Figln (the name stems from the german “Firngleiter”), probably the funniest things you can put your feet into. The first time people used figl was in the ’30s and they were patented in Austria by Emo Johann Heinrich from Innsbruck in 1946. Karl Taul from Graz is considered to be the inventor. Figl were mass-produced quickly and the first figl races came soon after. Since 1995 the sport has been recognized by FIS and they have European Championships. Just like the carving ski, figln also emancipated itself and now, together with short-carvers, forms the “Shorty” scene.
What is “Firn”?
Firn is found when the snow freezes and thaws several times and forms a hard surface layer. This happens quite often in spring, which inspires the figln season.
What are figl?
Figl are maximum 66cm long “short skis” made of wood or metal that do not need a base or edges. Plate bindings can be used for more control or alternatively laces for those using mountain shoes. The binding is mounted on the back of the ski, which makes the technique very simple. You just have to lean forwards to go faster or lean backwards (heels in the snow) to slow down. The occasional sitting on your butt is a part of it.
Why do people go figln?
The benefits are quite obvious, during hikes and climbing tourns in the spring, there are often large snow fields that need to be crossed. These areas are still compact during the ascent. However, you can break through during the descent which can be quite strenuous. Figl are a great alternative as they require little space and do not weigh much and most importantly, they make your ride down a lot faster and more fun.
Who can figl?
Any person who can make their way up the mountain can also make their way now using figl. The spectrum ranges from a fun afternoon on a sunny spring day all the way to European Championships.
Where do people figl?
The sport is mainly performed in Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. Most figlers are probably around Innsbruck. South-facing slopes, where the snow lasts longer in March and April, are the most suitable. Competitions also take place during this time, mostly in Austria and Liechtenstein. In addition to offical races, punter races are also held.
Where can you get figl?
You can buy them, for example, online from Kohla as well as in many sport shops. If you have a few old sets of skis at home, which are no longer used for their original purpose, you could make your own figgles.
Since this sport is usually done outside of the classic holiday season, it is almost only locals who do it. Almost never will tourists consider figln as they think more of sun, sand and bikinis during the first few 20°C days. Who can blame them? Well, we can. Because you’re missing something. Wet in the sun is more fun on figl.
By the way: The speed record on figl is 136km/h and was set in 1986.