Tag Archives: Skiing and Snow

World Alpine Championships Underway in Germany

Garmisch-Partenkirchen, site of the 1936 Winter Olympics, is hosting the World Alpine Ski Championships now
The World Alpine Ski Championships. which are held in odd-numbered years so as not to conflict with the Olympics, began yesterday in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Bavarian Alps, close to the Austrian border. Garmisch previously hosted the event in 1978 (when the championships were held in even-numbered, non-Olympic years), and of course, Garmisch also hosted the 1936 Winter Olympics, the first Games to include Alpine (i.e., downhill as opposed to cross-country skiing).

Since the twin towns’ six-syllabel name is a mouthful for many non-Germans, the event’s popular name is been shortened to GAP2011, and a suitable contemporary logo has been designed as its graphic signature. 

My husband and I visited Garmisch on a bleak October weekend, and the ski jumping stadium remains a popular visitor attraction. People wander around the stadium, read plaques and, when we were there, were  gazing up at the cloud-shrouded slopes.

In October, the "infield" grass in the jumping stadium, built for the 1936 Winter Olympics was green, and the clouds hung low over the facility.

In 1936, the Olympic oath was recited by German skier Willy Bogner (who later founded a skiwear company that today remains one of the top sports apparel firms in the world). Twenty-eight nations participated, and medals were awarded in 17 sports. Men and women competed in both downhill and slalom, with gold, silver and bronze medals given for combined scores. Slalom, the shortest Alpine discipline,  was held on a slope called the Gudiberg and the downhill, started on the Kreuzeck and finished at the Kreuzjoch. Germany’s Franz Pfnür and Christl Cranz won those first-ever Olympic Alpine events.

The 2011 World Championships features 10 events (slalom, giant slalom, Super G, downhill and SuperCombi for men and women). The Gudiberg is still in use as the German Alpine training center, but the downhill races are now run on the fabled Kandahar run, which has nothing to do with a province in Afghanistan. The first medals were awarded yesterday. The U.S. Ski Team’s Julia Mancuso took silver. Austria’s Elisabeth Görgl won the gold, and a German racer was once again on the podium, thanks to Maria Reisch’s bronze.

It would be thrilling to attend the World Championships (I’ve been to those in Vail in 1989 and 1999 and except to watch some races in 2015 as well), but it’s good to be in Garmisch any time — except on a fall day when it’s cloudy and rainy.

10th Mountain Division’s Fowler-Hilliard Hut Rebuilt

Colorado backcountry hut, burned last year, is back for this winter

The rebuilt Fowler-Hilliard Hut after an early-season snowstorm.

A fire in September destroyed the original Fowler-Hilliard Hut, one of the 10th Mountain Division Hut Association’s barebones backcountry lodges between Aspen, Leadville and Vail.  Investigators were unable to determine with certainty the cause of the fire, although final reports indicated that significant lightning activity occurred in the area during that time and was a likely cause. 

The original hut, built in 1988, was named for Anne Fowler and Ed Hilliard, avid mountaineers tragically killed in a climbing accident and and generously funded by the Fowler and Hilliard families. A yurt was in place last winter, but the real hut  rebuilt for the 2010-11 is so much better. Click here for post-fire photos and a report on the rapid reconstruction over this past summer. Reservations for the new Fowler-Hilliard open on November 22, with availability on weekends and holidays, but they’ll go fast!

The 10th Mountain Division Hut Association was named to honor the men of  the U.S. Army’s mountaineering and ski troops, who trained during World War II at Camp Hale in central Colorado. The veterans who returned were instrumental in spurring the growth of the ski industry, and  hut visitors to this day share the special spirit of these men, especially their pursuit of excellence, self reliance and love of the outdoors.

Located on US Forest Service land about 6 miles west of Vail Pass at an elevation of 11,500 feet, the Fowler-Hilliard Hut became one of the most popular in the hut system, averaging more that 2,500 user nights per year. This is impressive considering that it accommodated on 16 people a night and winter use requires skiing in between 5 and 9 miles, depending on the trailhead, while carrying a heavy pack with food, drinks, clothing and gear. Knowledge of and competence in the mountains in winter are, of course, also required. The Fowler-Hilliard or any other of the rustic huts provide doorstep access to untracked powder. There are, of course, no lifts, but it’s amazing how light a person feels and ready to ascend higher when the big backpack is stashed indoors.

The 10thMountain Division Hut Association is a not-for-profit organization that works in partnership with the Forest Service to provide a network of backcountry huts for cross-country skiers and snowshoers in winter, and hikers and mountain bikers in summer. All of the huts are located between 9,700 and 11,700 feet. Each one sleeps sixteen and includes a living-dining area heated by wood-burning stoves, firewood, propane cook stoves, mattresses, pillows, cooking utensils and hut supplies. Users bring in their food and personal gear.   The cost is $30 per person per night, and the congeniality indoors coupled with wild-country quiet and backcountry beauty are priceless.  

Even though you have to melt your own water, cook your own food, haul out your own trash and keep the stove stoked, the huts are a very exclusive place to stay, and people grab reservations as soon as they are available — beginning the previous winter. Weekends and holiday weeks for all huts are fully booked for 2010-11, though it is possible to benefit from a last-minute cancellation somewhere in the system. Midweek nights are still possible. Information on how to reserve places at Fowler-Hilliard or any of the other huts are available online, but reservations themselves cal only be made by calling 970-925-5775.

Note: On Tuesday morning, the day reservations opened for the hut, I received the following message from the hut association’s Cindy Carptenter, “Right now our reservations lines are going crazy with nonstop calls to book the new Fowler/Hilliard Hut.  As of 9:00am this morning every Saturday has been snapped up! We are now filling the Fri and Sunday spots.”  Just so you know!