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  • Niklas Hollsten

Making the impossible possible, adventure roadtrip from North Sweden to the Alps with 3 huskies

Sanna had two and a half week holiday from work and I didn’t either had any bigger plans for mid of January. She hadnt been to Austria wintertime and so decision was made; a roadtrip with our dogs to Austria from Åre, Sweden.

It was a lot to think about and plan when you travel so far with 3 huskies in a small campervan how the dogs will come along, how to do with all food and will we have enough space. The most important before the trip was to make sure that the dogs had their passports and vaccinations. After all planning was done we came to a conclusion that it should work out fine and if not we will improvise.

For the trip we had only two places what we had decided to visit under the trip, that was Heiligenblut and Mallnitz in Austria. Heiligenblut cause I had signed up for a Freeride World Qualifier comp there and Mallnitz cause of I been living there 8 winters before and its on of my favorite places in Austria what I wanted to show to Sanna. The rest of the trip we planned to improvise and decide after the weather.

In front of us we had 2500km of driving to Heiligenblut and we had reserved 3 days of driving there. The trip went good, amazing winter scenarios thrue Sweden, Denmark went fast and Germany was boring to drive as always. We took only necessary brakes for dogs, shopping and sleeping.

First stop for activity was in Kitzbuheler Alpen for X-contry skiing with the dogs in beautiful surroundings. Before we drove the last kilometers to Heiligenblut in Kärnten.

We stayed there 3 nights, of that 2 nights on the camping in the valley. We started the days with x-country skiing with the dogs and the we went to the slopes while dogs slept in the van. We arrived on Thursday eve and Friday was the facecheck and incription day. The weather was amazing and so was the snow. The only clouds in the area was over the comp face. So it wasn’t not much of a facecheck, instead lot of freeriding in the skiresort. First day of the season when I had chance to do some cliffdrop, I got fast good feeling when stomping some big cliffs.

On comp day I had a good feeling and the sun was shining, wasn’t allowed to ride the line I wanted cause of to exposed area. So chosed fast another line what was steep and had a few nice drops in falline before a small traverse to the last drop. In the run I found easily all features I wanted to take, but cause of little too much speed I missed little of a big drop and had to improvise little on a smaller drop. But overall it went okay, no crashes, good speed and no hesitation so it felt good, even if I could have done better.

Was still surprised and stoked on pricegiving when I got 2nd place, hadnt been riding any FWQ comp in a couple of years. We also decided to stay one more night in Heiligenblut, Sanna had got some flue and it was good for her to rest on the camping for a day. On Sunday riders still had discounted tickets and I went for some runs, weather was extremely foggy but we had fun riding in trees with Tommaso Gazzini and his friend for some hours.

Next day was forecasted some really good weather, and decision was made; touring with the dogs in Astental, it’s an amazing valley for skitouring close to Heiligenblut. Where you can take the car up to the treelevel and there is also an amazing good and cozy hotel and restaurant. The only thing is the steep and challenging road with the campervan on the snowy road. Half way up we had to put on the snowchains and every year when is the first time, you are rusty and thinking for few minutes how to put them on..

Astental delivered powder and sunshine, cause of Sannas flue shouldn’t get worse we took it slow, enjoyed touring in the sun and dogs was full of energy helping us by pulling us uphill. We decided to turn back down after 600vert when we from far saw clouds rolling in over the mountains so we could enjoy riding down in sunshine with good visibility. And the dogs was superhappy to run free down the mountain. When we was back down by the car we had an amazing dinner with local food in the restaurant. Happy and full of food we drove down to the valley again.

Next day weather shouldn’t be too good so we planned in a climbing day inndoors in TheRock kletterhalle in Muhldorf and some citylife in Spittal. We parked and slept on the parking of the TheRock and went climing on next day noon. The big and supernice climbing hall was almost empty and we climbed until there was no power in the arms anymore and headed for some necessary shopping to Spittal an der Drau and for a surprise visit to Bernd”crazy doc”Horvath an good friend what I have back in the days done many exposed runs and first decents with, in the HoheTauern mountains.

We checked the forecast on evening and the next days it should be cloudy in whole Kärnten but but in the Julian Alps in Italy there should be sun next days and they had 3meter snow, so we turned the nose of car direction Sella Nevea in Italy. On the morning sun was up but the the main lifts and Slovenian connection lift was closed due hard wind. And we went for a skitour trip with the dogs on the opposite mountain of skiresort. That shoved to be a win.

That west side of mountain was almost completely protected from wind and had afternoon sun. We just went a bit above the threelevel,cause the snow didn’t feel enough stable higher up. But the surroundings was magical and you can see all the way to Adriatic sea. With quite easy approach you can find the most amazing lines to ride in that small mountain area. I will defineately come back one day to ride some of that lines. On afternoon we took a trip to Bovec in Slovenia to eat before we headed back to Austria.

Next day the wind should just be stronger so we again was studying the forecast and pistmaps. Decision was made in Kärnten we found a supersmall skiresort high up in mountains called Emberger Alm where should be good weather and the riding looked like have some potential for good freeriding. Our plan was to come to the resort when the lifs opens. But that was a bigger project then we thought. The skiresort was on 1600m and it was a snowy serpentine road for almost 1000vertm.. In start all went good, then it got steeper I let some cars pass us and after a while they came down.. I saw that it was too steep to get the tires to grip on the van. So I turned the car and drove backwards for almost 3km uphill until a sign that snowchains are a must on the road. So time for chains again.. and it was good decision cause there was still 8km left..

It was worth all effort and work, an hour later than planned we was up and it showed to be a small paradise with no freeriders, half meter pow, fun terrain and bluebird. The workers in the resort was the most positive and kind people I ever met in a skiresort. We shredded so much pow we could until the muscles just said stop and it was time to go for a walk with the dogs.

We stayed one more night up at the small mountain village and next day we went touring with the dogs to Nassfeldriegel, the summit above the skiresort. We skied in deep fog until the summit of the skiresort where it little bit cleared up. After 20min more of hike clouds came and left and Sanna was worried that if we go further we will get lost if it doesn’t clear up. I nicely bagged and promised her that we cant get lost here and she agreed to continue little higher. When we reached the summitcross all clouds slowly moved away exactely the time as the forecast said and we got to ride down in sunshine and powder with happy free running dogs. Arrak was little sore in his leg so the steeper parts I carried him while snowboarding down. It works good with a 20kg dog in the lap when you have enough heavy backpack on the opposite side of your body:)

Happy crew and with good feeling we arrived to the van, packed the car, gave the dogs well deserved dinner and headed down to Spittal for a classic Sushi train dinner. Before we drove to Mallnitz.

We woked up to bluebird had a nice breakfast before we headed to Ankogel talstation. Before we hit the slopes I went X-country skiing in Seebachtal valley with Tiili and Sissi, and Sanna took a walk in the valley with Arrak cause he needed to rest his leg little more.

When we came up to Ankogel a big surprise was waiting, 40cm of fresh pow above the treelevel and it had came without wind what is really rare on Ankogel. First we rode a few hours the basic runs close to the lifts, before we finnished up the day by making first tracks down the run down to valley from backside of Luggetörl.

Sanna was quite nervous when we came up on the narrow ridge and I gave her the opportunity to open up the short chute what continues to the big wide powder fields what leads to the valley. Before she dropped in she expressed herself with a cool sentence; this might be the worst most stupid thing I have done in my life, or the absolut best. Back down on parking I got confirmation; Its was the best pow run in her life :)

On the evening and following day we met few old friends in Mallnitz and next morning it was snowing as hell so decision was made; we start the trip direction north, with a few “pitstops”.

First one after a half hour in Bad Gastein, Yurt Kebab and a beer at Haeggbloms bar(still got the beer for skibummer price;), 2nd stop 1500km later in Beitostölen, Norway.

Trip up north went without any problems and driving thru Germany was boring as hell as usual, but traffic went smooth and easy. And quite fast we was in Beitostölen at Beito Husky tours, where I was working last winter and will work this spring too. This time we just stopped for a couple of days meeting up with friends and all the amazing dogs. We also met our new family member Lilli the husky, Sissis twin sister. Cause of paperstuf she will work at Beito Husky to middle of March and then she will join our small wolpack. With Tiili and Arrak who are also siblings, it couldn’t be a better combo.

Roadtrippin with many dogs are absolutely no problems, as long you travel on the dogs terms. Make sure give them stops when they need and do a lot of activation with them. Many countries in middle Europe are really dogfriendly and especially Austria and Germany are super dogfriendly and you can bring your dog almost anywhere as long they can behave quite properly ;)

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