Spring afternoon and wintery morning in Kitzbühel

29th March 2017, by Chris Gill

The back of Pengelstein, still looking wintery despite the sunny orientation

The back of Pengelstein, still looking wintery despite the sunny orientation

A last-minute change of plans meant that I could squeeze in a quick trip over last weekend to the eastern end of Austria’s ski country, starting with couple of nights in Kitzbühel.

Austria has been getting a full share of the recent warm weather, and less than a full share of the snow that has blessed some parts of the western Alps.

But these days, serious Austrian resorts set the bar for snowmaking and snow farming – and resorts don’t come any more serious about snow than Kitzbühel. As you have probably noticed from our recent news item, the resort is planning to remain open for the whole of April.

Here, as in the other resorts I have been visiting further east in Salzburgerland, the lower slopes are broad strips of pristine white surrounded by pastureland that is increasingly green rather than brown. But in Kitzbühel I was pleasantly surprised to find that the shadier top slopes still looked quite wintery. I like wintery.

If you want it wintery underfoot, of course, timing is everything in this weather and at these modest altitudes. Skiing in the afternoon means skiing in heavy snow veering towards slush. But I had a couple of hours free on Saturday afternoon and gave it a go; I quite enjoyed it, even if I found myself longing for my broad Scott missions (I had settled for narrower rental skis, with a view to skiing Sunday morning).

On Sunday I was due to be skiing Flachau and Wagrain, but I couldn’t resist an hour on the Kitzbühel slopes with the proprietor of the lovely hotel Rasmushof, Signe Reisch,, just as the corduroy started to soften.

Thick fog in the valley meant that the Streif was not very appealing, but we had a couple of excellent blasts down Kaser to the Ochsalm chair before my conscience told me to hit the road. A few mm of softening snow … bliss.

On the way there we skied by a restaurant on the back of the Hahnenkamm that editor Watts has enjoyed in the past, the Sonnbühel. My eye was caught by glittering wine glasses on the terrace tables.

What? Properly set tables on an Austrian terrace? With linen, and everything? Unheard of, more or less. “Oh, yes,” said Signe. “New Italian proprietor, new menu big on seafood, reservations taken on all tables.” OMG.

I toyed with the idea of delaying departure by another few hours to experience this very un-Austrian delight. But no, I am a true pro and set off for Flachau, and a bowl of gulaschsuppe with a scrap of bread. The Sonnbühel would have to wait until next time (i.e. next season).

Writing this a couple of days later, having checked out the speisekarte, I think I may have made the wrong call.

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