A few weeks ago we spent the weekend skiing and exploring Tux-Finkenberg and Zillertal 3000, a huge ski area which includes the Hintertux Glacier. Deep underground only 200 meters from Hintertux Glacier’s highest point at 3,250 meters above sea level, is the spectacular natural glacial crevasse aptly named “Nature’s Ice Palace”.
Discovered by mere chance by Roman Erler in 2007, the underground crystal chambers, corridors and ice galleries hold many mysteries and questions that are yet to be answered, such as just how old the ice really is and for how long the crevasse has been there.
More importantly, why when other glaciers in the world continuously move and change shapes, does this crevasse not seem to change much at all?
Roman who guided us around the narrow corridors and sparkling rooms excitedly told us that hopefully this year they will finally find some answers to some of their many questions.
As we slowly made our way past enormous ice stalactites and glacial lakes, the narrow winding tunnels would suddenly open up into huge rooms with the most amazing ice formations.
The largest room and one of the highlights of the tour was the “Ice Palace”, with an impressive height of 15 meters and ice crystals with up to 7 meters in length!
The twisting, crystal clear ice stalactites were even more beautiful as they reflected the colorful lights that lit up the rooms and caves, giving the underground Palace a mystical atmosphere.
With -26 degrees and arctic winds outside, the Hintertux Glacier Ice Palace felt warm and cozy in comparison, since temperatures in the caves always stay around 0 degrees no matter how cold or warm outside!
How & When To Visit Hintertux Glacier:
- The Ice Palace is open all year round, and is a perfect activity for gloomy days
- There are two tours to choose from:
- Regular Tour: 45 minutes, at 10:30, 11:30, 12:30, 13:30, 14:30 and 15:00. Admission is €8 for adults and €4 for children under 8 years.
- Grande Tour: 70 minutes, following the regular tour schedule except for at 2.30pm and 3 pm. Admission is €16 for adults and €8 for children.
- You can do the tour in your ski boots, but it gets a bit slippery at times so if possible it’s better to bring a good pair of walking boots.
- Website: http://www.hintertuxergletscher.at/en/experience/natures-ice-palace.html
Spring Skiing in Zillertal 3000, Austria
With over 245 kilometers of slopes covering 900 hectares, the Ski and Glacier World Zillertal 3000 is a huge playground for ski and snowboard lovers – and we had two days to make the most of it.
Our first ski destination was the Hintertux Glacier: an area known for its year-round skiing and an altitude of up to 3,250 meters, it’s one of the best glacier skiing regions in the world.
When Peter, our ski guide, met up with us in the morning and warned us about the 26 degree minus temperatures waiting for us on the glacier, I first thought he was joking. Minus 26 degrees? Is that even possible in March? Then Peter turned to me and said “You’re Swedish, you’re used to it!”
My hopes weren’t very high, but Nathan assisted with some pep-talk: “if you expect it to be cold, you will feel cold.
Don’t think about it and you won’t feel it”. Maybe I fit the stereotype of a cold-tolerant Swede better than I thought, or maybe Nathan’s advice actually worked – but when we finally got onto the slopes, I was surprised to find that it really wasn’t that bad.
Nathan’s beard was covered in ice crystals, and my nose was running like a leaking tap, but we didn’t care – the important part was that we were back on the skis, and that was a feeling we both had been longing for all season.
And what better place to get back on the skis than at the Hintertux Glacier and do your first run from 3,250 meters above sea level?!
Bluebird Day at Zillertal 3000
The next day we woke up to clear blue skies and a view of white, snowy mountains from our window.
Our ski guide Peter was excited: It’s the best day we have had all season! Perfect weather, perfect snow. It could not get any better than this!
And it really couldn’t: it was the perfect bluebird day with fresh snow, clear skies and a bright sun warming our happy faces – this was the true meaning of spring skiing!
Getting up on the mountain, overlooking the breathtaking views over the alps and sunny peaks surrounding us in every direction, I felt like a child bursting with excitement.
Looking around me, I was reminded why I love the mountains so much – there is something about the never-ending views and feeling of being in the midst of nature that can’t be compared with any city in the world, no matter how great it is.
Trying to cover three mountains in one day (Eggalm, Rastkogel and Penken) would seem impossible, but Peter knew the mountain so well he could probably do it blindfolded if he had to.
Peter showed us around everywhere, and in just a day we had skied in pretty much every area – including the steepest ski run in all of Austria: Harakiki…
With an average incline of 78%, it was by far the toughest slope I’ve ever done.
By the end of the day my legs were shaking and burning with lactic acid – happy but exhausted from hours of skiing, we rounded off the day at the local aprés ski bar Hexenkessel with a few cold beers and some good old Austrian Oompah music.