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Boards that mean the world

Every year at carnival, a few friends meet in Obereggen to practice the preservation of tradition on skis using barrel boards. Right in front: Markus and Andreas from the Ganis world.

Martin Zelger, deprives his audience of any illusions. Involve women? Speak in dialect? Be short? “Of course, I cannot satisfy these unsustainable requests,” he says at the official press conference of the club for the conservation of historical skiing, which is popularly called “Ponzen” here in Val d’Ega. Martin is the spokesman for the “Ponzen”, whose main task is to speak with his cheerful people in the snow, who is sitting in front of him on two beer tables, having fun and vigorously applauding. And with Martin’s speech on the state of the nation, it quickly becomes clear that everything is far from serious here.

For all those who are not native speakers of South Tyrol: a barrel is called Ponze and its boards represented the world for the winter sports fans of the time – because they were a great way to glide on the snow. Because at some point in Obereggen there were no more races to preserve the tradition, some brave people decided to meet on Shrove Tuesday every year to go skiing for a day with their Ponzen. This is traditional historic skiing Obereggen!

Andreas Pichler is one of the few who attended all the appointments, which reached its 20th year this year. Wake on his “Ponzen – bridal”, which, when parallel to each other, form a heart and intertwined wedding rings. The wedding date is engraved behind the attack, but covered in snow. “Too long,” she said as his Ponzen friends laughed. But Andreas is pretty damn fast and wins the speed race at a breathtaking pace and with a loud roar: a carriage ride from the Empircher Laner Alm to the Absam Stüberl. It becomes clear to everyone that the carnival event is a lot of fun, but skiing in leather pants, wool socks and mountain boots is a big mess. “The axes have no edges, we move the weight with the help of the stick”, explains Markus Pichler that like Andreas, has been present since the first edition. Markus shows his ski pole, which is as big as a fence pole and has already been heavily sanded by the snow. “Anyone who observes a skier on the “Ponzen” will understand that there is a need for a lot of skill, balance and strength. And some on the slopes, who generally use with the ultra-modern skis, have difficulty keeping up.

The skiing on the “Ponzen” causes a sensation. So much so that even a television team from RAI Alto Adige is accompanying the 20th anniversary. “Later on, we would like to ski a little more elegantly – in the style of a ski instructor,” Martin says to the camera, raising his shot a little. Especially since the program includes some “punctures” – or to put it plainly: some pit stops at the bar. Then, they fervently sing their secret national anthem or the song of the mountain wanderers, accompanied by mountain musicians, a blue sky and a magnificent panorama.

Or they are preparing “for a particularly long stage”, as stated by the Ponzen cashier, Otti, when there is no possibility of a “puncture” between two lifts on the way to the Zischgalm. Otti manages the so-called “Lost Fund” and therefore accompanies one of the most important functions of the Ponzen association. Although the skiers on the Ponzen who are on the track this day, actually they have no problem finding mountain huts managers or skiers who can offer a ride.

That’s why Martin, the Ponzen spokesman, believes that his function with the huge cowbell he carries is equally indispensable. “My bell is the most important tool ever,” he says. We need the “Zomleitn”, which should encourage the departure and counting – even if today, the 14 men have failed to count beyond 7. However, these trifles are not noteworthy for the association of the “Ponzen”. The goals are ambitious. In 2026, when the Winter Olympics are held in the Dolomites, they want to fight for medals and they created FIP specifically for this: the Italian Ponze Federation. And if the extremely unlikely event that didn’t work with the Olympics, it wouldn’t have been so tragic in the end. Not least because Martin in an interview with RAI Südtirol states: “We are already married to the girls we once wanted to amaze with our Ponzen”. And what is an Olympic medal in comparison?

text and photos: Jens Vögele | 360°-Kommunikation