“We are five days into the Grand Tour of Austria’s lesser known ski resorts, having just left St. Johann / Alpendorf en route for the Dachstein area.
We started the Tour in the village of Au in the Bregenzerwald in Vorarlberg. The area is magical, totally unspoilt and so accessible from the Southern German motorways and the main Vorarlberg town of Dornbirn. Friedrichshafen and Memmingen airports are both within an hour making it a perfect short break destination. We were lucky to stay at the Hotel Roessle in Au. It’s a 300 year old building, tastefully renovated and run with such passion and care by the Simma family. Good food, attentive service and a simple spa and sauna area.
Snow kept coming but we managed to get up to Damuels for 2 hours deep snow to reacquaint ourselves with our skis and trusted equipment on the first day. ‘Warm-up Day’; well that’s what we convinced ourselves as the afternoon refreshments slipped down easily. How good that Austrian beer always tastes!
Bregenzerwald is a real find. Totally authentic; mostly dairy farms and wooden buildings. 22 villages scattered along the main road so you never feel like you are in a developed or commercialised ski resort. Skiing co-exists with real life. The ambience is excellent; the Mountain cheese is abundant and it is the home of 17 cheese producers and a Cheesemakers academy. There’s also plenty of good intermediate skiing split over three big mountain ranges; Warth-Schrocken, Damuels-Mellau and Au’s Diedamskopf. 200km in total giving plenty of runs, even for the most dedicated piste basher. They are all covered by the Three Valleys or 3 Taeler lift pass www.3taeler.com .
Day two provided us with the ‘day of all days’. After a morning skiing the delightful Diedamskopf by Au, the snow just kept coming. A 4 hour car journey from the Roessle to our next stop -Alpendorf near St Johann in Pongau- took seven hours. In hindsight, a very wise decision to abandon our skiiing on the Diedamskopf and head for the roads early. It is easy for Brits to misjudge the conditions and easier to fail to see that huge quantities of snow can even fox the super-efficient Austrians. We’re so used to just travelling around Austria effortlessly most ski seasons on pristine roads.
A memorable car journey began; through the Alberg tunnel and along the Inn valley with famous name ski resorts flashing by us every twenty minutes on the clear motorway – Monatafon, St Anton, Ischgl, Galtur, Alpbach, Seefeld, Zillertal. We headed off onto side roads at Woergl tracking through the ‘Ski Welt Wilder Kaiser’ resorts of Soll & Ellmau. No worries about the lack of snow here! We crawled behind snowploughs, tail to tail, via Fieberbrunn and Leogang until we hit Saalfelden. Unsurprisingly the pass near the Hoechkoenig at Hinterthal was closed so we diverted via Zell am See, to take the long way round. Massive tree slides at Taxenbach reduced traffic to single file but the Austrian Army were on hand to chop it up and clean it all away.
Suffice to say a good night’s sleep was had at the Pension Palfengut high above Alpendorf, when we finally reached our destination.
To discover the Salzburger Sportwelt, it would probably have been better to be based in Flachau or Wagrain. You will be more central and these villages provide easier access to a broader range of slopes. It’s also simpler to build Kleinarl, Flachauwinkl and Zauchensee into a day’s tour. With Alpendorf as our base, we had to rush to get back home at night via the rather convoluted, ageing Gernkogel chair lifts. However, there are still some superb red runs from the top of the Grafenberg which flatter even the most ‘out of practice’ skiers. The Grafenberg is serviced by a fast new gondola from Wagrain….but it is better to use the continual bus link from this Wagrain base station to the ‘Flying Mozart’ gondola to get to the Flachau ski area www.flachau.at
Flachau’s Griessenkareck has some long wooded red runs that fan out in various directions from the summit and you’ll have a smile on your face all day. The ‘must do’s’ are the Hermann Maier World Cup run down to the centre of Flachau, the long red to the bottom of the ‘Rote 8′ gondola and the red to the bottom of the ‘Flying Mozart’ lift. The conditions could not have been better. Perfectly groomed pistes, 1 degree temperature, some beautiful huts and long uncrowded descents.”