Ronachkopf Ski Touring Mountain

Awoken from deep slumber

The mountain fell into a 15-year long deep sleep after the legendary Thumersbach ski resort closed in 1999. The Ronachkopf was brought back to life in winter 2014 when it was opened as first ski touring mountain in the Salzburger Land. I had my first attempts at skiing at the Ronachkopf when I was 3 years old – now I use my local mountain extensively for early bird ski tours or a sporty end to my working day.

We here in Thumersbach are all good skiers. This might also be down to the fact that we have had a small but sophisticated ski resort directly at our doorstep when we were children. Okay, the one-seater chairlift didn’t offer top-notch comfort but that didn’t matter. I still remember that time: back from school, skis on my shoulders and walking to the village square where the old orange VW bus was waiting to take us to the lower terminus. You were not allowed to wear your skis during the ride on the chairlift with its red bucket seats and polystyrene seating pads. The skis had to be placed in a small iron basket next to the armrest and you held on to them tightly because once arrived at the upper terminus, you had to jump from the chair and exit very quickly.

Two very steep T-bar lifts and one baby lift made the ski resort complete. Unforgettable is also the Liftomat 2000 – a unique self-service bar dispenser at the Holzegg Lift. Using a lever, you caught the bar from the carrier cable at the entrance yourself and the Liftomat placed the bar directly under the buttocks of the skier, leaving the lift attendant to concentrate on punching the scorecards. Dropping from the lift track required good skiing skills at both lifts because the only way downhill led across a narrow lift route in the forest. Good wedlers had a great advantage here. The Enzian Hut ensured that no skier was left hungry or thirsty even back then. I still remember the hot chocolate with a big dollop of cream on top, warming me up on cold days of skiing.

Ski legend Hermann Maier wins the gold medal at the Ronachkopf

The pistes at the Ronachkopf have always been known for their selection and especially the Youth Ski Day Race at the steep and mainly icy northern slope separated the wheat from the chaff here. The gates were never placed in an easy way because even the course setters‘ view was: ”The people of Thumersbach are good skiers!“ Unfortunately, a winner’s cup wasn’t mine to be, the competition was simply too strong. But I was anyway mostly looking forward to the roll with sliced sausage and orange tea, which was always provided for the young starters in the finish area by the Dreiseitel Department Store. Hermann Maier, not yet known at the time, won the gold medal in giant slalom during the legendary Ronachkopf Race from the summit into the valley in January 1994. Who knows, it might have been a very important milestone in his professional career as skier. But the beautiful pistes with an amazing panoramic view to the Tauern and Steinberge Mountains were not enough to save the Ronachkopf from its economic destiny. The last lift bar was made redundant in 1999 and the Ronachkopf fell into a deep slumber.

Awoken from deep slumber after 15 years

Like in the fairy tale, Thumersbach needed a prince to awake the ski mountain, previously so popular with the locals and guests, from its deep slumber. In fact, there were several princes. The managing director of the Zell Ski Club, Fritz Unterganschnigg, counted on the support of Ingo Dürlinger, operations manager on the Schmittenhöhe, and the “Pro Thumersbach“ initiative to realise his vision of a designated ski touring mountain. Together with volunteers from the village, the northern slope was deforested again and given a new lease of life. Thomas Schmiderer, who by now had taken over the Enzian Hut from his parents, also agreed to open the Enzian Hut to ski tourers in winter.

The 2.500 m long skiing route in moderate 500 metres above sea levels has now been attracting countless tour sportsmen and women since the winter of 2014. The ski mountaineers equipped with their skins are not only tolaerated ski psite users here, they are welcome main players of the ski mountain. The beautiful panorama of my childhood has of course not changed and I still treat myself to a hot chocolate at the Enzian Hut as a reward. Ascenting across the steep section, I remember one or the other gate straddle on the Youth Ski Day. Even some of the adventurous forest paths where we skied back then can still be surmised today. The small hut at the summit plateau still reminds of the place where the lower terminus of the baby lift used to be. Today, this is a site where tour sportsmen and women enjoy the fantastic view to the Kitzsteinhorn, Lake Zell and the Schmittenhöhe.

Powder alarm for the first track

Fresh snow means getting out of bed early to be the first creating tracks in the deep snow on the pristine Ronachkopf downhill run. And thanks to an altitude of only 500 metres, well-trained sportsmen and women put their skins on again to climb uphill once more after their first line in powder snow. Because the downhill run is only groomed after the powder junkies had their thrill. Only then starts Ingo Dürlinger the snow groomer – a loan from the Schmittenhöhe – and begins his work on this secured ski route, thus less experienced off-piste skiers also get to enjoy a pleasant downhill run on a freshly groomed piste. Depending on snow situation, the route is accessible from beginning of December until mid-April, offering snow-reliable downhill runs into the valley even in spring. Thus, the Ronachkopf, awoken from deep slumber, reflects the unbelievable boom of ski toruing  and offers the ideal terrain for all sportsmen and women who want to reach the summit on safe routes. A look ahead to the future of the Ronachkopf reveals that the initiators of the ski mountain still have big plans: ideas for a toboggan run and more snowshoe routes for the expansion of the gentle tourism concept have already been presented.