Ganghoferlauf in Leutasch

by Lorenzo Piccoli

I spent a weekend with my father between Innsbruck, Leutasch and Seefeld in Tyrol. It felt good.


The train ride between Zurich and Innsbruck is spectacular: Zürichsee, Wädenswil, Walensee, Vaduz, Feldkirch, Bludenz, St. Anton (the Arlberg Valley and the Voralberg). It is not the first time I take this train; but finally I take some pictures looking out of the window.

I arrive in Innsbruck in the late afternoon. My father picks me up: we drop our backpacks and drive up to Leutasch to check the ski tracks and get our race numbers. My father had signed us up for the Ganghoferlauf. Despite being being absolutely unpronounceable, this is the biggest cross-country event of Austria. My father had wisely decided to participate to the 25km, supposedly a piece of cake in comparison to the 60 km of the Diagonela and the 70 km of the Marcialonga.

One day before the race, the organisers decide to exclude participants coming from four Italian regions (Piedmont, Emilia-Romagna, Lombardy and Veneto) because of the spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus. My father and I do not come from those regions, but I ask him to keep a low profile: Italians do not get very good press these days. Upon arriving to the place where we were supposed to get our race numbers he starts yelling ‘Adele, Adele!’ and runs across the queue to hug a race aficionada he knew. Later he seems to take a certain pleasure coughing loudly and swearing in Italian ‘Mannaggia che brutta tosse!‘. People keep a distance from us.

On Saturday morning we arrive at the starting blocks at around 8:40. We entertain phone calls with mother and friends right before the departure. We play it cool.

Ganghoferlauf_1 (5451)

It is a beautiful landscape. The snow is fresh, but difficult to ski. It tends to stick under the wax, right below the skis. On top of the first hill I must to stop together with other participants to clean up my skies. My father does not care much to wait for me: he rolls on, happy as a kid in his ninja outfit.

I chase. I get on the second hill and must stop again. This time, though, I decide to clean my skies a little further on, at the beginning of the downhill. Big fucking mistake. I clean my right ski alright. I am about to clean the left ski, but I realise it is no longer there. It is going down the descent already. What do I do?

I chase it with my right ski on. It is possible, after all.

Alas, I am no Bode Miller. I am too slow. So after 300 meters I stop, take out my right ski, and start running behind my left ski. Now it looks more like this.

Other participants are overtaken by a lonely ski and then by an Italian guy who runs down the hill like a little devil screaming ‘Achtung! Achtung!‘. They seem uncomfortable. Go figure.

I catch my ski after 1 km of descent. At that point, I am pretty much done for it. But I continue and rejoin my father. We roll joyfully to the finish line.

The next day we go for some backcountry skiing to Glungezer Hütte (2677 m). We take a lift in Tulfes (922 m), then start walking in Schartenkogel (2.055 m). It is not much of a walk, but the weather is cold and windy. By the time we get up we are half frozen. The last steps are fun, as you have to hold yourself to a rope. I managed to take a quick shot of my father climbing up. I hold the camera in the wind and the snow. Quite a feeling. We order two memorable soups that I will try to imitate once I am back home and we prepare for the descent. The weather has cleared up. It is now bright and calm. The afternoon is swell.

In the evening we drive back to Leutasch and we land in the sauna, which is wonderful. Also remember to go eating at Weinhaus Happ. Notes for the next time we will be in Innsbruck: di Wilderin and Karwendel.

On Monday we go backcountry skiing again, but the wind is now too strong and we prefer to stop. We visit the Kaiserjägermuseum and the Tyrol Panorama, home of the beautiful Gigantic Panoramic Painting depicted below. These museums are located right below the spectacular Bergisel Ski Jump (I did not manage to take a picture myself, so I am using Michielverbeek’s).

Upon returning to Neuchâtel I am content. I still cannot pronounce Ganghoferlauf.