Spring in the Oetztal (but winter high-up)

9th April 2009, by Editor Watts

Anyone heading off to Obergurgl or Sölden this Easter weekend should have a great time. Spring conditions rule; and both these resorts have ideal terrain for hot sunny days and cold clear nights, which is what I experienced on Monday and Tuesday. When buying a week’s lift pass in one you can pay a bit extra to allow you to ski the other resort (linked by hourly buses, free to lift pass holders).

Monday saw me catching the 9.15 bus from my Obergurgl hotel (more on that later) to Sölden, only to be confronted by an enormous queue for the Giggijoch gondola. Instead of wasting valuable time standing around I walked round the corner to the ancient single-person chair to Hochsölden and walked straight on; a very pleasant ride in the sun with the birds singing and the wild flowers poking up on the lower slopes. After a couple of runs at around 2500m, on perfect spring snow that had just melted to the right extent, I set off down to Rettenbachtal to head for Sölden’s two linked glaciers.

The snow on the way down was already slushy below 2000m at 11.30am. But Sölden’s great asset in warm sping sunshine is its glaciers. They take a while to reach (four more lifts to get to the glacier snow) but the journey was well worthwhile. The snow here was still wonderful, powdery winter stuff and there is a fair amount of skiing to be had on slopes of perfect carving steepness. And they were surprising quiet - much more so than Sölden’s slushy main slopes. I spent a happy two hours there before heading back down to the village via an excellent late lunch on the terrace of the rustic Hühnersteign.

Next day I caught the 9am chairlift out of Obergurgl. Big mistake. I usually love skiing early before the slopes get crowded. But the resort’s slopes were still frozen rock hard. After a coffee at the splendid new Hohe Mut Alm admiring the fabulous views (you can see 21 glaciers I’m told), most runs were still rock hard. So it was time for an early gulaschsuppe at 11.30. By noon the slopes had begun to thaw nicely and I enjoyed well over three hours of excellent spring snow and skied virtually the whole of the linked Obergurgl-Hochgurgl area. Only the very lowest slopes were slushy by 3.30pm, when I headed back up to the Hohe Mut Alm for the second part of lunch before skiing back home.

Home was the excellent Hotel Josl, a 2-minute walk from the lifts out of Obergurgl and a 30 second walk back from the piste. It was completely rebuilt in 2006 in uber-modern style, using top quality materials; the rooms are very comfortable and spacious (shame about the trendy glass walls to the bathroom though) and the place is very well-run by the couple who own it and their daughter. The top floor is completely given over to a suite of saunas (one with a glass wall and fabulous mountain views), steam rooms, foot massage baths and relaxing areas with floor to ceiling windows. The Josl will be highly recommended in our next edition.

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