Decent conditions in Sölden

13th December 2016, by Dave Watts

Lovely snow on Solden’s Tiefenbach glacier

Lovely snow on Solden’s Tiefenbach glacier

I have spent the last three days in Hochsölden, essentially a group of 4-star hotels set in an attractive village setting on a steep slope 700m above the resort of Sölden in Austria’s Tirol region.

I have never warmed to Sölden itself – a towny resort spreading a fair distance along a road that is busy with through traffic which has very lively (some might say unacceptably rowdy) après-ski. But I’ve always liked its challenging red pistes, its snow-sure glaciers and exceptionally long top-to-bottom runs (up to 15km the resort claims).

So I was delighted to be asked by Crystal Ski to try one of the hotels they feature in Hochsölden (new to their programme for this season). If you want a quiet holiday away from all rowdy nightlife and traffic, with ski-in/ski-out convenience and traditional Austrian buildings, put Hochsölden on your shortlist. It is dead at night and has no bars outside hotels or shops other than ski shops.

Hochsölden seen from the Gaislachkogl slopes

But you get on the slopes before the hordes arrive from Sölden in the new-for-this-season Giggojoch gondola. This can shift 4,500 people an hour – more than any other ski lift in the world. The 700m altitude difference means the snow at Hochsölden is better than on runs down to the village.

And you can head for the lifts up leading to the glaciers first thing and beat the queues that build up later in the morning. That’s what we did this morning on a glorious, cold, sunny day. We were up on the glacier by 10am and skied three runs of around 450m vertical each in great powdery snow and amid stunning scenery.

Then it was a long run of over 1100m vertical which included a long section next to the road where James Bond flew his plane chasing the villains in last year’s Spectre movie; in the afternoon we visited the futuristic, glass-walled Ice Q mountain restaurant which featured as a hospital in the movie. More on the Bond film in a forthcoming feature.

The futuristic Ice Q mountain restaurant that featured in the Bond movie

The snow off the glacier was, not surprisingly, more variable, with hard and icy patches. But the vast majority of runs were open and the lift company has done a great job maintaining them – there has been no significant new snow in the area since mid-October our ski guide Erich told us.

It had been warm before we arrived but now temperatures have fallen and snow machines were blowing much-needed new snow all day.

I stayed at Hotel Hochsölden, the highest in the hamlet and bookable through Crystal Ski. It is very comfortable (ask for a room like mine with a double aspect view over the slopes) with above average food (I especially liked the soups such as pumpkin and carrot and ginger – much better than the usual clear broth with noodles you get in Austria). And the spa area includes an indoor pool, outdoor hot tub, three types of sauna and a steam room – all things I like but editor Gill doesn’t.
Next stop: a couple of days in Obergurgl, just up the valley

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