Antonia Flory Hammerschmid

The heroes of the night of Ski amadé

After the last skiers have made their elegant turns into the valley and stowed their skis away, looking forward to freshly groomed pistes for the morning ahead, the real "working day" begins for the snow groomer drivers - also known as the heroes of the night. The impressive, powerful machines are their faithful companions, with which they conjure up true masterpieces of perfectly groomed pistes.

No working day like any other

When I arrived in Dienten am Hochkönig at 05.00 p.m., I was warmly welcomed by Lukas, Patrick, Martin, Franky and Andi in the workshop. Before we really get going, the bikes are refuelled and thoroughly checked. Each rider always takes care of the same slopes and always drives the same machine. Today, together with Lukas, I'm going to prepare the Zachhofalm route run and the Zachhofalm family run for the day ahead.

Incidentally, Lukas' snow groomer is called Berta. Berta has an impressive 500 hp, weighs 13 tonnes, has a 1,000 metre long winch cable, is 5 metres wide and 9 metres long. Lukas has been driving Berta since winter 2018.

The snow groomer cabins are more comfortable than you might imagine. Comfortable seats and pleasant temperatures create a cosy atmosphere. As we get moving and make our way to the Zachhofalmbahn mountain station, the sun is just setting and gives us a breathtaking view of the illuminated Hochkönig massif. Once at the top, we pause to take some photos. It's not every day that you get to experience a panorama like this at this hour and at the summit.

Safety first

In the meantime, Lukas attaches Berta's cable winch to a fixed anchor. The cable winch is particularly useful for safety on steep descents and also protects the piste. If you've seen a three-legged, padded scaffold in the ski area before steep descents or a steel cable attached to a tree and wondered what it is - these are anchors for the snow groomers. Skiers or ski tourers are no longer allowed on the piste when the cable winch is extended. Anyone who skis into a taut rope is undoubtedly in mortal danger. The warning signs posted by the snow groomer drivers must not be ignored under any circumstances.

Lukas prepares the black descent, which runs right next to the mountain station, first. I feel a little queasy as the snow groomer "tips over" from the ridge into the steep piste. The cable winch is also there to catch the weight of the snow groomer and protect the piste.

Lukas confidently steers the snow groomer while operating the accelerator pedal and the joystick, which moves the front blade in different directions. Meanwhile, he explains the digital snow gauge to me. To the right of the driver's seat is a small box that shows exactly how much snow is currently under the blade. This allows the snow groomer drivers to see exactly where they can remove or push away snow or where they need to push snow.

Who drives so late through the night and wind?

Little by little, a wonderful carpet of pistes is created. Driving is most difficult in windy and blizzard conditions due to poor visibility. In these conditions, a "working day" can last until the early hours of the morning. But in cold temperatures and with clear visibility, you can be finished after just a few hours. The time is accompanied only by radio messages from colleagues and the radio.

Once the black piste has been prepared, we drive to the summit again to unhook the cable winch. A clear starry sky just before midnight - everything is asleep, only the heroes of the night are still at work. On the surrounding mountains, you can see the glowing machines of our colleagues - you can even see as far as the Kitzsteinhorn.

Chapeau guys!

After my ride, I thank Lukas for the insight into his working day. Since that evening, I've realised how many hours are needed to provide us skiers with a magical piste. Would you like to be there when a piste groomer driver prepares the slopes for the next day of skiing? Then book the Ski amadé MADE MY DAY package "Pistenbully Co. Pilot"!

Again chapeau and many thanks to all the snow groomer drivers in Ski amadé who work night after night to give us wonderful pistes in Austria's greatest skiing paradise. You are our heroes of the night 😊

Antonia Flory Hammerschmid

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