Biketrails in best shape
It is not only we that need to get back into shape after the winter, the Saalbach Hinterglemm bike trails also need some TLC. Before the bike season commences, the Shape Syndicate crew will give the trails in the valley total makeover.
It is up the Shape Syndicate crew to ensure that the damages caused by the snow, to the brake shafts, curves and trails are corrected. As soon as the snow has melted, the guys along with Head Shaper, Roland Hofer, are on the job to make sure that the trails are restored to their former glory. The ten shapers who head to the trails at sunrise are themselves enthusiastic sportsmen, craftsmen and designers. “We founded the firm “Shape Syndicate” in 2016. During the winter months we shape the snowparks and once the snow has melted, we start preparing the bike trails in the Glemm valley”, explains Shape Syndicate Managing Director, Roland Hofer, as he stows away his pickaxe, shovel and rucksack in his pick-up and we head off along the road.
Snowfall delays work
Bend for bend, we head up towards the Reiterkogel. Once the car is parked at the start of the Blue-Line and Proline, we take the tools from the pick-up and go to meet the rest of the crew who are already working on the areas with the most damage. “Firstly, we will concentrate on the Reiterkogel, as the lift will be in operation as of 20th May and there are two bike trails on this mountain. Spring offers the ideal opportunity for improvement works to be carried out. We are currently working on both trails in order to make them even more attractive. For example, the first section of the Blue-Line has been completely rebuilt along with new jumps and steep curves. The upper section of the Pro-line will be reconstructed and the Northshores partially renovated and improved, along with some new jumps”, reports Roland Hofer, whilst casting his eyes upwards at the dark clouds that are gathering. “The weather should hold, as fresh snowfall causes our work to be delayed and there is a lot to accomplish!”
There is much to be done
The crew have spread out along the trail, repairing the most damaged areas by hand. A tree which has fallen across the trail is cut with a chainsaw. In this particular area, bridges will be repaired and the air is filled with the sound of pickaxes being used in areas where drainage repairs are being carried out. Tobias Riedelsperger informs me, “water is our biggest enemy”, whilst busily repairing a section of the trail which has been damaged by melting snow. “It is not only melting snow and heavy rainfall that affects the trails, we also require a period of dry weather before the trails open so that the ground can settle. In the event of continuous rain, we will have to postpone the opening of the trails, as riding on newly prepared trails which are wet, create damages that last the whole season. As soon as we can, we will start shaping and reshaping the remaining trails in the valley. The lower part of the Z-Line will be realigned. The X-Line will include steeper curves and new jumps. There is still a lot of work in front of us”.
Hard work, but however a dream job
Around noon, we set down the tools and everyone takes out their lunch packets as we sit down on the grass for a break, and the guys explain why shaping bike trails is their dream job. “We have all turned our hobby into our profession. We are passionate bikers. Although the work is gruelling, we thoroughly enjoy our time here up on the mountain living amidst nature. During the upcoming months, on a daily basis, each of us will check the area we are responsible for to obtain an overview of which shortcomings can be immediately dealt with. We then split off into groups, each group being assigned an area to maintain. Each day we take the tools and machinery by foot back down to base”, explains trail shaper Sladjan Zaric. “When dark thunder clouds gather, the dream job can transform into a job of quickly gathering the tools together and heading for cover. We are exposed to the elements and work in all weather conditions, but we still love what we do”.
A love of working on the trails is essential, as throughout the high season the maintenance work is never-ending, Roland Hofer confirms. “We work on all the trails to make them as sustainable a possible, but due to the high number of bikers using the trails in the summer, it can be that just as we complete the maintenance of a trail, it is time to start all over again”. Every shaper carries a bin bag in their rucksack, a detail that makes me frown, until I find out why. “On a daily basis we collect up to half a bag full of rubbish from the trails. Rubbish that has been carelessly thrown away. Not only cans and cartons, but also broken tubes, which have simply been thrown in the grass after a breakdown”.
Deep roots in the Glemm valley
Whilst crossing a technical section with numerous roots, I would like to know whether the shapers see themselves as deeply rooted in their home of the Glemm valley. “Roots are important and not just for the biker” they laugh, adding “We are blessed by the fact that we have so many possibilities at our front door. We live in a place where others come for a holiday. We have the privilege of working amidst nature, which we have a lot of respect for. Every piece of turf that is dislodged, is carefully replaced after the construction and trees are only felled if they are seen as a dangerous obstacles on the trails. We really appreciate the fact that we combine work and pleasure in the village, without having to commute, but it is also important for us to keep in mind the wishes of the locals and guests whilst carrying out our work!”
Once all the trails have been shaped to perfection, the lads can be found on the trails of the Glemm valley each and every day, all summer long, making sure that the trails are kept in shape. “On 31st October, when the Reiterkogel lift closes and the season has come to an end, we begin to restore the trails for 2018, until the first snows and skiers arrive, then it is time to turn our attention to the snowparks in the Home of lässig!”