficult task.
For dinner I had a soup by the name of Speckknodel Suppe and Wiener Schnitzel. Speckknodel is dumplings with pieces of bacon) and is a specialty in the Tyrol area of Austria. It’s quite interesting because the Tyrolean cuisine is simple; I’ve read that they were not rich and since they lived in the mountains and valleys in the Alpine areas they farmed. A lot of their cuisine has flour, milk and cheese. Wiener Schitzel is breaded chicken and what’s funny is in the U.S. we have a chain called Wienerschnitzel that is actually the world’s largest hot dog chain. I would recommend both of those for dinner if you eat there.
We stayed in an 8 bunk room that night, we were fortunate to get there early enough to get the bottom bunks. The people who took the beds at the top came later and left before us. I would advise to bring a sleeping bag liner and a blow up pillow.
Instead of heading back the same way, we headed up the mountain side to another valley. The climb up was quite icy and we did put on our snowshoes until later. Once we hit the ridge it was much warmer because the sun was beating down on us. There were portions where I second guessed my next step because we were on steep and icy terrain. As we finally descended into the valley on the other side the snow was perfect fluffy and we had a bit of fun on this portion of the hike.
I enjoyed that Kristof took us a different way back; I tend to like loops better than out and back hikes. Just before noon we hit the Silvrettasee drag lift and Silvretta-Skisafari. This is where we split up: 3 went to the car and my sister and I decided we would hike back down all the way till Galtur where we had an apartment rental awaiting us. The entire way down was on a groomed trail. It was nice because all we had to do was return our rentals the next day to a shop in Galtur.
This was an epic trip, a trip of a limetime that opened my eyes to another world of hobbies. Soon enough I would take my next snowshoe trip without a guide.