Panorama from Mt. Kanzelwand, Austria

Following the Sun – Ski Safari around Mt. Kanzelwand

This ski safari has been conceived, developed and continuously improved over decades by me and my friends. It is thoroughly optimized to avoid crowded times in lifts and huts and to arrive at each slope in the first hour after the morning sun has reached it. Now the time seems to be right to share it with our international readers. I warmly welcome comments and suggestions to improve this ski safari – although I somehow doubt it can be.

The tour is on groomed slopes only and riders of all intermediate and advanced levels will enjoy it. A certain fitness and the ability to comfortably navigate on red (medium level) slopes for most of the day are, however, required. Overnight suggestions include the vibrant, mundane and rather pricey Oberstdorf and the quieter Hörnerdörfer. You will need your own car to get to the starting point or you can use the ski-buses. An interactive map of the area can be found here.

You start your day at the lower terminus of the Fellhornbahn cable car. Get a regular 1-day pass and use the fast Fellhornbahn II to get into the ski arena. You should start early (the cable car runs from 8:30 am*) to be among the first to enjoy the freshly prepared slopes. While the sun slowly rises above the eastern peaks, you can take a few runs down to the intermediate stop of Fellhornbahn II or to the See-Eckbahn.

After you have fully woken and warmed up, make your way to the Scheidtobel cable car. This old and slow chairlift is a bit of a bottle-neck, so on busy days you better skip the warm-up and go directly to this lift, as it can get very busy later in the day. The lift will move you south-west over a wildlife protection area. The ride is slow but the view is stunning and the first rays of the morning sun will warm your back.

Scheidtobel Chairlift (Fellhorn/Kanzelwand)
Scheidtobel Chairlift (Fellhorn/Kanzelwand)

From the top of Scheidtobelbahn proceed on slope #7 to the lower terminus of Möserbahn and Fellhornlift. Both invite you to do some 30 or 40 minutes on the very good slopes there. Fellhornlift, however, is a challenging T-bar lift which is rather long and very steep towards the summit and should therefore only be taken by experienced riders who enjoy a good upper-thigh workout.

As this ski safari includes a rather late lunch stop, it might be a good idea to have coffee and a pretzel at the Balzplatz kiosk and bask in the mid-morning sun for a few moments.

After that, take the Möserbahn uphill, turn left at the summit station and ski towards the Zweiländerbahn chairlift’s base. By the time you reach the summit station, it is typically around 10:30/11:00 am and the sun has just reached these upper slopes, so they are still in mint condition. The run (slope #12) from the Zweiländerbahn summit station back to the lower terminus is one of the best in the arena. Do it a few times as it is, sadly, much too short.

Once you are done, turn south and tackle the summit-to-valley run (slope #15) down to the lower terminus of the Kanzelwandbahn cable car. This 4.3 km long slope faces west and runs in part through forested areas, so it will at this time of the day still be well-prepared, covered by crisp snow and incredibly fun to ride. When your ears pop from the 870 m altitude drop, you know you did it right.

Down in the valley you will recognize that the style of the houses, the names of shops and the road signage are somewhat different and realize that you crossed the border to Austria on the slopes.**

The fast moving Kanzelwandbahn will take you back to the summit. Repeat the experience as often as you like – and your thigh muscles permit. By 1:00/1:30 pm the lunchtime rush in the huts will be over, and the one and only place to go now is the Adlerhorst hut. It is located just a little below the Kanzelwandbahn’s summit terminus. You can tell it is on the Austrian side of the border by the great hospitality, the marvellous goulasch-stew, and the delicious Germknödel-dumplings. Quench your thirst on Skiwasser (cordial with hot or cold water), another typical Austrian feature. You can sit on the huge porch or lie in a deckchair. Enjoy the panorama with German, Austrian and Swiss peaks visible. You will recognize the distinct triangular Mt. Widderstein summit and the strangely tilted plateaus of Mt. Hoher Ifen.

Mt. Hoher Ifen, Kleinwalsertal, AustriaMt. Hoher Ifen, Kleinwalsertal, Austria
Mt. Hoher Ifen, Kleinwalsertal, Austria

Time permitting, you can do another run down to the Kleinwalsertal or cut short by using the Zwerenalpbahn back to the Kanzelwand summit. As you will have to catch a ride either on the Swisscord or the T-Bar Lift next to Möserbahn and from the See-Eckbahn, you should check your watches from time to time now. To get from the Kanzelwand summit back to the starting point takes at least 1 ¼ hours – allow plenty of extra time when the area is crowded or in inclement weather.

Passing the lower terminus of Zweiländerbahn via slope #12 and 11 you get back to the Balzplatz/Möserbahn base. From there use the Swisscord (basically just a long revolving rope), or the challenging T-bar to continue on the #11 slope which takes you back to the See-Eckbahn base for your last ride of the day.

Reaching the Fellhornbahn Mittelstation (intermediate station) you will find an inviting panorama terrace waiting for you in the afternoon sun. You can follow this invitation, call it day there and sample a few of the delicious cakes and the wonderful Alt Kemptener Weisse, an amber coloured traditional Hefeweizen. Finally, take the cable car back to the valley.

Panorama from Fellhornbahn Mittelstation, Bavaria
Panorama from Fellhornbahn Mittelstation, Bavaria

Traditional Bavarian Hefeweizen-BeerTraditional Bavarian Hefeweizen-Beer
Traditional Bavarian Hefeweizen-Beer

There also is another summit-to-valley run back to your starting point for those who just can’t get enough. The Fellhorn Talabfahrt (slopes #2/#2a/#1) is arguably nice in the upper part but follows a dull and winding forest road further down. Whenever the slope is crowded with struggling beginners and/or the snow becomes soft and difficult in the afternoon, it becomes hard to navigate and unpleasant to ski. More often than not, taking the cable car down is the better option.

After you have reached the Fellhornbahn base in the late afternoon the sun will now quickly disappear behind the mountain peaks. Time for some après-ski with a glass of mulled wine or some shots of pear schnapps. You can party at several pubs and ‘umbrella bars’ until the moon rises over the Stillach valley to conclude this day of snow, sun, white mountains and blue skies.

* Operating hours vary according to weather and time of the year. Check them at the ticket booth before you head off.
** The Kleinwalsertal valley is an Austrian enclave within Germany. Oddly, it has not been settled from the valley of the river Iller but via the small and dangerous mountain passes to the south. The settlers originated from the Swiss area of Wallis – hence the name. Since 1891 the valley has been in a customs-union with Germany but remained Austrian territory.

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