The quieter Paznaun: Kappl & Galtur
Sunny Mountain? Sounds like a disaster for a late season trip. The south-facing slopes were certainly bathed in sunshine as we cruised the 8km Lattenabfahrt red run. But this valley has a good snow record and the March snow was fine. And what a run, curving away from the main area and blissfully uncrowded. It popped out first at a broad but terraced mid-mountain nursery area, populated by plastic tunnels and the patter of tiny feet – children on skis! Just above was our welcome refreshment stop, the big Sunny Mountain restaurant, complete with extensive creche facilities and a family-friendly menu. Welcome to Kappl. Where?
Austria’s Paznaun valley is dominated by the throbbing party town of Ischgl, and its extensive, snow-sure slopes that are fast becoming better known on the international market. But 15 minutes either side of this big resort sit two areas that are very different in nature: quiet, family places that offer a much cheaper base. Galtür and Kappl. I first visited Galtür in 2004 but Kappl was new to me and, with rumours that they would like to build a link to St Anton’s Rendl area one day, it merited exploration.
Kappl’s village and ski area are both family-oriented, the small collection of hotels and guest houses perched on a narrow shelf above the valley. The tiny main street is peaceful and traditional. A gondola comes up from the valley, where there are another couple of hotels, a lively après-ski bar (the Schupfa at the Auhauf hotel) and a long home run to take you down there.
Below the village is the only wooded area, much of the rest of the skiing is on open slopes above Sunny Mountain. The 40km of slopes are mostly of blue and red gradient, although there are a couple of good ski routes away from the pistes, and the runs to mid-mountain have some steeper sections. The nine lifts mix old draglifts with a couple of fast quads, but nowhere is very far and getting around is relaxing.
But Kappl’s heart is with the children, and Sunny Mountain has a merry-go-round, pint-sized mogul runs and caterpillar-like moving carpets. Zibob is a new attraction; it’s a mini, flexible sled that carves its way down the slopes. And there’s the obligatory Austrian toboggan run for family fun time after skiing. Every Monday the resort opens early for skiing too, 8am starts at no extra cost.
For us, the highlight though was the Lattenabfahrt run, which starts at the top station Alblittkopfbahn (2645m) and winds its way along a valley that had the best snow in the area. It’s often left ungroomed too. From the top, there are splendid views across the Tirol towards the Arlberg mountains. If a lift was built to link the two, this small resort would surely not remain the quiet spot that it is at present.
Unlike the Arlberg though, Kappl is not for the adventurous; the couple of black runs are more like reds and quite short and we explored most of the terrain in a day; but for a quiet family week, it qualifies well.
Similar in size and terrain is Galtür, at the head of the valley. Its 40km piste offer a bit more variety than Kappl, but are essentially very similar. The ski area is a walk or short bus ride from the village, at Wirl – where there are a couple of smart hotels across the road from the slopes. At 1600m, the area is reliably snow sure too.
Beginners have a good nursery area at the base, with a gondola to take you to longer, gentle progression runs. Runs straddle two sides of the Ballunspitze and the quieter back runs offer delightful cruising overlooking a turquoise dam.
Since my first visit, the resort has rebranded itself Silvapark to appeal more to families. And as we rode one of the chairlifts, the school instructors asked us to ‘take’ a child with us, so children didn’t ride alone. The ski ‘zone’ concept of Silvapark is a little strange, with signs telling you whether you have strayed into the freestyle area or freeride slopes.
Every year the resort carves out a giant snowman or similar, and as we skied down the home runs we spotted a giant mammoth. The snow carvings make a natural photo opportunity.
Galtür is well-equipped with mountain huts too, and a must stop is the traditional old Wieberhimml, with its staff wearing leiderhosen and pretty aprons. Lower down, the larger Panoramatenne cooks up a fantastic feast of Tirolean grostl; two varieties on our visit.
The village is developed around a charming church, with a few shops and restaurants. For a very quiet time, this is the place. As a sober reminder of the devastating effects of nature, the Alpinarium is an avalanche protector and museum all in one. Put on a pair of slippers and potter around the various displays inside, or have a coffee on the cafe terrace and gaze at the view. The two main hotels in Galtür are family-run and very welcoming: the Flucthorn is central, while the Alpenrose is on the main road towards Ischgl – but handy for the ski bus.
Both Kappl and Galtür are covered by the Silvretta Ski Pass, which also includes Ischgl, Samnaun and tiny See. Or there are local flexible passes, with the option to take time out in the other areas. And family passes are also available. Ski buses are included.
Visiting these two ski areas made a refreshing change from the busy Idalp pistes at Ischgl, and although not with the same excitement and partying of the main resort in the valley, its bright lights and extensive slopes are never far away if you want them.
Links: Galtür resort review