Hohe Mut translates as ‘courageous spirit’ or ‘high courage’ – and you’ll need plenty of both to tackle its steep and deserted unpisted slopes
When I was a callow Inghams ski host in Obergurgl at the back end of last century, Friday’s programme, which I called ‘Man or Mouse’, involved a lonely 20-minute ride up a single chair – birth date 1953 – to reach the resort’s hardest run, the Hohe Mut ski route. The bristly-bearded, smily-eyed, pipe-smoking liftie would offer a blanket if it was chilly, then off I’d swing with teeth, knees and buttocks clenched, trying not to let it rock and hoping I hadn’t landed the one with the dodgy barrier.
The chairs were too far apart for conversation, and entertainment en route up the rounded peak was scanty – a skier decimating the moguls or bumping down head first or, once for me, a white hare sitting by a pylon. A spooky – and, hopefully, made-up – tale of a pink-coated woman freezing to death halfway up one blizzardy night, thanks to a misunderstanding between lifties, intensified my distrust of the ride.
So when they ripped down the relic a decade later, and put in a flashy eight-seater bubble, I didn’t cry. Now it’s feasible to do Hohe Mut laps all day without dying of boredom on the lift – or, simply, dying – and, because they’ve bulldozed a red piste down the least vertiginous shoulder, the mountain is accessible to piste-lovers too. The quaint hut at the top has been replaced by a colossal farmhousy affair (my tip: spinach dumplings) that, oddly, has become a hot wedding venue (hence the bridal bubble decked out in velvet and lace).
But the Mut’s real draw remains its steep, deserted, unpisted slopes. Its ski route is north-facing and never groomed. Setting off beneath the bubble, skier’s right of the red, without fail I’m lulled into a false sense of security on the first gentle pitch. Zipping down the bumps, I’m feeling the rhythm, I’m coordinated, I’m… Agh! I’m all over the place. It quickly steepens and narrows, the moguls treble in size, there’s no way back to the piste and I need a rest. I’ve never made it all the way without a stop.
In powder I peel left or right half-way down (not before – there are cliffs skier’s right) to reach even-pitched, little-tracked terrain. If left, after popping across the piste, which winds back across, I continue down one of the wide gulleys towards the blue slope below. If I’ve swung right or stuck to the moguls (beware of rocks), I take a breather on reaching the flat, then continue down a natural half-pipe to skier’s left or take a middle route down a shoulder, then pop over the piste onto a short, sweet mogul or powder slope above the Nederhütte. Nearby is a cool little snow park – if you traverse out of it before the bottom you can reach the middle station or ski to the village.
Another bonus of this bubble is that it’s en route to some amazing day tours. Arrive when the barriers open and you’re at 2760m at 9.09am. You can head on up the Rotmoostal to the Italian border or ski down the south side (great in spring snow) or the piste to reach the starting point, near the Schönwieshütte, for half a dozen tours. I’ve had awesome powder off the Eisseekögele and the Vorderer Seelenkogl and I’ve skinned to the Langtalereckhutte. There’s a way up the triangular Hangerer, last season the scene of a Freeride World Tour Open Faces comp, and further afield, routes via the Hochwildehaus.
Finally, the Hohe Mut has the most fun après-ski I know. Four times a week at the Nederhütte, from 4pm, its owner Rudi Gamper leads a session of ‘ruck ‘n’ roll’ meets Austrian oompah. Each year it’s noisier and more tech-ed up, and Mrs Rudi’s outfits (she’s the drummer) get ever hipper (out with the dirndls, in with the bling).
Punters sing along to ‘Vest Wirginia’ and other mountain staples, knocking back Jagertee, Weissbier and Willi mit Birne, and gnawing on racks of ribs, before careering down the floodlit blue to the village around 7pm. I can’t think of a better way to round off a day exploring the Hohe Mut.