Bergführer Andreas Tauser bei der Abfahrt vom Gipfel des Kleinen Seekopf im Allgäu
Peak Pleasure

A day in the freshest of snow and a night in an igloo at 2,000 metres high. Nowhere else can you pack so much winter into 24 hours

Reading time: 15 minutes

Winter at the Nebelhorn: Fresh Snow, Great Skiing and a Night in an Igloo

Sometimes there are days when everything is just right. The light, the sky, the snow. Today is one such day. On this February morning, the snow stretches across the Allgäu Alps like a glistening white ball gown, making the scattered crags disappear under a soft blanket.

Even during the ride in the fancy gondola lift up to the Nebelhorn, we could hardly get enough of the view, repeatedly pulling out our mobiles and marvelling at everything around us. Now we are standing on the peak of the 2,224 metre high mountain and taking in the view.

Gondeln der 2022 neu gebauten Nebelhornbahn am verschneiten Nebelhorn
Skifahrer auf der Panoramaterrasse der Nebelhorn Bergstation im Allgäu

The locals affectionately dub the panorama that unfolds at the top the “four-hundred-peak view”. A sea of white peaks stretches out to the horizon. And no matter which mountain peak you point to, Andi Tauser knows its name and sometimes even its altitude down to the metre.

The 61-year-old Oberstdorf native is the director of the Oberstdorf Alpine School and is as closely wedded to the Allgäu mountains as his ski bindings are to the poles.

When Andi isn’t running the business from his office, he spends as much time as possible in the great outdoors, guiding groups across the Alps in the summer and ski tourers through the off-piste terrain in the winter.

Ein paar Schwünge in den Allgäuer Alpen jenseits der gespurten Abfahrten

Off-Piste? Yes, but with a guide

Indeed, today we’ve set out to make a few runs off the marked pistes with a mountain guide who knows the terrain like the back of his hand. After a few sweeping switchbacks on the perfectly maintained descent below the Nebelhorn, we abandon the piste and head up to a narrow ridge.

It’s almost as if the snow is carrying us along

Below us, a white sheet of fluffy wadding opens up; it’s glistening, untouched deep snow. “Let’s go,” shouts Andi, as he joyfully launches himself down the slope. It goes without saying that his tracks form a pristine, wavy pattern in the deep snow.

Our ski tracks aren’t nearly as perfect, but that doesn't detract from how great we are feeling. We are floating more than we are gliding. It’s as if the snow is carrying us along. The gently descending slope makes the turns easier and draws out spontaneous jubilation from us. It doesn’t get any more beautiful than this!

Wintersportler mit Karte auf der Panoramaterrasse der Bergstation der Nebelhornbahn
Skitourengeher am Oberen Nebelhorn vor Allgäuer Bergpanorama

Andi recommends that we start flexing even more from our knees, avoid lying on our backs under any circumstances and immediately shift our weight to the downhill skis after turning. He smiles when he sees the way we are beaming with joy. “Anyone who has experienced such a tour no longer really wants to ski on the piste,” he says. That’s how he himself feels, as well as a growing number of ski fans.

The number of ski tourers is also growing in the Allgäu. There are plenty of potential routes. Andi mentions Sonnenkopf, Riedberger Horn and Rangiswanger Horn as good beginner areas. More advanced skiers are drawn to the summits of the Daumen and Schochen, the Gunzesrieder Tal and the Kleinwalsertal, as well as the Fellhorn. As long as we’re high up! Peak pleasure? The Allgäu has more than enough in store for its visitors. Not just in terms of the landscape; The region is also more than just a “feast” for the eyes.

800 Kilometres of Piste

Thanks to their elevation, Allgäu Alps ski resorts are known for offering guaranteed snow. In the winter, around 800 kilometres of pistes are waiting to be discovered, on the Hochgrat, on the Alpspitze near Nesselwang, on the Söllereck and Breitenberg or on the Nebelhorn, the highest mountain in the Allgäu Alps.

Covering 7.5 kilometres, the descent from the peak of the Nebelhorn down to Oberstdorf is the longest in the entire Allgäu ski area. In Germany, it is only surpassed by one piste found in Upper Bavaria, where, between the 1,869 metre-high Steinplatte and the Seegatterl at 750 metres, a whopping 12 kilometres of downhill thrills await.

Wintersportlerin auf dem Weg zum Startpunkt einer Skitour unterhalb des Kleinen Seekopf

Taking the Gondola Lift for Some Dumplings

Just before midday, we ski down the valley in one fell swoop and then stop for a snack at the rustic “Edmund-Probst-Haus”. The over 130-year-old mountain hut is located at the middle station of the Nebelhorn Cable Car. The young proprietors, Matthias and Ivanka, focus on vegetable-rich, regional cuisine.

“We try to conserve resources,” explains Matthias. And he tells us that many of the guests coming up from Oberstdorf on the gondola lift are just coming for the food. Take the legendary Spinatknödel, or spinach dumplings, for example. Anyone who has got to try them once will understand why. They’re simply irresistible!

It’s good thing we'll be able to burn off a few calories in the snow afterwards. Andi has prepared another off-piste route; he knows the best ones. Without him, we would never have discovered this one, let alone dared to descend down along it.

Mit Bergführer Andreas Tauser in den verschneiten Allgäuer Alpen
Skifahrer im fast menschenleeren Schneegebiet in den Allgäuer Alpen

Respect for Wildlife

“For those who are unfamiliar with the terrain, choosing a route on their own is definitely not recommended,” says Andi. Not only for their own safety, but also out of consideration for the animals that live up here and require absolute peace and quiet in the winter. This includes the rock ptarmigan, the black grouse, the mountain hare and the chamois.

“For those unfamiliar with the terrain, self-organised route selection is not recommended under any circumstances”

But thanks to Andi, we feel perfectly safe and guided. Rolling hills give way to gently sloping valleys, with an imposing rock arena towering behind them. It’s just like a picture book! Our turns in the powder snow are also getting better and better.

In deep snow, it’s important to compact the snow under your skis by pushing down and then pulling up to reduce the load on the turn, as our mountain guide Andi emphasises time and again. Slowly we are getting the hang of it, as we glide into a state of euphoria. We’re all simply delighted to be here, in this mostly deserted, snowy arena, all alone amongst its splendour and majesty. We cross wide slopes, thread our way into the hollows and track across a stream. The warm afternoon light casts a gentle shimmer on the snow’s surface.

Sonnenuntergang am tief verschneiten Zeigersattel bei Oberstdorf im Allgäu

Party on the Rocks

Early in the evening, we gather again below the middle station of the Nebelhorn Cable Car. The sky is awash with shades of purple and pink, the snow crystals are glistening like a sugary glaze on a cake. There are fifteen igloos arranged in a semicircle in a hollow sheltered from the wind. We will spend the night in the “IglooLodge”.

These cool accommodations for two or four people at 2,000 metres also appeal to people without skis under their feet. For winter enthusiasts wanting to experience the mountains on the Höhenpanoramaweg trail, the Nordwandsteig climb or other designated winter hiking trails, the mountain cable car offers special “pedestrian rates”.

For example, Mona from Cologne was given a night in an igloo as a 30th birthday present from her friends. Stefan and his wife Jenny even travelled from north Germany. “We wanted to feel what it’s like to sleep under a roof of ice,” they say.

Eisbar und Restaurant in der Iglu-Lodge am Nebelhorn
Wandkunst aus Schnee in der Iglu-Lodge am Nebelhorn im Allgäu

At the bar, which is constructed from transparent blocks of ice weighing 125 kilos each, we enjoy a warming punch and are told how best to survive a night in the ice. A large dome decorated with ice carvings looms over us, with the walls illuminated in bright colours – it will be darker in the sleeping igloos. And it’s only 4 degrees!

The icy bed platforms are covered with a mattress and reindeer skins, on top of which are sleeping bags suitable for the Arctic. “We recommend taking your jackets and electronic devices with you in your sleeping bag,” explain the igloo managers. Those who are cold can take a hot water bottle to bed with them or heat themselves up again in the barrel sauna beforehand. The evening cheese fondue served in the main igloo also provides some inner warmth.

Millions of stars dot the winter sky, as the small igloo village community retreats into their ice domes late in the evening. Could the air be any fresher than up here? One thing is for sure: the night at an altitude of 2,000 metres is just as unforgettable as our sunny day in the powdery winter wonderland.

Blick auf die Iglu-Lodge unterhalb der Mittelstation Nebelhorn unter einem sternenklaren Nachthimmel

Tour planning for ski tourers (German Audio)

Tourenplanung Skitouren gehen

In this interview, Manfred Scheuermann and Thomas Bucher from the German Alpine Club reveal the best way to plan a tour, what you need to consider in the terrain and how to behave in an environmentally friendly and considerate way as a tourer.

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