HKR 2024

The art of driving a 15-tonne vehicle

09.01.2024

Bystanders are often quick to film the impressive scenes of them at work. The daring snow groomer pilots are currently working at full throttle on the Streif and Ganslern slopes. Gery Hühnersbichler invited us into his cockpit at the Hausbergkante.

Everyone is talking about the Bergbahn AG Kitzbühel snow groomer operators right now. Not only those along the Streif and Ganslern slopes, but also winter sports fans who watch their work in steep terrain with machines weighing several tonnes from the valley in awe.

"These drivers are true masters of their art. You would be hard pressed to find others with similar prowess throughout Central Europe," says Organising Committee Chief, Michael Huber. Only the most skilled operators (with at least 3,000 hours of winch experience) work on key sections such as the Mausefalle, Steilhang and Traverse, and KitzSki boats of seven such specialists. One of the experts named by Michael Huber is Gery Hühnersbichler, who has been preparing his absolute favourite section for the two downhill runs since Monday: Hausberg, Traverse and the Zielschuss home straight.

The man from Kirchberg has been working for Bergbahn Kitzbühel as a piste groomer operator for 20 years and, when he talks about it, radiates an enthusiasm that would by no means suggest such a long period of service. Gery Hühnersbichler is currently in the fortunate position of being able to test a new machine, and so far, the 15-tonne vehicle with 630 hp is proving to be a real winner: "The technology is tremendous and state of the art, not to mention the comfort." He and his colleagues are still mulling over what to call the new addition: "But Lisa is our favourite at the moment."

While Gery has parked "his" Lisa on the Hausbergkante, he gives a little insight into his everyday life in the cockpit: "It's important for all of us to be well acquainted with the machine, the terrain and the snow quality. That's why we carefully inspect both the surface and the machines before we set off, especially on steep sections. If the snow is soft, there is a risk of slipping." A winch is used to support preparation of the Starthang, Mausefalle, Steilhang oder Traverse sections: "It is an additional aid and capable of supporting around 4.6 tonnes." In the cockpit, the joystick is one of his best friends: "I can operate everything with it: Tiller, winch and plough."

Since Monday, Gery Hühnersbichler and his colleagues have been working on incorporating the fresh snow that fell at the weekend (in combination with water) into the racecourse. This should be completed on the Streif by Wednesday, after which the fine-tuning will begin, while it is hoped that the racecourse will freeze well thanks to current temperatures.

Is such a daring piste grooming expert also confident when driving on a normal road? "Yes, I am," answers Gery Hühnersbichler, "but my wife is usually at the wheel, because I don't like regular driving."

Photo © K.S.C./Julian Jamnig


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