Kitzbühel is certainly one of the ski resorts with the richest history; it is the birthplace of countless ski racers and home of the world’s most dangerous downhill run. And if that isn’t enough, there are also numerous kilometers of slopes, freeride routes and the Snowpark Kitzbühel waiting to be discovered by all the passionate winter sports enthusiasts. Lea Baumschlager and her friend Lisi Gram take a closer look at the ski mecca in Tyrol from the perspective of the ever-growing female freestyle scene.
After the two met up early in the morning at the train station, they make their way to the middle station of the Panoramabahn II. The peaks of the Kitzbühel Alps are still covered in fog. From time to time a couple of sunrays find their way through the cloudy sky, which results in the girls gazing at the sky full of anticipation. Just before noon, the sky clears and behind the fading clouds the steep mountain ranges of the Wilde Kaiser start to appear slowly.
When arriving on the top of the mountain, it becomes quite obvious that it’s the start of the school holidays. The 6-seated chairlift Hanglalm operates at full capacity, taking up to 2600 people up the mountain per hour. During the uphill ride you can overlook all of the three park areas – the difficulty level increases from top downwards. From the boxes for the beginners, over to the rail section, which is followed by kicker line at the bottom area of the park – it is here where the most guests are gathering, either riding the park themselves or watching the riders.
This day, many different groups are to be found at the snowpark – kids are landing their first jumps as their parents and skiing coaches are cheering them on. A group of British riders enters the park with hip-hop beats blasting from speakers attached to their backpacks. One of them approaches the kicker with a good amount of speed and throws a backflip over the table. “Bail," his friends are chanting. They cheer and laugh as he rides away from the landing with raised arms.
There are also plenty of visitors at the other slopes and lifts – 215 kilometers of slopes and 54 lifts offer hours and hours of winter sports fun. Besides the many backcountry routes and the two snowparks, Hanglalm and Horn, there’s also the most famous of all the peaks of Kitzbühel, the Hahnenkamm.
Each of the heated gondolas bears the name of a famous skier – every winner of the Kitzbühel race gets to be immortalized on one of the cable cars. After arriving at the top, you make your way via a conveyor belt, before you take a right turn at the crossing, which leads you towards the Streif. The family slope bypasses the three most difficult sections of the notorious downhill slope and windingly leads downwards the Hahnenkamm. Halfway down you come across the Seidlalm, which has reopened again after refurbishment. It’s particularly famous because the “Schlager" singer and former ski racer Hansi Hinterseer grew up there. It’s also part of the Hahnenkamm and includes the Seidlalm jump, which has to be mastered when riding down the Streif downhill slope.
Lately, three female tenants have taken over the farm and restaurant, which is steeped in tradition, and it was extensively refurbished during the summer. That way the alpine meadow is in firm female hands again. After the host Verena has served the traditional Tyrolean “Brettljause", she tells us everything about the ingredients and mentions the names of the farms, from where they source their products. Her eyes are sparkling when Lisi asks her about the summer operation – she says that she wants to stay in the mountains, where, during the summer months, the animals from the farm are guests as well.
After a refreshing meal, Lisi and Lea are ready for the kicker line. The sun has traveled further upwards the sky, but the kickers are still located in bright daylight. Lea is standing at the slope above the park entrance. She adjusts her gloves, which have owls embroidered on them, and pulls off a rotary motion that ends and starts with an indie-grab. She repeats this motion before each run. “That’s how I concentrate," Lea explains her ritual, “I try to visualize the whole motion sequence, go through everything again and then I start my run."
A little Ollie before she hits the first and second kicker with two training jumps, which are then followed by a 360 over the third kicker. While Lea is on her way up the hill once again, Lisi is examining the jumps. She’s already done two speed checks and wants to try a 540 now. “Actually, this counts as a training day," she smiles, while adjusting her helmet, “This is going to be the contest line for the Sick Trick Tour Open, right?" At that moment, she doesn’t know that she would be the winner of the Slopestyle Contest at the Snowpark Kitzbühel by which she’d also strengthen her leading position within the QParks Tour. She’s waiting till the jumps are free, also takes training jumps over the first and the second kicker and puts her main focus on the third kicker of the line in each run.
Time flies fast – the park is long and there are many other lines that you can hit on the way to the kickers.. It’s getting darker and, during the girls’ final ride to the valley, the sun is setting slowly. Where the clouds were hanging in the morning, the mountain peaks are now glowing in the evening sun. Some of the slopes in Kitzbühel almost end directly in the town. While conquering the final slope, you can already see the cabins and après ski bars from the distance.
The city center of Kitzbühel starts sparkling immediately as soon as it’s getting dark. There are light chains everywhere, reminiscent of Christmas time. Many guests end their day of skiing fun in one of the numerous bars or restaurants, having dinner and a couple of drinks. After a final drink at the legendary bar “Stamperl", it’s time for Lea and Lisi to say “good night". While the crowd is in full-on party mode, the two prefer to make their way home earlier today. The weather forecast says that the next day is going to be sunny – so, of course, the two girls don’t want to be late in the mountains.