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Icy Times at Lake Piburger See

“Ice is not just ice.“

Ferdl Plattner knows it very well, on behalf of Ötztal Tourismus and the municipality of Oetz he is responsible for checking and clearing the ice surface on Lake Piburger See. I met up with the local from Piburg in his carpentry shop to find out more about the "Icy Times" at Lake Piburger See.

„ice master“ Ferdl Plattner

Knows Lake Piburger See like the back of his hand: "Ice master" Ferdl Plattner © Benedikt Steiner / Ötztal Tourismus


Dad as spoil-sport

Ferdl was not born to work as an “ice master”. But on the contrary. As children, they were given ice skates for Christmas once - without their father knowing anything - he says.


The head of the family did not agree with that and immediately took the presents away from them, remembers Ferdl of his childhood and of his father's words: “Don’t think about this stupidity, you just break your legs." In general: In earlier years hardly anyone wasted a thought on ice skating at Lake Piburger See.

Rather, the frozen lake was a means to an end: At that time wood was cut down above the lake, which was sent down through a channel to the frozen lake, from where it was then pulled across the lake with the help of horses for further transport.

Lake Piburger See

Mystical atmosphere at wintry Lake Piburger See © Benedikt Steiner / Ötztal Tourismus


All beginnings are ... homemade

Those times are of course over and now ice skaters - and not horses - are a common sight on wintry Lake Piburger See. But Ferdl cannot speak of ordinary when he remembers the beginnings of clearing snow on the frozen lake: At that time, an old mower was used, on which a board with a ski was stretched in front to clear away the snow. Even a tractor was used and it broke through the ice twice and sank into the lake - fortunately it could be pulled out each time.

Ferdl has been keeping an “ice book” since 1990, in which he notes the ice thickness and other interesting facts and figures (last year, for example, the ice thickness of Lake Piburger See was 58 cm - which is a lot!). I asked him when the lake was normally frozen over. Ferdl quotes the "old people": "The lake begins to freeze over from 06 December onwards (St. Nicholas) and thaws again from 15 April."

Check with a chainsaw

Even if the “old people” are mostly right, Ferdl cannot blindly rely on this rule. That is why the ice is checked accordingly before the ice surface is available to ice skaters - safety is a top priority of course. Using a chainsaw, blocks are milled out and the quality of the ice is checked accurately. What does the ice quality depend on? Ferdl refers to the temperatures and precipitation, but also the phases of the moon that can influence the quality of the ice. For three years there has also been a six-person ice committee (the mayor of Oetz acts as chairman), which meets at regular intervals and discusses improvements.

Even the old mower has long since had its day: Ferdl and his workmate Clemens Prantl from Ötztal Tourismus have a modern, rebuilt quad bike with plow shovel at their disposal for clearing the ice surface.

So that the quad does not suffer the same fate as the "flooded" tractor, it is adapted - especially at the beginning of winter: a ladder is mounted across the front and back of the quad with empty 50-liter barrels attached to each end - and the quad swims in case of an emergency. Necessity is the mother of invention!

Quad, Snow removal
Benedikt Steiner

Author: Benedikt Steiner

When it comes to activity and motion, Benni pricks up his ears! He is a passionate snowboarder, mountain biker, climber & hiker and he knows no better playground for outdoor sports than the Ötztal.

He is not the type to sit still - therefore Benni can be often found on the valley's most exciting bike trails and pristine powder snow slopes.