In those days, the Alpine Club youth section led by Helmut Rueb had a lot of very enthusiastic members, and I was one of them. Back then there weren’t that many leisure opportunities for young people. There was only the fire brigade, the band, the sports club or the Catholic Youth. However, the youth section of the Alpine Club offered me and a few like-minded people exactly what we were looking for: sport, experiences, adventure, freedom and companionship. At the time, in winter the Merano Alpine Club used to lease the Piffinger Alm from the farmers of Hafling for the young people.

To begin with, in late autumn we would climb up to the Hochganghaus with our youth leader to pick up blankets and pillows and take them to our ski hut. Afterwards we would go up to the hut again on a Sunday to get wood for the winter. With the permission of the woodsman we were allowed to cut a few small, dry trees, and collect branches and brushwood, which we stored in the shed. Even that was a lot of fun and one time, through an excess of enthusiasm, somebody cut through Franzl’s boot and also his Achilles tendon with the axe. We carried him down to Falzeben without anyone trying to find out who the guilty party was. That’s how it was then.
As soon as the first snow fell at altitude, we – mostly the core group of 4 or 5 boys and often just me on my own – would take the last cable car on Saturday night from Obermais to Hafling and from there hike for 2 hours via Falzeben and Zuegg Hut to our hut, taking some provisions with us. Often it would be raining in Merano, but we knew that up high we would have our adventure in heavy snow. As far as Falzeben we usually had a track to follow, but after that we had to make our own. Once at the hut we would find the hidden key and quickly build fires in the oven and stove. There was no electricity, and the water came from a well in front of the hut. The oven and stove smoked because the chimney was still cold, which made our eyes stream, so we would have to open the windows and door. It wasn’t so very bad though; the main thing was that we were away from our work as apprentices, away from the town and we were free. We would make soup and tea by candlelight. We never had any alcoholic drinks up there and we always did plenty of singing and made new plans. It would be after midnight when we crept under our blankets upstairs. We would nominate somebody to get up first in the morning to lay the fire and make tea.

In those days there was only one button lift on the steep slope near the Zuegg Hut, which led up to the Piffinger Koepfl. In the morning we would carry the snow down the steep slope from above with our skis – after all there was no grooming machine – and for doing this we were allowed to use the lift for free. I learned to ski up there, without a ski instructor and with wooden skis. At first I only went a little way on the “schuss” (straight downhill run), and then slowed down at the bottom with a “Christie” turn. Later I did stem turns. The “steep slope” was a real challenge for us then and we really admired the sports club members from Merano, who could all ski well. On the steep slope we would bet about who could make it right down the “schuss” without falling. Once it ended in a broken ski, but never with a broken leg. Often the girls would come up to the hut on a Sunday and at lunchtime they would make soup for us. A few friendships, and later marriages too, came about at this time, which continue to this day. In the evening we would clean and tidy up and write in the hut book so that everyone would know who had been there last. Now we were already looking forward to the long descent via the “race course” with the infamous “Kneringer Hollow”.
The race course was a track that was not prepared, but where the gates were open on the fences. The “Kneringer Hollow” was where the track came to an uphill slope after a “schuss” and often there were falls there that did not end well. Quite a few people ended up with a broken leg in Dr. Kneringer’s accident clinic in Obermais.

The descent ended at the “Briefkastlbäuerin” in front of the Sulfner Inn and the mountain station. There would usually be a queue of skiers since the little lift could only carry 6 to 8 people at once. The usual Merano people then went to the nearby bar, from where the ticket collector would have to fetch them in time for the last trip down the mountain. We never stopped there because we had no money, but we did still have a nice weekend at our ski hut behind us. From the valley station we would march home with our skis over our shoulders and look forward to the next time.

Meraner Stadtanzeiger 17th of March 2022, Page 11, Historical topic, by Ulrich Kössler
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