- 22 Resorts
- Consistent Snow
- Diverse destinations
- Resorts open before those of many other states
- Home to Vail, Beaver Creek, Copper Mountain
With a chilled out vibe and a long season stretching from the beginning of November to the end of May, Obergurgl ticks all the boxes for a certain kind of skier. What kind of skier you ask? Well let’s see. Perhaps one with children, definitely not a raver but someone who enjoys a good knees up, probably not an expert, but an intermediate skier would find plenty of challenging terrain. Oh and definitely someone who is fond of Austrian things. You see, for despite lying at the end of the Otztal Valley right next to the Italian border, the resort has all of the elements you would expect of a traditional Austrian mountain village. In fact, it wouldn’t be entirely unheard of to spot a fellow skier in lederhosen at the breakfast bar tucking into some wholesome homemade muesli - such are Obergurgl’s indisputable Tyrolean qualities.
The resort is known for two things. Its height – it boasts of having the highest parish in Europe – and for being the crash pad of Swiss explorer Auguste Piccard who in 1931 crashed his hot-air balloon on the Gurgler-Ferner glacier. Piccard was attempting to reach a world altitude record and he achieved it right before he hurtled down to Obergurgl. Fortunately for the village locals, Piccard’s misfortune literally put them on the map; newspapers around the world reported the story and visitors began to flock to the special mountain.
It’s fortunate too that the locals are genuinely welcoming, the village is quaint, quiet and mostly car-free. Year after year the resort continues to draw back loyal customers while attracting new ones too.
Obergurgl has a sister resort; the ski in ski out hamlet of Hochgurgl which is the highest ski resort in Austria. The two resorts are connected by the 3.6km Top Express gondola and the journey takes just under 10 minutes. Hochgurgl sits at 2150m and is largely made up of luxury ski-in ski-out hotels. It has some great runs too and these include the black 8km long Wurmkogl run.
Together, the resorts offer high altitude skiing in an area that was recently voted the most snow-sure resort in Europe. The ski area provides access to a wide range of crowd-free pistes, and untracked powder, and the lifts operate from the village making it easy to get out on the slopes early. Best of all, queues tend to be minimal because most day trippers journeying up the meandering Ötz valley take themselves and their skis to Sölden instead of driving the extra few miles to Obergurgl.
A new addition for the 2015/16 season is the Top Mountain Cross Point which is the new base for the Kirchenkar gondola. It has a fantastic restaurant as well as Europe's highest motorbike museum. The new 10-seat gondola gives speedy access to the prisine Kirchenkar slopes.
Obergurgl and Hochgurgl are linked via the Top Express gondola. There’s not a huge amount of terrain but it’s perfect for beginner and intermediate level skiers who can access a combination of slopes directly from the village.
There are longer, and slightly more challenging, runs at Hochgurgl, where skilled intermediates will find plenty of varied reds to satisfy them. There are some good blacks too, though, nothing especially hairy.
The groomed ski area is split into three parts. The sector immediately above the village is reached by the Festkoglbahn gondola and the Roskarbahn chair that goes from the village centre. Both reach just below the 3,038m peak of Festkogl, from where a drag lift and a chairlift give access to a variety of blue and red runs and a few easy blacks.
The second sector comprises the Hochgurgl ski area which has an assortment of broad blue runs, reds and some blacks which strong intermediates will get the most out of. And the third sector, accessed via a two-stage gondola from the centre of Obergurgl, transports you up to the Hohe Mut restaurant. The red descents from here are challenging and timid intermediates may want to find alternative routes down.
Much of the terrain is treeless which is perfect for beginners and there are lots of wide, flat, and gentle runs. We recommend the blues which can be reached from the top of the Roskartbahn and the Festkoglbahn. The section above David’s skihutte is a favourite for newbs practising their turns.
In Hochgurgl the blue 27 from the top opens up into a vast playground of blue runs where the open space gives beginners a feeling of confidence – it’s a good spot to practise turns in and is never crowded. Most of the cruisy blues finish at the bottom of the Wurmkogl I chairlift or down into Hochgurgl itself.
Skiers will enjoy the quality of the snow which is smooth and grippy on the groomed runs allowing for perfect cruising.
The Obergurgl ski school (skischule-obergurgl.com) and the ski school in Hochgurgl (schischule-hochgurgl.com) are traditional, however, most of the instructors speak good English. Make sure you mention this as a requirement before you book.
Above Obergurgl there are three main red runs. The shortest is red 7 from the top of the Festkoglbahn. The other two red runs are long, fast and will give skilled intermediates a thorough work-out. Red 1 drops from the top of the gondola on the Ferwalital valley side down to the lift. There are also some great red runs near the Steinmannbahn.
Strong intermediates will enjoy the black 27 from the Top Mountain Star Restaurant and black 32 on the Konigstal side.
Cross country is a big activity and the resort boasts 12km of excellently groomed trails for Nordic skiing fans. Instructors are available for beginner and advanced skiers at the Obergurgl-Hochgurgl ski schools.
The most testing run is the black 11 from the top of the Hohe Mut Festkogl down to the Nederhutte but experts will revel in the excellent off-piste powder fields. They should head to Hochgurgl for challenging backcountry and nearby Solden which is just a twenty minute bus ride away.
The best way to explore the off-piste terrain is with a local guide. The ski school will be able to provide you with more information.
For a well-deserved pit stop, head to the rather special Hohe Mut Alm. The restaurant, which is situated on the mountain, serves a broad range of wonderful Tyrolean cuisine. Every Wednesday evening the restaurant has live music until 10pm. A quick and free gondola ride will transport you there after 6.30pm. There’s a gorgeous bar too with an open fire where visitors can relax and feel comfortable. Get there via the Hohe Mut Bahn gondola.
Situated at the Hochgurgl ski area, Wurmkoglhutte at the mid-station has a tiled stove, a number of private dining rooms and a large sun terrace and deckchairs.
The Haus Gurgl Hotel serves good pizzas cooked in a wood stove oven. The restaurant is smart and offers a wide selection of a la carte dishes in addition to its crispy pizzas. The tiramisu dessert comes highly recommended. Prices are purse friendly.
And the Top Mountain Star panorama bar which sits at 3,080m above sea level is not to be missed.
Apres takes place early in Obergurgl and after dinner most skiers retreat to their hotels and chalets. But the drinking scene’s not totally quiet. At the end of the afternoon you’ll see a crowd of merry revellers gathering at the umbrella bar by the Hohe Mut lift. There you’ll find the Nederhutte where the local rock band gets punters up and dancing on tables.
For a real knees up go to the Top Safari Disco in Hochgurgl – it has live music and is open until late.
A popular spot for apres ski and BBQ or fondue is David's Hutte. Next to the Steinmann lift, it’s open on Wednesday and Thursday evenings.
One of the resort’s biggest attractions the ‘Return of the Pioneers’ - a night skiing show performed by the ski instructors. They carry out effortless stunts and jumps and the show ends with a fantastic fireworks display.
MI Night Skiing
mi Snow Making