A Fire Truck Turned Adventure Vehicle That Tours the Middle East
The next generation of adventure vehicles will be unstoppable, off-road beasts. We’re talking narrow-footprint trailers, custom rigs, and military-grade machines to take us farther into the backcountry. And some people are getting creative with all these new options. Fabian Lentsch, a 23-year-old former pro Freeride World Tour skier, created the Snowmads: a 1985 fire truck converted into a souped-up camper that fits eight adventure enthusiasts, their toys (think skis, paragliders, and bikes), and all their camera gear.
It took Lentsch and his team eight months to finish the truck. When they did, in early 2016, he set out to explore the entire world with it (and on his skis). This past winter, Lentsch set off on a route through Austria, the Balkans (Hungary, Serbia, Kosovo, Republic of Macedonia), Turkey, Iran, Armenia, and Georgia. These are some photos from his adventure.
The truck. Fabian Lentsch always knew he wanted to build his own home on wheels. After dropping out of the Freeride World Tour, he immediately started construction on the ultimate ski-expedition vehicle. He bought a Mercedes 1113 LAF, then took the engine apart and stripped the interior of its wiring. Next, Lentsch met with the Lagermax Vehicle Modification Center to involve its experts in making the entire cabin as efficient and cozy as possible.
The Snowmads truck was originally used as a fire truck in Germany. It weighs 11 tons at capacity, which includes 400 liters of diesel and 450 liters of water. When the truck is in extremely remote areas and runs low on electricity, it’s powered by solar panels on the roof and an integrated generator. “When testing it, we were really surprised how well the truck did in difficult, off-road terrain,” says Lentsch. “In Turkey, we were plowing through waist-deep snow on a steep and sketchy dirt road, and the truck handled really well.” Before hitting the road, Julian Vogel spray-painted the exterior.
The interior is made from Austrian pine. Infracom and Tschetschonig, in southern Austria, did the woodwork. The interior sleeps eight—two bunk drawer beds, a foldout that fits two, and four above the driver’s cabin—and includes a wood-burning stove from Pertinger.
The Pertinger wood-burning stove is the truck’s most essential piece of gear. “At one point in Turkey, it was minus-30 degrees outside, and we had a sauna inside,” says Lentsch. The stove is also used to cook meals when the fire is burning. “It’s hard to explain, but having a fire in a truck is something really special.”
While on the road, Lentsch got advice in each country from in-the-know backcountry skiers like heliguide Flory Kern. In Georgia, Kern told the guys about a massive face with some big spines that rival the steeps of Alaska. He sent Lentsch and Austrian backcountry skier Tobi Tritscher to these chutes, where they jumped into a helicopter to the top of an 800-meter face.
When you’re on the road and living out of a meticulously designed camper, you get first chair every morning at the ski area of the week. Lentsch and his crew—Freeride World Tour veteran Neil Williman of New Zealand, Canadian freeskier Dane Tudor, and a few of Lentch’s training buddies—would heat up the car in the morning for breakfast, gather their gear, and hit the mountain.
Just south of the Turkey-Georgia border, a mere 100 meters from the shores of the Black Sea, Lentsch, Tom Leitner, and Roman Rohrmoser scope out the Western Caucasus Mountains. “Sometimes we would just drive and pick our aims from the roof of the truck. That’s what the trip is all about, driving into the unknown,” says Lentsch.
Lentch’s favorite country on the tour? Iran, which has stunning backcountry ski lines. Lentsch spotted a tempting summit behind Shemshack Resort, the country’s second-largest ski resort, so he parked the truck and started hiking. In the middle of Alborz mountain range, he was surrounded by 4000-meter peaks and endless lines to choose from.
At 5,610 meters, Mount Damavand is the highest peak in the Middle East and the highest volcano in Asia. “Skiing Damavand brought back great memories of when I summited in 2013,” says Lentsch. “I was driving an RV to Kyrgyzstan, and the snow was great, with over 40 inches of fresh powder.”