The steep wall designer

When the Nordkette mountain range high above Innsbruck glows even brighter in the dark, Markus Witting, snow groomer operator on the Seegrube, is at work. The 53-year-old is part of the 4-person piste team for the second season this winter and works as a mechanic at the Wildmoos golf course in summer. Thanks to his professional experience as a truck driver, agricultural machinery mechanic and workshop manager, he has a wealth of technical knowledge. This is a clear advantage, as he can take care of the majority of repairs himself.

There is no special training for the job of snow groomer operator. In addition to technical understanding, the basic requirement is a class B driving license. The training itself is based on "learning by doing" - and there are some very special challenges on the Gruabn.


The small but beautiful ski area on the Seegrube is characterized above all by its steepness. This also challenges the snow groomer drivers, because apart from the practice slope, all the slopes on the Seegrube have to be prepared with the cable winch. For Markus Witting, the steepness of the slopes is a special feature of working on the Seegrube. When asked about his job title, he smiles and likes to describe himself as a "steep face designer". Because one thing is certain - if the steep slopes of the Gruabn can be skied with snow groomers, then you can probably ski anywhere with them.


Back to the cable winch. This is used depending on the steepness of the slope and the weight of the device when preparing ski slopes. There are various attachment points for the snow groomers. The rope, which is 820 meters long in total, then "secures" the snow groomer from the attachment point down and up the slope. In this way, the snow that is pushed down by the skiers can be transported back up or onto the slopes. At Kasermandl, for example, the rope is stretched over 500 meters across the slope. If the snow groomer is attached to the cable winch, sensitivity is required. Slowly and carefully, the snow groomers "tip" into the steep slope and the rope disappears into the darkness. Gravity is clearly noticeable here. With great sensitivity, the slope can be prepared track by track for the next day's skiing.


In the dark, the rope disappears not only for the snow groomer driver, but also for winter sports enthusiasts. The movement of the snow groomer also causes the "invisible" steel cable to move again and again, which is very dangerous. Extreme caution is therefore required here. For your own good, but also out of consideration for the snow groomer drivers, ski tourers are therefore asked not to stay in the ski area after opening hours.


6 days a week Markus grooms the slopes on the Nordkette after the ski season. The working hours vary greatly. While he is busy until around 8 p.m. when he is fast, it can sometimes happen that his working day lasts until the early hours of the morning or that he even spends the night on the Seegrube. Of course, this depends on the snow. When there is a lot of fresh snow, the snow groomers first have to gain access to the slopes before the actual slopes can be prepared. Avalanches and snow-covered or buried attachment points are further challenges posed by fresh snow.


Skier or snowboarder? Markus is one of the few people who can answer this question with "both". As a passionate winter sports enthusiast, it is particularly important to him to ensure perfect slopes on the Seegrube. He takes a very critical view of his work and always carefully repairs small holes or errors in the track. As he skis or snowboards a lot himself, he knows how to appreciate a good piste and wants to offer winter sports enthusiasts on the Nordkette perfectly groomed pistes.


The last guests drive down into the valley, dusk slowly falls and peace returns to the Seegrube. The city lights become brighter and the stars twinkle. As cheesy as it may sound, this dream setting is Markus' workplace (weather permitting, of course). The unique view of Innsbruck and the surrounding mountains make this workplace one of the most beautiful in the city!



Markus drives up to the Seegrube one hour before the start of the shift. Once at the top, the equipment is checked first. Markus' snow groomer is in use for the 4th season with approx. 1000 operating hours and has a pulling force of approx. 4.5 tons. Once the machines have been checked, the "real work" begins. One snow groomer is responsible for the flat sections without a cable winch, the other for the steep slopes. Only when the path towards the 3-post lift has been prepared is it the turn of the steep Kasermandl. Once all the holes have been repaired and all the slopes are the way Markus would like to ski them himself, he takes the gondola back to the town. The freshly groomed slopes can freeze overnight, waiting for the first tracks to be made on them the next morning.