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An early start in the Montafon

6th February 2017, by Dave Watts

The Schruns cable car at 700m, which Dave’s group reached at 9am after a 10km run with a descent of over 1700m vertical

The Schruns cable car at 700m, which Dave’s group reached at 9am after a 10km run with a descent of over 1700m vertical

The Montafon is a valley near the Swiss border which is home to several resorts that are largely unknown to British skiers, partly because no major UK tour operators feature them.

Editor Gill and I visited last week after our Arlberg visit. Sadly our two days in the Montafon coincided with warm, damp cloudy weather with some wet snow and some rain. So our exploration of the area was limited and the pistes we skied were mainly sticky, chopped up crud. My previous visit to the Montafon (back in 2012) had been hampered by bad weather too; it seems I don’t bring the area much luck.


There was some welcome new snow but it was wet and quickly became chopped up and tricky

Nevertheless, I had one of my most enjoyable runs of the season there on Wednesday. My alarm went off at 6am so I could join the 20 or so guests signed up for the Hochjoch Totale . This starts (every Wednesday) with a 7.20am meet at the Grassjoch gondola near St Gallenkirch in the centre of the Silvretta Montafon ski area (the Montafon’s biggest area with 141km of pistes). You get an early gondola up with guides an hour or so before the hordes are allowed up.


One of our guides at the start of the long Hochjoch Totale

The run starts at 2430m, the highest point in the area and descends over 1700m vertical to the working town of Schruns at just 700m. I feared the adventure would be called off because of the bad weather (pouring rain when I set foot outside my hotel). But no – it went ahead thank goodness, though we did have to wait 20 minutes or so with hot tea at the top while pisteurs finished avalanche control in tricky conditions.


Our group sipping hot tea while waiting for avalanche control to be completed

Eventually we set off in poor visibility along a narrow shelf and down through a mix of blue and red runs that were covered in lovely powder high up. Then it was through a long ski tunnel, emerging to yet another lovely blue piste.
Throughout, one of the guides led at the front and the other brought up the rear, helping stragglers.

Despite the tricky conditions, it was a hugely enjoyable run that my Ski Tracks app measured at not only 1730m vertical but also almost 10km long. There are few longer runs than that in the Alps and we enjoyed first tracks all the way down.

We arrived in Schruns at 9am and then headed up the cable car for a very welcome breakfast of hot and cold buffets and eggs cooked to order (included in the €35 price).

After that I explored the rest of the area by myself (Editor Gill having injured his knee on Monday). So I was delighted to see some of the clearest piste signposting that I’ve encountered. As the picture below shows, your choice and number of piste is shown clearly, together with which lifts and restaurants each piste serves. Other resorts please follow suit.


Excellent signposting made navigating the mountain easy, even in poor visibility

The Silvretta Montafon ski area has a mixture of mainly blue and red runs plus several ski routes and some black runs (including seven Black Scorpion pistes with gradients of up to 83%).

The previous day we had visited Golm, a much smaller area of largely easy blues and reds that is very popular with families. It is served by a long three-stage gondola which rises over 1200m vertical from the valley floor followed by four fast chairs serving the top section of the mountain (three with very welcome bubble covers).

Even with the challenging visibility, I skied pretty much the whole of the upper mountain in 90minutes or so but wimped out on the long run out from mid-mountain because of the rain.

Kids of all ages will love the long Alpine Coaster ride that runs, with lots of turns and thrills, from the top of the first section of the gondola to the base.

There are three other ski areas in the valley, the biggest of which is Gargellen with 32km of pistes.


Our group part way down the Hochjoch Totale, about to pass the restaurant which we rode back up to for breakfast

The Montafon area goes out of its way to offer interesting options for skiers try. As well as the weekly Hochjoch Totale that I went on other possibilities include:

– Nova Exclusive. Another first tracks skiing opportunity starting from the resort of Gaschurn and followed by breakfast

– Silvretta Ski Safari. Full day outing to Galtur in the next valley which includes being towed back to the Montafon valley behind a piste basher

– Madrisa Loop Tour. Day ski tour from Gargellen to above Klosters in Switzerland and back

– Nidla off-piste skiing. Down a famous slope in Gargellen with 500m vertical



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