Smoother skiing in Stubai

17th March 2012, by Wendy King

Stubai glacier, Saturday 17 March

Stubai glacier, Saturday 17 March

For my final day of this trip, I planned to make a fleeting visit to the Stubai glacier on my way back to Innsbruck. So, leaving my Fassa chums to return to the UK via Verona, Friday night was spent in the Wellness Stubaier Hof hotel in Fulpmes – a compact village at the foot of the Schlick 2000 ski area in the Stubai Valley. Fulpmes is a compact, pleasant village, with narrow streets. Although a fair drive from the glacier slopes, it arguably makes the better base for the valley ski areas. Parking was at a premium though, given the weekend arrivals.

The sun was out on the glacier slopes on Saturday morning, but progressively clouding up during the afternoon. By this evening a strong foehn wind is blowing (warm in the valley, but cold on the mountain). There is talk of snow by Monday.

Despite another busy day (well, what do you expect with the Stubai being so close to Innsbruck), the snow was perfect. Plenty of packed powder, squeaky, grippy surfaces that your skis can let rip on. Actually, my hire skis were disappointing after a fabulous pair of Salomon Enduro Rocker skis that I hired in Val di Fassa. Those skis were wonderful for me, confident on all surfaces and sweeping the arcs nicely – I didn’t specifically intend to test them, but the shop staff offered them at the normal price plus a free day extra, so how could I refuse!

If you have preconceptions of glacier skiing that are rather negative, listen up: the Stubai glacier has a lot of varied runs that are well worth exploring. Most of the lifts are fast chairs or gondolas, and all above 2300m – hence the very good snow conditions at the moment. Everything is open and there is even some powder. I spent a good hour or two just cruising around the two main parts of the ski area. On skiers’ right, Fernau was quieter but there was a brisk wind blowing spindrift at the high point, so I retreated to mid-mountain.

The two main hubs of Gamsgarten and Eisgrat were busy, with queues for some lifts – although these moved fairly swiftly, and filling chairs was encouraged by a voice booming out across a tannoy. Sadly, not everyone took notice. I later enjoyed a splendid lunch at the Schaufelspitze table-service restaurant at Eisgrat. This newish building also houses a bar and larger self-service restaurant. I think I prefer the atmosphere of the more traditional climbing hut the Dresdner Hütte, lower down at the gondola mid-stations at Fernau, for coffee and cake. And the red run to reach it was deserted first thing.

My initial plan had been to squeeze in a couple of hours on the Schlick 2000 slopes too, but by the time I got to the gondola station it was too late to buy another lift ticket (area passes are sold on a two-day minimum basis). So, an early finish and a stroll around Fulpmes completed the week.

As I departed Innsbruck on Sunday morning, the cloud had dispersed again and the local slopes at Nordkette and Igls looked splendid in the sunshine – the snowline has crept upwards, but most of the runs are still intact and giving classic spring skiing.

Bright start. The Stubai glacier from its parallel gondolas.

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