Catskiing in Hochfügen: Canada feeling in the Alps
In North America, catskiing is a popular and above all a cheaper alternative to heliskiing. As the first ski resort in the European Alps, Hochfügen in the Zillertal is also offering the ride on the snowcat for exclusive freeride fun.
Even before dawn, the snowcat starts its engines at the valley station of the 8-person jet gondola in Hochfügen. Its destination this morning is not the freshly snow-covered slopes that need to be rolled for the coming ski day. They are heading up to Waidoffen, one of the highest points in the ski area. Their cargo is enthusiastic freeriders on their way to ride the off-piste terrain in Hochfügen.
Catskiing in the alps: get up early for a powder run
It’s pitch dark, most of the resort’s guests are still in bed. The only light comes from the spotlights on the roof of the Snowcat. Where a shovel is normally mounted to groom the ski area’s slopes, however, this caterpillar has a chairlift cab with six seats mounted. The canopy is open and blankets are on the seats; after all, it’s still freezing cold in the early morning.
Skis and poles are stowed, the snowcat driver climbs into his seat and the catskiing guests also make themselves comfortable. Slowly the day breaks and the sky covered with stars is replaced by a blue dome roof getting brighter and brighter. The snowcat makes its way up the deserted slopes. In the U.S. and Canada, catskiing is all about getting off groomed slopes, but in Europe that’s not possible due to legal environmental regulations. Catskiing in Hochfügen is therefore first and foremost about being on the mountain before everyone else.
Hochfügen: a classic freeride ski area
NNaturally, Hochfügen is still all about freeriding on untracked slopes. Although the area can also be reached with the help of the lifts, moving around by snowcat has its own special charm due to its exclusivity and the solitude on the mountain. Wrapped in blankets and equipped with a thermos of hot tea, you can undoubtedly enjoy the wonderful view on an early Zillertal morning. It jolts a little here and there, but everyone is sitting comfortably and looking forward to what awaits them.
Arrived at the top station of the Waidoffen lift, the view immediately falls into the valley. A thick blanket of clouds hangs there, while the horizon is clearly turning a shallow pink. It’s just before sunrise, and this sight alone was worth getting up early for. A steep 15-minute climb still awaits, but then the summit of Pfaffenbühel is reached and just at this moment the sun peeks out from behind the ridge in the east for the first time that day.
Hochfügen-Catskiing: Early-Bird instead of Powder-Horse
On the other side of Pfaffenbühel, we descend towards the Pfuntzalm. Despite the recent warm days in early February, the snow is good and the skis are running like clockwork. Once again we see why the cat skiing offer in Hochfügen is worthwhile. Back in the valley, the first guests are lining up at the lifts. Thanks to the ride on the snowcat, we have already completed the first freeride descent of the day, with the gorgeous sunrise on top! Even if you don’t go off-piste with the snowcat when catskiing in Hochfügen, it still offers the decisive advantage of early-bird skiing.
The Hochfügen ski resort is also one of the freeride hotspots of the Alps beyond the catskiing offer. Powder freaks from all over the world cavort there in the terrain, which is even used every year for a qualifying competition of the Freeride World Tour. At freeride camps with pros like Roman Rohrmoser and Felix Wiemers, you can pick up tips and tricks from the experts. Freeride beginners also have the opportunity to take part in free off-piste guiding sessions twelve weekends a year. With the ski check at the 8er Jet there is also a ski rental specialized in powder equipment, where you can rent everything from freeride skis to safety equipment.