Having heard good things about Snowboard Spring Break at Kaunertal Glacier in Austria, I booked a spot for the 2016 event. It’s an end of season get together for the UK snowboard scene, with gear testing, competitions and parties. This review of Snowboard Spring Break at Kaunertal Glacier covers both the gear test and ski area.
To be honest I expected sunny spring conditions, but instead we got fog and fresh snow. So taking good photos was almost impossible, meaning the pics in this review of Snowboard Spring Break at Kaunertal Glacier have mostly been provided by the tourist board.
Introducing Snowboard Spring Break
Snowboard Spring Break is an end of season test event (and party) for the British snowboard industry. Most of the big brands are there with next season’s gear to test, and many of the pro British snowboarders are in attendance.
Each day there are competitions where the pros bust out tricks alongside us part timers. Each evening there are get togethers where the season just gone is celebrated snowboarder style – expect air guitar comps, skate park BBQs, a shred movie night, and the odd drink or ten.
Snowboard Spring Break at Kaunertal has a really open and inclusive atmosphere. At different times I found myself chatting to Sparrow Knox, having a beer with Sam Turnbull and sharing a chairlift with Jamie Nicholls.
On the slopes I spent a lot of time trying (and failing) to keep up with Britain’s fastest snowboarder Jamie Barrow, and two time British SBX champ Maisie Potter. It’s amazing how your riding improves when following a pro.
Not only is the Snowboard Spring Break a celebration of the British snowboarding industry but it is also a very cheap opportunity for an end of season shred. Three nights accommodation and three days lift pass costs from €164 and six days just €286. Find out more at: www.snowboardspringbreak.com
Snowboard Spring Break at Kaunertal Glacier
Snowboard Spring Break is held at Kaunertal Glacier. It is not the biggest or the most well known of Austria’s many ski areas. But, it’s season runs from October to June, so is ideal for an end of season gathering. We were there in May and it was snowing heavily with plenty of fresh lines to be had.
Kaunertal Glacier is the youngest in Tirol and the ski area only opened in 1980. There are 32 km of groomed piste and lots of freeride areas to explore. The snowpark is huge and includes a half mile long jibline – one of the longest in the Alps.
If you like exploring different pistes all the time then Kaunertal Glacier is probably not for you. Personally, I enjoy getting to know the side hits, how fast to hit lips and where to find powder. All of which means you can push yourself to improve and have a better time.
The highest piste is at 3,100m – although there are plans for a new lift up to 3500m – from which you can head all the way to the bottom at 2100m. Your lift pass also covers the nearby resort of Fendels, plus there plans to expand the overall ski area by linking to Melag.
Currently there are five T-bars, one gondola and one chairlift in Kaunertal – so expect to use the surface lifts a fair amount. As drag lifts go they are not too bad, I had one dodgy moment all trip while laughing hard at a mate having a hungover drag lift fail.
The downside of this review of Snowboard Spring Break at Kaunertal Glacier is that the accommodation is down the mountain from the ski slopes. It is a 40 minute drive, or 50 minute bus journey, up a winding mountain road to reach the slopes.
Near the main car park (which is free) there is a big restaurant that serves surprisingly nice, and reasonably priced food. An alternative is the quaint restaurant at the end of the run to the bottom of the ski area, they do great pizzas and it has a more personal feel.
Review of Snowboard Spring Break
Although the journey up the mountain is a downside for this review of Snowboard Spring Break at Kaunertal, this also leads to a huge positive: quiet slopes. The effort puts all but the serious off meaning pistes in Kaunertal don’t get busy and fresh snow lasts days. Also most skiers and snowboarders are of a high skill level.
As far as I could tell all the major snowboard brands were at Snowboard Spring Break at Kaunertal Glacier. I tested boards from Libtec, Nitro, Rome, Capita, Gnu and Never Summer. I could have tested Burton, Salomon, K2, Arbor, DC, Ride and Bataleon but there are only so many boards you can ride.
I also tested a couple of boards from less well known brands. My favourite board of the trip was the La Hache by West Snowboarding – a small Swiss brand. I also really liked the innovative Mahee snowboard that has a V Shaped base inspired by boat hulls with a third edge running down the middle.
You could also test everything from bindings to goggles and boots to outerwear. I didn’t get involved in that aspect, but quite a few people I was riding with were testing all sorts of gear.
On the whole the guys on the stands were cheerful and happy to recommend and set it up for you. There were a couple of grumpy exceptions, but there was also a fair amount of drinking in the evenings, and I imagine being hungover at a stand all day while other people have fun can get you down.
I really enjoyed changing boards every hour or two and putting boards through their paces. I ended up testing 12 snowboards in three days.
Review of Kaunertal Glacier snowboarding
Despite Snowboard Spring Break being held in May spring had not yet arrived to this part of the Tirol. It was snowing fairly heavily most of the time, which coupled with thick patchy fog and strong winds up high made for challenging conditions.
I have written a more detailed review of Kaunertal snowboarding here. But to summarise, the main top to bottom options are excellent runs. There is a good variety of slopes for different abilities and all over the mountain there were fun side hits.
A huge plus are large areas of easy to access off-piste. Even in poor conditions we found plenty of powder to the side and between runs. Low numbers of slope users means the snow doesn’t instantly get tracked out, and if you find a stash you can ride it most of the day.
If you are into backcountry it is a great resort with many opportunities just a short hike away. But please only head away from the groomers if you have the relevant experience and safety gear. If new to the area go with a guide as people have died in avalanches in the Kaunertal area.
If you are more into freestyle the snowpark is enormous with an incredible amount of features. Everytime I went through the park visibility was pretty poor, but I hit a few kickers and boxes taking a different route each time.
Parties and evening entertainment
As an end of season gathering of the British snowboard industry you are likely to bump into people you know both on the mountain and in the bars. Each evening there are parties and events to help celebrate the season.
Our first evening of Snowboard Spring Break at Kaunertal Glacier started with welcome drinks at the Kiwi Bar followed by a relatively relaxed evening at the Pfiff Alm bar. As the evening wore on the Pfiff Alm got fairly busy but with the event starting at 9am most people were taking it easy.
The second evening was the complete opposite which was a party put on by DC at the Pfiff Alm bar. DC riders were tasked with the job of handing out lots of mini bottles of Jaegermeister, this ended up being a very late and drunken night.
At the end of the second day on the slopes (our third evening in Kaunertal) there was a BBQ at the skate park just outside town. With a big half pipe lots of snowboarders were trying to show off their skills, but the half pipe was wet and only a couple of people excelled.
In the evening there was a movie night at the Kiwi Bar. I choose this night to hit the sack early to recover from the night before.
After our final day of riding the Analog apres party started on the slopes at the test event. Plenty of beers later, our designated driver had had enough of waiting for us and we headed down, stopping at the dam for some scenic photos.
In the evening the party moved onto the Zappa Dello a fairly small bar on the outskirts of town. We arrived at around 10pm and the party was already in full swing, with barely enough room to even get in the bar. An air guitar contest followed with much crowd surfing by contestants – a rather raucous late night.
Hotel Kirchenwirt in Kaunertal
During Snowboard Spring Break at Kaunertal Glacier I stayed at the lovely Hotel Kirchenwirt. Although not as large as the room pictures, my single room had plenty of room for one person and all their gear.
It had recently been renovated in a funky contemporary design. For example, the bathroom walls were opaque glass, this made the room feel bigger and ensured natural light reached the bathroom. The rest of the Hotel Kirchenwirt looked good, but was not quite as funkily decorated as my room.
During this review of Snowboard Spring Break at Kaunertal Glacier I stayed half board,enjoying both breakfast and dinner at the hotel. Breakfast was a combination of hot and continental options, plus plenty of cereals and organic fruit.
The five course dinner began with a large salad buffet and choice of soups. There were fish, meat and vegetarian options for the main, which were tasty, contemporary versions of Austrian mountain dishes. The desserts were pretty special too, but the generous portions meant I never made it as far as the cheese board.
Facilities at the Kirchenwirt include free WiFi that had a strong signal throughout the building. A modern ski room with heated boot rack. A gym, swimming pool and spa are located just 200m away. Plus downstairs is the Kiwi Bar which is great for a relaxing drink and a pizza.
The Hotel Kirchenwirt is a fantastic place to stay for the Snowboard Spring Break at Kaunertal Glacier. The staff are friendly and helpful, and you get a very high quality service. If you put this hotel in St Anton or Ischgl you’d be paying a fortune.
There are various packages to stay at Hotel Kirchenwirt. Seven nights half board per person, including a six day lift pass costs from €498 at the start and end of the season, to €793 over the Christmas week. Book a stay by visiting: www.kirchenwirt.com
Snowboard Spring Break at Kaunertal Glacier: Conclusion
If you are involved in the British snowboard scene, then you probably already attend Snowboard Spring Break each year. And if you don’t you should as it is excellent.
But also it’s also a fantastic opportunity for any snowboarder to enjoy a cheap end of season snowboarding holiday. Kaunertal is a great ski area, there is a huge park to practice your skills in and I was leaving fresh lines in May. Plus you get to rub shoulders with the pros and enjoy the odd night out!
My final thought in this review of Snowboard Spring Break at Kaunertal Glacier, is that if you are looking to buy new gear then head to Kaunertal to test it. You can test lots of in proper conditions to see if you like it, all while enjoying a cheap holiday while partying with the rest of the UK snowboard scene.
If you found this review of Snowboard Spring Break at Kaunertal Glacier appealing, you can find out more at www.snowboardspringbreak.com. We flew Swiss Air from Heathrow to Zurich and hired a car. To find out more about Kaunertal visit: www.kaunertal.com and go to: www.kirchenwirt.com to find out about the hotel.