Quiet charm with big skiing

by: JACW - Jan 25, 2009

  • Overall Rating 4
  • Family Friendly 4
  • All Mtn. Terrain 4
  • Terrain Park 3
  • Nightlife 1

    Pros: Easy access to lots of skiing with nice restaurants

    Cons: Quiet, quiet, quiet

    Recommended For: Empty Nesters

    Date Visited: Jan 1, 2009


Full review

We arrived Friday lunchtime - pretty much everything was closed, including, frustratingly, the ski-hire shop. This opens at 3pm, thus putting paid to my plans for an extra afternoon's skiing. The village is very quiet – a pleasant little place with great scenic views, set about 1km back from the main road. The lifts are on the other side of that main road – you can take the free bus down or ski down, but you have to take the bus back up again.

Saturday and Sunday were very busy up the mountain with locals streaming up from the valley. Scheffau has a huge car park at the foot of the mountain, with two gondolas up to the main altitude area at Brandstadl. The 4 man gondola seemed quieter than the 8 man gondola – plus it’s just near the bottom of the village run, so we took that one most days. From Brandstadl you can ski down a couple of red runs which end up at the Südhang lift and back up, or traverse across to the left and into the main circuit, with blues and red going to Ellmau and Brixen.

The lifts and pistes of the Skiwelt area aren’t named on the piste map, just numbered – but the lifts at least do have names, if only on the lifts themselves. I found this a bit disconcerting. The pistes blur into each other, especially when we were there and people had skied down the snow between pistes so that it was hard to see the edges. The piste markes are mostly marked with numbers and arrows rather than giving any indication of where you are. It was bright sunshine almost all week – I’m not sure I would have been able to find my way around in a whiteout.

The piste map is much more interested in telling you about the mountain restaurants than the lifts and pistes. And the mountain restaurants were nice – even the big self service places were built from pine and looked like they had been there for years – a far cry from the brutalist béton vision of French mountain architecture. Lots of table service places – I especially enjoyed the Ripperl (rack of ribs) at the Rübezahlalm, even if the sun vanished behind the mountain while I was eating it.

Pretty much all the skiing can be tackled by an intermediate (that’s me). The reds are a bit more difficult than the blues, but they won’t cause you many worries. There aren’t many blacks around. Pretty much everywhere you ski is wide and open, with a few blue roads taking you back down to the valley, or cutting from one area to the next.

The village of Scheffau is one of about half a dozen around the SkiWelt slopes – Söll is notorious for Brits on the piss, but my wife wouldn’t let me go there. Westendorf, Brixen and Ellmau all seem nice; Hopfgarten looks nice from the mountain, horrid if you drive past on the road.

As for Scheffau itself, resort charm – lots. Night life? Null points. The Gasthof Weberbauer was nice for a meal – non-smoking bar, and restaurant. After dinner you can play liar dice. Er, that’s it. There is a bar up the road – I never saw more than four customers.

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