I am a long time Mountainbike Journalist from Austria.
My friends and me have formed a progressive Mountainbike Freeride group years ago, Headquarters in Innsbruck, Tyrol/Austria.
The Group is called the “VertRiders”. There’s also a web project which is planned to be updated in January.
Believe me, the “Verts” are totally addicted to winter riding. Besides the love for the Sport and the beauty of free riding in snowcovered Mountains, we are also able to extend our season due to a summer that lasts not that long around Tyrols Alps.
Usually we receive the first snowfalls at high elevations like 2000 m around late October. If we are lucky, and the usual hot winds (like the Chinook in Canada) last for weeks, that snow will go away again.
Later in December the hot winds fade away, and snowfalls will come down to 1000 m or down to the valley in January. From January to March we thus stick to mid elevation rides. April to June sees us climbing up higher again, still hitting remaining snowfields, once finally the Mountains are fully accessible from July until late October.
On Dec. 13th and Dec. 20th (2002) some of Innsbrucks Vertriders’ Hardcore Members ruled Innsbrucks famous “Seegrube” (1900 m).
The ride on Dec. 13th was a revival of the legendary VertNight from December 12th, 2000, and a fantastic experience (as always). Because there was not that much snow or ice to expect on 1600m or lower, we decided to not use our favourite Nokian Freddie’s Revenz Tires, because we would ruin them on the faster, snow free parts of the descent.
The ascent on mostly dry, frozen fireroads was easy until approx 1700 m height, where the road got covered with more and more snow. From then on it was hike & push on a snow trail (which the stronger Vertriders rode), until we reached Seegrube Bergrestaurant @ Nordkettenbahn Middle Station, 1900m height.
All in all the Vertriders enjoyed a mostly clear moonlight night, moderate, not as cold as expected temperatures, good beer @ Seegrube Restaurant (thanks, Charly!), spectacular night views on Innsbruck and the Inn Valley, and finally – a world class descent on a different route than the ascent, providing a classic, totally frozen (man, what a grip!) hammer trail.
No equipment failures so far, and to our surprise, some of the Californian forks used by some of the riders have been performing much better on low temperatures than in the recent years.
Dec. 20th saw nearly the same group of Vertriders heading up to Seegrube again. Again it was a moonlit night, and this time we really wanted to know how far we could go, but still decided against the use of Spikes – although some Snowfalls the days before would make the ride without them a true experiment.
And it was one… Way before the turning to Hoettinger Alm we had to start pushing the bikes, because there wasn’t enough grip anymore even with 2.7 tires run on low pressure… So we pushed up the bikes to Cable Car Tripod No. 3, where another descent route starts. During a break there we decided to not start the descent there but go for Seegrube, and hiked up the last 400 heightmeters directly on hiking tracks to the Seegrube, which was really tough, because freeride bikes like ours put the weigh of around 17 kgs on your shoulders.
After a nice break at Seegrube Restaurant (which with the Nordketten Bahn Cable Car is open for dinner to the tourists and locals every friday night until 11:30 p.m.) we started the descent. It was quite difficult due to snowdrifts on the trails, but very impressive with snow flurry in front of our headlights, and the amazing scenic views to Innsbrucks City lights in the valley.
Once we left the open spaces of the high alpine region, the trail would lead into the woods, and the snow height on the single track fell nearly zero. From then on it was a speedy descent on surf trails.