The Zillertal Steinbock March in the mountaineering village of Ginzling has firmly established itself as a classic amongst Alpine hikes. Ever-increasing numbers of people participate in this extreme event. It has not always been easy. Ginzling Sports Association, who organised the event for many years, broke up. This meant everyone had to pull together to keep the largest mountain march in Zillertal alive. Working in conjunction with the township of Ginzling, the local voluntary fire brigade have organised the Zillertal Steinbock March for the last 9 years. I met up with Stefan Mariacher, Deputy Commander for Ginzling Voluntary Fire Brigade and Organiser of the Zillertal Steinbock March.
Elisabeth Kröll: "How did it come about that Ginzling Voluntary Fire Brigade made themselves available to organise the Steinbock March?"
Stefan Mariacher: "Quite by accident, to be honest! Ginzling is a village with 400 residents, we have a Mountain Rescue Service, a Voluntary Fire Brigade and a Town Band - and that's it when it comes to local associations. Ginzling township is simply too small to organise this event alone. So nine years ago, we decided to offer support organising the Zillertal Steinbock March. We did not want to take any financial risks, so we decided together to keep this festival small, not hire a marquee or engage any expensive bands. The focus should be on the Zillertal Steinbock March. The festival is now held in our multi-purpose building, which means we have the added advantage of having a festival location that is unaffected by bad weather."
Elisabeth: "How strong is Ginzling Voluntary Fire Brigade?"
Stefan: "We have 36 active members in our Voluntary Fire Brigade. Family members also lend a helping hand at the Steinbock March. We are dependent on all the help we can get for the entire march to be carried out satisfactorily. Mountain Rescue and the team from Mayrhofen-Hippach Tourist Board also provide welcome assistance."
Elisabeth: "What is the day of the Steinbock March like?"
Stefan: "It isn't a day's work - it's more like a 24 hour shift! My day begins at around 3.00 am. The timekeeping facilities have to be set up. The first time-keepers arrive at around 4.00 am. Parking stewards are also in place. The helpers are then taken up the mountain as far as possible. We take them to the cableway station for the Greizer Hut in the Floitental Valley. Helpers are also brought to Grawand-Tret in Zemmgrund, so the remaining ascent to the refreshment stations is not so arduous. The time is stopped in the finish area and the first participants are already at Breitlahner just after 8.00 am. The time analyses are carried out in the Nature Park House from around 16 hrs. Ginzling Mountain Rescue Services take care of securing the entire area. The festival venue is also prepared from around 8 am onwards. Fridges are filled with drinks, tables set up and the kitchen prepared. The Steinbock Festival then begins from 11.00 hrs. The prize-giving ceremony takes place in the evening, after which our day is almost over."
Elisabeth: "How time intensive are preparations prior to the event?"
Stefan: "The first meetings take place around mid-January. We need to find sponsors, which normally takes around 2 months. The event announcement has to be prepared and sent to the printers by early June. All media channels and the homepage have to be updated. Other diverse jobs need sorting, such as ordering posters, banners and the trophies, etc. It is never boring!"
Elisabeth: "What are the village authorities responsible for?"
Stefan: "Rudolf helps us find sponsors, they handle all invoicing matters and Rudi also has access to political channels. He also takes care of dealings with the authorities as official representative of the communities."
Elisabeth: "What are the challenges you face year after year?"
Stefan: "To find helpers and workers! It is becoming increasingly difficult to find people to work voluntarily at both the festival and march. We are still actively looking for stewards to help at the Berlin Hut, as well as helpers for the tea station below the Mörchner Scharte."