Another slightly snowy day in Gasteinertal

13th March 2010, by Chris Gill

Editor Watts pauses before taking the black to the bottom of Sportgastein

Editor Watts pauses before taking the black to the bottom of Sportgastein

Day three of our tour of resorts in Salzburgerland was supposed to deliver improving weather, with sun in the afternoon. It never happened. The light overnight snowfall continued, on and off, and we skied virtually the whole day in disappointingly flat light.

We started by driving up the valley to Sportgastein, the remote hill that forms the local snow guarantee – with a base altitude of almost 1600m and a top height of 2686m, it’s roughly 500m higher than the Gastein valley’s main areas.

It’s basically a one-lift mountain – a modern gondola runs bottom to top, with an intermediate station about one-quarter the way up. The blue and red pistes on the upper mountain were in superb nick, with a few cm of fresh on a groomed base, so the seriously poor viz was not a great problem.

The cloud did inhibit off-piste exploration, though. And we naturally resisted the temptation to ski the itinerary on the upper mountain that was clearly marked as closed. Lots of other people didn’t resist. They probably survived; but that doesn’t make them any less foolish.

In the late morning we took the short but sharp black to the bottom, and then drove down the valley to our last Gasteinertal area – the slopes of Dorfgastein, linked over the hill to Grossarl. The piste condtions here were nowhere near as good, but let’s not be picky – for a low mountain in mid-March, they were pretty good, particularly on the Dorfgastein side of the ridge.

We had an excellent afternoon on this testing and quite complicated mountain, incorporating a satisfying lunch at the very well run Wengeralm restaurant, where the menu offers some welcome departures from the Austrian restaurant norm.

The other Austrian norm we’re not wowed by, as readers of WTSS will know, is the early lift closing hours. The key lifts here, as elsewhere in Austria, close around 4.00 or 4.15 even in mid-March, which means that most people feel they should be off the mountain by then. A pity.

Tomorrow we’ll be in Hochkönig, the large but little-known multi-village area east of Saalbach-Hinterglemm, where we’re going to attempt to ski from one end of the area to the other. In late evening, it’s snowing steadily, so we’re hoping for good conditions underfoot, even if the viz isn’t great.

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