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Hannibal crosses the Austrian Alps
Sunday April 17, 2011 - Email this article to a friend

The resort of Solden held its annual spectacular on a glacier recreating the journey across the Alps by Hannibal in 218BC. 500 people took part with piste bashers depiciting the elephants. PlanetSKI was there and we have just added a video to this story.

It was a strange spectacle high up on the Rettenbach glacier.

Piste bashers span round on their tracks, skidoos and motocross bikes criss-crossed each other in formation, fireworks and lights shot into the sky. 

Ski instructors came down with torches in synchronised skiing formation and parachutists dropped out of the night sky.

Helicopters swooped in to the accompaniment of explosions and avalanches.  

There was even an air display by the Red Bull team.

All was set to music and a rather serious and reverential German commentary.

It was, to say the least, an unusual alpine event.

The Hannibal spectacleThe Hannibal spectacle













Thousands upon thousands of people spilled out of coaches at an altitude of over 3,000m for "Hannibal".

They had come from the surrounding areas and were armed with warm clothes, gluwein and plenty of enthusiasm.

It has become a traditional event now for the valley and everyone seemed either to be involved with the production, know someone who was or were simply in the crowd supporting and enjoying the spectacle.

The Otztal Valley gets taken over with Hannibal fever at this time of year.

At precisely six minutes past eight the performance began and 67 minutes later, right on time, it ended.  The timings were in the programme and it ran exactly to schedule, though no-one seemed to quite know why it started at six minutes past eight rather than eight O'Clock.

It just did.

In those 67 minutes the crowd was treated to a superbly choreographed performance as Hannibal and his army used the full expanse of the Rettenbach glacier. 

The stage was 3km by 1.5km and occupied an area of 6 cubic kms. It must be one of the biggest arenas used for a performance such as this.

Towards the end there was even a controlled avalanche as explosives set off the snow slide high up in a couloir to the left of the glacial amphitheatre.

Quite what it represented in the Hannibal story we are not quite sure but it looked dramatic.

It was certainly one of the most unusual artistic performances we have seen in The Alps here at PlanetSKI.

Quite a spectacleQuite a spectacle













Check out the video below of what it looks like that we filmed from the main auditorium.

Also see our preview story on the event that contains some You Tube video from previous years.

The event is now in its 10th year and started off as the idea of its producer, Hubert Lepka, who is still the mastermind and producer of the show. 

In 218 BC Hannibal crossed the main Alpine ridge in southern direction in 10 days, accompanied by a mighty army of 60,000 Africans, Celts and Spanish warriors, thousands of horses and 37 elephants. The Solden event depicts this.

Lepka says he loves the mountains and the Hannibal story so he simply wanted to put the two together even though Hannibal did not come near this part of the Alps.

No-one quite knows exactly where Hannibal crossed the Alps, but it certainly wasn't the Austrian Tirol.

That though doesn't seem to bother the organisers.

Hubert LepkaHubert Lepka"It is a strange idea to have historical theatre in an alpine setting," says Lepka.

"Obviously Hannibal did not cross the Alps here but people in the area are adventurous and open to new things so they have the same outlook and that is the relevance."

To an extent he is correct and the locals certainly embrace it with enthusiasm, passion and pride. The whole valley seems join in. 

"It brings the whole valley together and all the people here and the community are very proud of the event and the re-creation of Hannibal crossing The Alps," one spectator commented after the event finished in a climax of fireworks, sound and stunning performances from the piste bashers, skidoos, motorbikes and skiers.

The event evolves each year and planning for the next year begins pretty much as soon as one finishes. The last two weeks though are when the hard work climaxes.

Ski instructor, Bart Krijnen, from Holland was one of the skiers.

"There are six of us in our team of synchronised skiers and though we have not practiced much for Hannibal we have skied together many times as a team and this is useful for the performance," he said.

The real stars of the show though are the piste bashers, or rather their drivers, as they represent the elephants and take centre stage. 

The stars of the showThe stars of the show











A couple of the drivers had their children with them belted up tightly in the passenger seats and they must have had an experience to remember.

"The piste bashers acting as elephants are interesting as they act as if they have hands and legs and their ability to move is interesting to a choreographer. It is partly planned and partly improvised," says the shows producer.

The pryramidThe pryramid














The event itself was only on for one night.

The organisers tried two performances a few years ago but there was not enough demand and everyone tried to come on the night the weather was at its best.

The weather is a massive gamble for the organisers as cloud and snow could lead to cancellation.

At the weekend the weather was clear to begin with and then some clouds rolled in with light snow, but not enough to alter the performance. The organisers breathed a collective sigh of relief.

"We simply have to work with the weather and not against it and in a way it becomes part of the performance," says Lepka.

As the show climaxed many people were certainly cold but they had seen what they had come for; a unique mountain spectacular.

Hannibal will be back next year bigger and better. It is well worth a look if you can.











Fact Box.

Tickets cost  €37 per adult and €20 for children with a joint adult and child ticket priced at €49. The VIP ticket is €112 and includes a seat in the grandstand and dinner afterward is €112. A free shuttle bus takes people from the village to the glacier.

For more information about Solden see the resorts web site here.

For the spirit of the mountains

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