© Tirol Werbung / Rodler Ilvy
Food & Drink
© Tirol Werbung / Hörterer Lisa
© Bert Heinzelmeier
© Tirol Werbung / Schreyer David
© Tirol Werbung / Aichner Bernhard
Arts & Culture
© Tirol Werbung / Moore Casey
© Tirol Werbung / Haindl Ramon
Feel Good
© Tirol Werbung / Webhofer Mario
© Tirol Werbung / Herbig Hans
© Tirol Werbung / Schwarz Jens
Bits & Pieces
© Tirol Werbung / Neusser Peter
Jagdhausalmen Alpine Pastures, Defereggen, East Tirol, Austria, Europe

Making Corduroy: The Ski Groomer on Harakiri Run

Updated on 14.01.2021 in People

TW Berufe Mayrhofen  – Penken Harakiri Die steilste Piste Öster

With a 78 percent grade, the thrilling double black Harakiri Trail rakes in hard-core honours for being Austria’s steepest downhill run. This sickeningly steep terrain requires a special winch cat to groom, which is driven by heavy machinery operator Christoph Egger.

It is 5:00pm and wispy clouds glow like firecrackers in almost-sunset light over Penken Mountain. The last skiers have rolled off their last ski run and the chair lifts and gondolas sit still. Christoph Egger climbs into his massive, machinated beast of a snowcat, releases the brake and heads up the mountain toward Harakiri. I ask him if he always wanted to become a ski slope groomer. “My granddad was a groomer and he took me along in the snowcat when I was a child. Growing up at the mountain instilled my interest,” says the 28-year-old Zillertal-native.

Christoph Egger and his massive, 430 HP beast of mountain burden.Christoph Egger and his massive, 430 HP beast of mountain burden.

The double black Harakiri Trail rakes in hard-core honours for being Austria’s steepest downhill run. “Only for well trained skiers,” says the sign at the top.The double black Harakiri Trail rakes in hard-core honours for being Austria’s steepest downhill run. “Only for well trained skiers,” says the sign at the top.

Toys for Boys

Christoph Egger is tweaking joysticks in both hands to make the snowcat and its parts move. The engine of his massive beast is 430 horsepower and it weighs in at 9 tons. The snowcat flattens and packs the snow and dropping the tiller behind leaves a perfect corduroy strip. “This is a love it or hate it kind of job. It’s a very big and powerful piece of equipment and it requires feel and instinct to operate,” says the groomer.

Christoph navigates us to the top of Harakiri, where super-steep terrain awaits and a sign warns skiers. I can spot some footprints on the edge of the slope, a proof that some skiers have turned back and left this no-fear zone for expert skiers and boarders. There Christoph stops the snowcat and gets out. He hooks the winch on the groomer up to a concrete post at the top of the run. The winch is to help control the snowcat up and down a resort’s steepest ski slopes, which are too steep for even a burly snowcat to maintain traction without extra support. The steel cable is 1,000 meters long.

The winch is to help control the snowcat up and down the steeper slopes.The winch is to help control the snowcat up and down the steeper slopes.

Grooming the Ski Area’s Steepest Slope in a Winch Cat

Off we go. It’s somewhat like dropping off a cliff. At the top break-over as the machine teeters above the brink towards Harakiri Run, it feels like falling forward out of the seat. It’s only the buckle of the seatbelt that pushes me back into my seat. The cat tilts forward into the darkness. “Driving a winch cat is getting easier with time,” explains Christoph Egger. At the bottom of the run, while the snowcat is still connected to the top of the trail, we turn around and head back up for another pass. “As a skier skies downhill on the Harakiri, it takes the snow that was at the top and pushes it to the bottom. We use the winch to pull the snow back up to the top, which maintains the vertical.”

Grooming the Harakiri run, at a sickeningly steep angle, requires lots of concentration. Being able to operate a winch cat and be efficient, pay attention to detail, and leave a good product takes time and skill to accomplish. The most dangerous part is when the angle and snow beat the winch’s traction. If the steel cable broke, it might result in a catastrophe. “Someone who is new to the grooming team is put through a decent amount of training; a majority of which is hands on. Rookie operators only ride in company. If they don’t show talent or instinct with execution they are not accepted. The snowcats are simply too expensive.”

Grooming the Harakiri Run requires lots of concentration.Grooming the Harakiri Run requires lots of concentration.

The night shift usually lasts until Midnight.The night shift usually lasts until Midnight.

A Dream Job if you Love Working at Night

Now it’s late and velvety dark has swallowed the slopes, save for the snowcat’s headlight beams, which lead the way uphill, then downhill, then uphill again. Stars shine brightly through the black night’s calm. “I love working into the late night. It’s great. And plus, I can go skiing during the day,” Christoph tells me.

Each member of the grooming crew at Mayrhofen Ski Resort is responsible for a particular section of the mountain. Apart from the Harakiri, Christoph Egger has to push and till the snow on dozens of ski runs into the corduroy that sounds like a zipper under-ski. Grooming takes long top-to-bottom passes on each run. The night shift usually lasts until Midnight, and afterwards he often has a beer with his co-workers. The feeling of camaraderie here is strong, too. “I have the best job,” concludes the groomer from Zillertal Valley.

Fast Facts: Harakiri

Opening: Winter Season 2003-2004

Grade: 78 percent

Total Length: 2 kilometers

Steepest Terrain: 400 meters

Requirements: Being able to operate a winch cat takes time, experience and skill.

Photo & Video Credits: Bert Heinzlmeier

Having worked overseas for years, Klaus Brunner returned home to explore Tirol with his camera and microphone in tow. Home is where the heart is.

Last article from Klaus
The Alpine ibex (Capra ibex) is a species of wild goat that lives in Austria’s Hohe Tauern National Park.
, © Hohe Tauern National Park
Updated 4 days ago in Nature
Hohe Tauern National Park: A Rich and Varied History
5 min reading time
Summer solstice fires in Tirol
Updated on 14.06.2021 in Arts & Culture
Summer solstice fires in Tirol
5 min reading time
A wonderfully crispy dessert from Tirol that is fun to make at home: “Strauben”
Updated on 27.05.2021 in Food & Drink
“Strauben”: The Original Recipe to Try at Home
3 min reading time
Updated on 06.04.2021 in Food & Drink
„Apfelradln“: Enjoy the Taste of Tirol at Home
2 min reading time
Updated on 23.03.2021 in Food & Drink
The top beers from Tirol
8 min reading time
Updated on 19.03.2021 in Recommendations
Ten Virtual Museums and Guided Tours in Tirol
5 min reading time
Paragleiter Hohe Salve
Updated on 02.03.2021 in Recommendations
Top Ten Places for a Virtual Visit to Tirol
3 min reading time
Updated on 07.12.2020 in Arts & Culture
Playlist: Top 7 Christmas Carols from Tirol
4 min reading time
Stams_Stamser Alm
Updated on 16.11.2020 in Food & Drink
Superfood from Tirol: “Graukäse” and “Zieger”
5 min reading time
Updated on 02.07.2020 in Food & Drink
Buchteln: A Sweet Treat from Tirol
4 min reading time
Innsbruck, Nordkette
Updated on 28.05.2020 in Arts & Culture
Climb Every Mountain: Summit Crosses in Tirol
3 min reading time
Wirthsaus zum Griena, „Große Stube“, Mayrhofen
Updated on 27.04.2020 in Arts & Culture
Loud and Proud: Folk Music from Tirol
2 min reading time
St. Anton am Arlberg, Mooserwirt
Updated on 26.03.2020 in Arts & Culture
Music in Tirol: From Rock to Reggae
2 min reading time
Updated on 02.03.2020 in Recommendations
Ask a Local: Fieberbrunn
5 min reading time
They made it to the finish line of the Ski Trail in Tannheim. Photo by Tirol Werbung / Charly Schwarz
Updated on 02.01.2020 in Recommendations
Five Nordic Ski Races for Everyone
3 min reading time
Adventmarkt Seefeld, Christbaumschmuck
Updated on 09.12.2019 in Recommendations
Ten Christmas Presents from Tirol
4 min reading time
Updated on 30.11.2019 in Recommendations
5 Ski Resorts Easily Accessible by Train
3 min reading time
19-10-20 Tirol Werbung – Herbst Rezepte_92_klein
Updated on 22.11.2019 in Food & Drink
Best Potato Recipes: Apple Potato Tart
3 min reading time
Updated on 13.11.2019 in People
The Reutte Helicopter Rescue Team
5 min reading time
Updated on 07.11.2019 in Food & Drink
Wine from Tirol: when vines begin to climb
6 min reading time
Christine Silberberger from Auffach – the Wildschönau native truly loves her home region.
Updated on 06.10.2019 in Recommendations
Ask a Local: Wildschönau
5 min reading time
Along the Stubai High Trail (c) Tirol Werbung
Updated on 19.08.2019 in Sports
Five Epic Long-Distance Trails for Tireless Hikers
4 min reading time
Delicious „Brettljausn“ at Burger Alm in Rettenschöss (c) Tirol Werbung – Frank Bauer
Updated on 27.06.2019 in Food & Drink
Five Walks for Foodies
4 min reading time
Oberried Climbing Area in Ötztal Valley. Photo Credit: Tirol Werbung
Updated on 18.06.2019 in Sports
Five Rock Climbing Areas for All Ages
3 min reading time
Jagdhausalmen Alpine Pastures, Defereggen, East Tirol, Austria, Europe
Updated on 03.06.2019 in Nature
Five Photo-Worthy Locales to Dazzle Your Followers
4 min reading time
A scenic mountain walk coupled with indulgent gastronomic experiences: Burgeralm. PHOTO CREDIT: FRANK BAUER
Updated on 16.04.2019 in Food & Drink
Burgeralm: A Haven for Cheese Lovers
4 min reading time
Updated on 05.03.2019 in People
The Village Lift of Navis
6 min reading time
Updated on 05.03.2019 in People
Eddie the Eagle in Tirol
6 min reading time
DJ Gerhard Schmiderer at the Mooserwirt Après Ski Bar in St Anton.
Updated on 12.02.2019 in People
The DJ at the Mother of all Après Ski Bars
5 min reading time
Updated on 24.01.2019 in Nature
Five Walks for Snow Lovers
3 min reading time
Updated on 15.01.2019 in Bits & Pieces
Five Winter Fun Activities for Kids
4 min reading time
Gasthof Gemse in Zams
Updated on 14.12.2018 in Bits & Pieces
Five Cozy Fine-Dining Gems in Tirol
3 min reading time
Exterior view with Jesuit Church | Photo Credits: Günther Egger
Updated on 11.12.2018 in Architecture
The New “House of Music” in Innsbruck
3 min reading time
Updated on 19.09.2018 in Recommendations
Infinite Freedom: Gliding in Tirol
4 min reading time
Wörgl, Bahnhof, Abfahrtsanzeige
Updated on 12.09.2018 in Recommendations
Bike carriage with public transport in Tirol
6 min reading time
Westendorf, Hinterwindau, Käsealm Straubing
Updated on 25.04.2018 in Sports
eMTB Riding Tips & Techniques for Beginners
3 min reading time
Working in the Ski Resort: Josef Geisler, General Manager of Mayrhofen Ski Resort
25.05.2021 in People
Lord of the Harakiri
4 min reading time
Dolomiten Hut in East Tirol. Photo by TVB Osttirol
28.04.2021 in Recommendations
Five Unforgettable Places to Stay
3 min reading time
2Copyright instagram MEINESICHTDERDINGE
19.04.2021 in Recommendations
Ask a Local: Innsbruck
4 min reading time
tirol werbung-hofgarten-blanchard-9787
12.04.2021 in People
The Keepers of the Hohe Salve Mountain
6 min reading time
Photo Credit: Tirol Werbung
31.03.2021 in Sports
Five Best Mountain Bike Rides for Explorers
4 min reading time
Upstream Surfing, River Surfing, Surfing Tirol, Inn
24.06.2019 in Sports
Upstream Surfing in Tirol
4 min reading time
All articles from Klaus
1 comment available
Write comment

Keep reading

Go up
Is your inbox in need of a holiday?

Then subscribe to our weekly newsletter full of exclusive holiday tips from Tirol!