Kaunertal glacier lies deep in the heart of the Eastern Alps, straddling the border between Austria and Italy, and far from the maddening crowds
The elusive Ibex, or Steinbock as it's known around these parts, is in many ways a fitting symbol for the small glacier resort of Kaunertal, tucked away in the farthest corner of the Austria's Tiroler Oberland.
Alpine Ibex are hardy and agile creatures, and excellent climbers. Not unlike the off-piste skiers, splitboarders, ski tourers and alpinists that come to this quiet valley to conquer glacial peaks, and explore remote and untouched valleys. Their preferred habitat is rocky terrain between 1800-3300m, which is almost entirely contiguous with Kaunertal's small (but more than sufficient) lift infrastructure. The ibex are shy creatures though, blending in with the rocky terrain that they inhabit, and difficult to spot for the untrained eye. A metaphor, it seems, for Kaunertal itself, oftentimes overlooked by skiers and boarders with sights firmly set on more hedonistic habitats, such as Sölden, Ischgl, and St Anton.
To be fair, the 60 mile stretch of highway between Innsbruck and the Arlberg pass serves up more world-class ski resorts than any comparably sized area on the planet, so perhaps its no surprise that Kaunertal flies under the radar of the masses.
But that's not necessarily a bad thing, even in the eyes of Marcus Herovitsch, Marketing Director of the Kaunertal Glacier and Fendels Resort. "Kaunertal is essentially a very quiet, laid-back valley," claims Marcus. "We're not interested in directly competing with Sölden for the party crowd - after all it is the unspoiled nature and quiet atmosphere that makes Kaunertal unique, it's what brings many guests back year after year. We might have 2000, maybe 2500 skiers and riders on the mountain on a busy day, and that means that we hardly ever have lift lines, or crowded slopes, and freeskiers find untracked powder many days after the last snowfall."