Off-Season, Off-Piste: Reaching New Mountain Heights
Looking for a new all-time mountain high? In partnership with TAG Heuer, we’re showcasing three of the world’s most challenging winter sports, with a hat-trick of action- packed itineraries that are as testing as they are rewarding.
24 March, 2022
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Glacial snow powdering your face, granite rocks ripping past, the drifts blowing all around as you race down a perilous vertical in G-force- inducing switchbacks: what could be more of a rush than testing your high-altitude endurance amid some of the world's most breathtakingly beautiful scenery? We've explored Austria's icy wild west, flown higher than a Canadian chairlift ever could and braved the terrain beyond Colorado's black runs, going off-piste, off-season, to inspire you to do the same.
These are challenges for the fearless. Heliskiing in remote British Columbia, backcountry climbs across the Elk Mountains and scaling frozen waterfalls in Austrian Tyrol all require skill, perseverance and precision. Forget what you thought you knew about snow days. Our action-packed itineraries will see you giving it everything you've got as you tackle extreme conditions and test your own limits - with the right kit, of course. And, when you're up against it, a timepiece that won't let you down is vital. Our preferred wrist candy? The Swiss-engineered TAG Heuer Aquaracer Professional 200 - a hard-wearing, heavy-duty tool watch that does so much more than just keep time.
Ready to unshackle yourself from the everyday and embark on an unforgettable adventure of a lifetime? We thought so. Grab your TAG Heuer Aquaracer and let's go.
Heliskiing in Revelstoke, Canada
Welcome to "Revy". Home to big-mountain terrain, deep snow and the continent's highest vertical slope, this isolated Selkirk ski town is an extreme-sports mecca. Ease yourself in and learn the lay of the land with a top- to-bottom lap of the resort. If it's a fresh-powder day, make tracks to the rope drop above the Ripper Chair for a spellbinding descent through the pristine blanket of white. Getting in a few post-sunset runs is a tradition up here and, thanks to the pioneering Super-LumiNova® technology illuminating your Aquaracer's hour and minute hands, you won't have to worry about missing your dinner reservation at the Quartermaster Eatery. Housed within the dinky, nine-room Explorer's Society hotel, the restaurant is a hit with locals and visitors alike.
It's time to get serious. Transfer your kit to the helipad- equipped Eagle Pass Lodge, meet your guide and grab a pair of high-performance powder skis. After swinging by La Baguette for an almond-milk chai latte and some trail-mix cookies, your attention will turn to clocking your timings for tomorrow's drop. Weather forecasts are regarded as the holy grail in heliskiing, and conditions change fast. You'll need to keep a close eye on the hour up there.
Swooping over jagged mountain silhouettes, skimming icy ridges and traversing high above snowy bowls, the helicopter ride is a rush in itself, but things only get better when you land and find yourself in the thick of the Rogers Pass powder stashes - a landscape synonymous with deep snow and prolonged descents.
Heliskiing is all about catching the ultimate run. You won't have encountered inclines like this anywhere before. It takes focus to track the terrain's natural features, handle the lengthy descents and master the steep, unexpected drops into challenging wooded areas. As you slalom between 700-year-old hemlocks and western red cedars, fresh snow swirling, you really will feel on top of the world. Tumbles are part and parcel of this fast and furious discipline, but, rest assured, double safety gaskets in the Aquaracer design prevent water penetration during the inevitable white outs.
Muscles burning? Linger over an indulgent breakfast of brie and apple French toast at Main Street Café, before making the 90-minute drive to the forest-cloistered Halfway Hot Springs for a therapeutic soak in the steaming natural pool. Spend the afternoon exploring the Victorian architecture of downtown Revelstoke, stopping at the clapboard-clad Modern Bakeshop for a hot Ginger Elixir, guaranteed to warm chilly fingers. Don't leave without savouring a sophisticated "appies" session (local slang for après-ski). Feast on poutine and cheese curds washed down with local craft brews at The Village Idiot. You've earned it.
Backcountry skiing in Colorado, US
The first rule of backcountry skiing? Be prepared. From the moment you touch down in Aspen, you'll be gearing up for a mountaineering exploit that's as much about the journey as it is hitting the hot-ticket slopes. Spring signals the close of the ski town proper, but, for backcountry bunnies, warmer weather spells the opportunity for some spectacular off-trail adventures. This snow sport is a masterclass in understanding the landscape you're hiking across, pre-planned timings and quick decision- making on fast, short mountainsides.
With that in mind, you'll need to prep hard on day one. Pick up your crampons, ice axe, ski skins and avalanche kit, then grab a table at the sunny Spring Café to plot your routes for the following day. Take in the rugged southern Rockies with a ride up the Silver Queen Gondola, or simply enjoy a stroll through this former mining town- turned-A-lister magnet. Take the weight off at quirky, art-filled Independence Square hotel, located just a block from Aspen Mountain.
Early alarms, please. After fuelling up on banana chocolate-chip muffins (picked up the day before from South Galena Street's Paradise Bakery), it's full-steam ahead to the northern face of the 4,059m Hayden Peak. Exit Highway 82 for the trailhead, and it's time to clip your crampons on. After an invigorating hike through the atmospheric forest above Castle Creek, you'll arrive at the mountain's lower elevations. Break out of the dark woods into the dazzling daylight, swerve around Stammberger
Face, then grit your teeth and begin skinning up the demanding, snow-packed slope.
Be wary of time. Past 12, the sun warms the snow, making the wide bowl ahead unstable. Because your Aquaracer fits comfortably over a ski glove - using a clever extension system on the stainless-steel bracelet - you won't have to worry about fumbling to read the time and, instead, can concentrate fully on the task at hand. Stop, survey the open curve of the glittering bowl, then let it rip, slicing through the untouched snow at speed.
Ready for the big one? Rise at 3am for your drive to the Maroon Lake trailhead. You can't afford to get your timings wrong for this particular mountaineering challenge. If you're an hour late on descent, you'll hit wet snow, which is seriously bad news. Expect a steep climb to the notorious North Maroon Peak: ski skins on, you'll need buckets of determination to edge your way up.
Serious skills are required to manoeuvre between the jutting red rocks on your descent. White outs come with the terrain - hit the cliff hard and fast for a heart- rocketing speed run, then glide through the exit chute onto an expansive apron, floating across unsullied snow. Back in town, celebrate your triumph with expertly crafted cocktails at Hooch. Our order? The Scholar - a maple-infused bourbon and vermouth number with a dangerous absinthe finish - an apt end to your extreme Colorado adventure.
Ice climbing in Tyrol, Austria
Keen to cling to an inaccessible wall of slippery, unforgiving, crystalline ice? Let us introduce you to ice climbing. Forget all you've learnt on the piste: this is going to call for real inner strength and grit. Austria's Ötztal Valley benefits from high-altitude temperatures, so when the rest of Europe's three-month Jäger hangover dissipates, hardliners test their endurance by scaling the valley's 39 frozen waterfalls.
Start out in Innsbruck, making a beeline for the moody Altstadthotel Weisses Kreuz (design-wise, think Tyrolean baroque 'n' roll). Post-check in, you'll want to look up current ice conditions and organise your kit - sharp crampons, ice axes, helmet and harness are all non-negotiable. Pause to breathe in the invigorating alpine air, then head to the rustic Gasthaus Anich for simple, traditional plates served up in a homely, wood- panelled dining room.
Time to embrace the cold. Get into gear with an ascent of the glorious Taschachschlucht gorge, an hour's drive from Innsbruck. Ice climbing is not for the faint-hearted (or the inexperienced). After reaching the summit of the frozen falls, you'll refasten your harness and push off from the icy edge, abseiling in parallel to the glimmering cliff you've just scaled. There's no need to fear denting your TAG Heuer Aquaracer Professional 200, though. A robust, durable watchcase and athlete-tested double-
lock safety strap means it will still be in place, and still looking box-fresh, at the end of your adventure. Unwind and bed down at the Pitztal Valley's Hotel Wildspitze, whose alpine herb sauna is a godsend.
Ready to step it up? For guaranteed ice beyond the winter season, head up into the neighbouring Kaunertal Valley, set on the upper course of the Inn River, around an hour's drive away. This is the place to scale magnificent frozen waterfalls, including the jaw-dropping Der Zwirn and the infamously vast Angst vor Lust. You'll stretch your perseverance to the extreme as you make your way along rugged ice walls, breaking at regular intervals to take in the heart-stopping vistas. Back on terra firma, drop into the luxurious Hotel Zhero for a five-star finale to your trip. Featuring local wood, jewel-like accents and floor- to-ceiling windows in every suite, this mountain retreat offers an opulent end to your Austrian experience - as sleek, well-designed and functional as your trusty TAG Heuer Aquaracer.
The TAG Heuer Aquaracer Professional 200 is the ultimate tool watch. Constructed with heavy- duty materials, it pushes the boundaries of luxury timekeeping. To find your fit, visit tagheuer.com