Still basking in the spring bluebird glow of my first ever trip to Europe for skiing. Skied the Austrian Alps in the Tirol region with my brothers Feb 14-18. Some general impressions first then some specifics on where we skied.
If you get the travel correct (I didn't! Miles flights with too many connections and a Dallas control tower fire ended up making for a 26 hour travel time, ugh) I think Austria, from the East Coast US at least, is worth a really hard look. Next time I do it (and there absolutely will be a next time) I'll fly direct to MUC and train to Innsbruck or nearby.
Europe, and Austria - totally different vibe from US/NorthAmerica skiing. The old villages, towns and cities are right there, the infrastructure is unmatched and just about everyone, literally, skis! Free ski bus to 9 main Olympia Skiworld areas from Innsbruck. Trains or buses to others. And boy are there others. Best local weather ski app is "Bergfex" and it lists - get this - 378 ski areas in Austria, 121 in the Tyrol alone! We barely scratched the surface on the scratch of the surface . . . met a dude from Boston, MA at the in town ski shop Die Borse who was there for three months - at 1/3 of the cost of Western USA. They had a 3 month in town apartment rental and car. Something to consider . . .
Accommodations: sweet Euro apartment very close to center city. 3 bedrooms, full kitchen, secure, quiet, was $820 all in on Airbnb. Block and 1/2 to the in-town J line ski bus to the Nordkette (didn't go, ski conditions not good) or local hill Patscherkofel (our 2nd favorite over all). 7 min walk to the main train station Innsbruck Hbf for trains to other ski areas like Seefeld (#1 favorite of the trip) or St. Anton, et cetera. 10 minute walk to the main free ski bus depot to all the other hills like Axamer Lizum, Kuhtai or the Stubai Glacier. Didn't shop really, but going out for apres and dinner was awesome and very close by.
It's cheap! Food and beverage are superb, I love Tirolean food - heavy German influence, duh, beer is delicious and cheap. I think the most expensive dinner we managed to ring up was 70 Euro at a hip Nepalese place in the city with 2 rounds of drinks, appetizer, entrees for all.
Lift Tickets: Most we paid for a lift ticket was at the Glacier, think the after 11 AM ticket was 47.50 Euro. Next was 43 at Seefeld, Lizum was close to that, Patscherkofel 38.50?
Thoughts on Innsbruck:
Amazing. The Nordkette looms majestic (yes it's cliche but the Alps earn it) over the city all the time. We had great spring weather so that was nice, except for it made for some spring like ski conditions. Had to work to find some soft snow here and there.
Edit: still working on photo img links - Google no worky . . .
International (Europe/Japan/NZ/Au) Innsbruck, Tirol, Austria Feb 14-18 2019
OK let's try this photo thing again. Innsbruck and the view, heavenly, the Nordkette from in town:
Very cool rides at the ski shop - best one in town, highly recommended: https://www.dieboerse.at/concrete5/
A little bit of Utah in Austria
Saw a lot of these, more than Gwagens in fact, which I found interesting. Another one in the same parking lot:
Last edited: Feb 25, 2019
Day 1 - after a 26 hour travel rallied early headed to the ski bus with my youngest brother for a day at a local "family" hill, Patscherkofel. 2nd favorite of the four areas we were able to hit on this far too short a trip. Piste was superbly groomed and SO FAST. I had decided to loan my Volkl RTM 81s in 171 to my younger brother and was on my Enforcer 100's in 185 - and that was really too much ski for spring like weather and fresh Austrian groomers. Spent a lot of my energy just slowing down. Later we found the trees, which my brother (hadn't been on skis in 11 years) wasn't crazy about but took in stride. I loved it.
Found the Patscher Alpe hut or Alm around lunch time - heaven. 1/2 day in and I was hooked in love with the Austria ski scene.
Food and beer delicious, fresh, cheap!
Views were pretty good . . .
Sitting at the table in shades and a hat looking at this:
Looking down into the valley
Trees - because it was so warm and Sunny, and had most recently snowed Monday before we got there for Friday skiing - tough to find soft snow. It was pretty thick and heavy, what I imagine Sierra Cement to be like (having never skied that).
I could ski this kind of thing forever and be happy with it
Day 2: Axamer Lizum
Late day 1 my other brother made it into town so we did some sight seeing, had a great 'welcome' dinner and made a plan for the next day: Axamer Lizum.
Yep, Innsbruck still gorgeous
After breakfast in the apt short walk to the free ski bus depot, this is cool. Get on with ski gear. Supposed to have a 'welcome card' that shows you paid the 5 Euro tourist fee, and we did have those, but nobody checks.
View from the bus depot - big parking lot in town with a small building and tent to sit under
Riding the bus affords a chance to gape at the local scenery, which I bet most locals take for granted at this point. Everywhere you look, something like this:
Got to Lizum, booted up, chucked the stuff in a locker and headed up to the top. Pretty fantastic.
Building up top:
Hut/bar right outside
Views and views, come on Alps this ain't fair to the other mountains
Unfortunately due to the last snow being the previous Monday (this is Saturday) it was sun baked and skied out pretty much everywhere. Super fast groomers, those were at least in decent condition and not too icy. Still a challenge for this middle advanced on 100's under foot. I really do not like groomer skiing anywhere, this cemented it. Still, views . . . in awe just being there.
We skied groomers for a while until my younger brother and I left the youngest to go ski the far size of Lizum. We had been eyeballing it all day, a double chair black run that was completely bumped up. The quest for soft snow demanded it. Didn't think to get a picture from the other side. Here we found some, not much, but some soft bumps in the tree line shade skiers far left and then left side skiers right down run '18' - a "ski route" which I figured out just means not groomed. This was fun.
Did a few laps of that then met back up with little bro and wrapped it up with some on-hill apres. Lizum has a good party scene, we enjoyed watching some folks go full send at this hut (jager bombs, schnapps, throwing snow on each other, quality adult behavior )
Couldn't help but notice looking around the very accessible ridges with lines all over them from this spot. Chatted with a guy from New Jersey working the bar who came out 20+ years ago and never left. Seemed like a content dude. He said it was simple 10-15 minute boot hiking to get up there and ski the chutes and bowls. Next time!
Next time we're going up there (if there is a next time, could travel over there every year for the rest of my ski life and not do them all!)
All in all it was a crowded, holiday weekend with bluebird spring weather, sun baked skied out off piste and crazy fast on piste. 3rd out of 4 on the 'favorite' scale. Might go back. Sadly, saw a kid out of control crash into the lift line while having lunch at a hut and took out a younger teen girl, who we saw later leaving the medical building in a sling. Guess I was naive to think that crap doesn't happen in the Alps. Looked like our home mountain in NC for complete yahoo factor. To his credit he stayed right there and provided info. Then again didn't have much choice there was quite a crowd and no good escape route.
Day 3: Seefeld Rosshütte
Sunday. We'd hired a guide recommended from Snowhounds.com - UK board that does a lot of Austrian Alps trips, naturally - tons of UK folks on Holiday while we were there, I think it's a 1.5 hour flight from UK. Of course I'd be there all the time if I lived in the UK too. Guide told us to come to Seefeld - we looked, hmm, a train, OK fine easy walk to train station, about a 35 minute train ride to the Seefeld Hbf (train station) where Thomas, the guide, would pick us up.
Sunday was far and beyond our most favorite - not only because we got a proper intro to 'off piste' touring in the Alps with an excellent guide, but Seefeld Rosshütte is a smaller, locals hill that had a lot of trees, fantastic views even by Austrian Alpine standards, the best 'hut' scene we encountered, and plenty of intermediate and a few expert runs to satisfy everyone.
Thomas had a spot picked out already, we booted up in the parking lot, put on beacons which he'd later check at the top of the run, packed shovels and probes. Thomas took a look at our skiing skills on a shakeout run, deemed us worthy and off we went. Lift up (none of us had AT gear to hike it and a ticket was 38 Euro), off the backside past the warning signs that basically state, backcountry, avalanche danger - it's on YOU if you F up and die. Interesting dichotomy from the US approach, I liked it.
Entry to this chute/bowl was hairy. Guide went first, I took the six (went last) and as I watched really started to have some doubts. About a 60 degree slope down about 40 yards to a cliff top that ran maybe 40 more yards, no more than 10 yards wide max at some points, rolling, tight turns (we mostly side slipped it to avoid disaster). Sheer cliff drop 25+ feet or more skiers left, 70 degree gully skiers right - either one's gonna suck real bad if you blow a turn over the edge. So off we went. Didn't get a photo from the top, my mind was occupied between prayer and what I might tell the family if the likely disaster occurred and it would be on me that one or both my brothers bit it on a ski trip to Austria. Was I overreacting? Probably, but damn, never done anything like that. Later - exporting our route to Google Earth confirmed my description. Getting in was high risk.
But it was oh so worth it:
"I think we got past the hard part" https://photos.app.goo.gl/DuWZna1hpf3ruJ8JA
Looking back up at the chute entry:
Looking down the bowl.
Is this really happening? Am I dreaming?
About 1/3 down looking back
There was a lot of falling and digging out of powder, heavy due to the warmth but still fresh and mostly soft. Turns out this bowl sees no direct sun from November to March per our guide - the sun never gets high enough in the sky to hit it, so it preserves the snow remarkably well. This is 7 days after the last fresh and it skied amazing. We had no business in there but did our best and enjoyed the heck out of it.
Exited above a quarry of some type, quite icy around here so had to skate with care. Hey guys don't go skiers left, please . . .
We skied down a cart track to a parking lot beside the road and hopped in a cab for a ride back to the ski area base. 12 Euro. I love 'cheater' backcountry! View from the bottom:
Austria having a great snow year:
We exited out above the truck off this track:
Easy to see why Seefeld was the hands down favorite. So much territory like this to be accessed via AT - and it seems everyone loves to 'ski tour' here which has me firming plans for an intro AT and avalanche safety course next season (just can't make it this year, stupid South East home base). I get it. You and a few friends and no one else around, quiet, away from the resorts - what's not to love?
Next up, least favorite and I'd say I didn't like it much at all, Stubai Glacier on day 4. Meh.Last edited: Feb 26, 2019dbostedo likes this.
Nice report... live all the great pics.
I love Austria! One of my favourite places to go to be honest. Last year I had a pleasure of skiing in Austrian Alps and my friend's chalet in Steiermark which is for sale now https://tranio.com/austria/adt/1788526/ and it was one of my best vacations. Everything is just perfect there, starting from mountains and snow and finishing with food and local people.