“The best moments are those when there is half a metre of fresh snow, it’s still dark and we are standing up on top of the Hafelekar ridge. We are the only ones on the mountain. As we start preparing the charges the sun slowly rises and bathes all the peaks around us in light. The first thing we do before we open up the ski resort is ski down through the Karrinne couloir ourselves to see if conditions are okay. On powder days there are some people who would pay a lot of money to be with us.
We don’t set off any of the charges before seven o‘clock in the morning so as to avoid disturbing people in the city below. Sometimes the explosions are louder down in the valley than up here in the mountains. If the wind conditions are right then in certain parts of the city the windows shake. In the past it was not uncommon for avalanches to come all the way down into the city and over the Inn river. These days that doesn’t happen thanks to the avalanche barriers and our work early in the morning to artificially trigger any avalanches which could pose a danger. We wait until it goes boom and then the snow starts to move. Often we see big, beautiful avalanches. Really big avalanches.
We, the core members of the avalanche commission, have known each other for years. Another part of our job is to provide ski patrol services on the pistes of the Nordkette. If someone is hurt then we have to get there fast. It works really well and we are proud of our quick response time. The terrain here is pretty extreme. Freeriding is often seen as cool, but even the coolest skiers and snowboarders are seriously shocked when we pull them out of an avalanche. That’s an experience which stays with them for a very long time.”
Werner Haberfellner, Ski patroller and member of the avalanche commission for the Nordkette Mountains
Innsbruck’s residents are familiar with the dull thuds echoing down from the mountains each morning. The avalanche commission uses gas-fired canons and special cable cars to place charges in the snow and trigger avalanches which could otherwise pose a risk to skiers and snowboarders in the resort as well as the residents of the city below. Werner Haberfellner is a member of the avalanche commission. Together with his team he is responsible for evaluating the avalanche situation every day and attending to skiers and snowboarders who have hurt themselves on the slopes.