The Harakiri – even experienced skiers have mixed feelings about the long-since legendary run on the Action Mountain Penken in Mayrhofen: over a 400-metre stretch, their reactions span from a huge sense of respect to pure euphoria. This is the length of the steepest section of the two-kilometre black piste in the Horbergtal Valley. An impressive 78 percent gradient makes the Harakiri the steepest slope adventure in Austria. As a result, the world’s largest ski resort testing portal skiresort.de named it the ‘best black piste 2012’.
Harakiri - the real challenge (Archiv: Mayrhofen, Fotograf: Frank Bauer Photography)
After ten years, the piste on the Action Mountain Penken is now old yet still a legend. Year after year, it entices in holiday-makers and locals who want to set themselves the ‘Harakiri’ challenge.
STEEPER THAN A SKI JUMP HILL
Those who dare can get to piste 18 (as the run is officially known) on the Knorren six-seater chair lift. This runs directly beside the Harakiri and from the top offers an impressive view of what awaits anyone who chooses to descend. On starting the run, the terrain is relatively gentle. But it is only a few hundred metres before the flat introductory section turns into the legendary 78 percent gradient and is steeper than a ski jump hill. The time has come for courage and true grit – there is no turning back now.
ONLY FOR EXPERTS!
It is for precisely this reason that only those who are physically fit and can expertly control their skis or snowboard should attempt the Harakiri. A stable body position, advanced skiing skills and decisive edge grip are essential for a successful descent – as is the optimum equipment. This includes well-sharpened edges and, of course, a helmet. Snow blades and short skis on the other hand, should not be used on the Harakiri. If you are not sure whether you are ready for the Harakiri, you should first try the slightly less extreme piste no. 17, the Devil’s Run. Locals regard the precipice at the end of the run as the ‘Harakiri test’. If you can get down it safely, you are ready for Austria’s steepest slope adventure.
CAREFUL PREPARATION IN LAYERS
Nerves like steel are certainly helpful for this adventure. And steel is also essential for the Harakiri in another regard: the preparation of the piste. Due to its extremely steep location and average gradient of 38 degrees, it can only be prepared using a cable winch and a special nine-tonne snow groomer with 430 HP and four tonnes of traction. To prevent the snow from breaking away, the piste first has to be built up using a lengthy layering procedure and then covered in snow and prepared daily.
I SURVIVED HARAKIRI
The successful mastering of the Harakiri is for many people the highlight of their skiing holiday. Of course, this brief sense of complete happiness is something they want to hang onto forever. Every Friday, a professional photo shoot therefore takes place on the piste from 13:00 to 15.00. The commemorative photos can then be downloaded free of charge from the Mayrhofner Bergbahnen online shop. Together with all Mayrhofner Bergbahnen cash desks, this also sells the must-have ‘I survived Harakiri’ t-shirt for everyone who has passed the test of courage – in black of cours.