Alone on the slopesWhen you edge up the ski lift at 7:30am, prints of a rabbit's foot are the only thing dotting the immaculate snow blanket below. Without the usual crowds of skiers, it's eerily quiet. Early birds can be the first on the slopes at Hochkönig, and enjoy 2 hours of special access to the resort before the ski lifts officially open. Three small groups of skiers set out at dawn, every Wednesday in February and March, to watch the sunrise from the mountains.
Trudging to the Mühlbach lift station, the snow crunches under your ski boots. The Hochkönig's powdered ridge towers over the valley, forming an imposing Alpine panorama. There are no lines at the lift, just 24 other skiers and the experienced team of the Hochkönig Cable Cars.
Perfect winter wonderland
"It's an amazing feeling." Sebastian Nadeje, one of the guides, struggles to put what waits at the top of the mountain into words. Pristine slopes drape over the rugged landscape down into the valley. On the horizon, the first sun rays creep over the surrounding Alpine peaks in a portentous halo. Like the previous night’s Schnitzel, it’s a litte schmaltzy, but that’s the whole point.
The first downhill run feels effortless, thanks to the still fluffy snow that cushions your skis. Carving down the Schneealm without anybody around lets you take full advantage of these perfect conditions. Next up is the Fellersbachalm, and then the Kings Cab cable car, which takes you to an elevation of 5,700 ft. Looking from up high, the entire Hochkönig ridge seems to glitter in the sun.
At around 9:30, after two hours of prime, unencumbered skiing, it’s finally time for breakfast. Take a break at the cozy Karbachalm, where warm, Austrian food and more dramatic views are waiting. By the time you’re back in the valley, the first crowds of dozy skiers start plodding towards the lift.