This was a trip that reminded us all how changeable weather is in the mountains. Not only did we ski three resorts in three days; Oberguergl, Soelden and Oetz but we also had three very different weather days. Super sunny on Friday in Oberguergl, cooler for glacier skiing in Soelden on Saturday and then knee-deep fresh powder on the piste in Oetz on Sunday that had us skiing till the last minute and arriving to check in at the airport still in ski gear and boots.
Oberguergl, Soelden and these lesser known Tirol resorts in the Otztal valley are perfect for a weekend break (though you’ll want to stay longer). If you can fly into Innsbruck on an early flight, you’ll be on the slopes by lunchtime.
Oberguergl-Hochguergl to give its full name has 110km of piste, an efficient 24 lift system and 12 mountain restaurants. New for the 2013/4 season is the Top Mountain Star at 3080m. It sounds like a big claim but the reality is even better – it feels incredible that anyone managed to build this stunning restaurant on this ridge.
Top Mountain star with its viewing platform to the right along the ridge
Even if you’re not planning to eat or drink here (I’d recommend you at least stop for a drink and take a window seat), it’s worth a visit for the amazing views and viewing platform (to the right of the restaurant in this photo. On a clear day you can see the Dolomites in Italy.
Another great viewing point is the Hohe Mut Alm where we stopped for lunch. Its terraces have views of 21 mountains each over 3000m.
Saturday saw us at Soelden skiing on the Rettenbach and Tiefenbach glaciers. The weather had cooled and the snow was pretty much perfect. Soelden is another resort that makes the most of its stunning views. A bit tricky if you don’t like heights, the viewing platform at Triefenbachsteen is definitely not for the faint hearted.
The viewing walkway at Tiefenbachsteeg
Later we stopped into the Ice Q restaurant at 3048m for coffee and apfel struedel. Even though the now steadily falling snow meant the views were a little limited, the setting is pretty stunning. Its altitude means that some of the dishes have to be prepared lower down the mountain but I can report from personal experience the struedel will be amongst the best you’ve ever had.
And equally beautiful views from the stunning Ice Q restaurant in Soelden
Sunday we had the best wake up a skier can have – a newly white world and plenty of snow still falling. We were up bright and early to travel to Oetz – the village that gave the Otztal valley its name and the first ski resort in the valley. This isn’t a major resort and we were rewarded with fresh powder almost entirely to ourselves. Oetz has a real focus on families and in our view this is a hidden gem. It has just 34km of pistes but you can also ski 98km of pistes at nearby Kuehtai which at 2020 is the highest resort in Austria. There’s a shuttle bus running between the two resorts making it super easy to ski both.
Is there such a thing as too much snow? The Igloo village at Oetz
To round off your day, I’d really recommend visiting the Aqua Dome at Langenfeld. There’s a regular bus from Soelden and it’s open till 11pm (midnight on Fridays). It has several outside pools at different temperatures (note: don’t try to go from warm to cold!) and also (extra) seven different saunas, steam rooms and a rainfall waterfall. As with all Austrian sauna areas, this is a ‘fabric free’ (ie naked) zone but the more modest can cover up with their towels in between the different rooms. The Aqua Dome is also a four star hotel so makes a great base for skiing in Soelden – the hotel operates a courtesy mini bus transfer for its guests which takes about 15 minutes from hotel door to the gondola.
The Hohe Mut Alm, Oberguergl
Ice Q restaurant, Soelden
The Aqua Dome, Langenfeld
And special thanks to Anne and Nicole from the Tirol tourist office.