A cloudy intro to new Juwel (aka Alpbach-Auffach)

26th February 2013, by Chris Gill

There is an excellent gentle beginner area at the mid-station of Auffach's gondola – this is just a part

There is an excellent gentle beginner area at the mid-station of Auffach's gondola – this is just a part

Ski Juwel is a classic example of the logic of ski resort links. Little Alpbach and Auffach in Austria’s Tirol have both doubled their appeal to keen skiers by building a connecting lift and laying out an (almost) connecting piste, at a cost which will quickly be recovered via the higher prices they can now charge for a lift pass. Once that cost is recovered, fatter profits follow. Win-win.

The link, which we employed on Tuesday, is excellent. The piste that goes half-way down to Inneralpbach from Schatzberg is a good red with lovely views of the Alpbachtal, and is oriented away from the afternoon sun. The lower half of the gondola is more or less at right angles to the upper half, and although there is talk of a piste down to the bottom the obstacles include an excessively sunny south-westerly orientation as well as dense forest. I don’t think there will be any hurry.

The day was cloudy, with the occasional flurry of snow to add to the dusting the area got over Monday night, and pretty much stayed that way. We were starting from Auffach in the Wildschönau, where we have been staying in the excellent little Pension Veronika, between Auffach and Muhltal.

We first of all enjoyed re-acquainting ourselves with the red runs of Auffach – mainly out of the trees, sadly – then after a good table-service lunch at the busy Gipfö Hit set off for Alpbach.

The mountain here is a bit steeper than at Auffach, but on both mountains the blacks are really just steep reds – and as usual had better snow than the reds because they get skied less. Not that there was anything wrong with the snow on most of the reds.

The highlights of our Alpbach afternoon were the descents down the hill’s two gondolas: the black/red combo to Achenwirt, then finally the excellent red piste to Inneralpbach for our lift home – a series of broad, steep fall-line slopes. The linking gondola runs until 4.30, and we were comfortably inside that deadline, but nevertheless our final long valley run back to Auffach was delightfully quiet.

The surface snow was still in good shape too, although it was obvious that the underlying base towards the bottom was pure ice. It isn’t often that I’ve enjoyed an Austrian valley run as much as I enjoyed this 1000m vertical.

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