Standort: / Meldung: "The Best Of All Worlds"

Chris Cummins

Letters from a shrinking globe: around the day in 80 worlds.

12. 3. 2017 - 19:57

The Best Of All Worlds

The Glemmride meets Glemmbang freestyle festival is where winter meets summer in a slushy explosion of action.

If you are a lover of fresh-air sports, this time of the year can tug you in two directions. As the temperatures rise, it feels like time to pull the mountain bike out of its winter slumber in the cellar. But should you shut up your skis and boards there instead? Even though there is all that snow to exploit that has been slowly amassing over the past months? There are only so less hours in a weekend. Well, why choose? With a bit of imagination you can have your cake and eat it.

Melting Snow, Melting Genres

FM4 Draußen

A small team of freestyle aficionados from the Glemm valley in Salzburg, the Glemmbang crew, have in recent years organized a slopeside festival in winter, also called the Glemmbang, and a mountain bike festival, the Glemmride, in summer.

Skier freestyle

Daniel Roos Photography

Now, this mid-March with the days getting longer but the mountain slopes still coated in white, they held a one off-event combining the two: a mini festival for freestyle sports, the Glemmride meets Glemmbang featuring downhill mountain bike racing in the snow as well as slopeside contests for skiers and boarders.

“We thought we’d bring the three communities together,” explained Andrea Gensbichler, a founding member of the Glemmbang crew, “because after all they have a similar outlook and philosophy.”

Go With The Flow

Since it was a premiere, there was wonderful sense of laid back improvisation to the whole event. The slopeside event was experimenting with letting the riders judge each other. In all three events, meanwhile, hobby riders and elite athletes were competing alongside each other and no-one was quite sure how everything would work out. I love events like this; evenings that have a palpable spirit of community where the sponsors enable to event but don’t strangle it. Just go with the flow and everything will be OK.

Biker in Snow

Daniel Roos Photography

My attention was particularly drawn to the mountain biking event because I’d never seen anything like it live: a parkour that started at the top of the U-Bahn lift station and swept down the steep piste that is usually used for Hinterglemm’s night skiing.

The bikers had to negotiate some twisting giant slalom turns, before a traverse, reminiscent of the exit after the Hausbergkante at Kitzbühel, led the rides into a series of banked curves and rolling jumps.

I’d followed the course down by skis earlier in the day and was skeptical that anyone could ride it on a bike, even one with spikes in its tires.

A New Hope

The first person to prove me wrong was a 15-year old local. But this was a rather special 15 year old. Big things are expected of Valentina Höll, who is already competing with adults mountain biking’s second division in the Europa Cup and is expected to join the full World Cup tour within months.

I saw her sliding over the horizon, a small figure silhouetted over two-wheel that were drifting sideways under the floodlights of Hinterglemm’s Nightpark. Valentina was twisting the bike left and right trying to keep control over the soft snow but there was a broad smile on her face as she gathered herself in the finishing area. “It was so sketchy,” she laughs. ”It’s so steep and so fast and I couldn’t brake.”

Well you know the saying: wer bremst verliert, and Höll’s buccaneering run was good enough to win the women’s event where all riders were pushed to their limits.

Skier freestyle

Daniel Roos Photography

Spring had arrived in the Alps, turning the fresh snow of the past days into a thick slush and making the carefully prepared piste into a treacherous slide fest, with every pull of the brakes causing the bikes to drift. “It’s tough in the deep snow,” admitted Thomas Rieger from Germany; “but we are used to difficult conditions. We ridden a few races already.”

Indeed. The race was the 4th stop on a Austria-wide tour called Schneefräsn set up by the excellent mountain biking magazine Lines, whose editor Christoph Berger-Schauer was showing that some journalists are not all about words by competing in his brain-child himself.

“We wanted to animate bike culture in winter,” he told me. “There are so many events in summer and then in winter there used to be nothing. So we set up this tour.” It’s the second year Schneefräsn and already it has expanded from 3 stops to 5 stops. “Let’s see what happens next year,” said Christoph with a twinkle in his eye.

Athletes who spend the summers racing over rocks and dirt like to win in winter too, but you get the feeling that the results are of only secondary importance. The main point for the riders seemed to be the opportunity to hang out with each other during the quiet winter months. And, added Valentina Höll, it’s great to be able to take risks knowing that if you crash in the snow you’re unlikely to hurt yourself.

Biker on Snow

Daniel Roos Photography

Racing On The Limit

The men’s race was won by Christoph Altendorfer who finished just four hundredths of a second ahead of the second place rider and declared he had been “totally on the limit.”

It was a less successful evening for his namesake Christoph Berger-Schauer: “I crashed two times,” he laughed, “and my arms were hurting because I had to counter-steer so much. When I came over the finishing line I was just exhausted but it was so much fun.”

Christoph tried to persuade me to take part. The Schneefräsn tour is open to anyone who turns up with a bike. It was conceived as a hobby event although more and more elite riders are beginning to turn up. As someone who has tried unsuccessfully to ride through sand, I was mesmerized by the bike handling skills of many of the riders, pedaling fast through thick snow that pull your handlebars left and right.

The ski event, over a ferocious set of kickers that looked like a snow fortress with turrets and ice walls, was very competitive and absorbing. Tom Ritsch pipped Patrick Schuchter to first place. Klara Dinold won the women’s snowboarding.

A Flying Dutchman

But my great hero of the day was the tall Dutchman who won the men’s snowboard event, as the only competitor:

“Oh this is a bit awkward,” he said when I congratulated him: “Where are all the snowboarders in Saalbach-Hinterglemm?” A win’s a win! That’s what I say.


chris cummins

Charity patron Sascha Kleeberger on a snow bike

Actually perhaps the big winner of the evening was the local Lake of Charity Initiative. All the proceeds of every beer drunk and sausage eaten went to help local youth struggling with disability. To promote the cause, charity patron Sascha Kleeberger came racing down the bike course on a snow bike and dressed in a fetching dirndl. It summed up the evening for me; an event with spirit and heart. Next year I might spike up my bike.