Fab powder in Schladming

15th March 2010, by Chris Gill

Editor Watts pauses for breath in the falling snow at Reiteralm

Editor Watts pauses for breath in the falling snow at Reiteralm

Monday, the penultimate day of the editors’ tour of resorts in eastern Austria, was forecast to be snowy, and we were due to spend it skiing Obertauern - by Austrian standards an exceptionally high and bleak resort. Oops.

A pre-breakfast walk around the town was enough to establish two things – that practically all the lifts would be operating, and that skiing from them was going to be a deeply unpleasant job. A biting north-west wind was sweeping over the pass that Obertauern occupies. We needed a Plan B.

Every other resort in this part of the world has plenty of woodland skiing, so all we had to do was lose 1000m in altitude to find shelter from the storm. Every other resort in this area is also part of the marvellous Ski Amadé regional lift pass system. Sadly, Obertauern is not, and our lift passes for Monday were not valid elsewhere. So we needed a pair of Ski Amadé passes for the day.

A quick call to Ski Amadé soon got that sorted, and then it was time to see just how bad things were at the top of the Obertauern slopes. They were bad, and no mistake. We did a couple of runs from the top lifts, but we learnt nothing about the slopes we were on (except that the snow was fab), and the viz was bad enough to give editor Gill a touch of seasickness. So, on to Plan B.

Plan B worked like a dream – no, better than any dream. First, we spent an hour or two on Fageralm above Forstau, which we had never skied before. Lovely, gentle, sheltered slopes dotted with patches of trees and cute rustic restaurants, fabulous snow, no people – although the area is quite close to Schladming, it is not linked to next-door Reiteralm, and has emphatically slow lifts, so it doesn’t attract the crowds. We loved it.

Then it was a short drive to spend the afternoon on Reiteralm, the most westerly of the four linked mountains that make up Schladming’s almost entirely wooded ski area. This is a great mountain for competent skiers, and with the snowfall getting heavier as the day wore on, the conditions on and just off the pistes were simply fabulous. Basically, a wide margin down the sides of all the red runs had 15-20cm of perfectly serviceable powder on a groomed base. Makes me smile just to remember it.

We did six or seven runs on the two fast chairs on the top half of the mountain – oh, and found time for one of the world’s great examples of kaiserschmarren at Hochalm – before the lifts closed at 4.30 (about as late as it gets in Austria). The conditions on the valley runs were not surprisingly less impressive, but by 9am tomorrow they will be perfect – the snow is forecast to go on overnight and through Tuesday. We’ll be on the first lift up Hochwurzen, the next mountain along the valley, to start what looks likely to be a knockout last day of this tour.

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