Updated: Apr 30, 2019
The feeling you get when you make fresh tracks through soft powdery snow is almost indescribable. The wind brushes against your cheeks, the sunlight bounces of the white snow, and as you glide past the snow-capped trees, the world seems to fall away and you can’t help but grin.
It’s inevitable that at some point you’ll fall face first into the fluffy white stuff. But that only has the effect of making your cheeks hurt more as you smile even wider and laugh even harder.
Just a few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of spending a few powder-packed days with some truly awesome people at the Marmot Women’s Winter Camp.
During the camp, I met women from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, while snowboarding in some excellent conditions. I also learned plenty about the Kirchberg region of the Kitzbühel Alps and what an incredible off-piste mecca it can be.
Arriving on the first morning
On the first morning, I got myself up around 8 am (a little groggy after a few too many glasses of wine the night before!), packed the car, and headed out the door. Destination: Kirchberg in Tirol, Austria!
The drive wasn’t long at all, just a short one hour or so by car from my place in Innsbruck. When I drove into the Hotel Sonne car park, I knew I was in the right place since I could see a marquee outside with dozens of freeride and touring skis lined up and ready to be put to good use.
Fortunately, despite my slow start, I made it somewhat on time. My room wasn’t quite ready so I headed towards signs for the camp registration desk. There, I was welcomed by Jessica and Julia, the event organisers. These two gals would do an amazing job of orchestrating the next few days of sun, snow, and fun.
The Hotel Sonne translated “Sunny” Hotel definitely lived up to its name that Sunday. The hot mountain sun was beaming down. All the outside tables were full of hotel guests and camp participants in t-shirts, sipping on drinks and coffees while taking in the beautiful surroundings.
Having rushed out of bed that morning, I totally forgot to eat! So, I gladly welcomed the trays of light snacks that arrived at 10 am — some much-needed fuel for an afternoon shredding on the mountain.
There was still plenty of time to prepare for the afternoon activities. So, after that, I headed to the expo area to meet the reps and check out what they had on offer. There was loads of stuff to try out during the camp including clothing and accessories from Marmot, ABS, Alpina, and Anita Active.
Then, I changed into my snowboard gear and and chilled out in the lobby with a cappuccino until kick-off at 1145.
A nice sunny day to get the legs warmed up – Auf gehts!
The sun beamed down on the group of 29 participants and our guides, as we gathered to hear the afternoon agenda. Then, we set off together toward the local ski bus stop to catch the bus to the ski lift.
I’ll admit I was pretty apprehensive about being the only snowboarder in the group — and the only not particularly good-German speaker. But I was quickly put at ease by the other friendly participants and my lovely guide for the day, Teresa Brenner.
That afternoon, we took it easy, starting out with some ultra-important transceiver training and a few laps of the resort, both on and off-piste.
The snow was quite slushy and sticky from the heat and unrelenting sun. But fortunately, the forecast was calling for snow — a good sign.
At the end of the ski day, everyone was smiling and it was clear the next few days were going to be pretty epic!
The schedule for the first evening included some post-skiing yoga (although, after finally checking into my room and getting changed, I didn’t make it!).
The yoga was followed by an avalanche presentation (which I did make it to!).
Then, dinner in the hotel restaurant. There was definitely a buzz in the air as everyone sat around the dinner tables, chatting about the day, and getting to know each other.
After a busy first day, I bid farewell to my new friends relatively early and headed off to bed — I was going to need a good night’s rest for what was in store.
Day two: Did someone say powder?
The next morning I woke up feeling refreshed after a lovely sleep. As I opened the curtains and looked out the window, I was delighted to see a fresh layer of snow on the ground.
And as luck would have it, the temperature had also dropped a bit which meant the fresh lines would hopefully hang around for the next few days. And they did.
My guide for the day was Gunter Martin, and he would also be my guide for the rest of the camp. A friendly guy with some seriously impressive skiing skills – he has a lot of experience on the mountain and it shows.
Since my German language comprehension was not yet good enough to understand all the various German, Austrian, and Swiss dialects, he also had the task of English translator from time to time — in particular, to make sure I understood the super important stuff like “don’t ski off that cliff over there”!
As I dropped off of the side of the piste on our first run of the morning, my board bounced off the fresh powder and a huge smile crept across my face. I knew it was going to be an excellent few days.
The visibility wasn’t great, but the on-off snowfall throughout the day was a welcome treat.
And it did occasionally let up for a few moments of sunshine — and some nice pics.
That day, I was again the only snowboarder in our group. Sometimes snowboarders can be a real pain in the ass off-piste. But Marcus from Marmot who accompanied us for the day kindly gave me a tow along the flat sections.
Halfway through the day, we had the ski-pole-snowboarder slingshot mastered! That meant I didn’t have to strap in and out of my board too often and didn't slow down the group.
We stopped for lunch at a mountain hut and I filled myself up with some much-needed fuel, warm Nudelsuppe and a coffee. The rest of the afternoon was much of the same – more fresh tracks and tons of smiles.
Although Kirchberg is not actually that high, I was quite surprised by the length of some the routes we took. Often, we skied all the way down through the trees, then caught a bus or taxi back to the ski lift.
At one point, it felt as though we had our own personal taxi since we ended up with the same jolly local each time. He chuckled as he loaded our skis and boards into the back of his van yet again. And we were rewarded with his smiles and jokes, and chocolates at the end of each short taxi ride back to the lift!
A bit of aprés followed by a chilled out evening
At the end of the ski day, we went for a refreshing aprés beer. I sipped my radler while Eva, another camp participant, filled me in on the "deep" meanings behind Austrian ski song lyrics – quite enlightening!
One beer almost never means one beer. Especially when there’s a bad influence in the group (Ahem… I’m looking at you, Gunter)! So as one of the three final stragglers (Don't judge me, I'm Irish!), I almost didn’t make it to dinner on time!
Luckily, I managed to shower and get to the table just as the starters were on the way out and I eagerly sat down to join everyone for another enjoyable evening meal.
The night finished with a presentation from pro snowboarder Daniela Hochmuth. Then, we all drank some beers (Erdinger Alkoholfrei for me, a wise choice I thought!) and watched her recent film, Dance With Us, produced by filmmaker Ashley Wiggins.
Fun fact: Apparently during filming, neither Dani or Ashley had any idea what the movie would end up being about! It turned out to be an inspiring tale of “sustainability, positivity, and personal change”. You can check out the full film here.
"We're acknowledging that there is something bigger; something brighter within us that units us all." – Daniela Hochmuth
Day three. Powder, powder, and more powder. And some sledding and dancing, too!
It snowed again overnight so even more fresh tracks to be had by all.
Dani joined us for the day and it was fun to have another snowboarder in the group. Not to mention, a pro!
Plus, she is such a relaxed and kind soul that it was great to chat with her throughout the day and hear about her amazing life.
She shared stories about her experiences as a professional freeride snowboarder, being sponsored by Jeremy Jones, all about her new clothing line made by PYUA, and also, how she survived a terrifying avalanche. And she also told me about some of her personal passions, like acro yoga and Protect Our Winters.
Plus, I managed to pick up some tips on improving the all-important face shot :)
Just like the day before, conditions were excellent. More dreamy powder runs – lather, rinse, repeat – until everyone was exhausted and delighted all at the same time.
That evening, we really did only have time for one aprés beer (no really, just one!). And then it was time to prepare for an evening of festivities.
Everyone congregated in the hotel lobby around 6 pm. Then, we walked to ski lift to collect our sleds and take the chair up the mountain – we would sled down to a nearby hutte for dinner.
Two-by-two we climbed onto our sleds and made our way down to the hut.
Although sledding is definitely not my favourite activity, I had a laugh – and possibly could have won the award for slowest sledder in the world.
My partner was incredibly patient. I still remember her warm laughter through my tear-filled screams. Of course, we were the last to arrive!
But once we reached our destination, I was quickly handed a glass of gluhwein (hot wine) to calm the nerves!
Then, before I knew it, we were sitting around cosy tables, enjoying some typical Tyrolean fair – and some beers and wine too, of course.
Eventually, dinner turned into a disco. While I can't rave about the DJ’s choice of music, it did seem to get absolutely everybody on the dance floor. Some voluntarily and others, like myself, dragged into the mix.
After rocking some serious moves, the crowd slowly trickled out a few at a time, to head back to the hotel and get some sleep.
The next morning would be the last few hours we would all spend together on the mountain.
The final day. Tired but happy.
On the final day of the camp, my group was now 3 snowboarders (!) and 5 skiers. We were joined by the lovely Lena, who had decided to ditch her skis for the day and go back to her snowboarding roots.
We managed to get in some beautiful long runs. Then, the ski day ended early for all of us. At 2 pm, we headed back to the hotel for lunch and goodbyes.
Actually, I was kind of grateful for the short day (shhh... don’t tell!). The sun had come out and the temperature was warming up. That meant the snow was sticky and a little less cooperative than the previous days of shredding soft powder. Not exactly optimal conditions for tired muscles.
As a drove home that afternoon, I delighted in the memories of the previous few days and was grateful for the opportunity to take part in such a great camp. I was really impressed by the high level of skiing, excellent guiding, and the opportunity to meet such a lovely group of people.
What I loved about the camp
There are too many things to mention. But I'll give it a go anyway!
Met incredible like-minded women.
Each day, explored the mountain with a new group.
Everyone taking part in the camp, including the guides, reps, and organisers, were friendly and encouraging.
The camp was totally flexible – you could choose between ski touring and freeriding every morning.
The guides were incredibly knowledgable and showed us some amazing routes while offering top-notch advice along the way.
Kirchberg is an awesome ski area with plenty of off-piste terrain to explore, including tree runs, open bowls, and long enjoyable descents.
Gear is provided so you can try out freeriding or ski touring without dropping a small fortune buying the gear yourself.
A physiotherapist was there to tape sore muscles, and short massages could be booked with her, too.
Yoga or Pilates at the end of the day helped to stretch out sore muscles and build strength.
The hotel was pretty nice and a sauna and spa were available if that’s your thing.
Get out there and explore
Although the winter season is coming to an end, it’s a great time to reminisce about the best runs of the season, the most beautiful ski tours, or all those fun days you had in the park with your friends.
Or perhaps, start planning for the next winter season!
Have you experienced the sheer joy of powder, the fun of ducking down a tree run, or holding your breath as you drop through some rocks into a steep couloir? If not, there’s no time like the present to start exploring the backcountry. So, what are you waiting for?
Maybe you've never tried freeriding or ski touring or maybe you’re just not the most confident skier or boarder? In that case, I would definitely recommend taking part in a women’s winter camp.