The glacier areas of the Austrian Alps have been served up a very late winter instalment over the weekend with fresh snow down to around 2000m. The Stubai Glacier today had sun and cloud and around 20cm of new snow on the slopes that still run down to the mid-station. Without blue skies the slopes were far less busy today and whilst the ski area will only get smaller in the coming weeks this was seriously good skiing and snowboarding on the slopes today. There were also some wonderful exponents of new school ski ballet. It goes something like this – choose the widest and flattest run on the glacier, the 50 or so ski club members huddle together as if going into battle and then head down the slope turning as a synchronised group. If you read between the lines it is a pretty cringe-worthy exhibition. It made an amusing aside from the powder and empty slopes though. The lifts on the Stubai Glacier are set to run until early July so plenty of times for turns and mass ski ballet exhibition eavesdropping.
Quite a bit if you head to the glacier skiing areas in Austria. The Stubai Glacier has skiing down to the mid-station at 2300m meaning nearly 900m of vertical still remains open and apart from the Wildgruben ski route to the car park, pretty much the entire terrain remains open. There is also snow forecast for the coming weekend across the entire glacier ski region in the Austrian Tirol. The Stubai Glacier will remain open for summer skiing until the 5th July, at which time it will be handed over to the summer hikers and those making their way to sight see above the clouds. The Hintertux Glacier offers skiing every single day of the year (apart from times of high wind closures) so skiing will be on offer throughout the summer period. The highest skiing in Austria at the Pitztal Glacier remains open until the 12th May this year whilst the Kaunertal Glacier is open until the 9th June before closing for the summer. The Rettenbach and Tiefenbach glaciers above Solden are open until the 5th May before their summer closure as is the Kitzsteinhorn Glacier that is located high above Zell am See / Kaprun. So, all-in-all there is plenty of skiing left on the peaks of the Austrian Alps well into the summer months.
With skiing to over 3000m, Obergurgl is a place the excels in the spring months but even we were surprised on Sunday when the forecast suggested gloom and yet when the curtains opened there was fresh snow, showcased by a deep blue and cloudless sky. This was a day that the forecasters weren’t even close to the mark and maybe this was a reason that there wasn’t a lift queue in sight. Those who were on the slopes (or off-piste) were treated to an epic day, although looking across at the Solden ski area, this was similarly spectacular. Generally it was a great day to be in the mountains as you can see from the latest snow report video:
More snow is imminent in the Austrian Tirol with cold temperatures that will ne followed by warmer and sunnier temperatures over the weekend and into early next week.
March has got off to a belter with the cold and snow of a week or so ago giving way to the spring sunshine and milder temperatures. We were in Kitzbuhel the last few days and conditions across the ski area were really impressive, especially the Pass Thurn area where the bowls were lined with tracks from lucky skiers and snowboarders. There wasn’t a single cloud in the sky over the region and pistes were in great shape. We weren’t alone on the slopes – these were fantastic days to be on the slopes and news spread fast that these were very much ski days. As is common in the spring the south-facing Kitzbuheler Horn ski region was beginning to show patches in the strong spring sunshine but the Kitzbuhel Hahnenkamm side of the ski area remained pristine. We were making some films of the area which you can see in the following video from the Pass Thurn area:
With the weather charts for the Austrian Alps showing several days of further snow, the deluge that began in the second week on January shows no sign of abating. To make conditions even more spectacular – the breaks in the snow have been cold and sunny and the conditions during these interludes have been nothing short of epic. Conditions this winter are following a really similar pattern to last winter, a moderately cold and snowy autumn (although autumn 2011 saw a month of dry, cloudless skies), followed by December dumps, a break in the snow over Christmas and New Year and then seriously regular snow from early January onwards. I have heard grumblings along the lines of ‘enough snow now’ from friends outside of the winter-sports industry but save those who are hoping for a February tan, conditions really are fantastic. Snow is forecast right through the weekend in Innsbruck but when the next break in the clouds arrives there will be a whole lot of drenched trees and powder stashes in view.
18,000 fans were delirious with relief today – for after 9 days of waiting the Austrian men’s alpine ski team finally delivered a medal to start their campaign at the World Alpine ski Championships on the famous Planai in Schladming, Austria. The idea of a 9 day wait for a medal from the Austrian men’s alpine team would a few years ago have seemed absolute fantasy, but then again it was Australia who were lagging behind their Antipodean cousins of New Zealand for a good part of the London Olympic Games. So it that Austria can at least gain some comfort from the relief of being spared total ignominy and have a medallist to show in front of their press at their home World Championships. Hermann Maier is from just down the valley in Altenmarkt, maybe he is considering pulling his boots on and catching the local ski bus for a shot at glory. And for the records it was Romed Baumann who carried the medal today for Austria, behind Ivica Kostelic and the winner Ted Ligety.
Yesterday was a mighty good day to be on the slopes – today was as good as they get in the Alps. For those with a smug smile on their faces as they walked through resorts with equipment dripping powder remnants, it must have felt like things couldn’t get better. Well today offered frigid air and cloudless skies that lit up the untracked areas that lay everywhere. Sure there was plenty evidence of powder fun yesterday in all the tracks that were laid down in mixed light – today though was like opening a brochure on the highlights of skiing in the Alps. There were limitless views, strong sun for those on the terraces, frigid air to make sure the powder maintained its superb consistency and groomed carpets next to the banks of off-piste powder. It is a tough call singling out a day of the season but today was right up there for sure. Much more snow and there will have to be some shovel work going to – accessing a ski route today there wasn’t a great deal of clearance below a avalanche detonation winch cable – the near miss was soon forgotten though!
Whilst the tourism board of Kitzbuhel will be delighted, the race organisers of the Kitzbuhel Hahnenkamm FIS ski race are at this time of the year far less welcoming of imminent snow. The forecast is showing heavy snow for the entire weekend in Kitzbuhel and whilst there is ample time to clear the Streif course of snow, the immaculately flat and icy course isn’t appreciative of powder snow at this time of the year. Many other ski pistes in Kitzbuhel and the region are with the mild recent weather and huge amount of visitors over New Year, the slopes are more than ready for the skies to open. So as a new weather front comes down from the north in the coming days and hits the northern Austrian Alps hard the slopes of the region should be happily replenished. Temperatures will be significantly colder and for Kitzbuhel the temperatures are not forecast to rise above zero for the foreseeable future. So wrap up, clip into some fat powder skis or if you are part of the army of staff preparing the worlds’ most fearsome ski piste – get ready to shovel!
The Alps has been a pretty mild region of late given the fact that it is the beginning of January. Despite the fact that the low lying resorts had sleet over recent days, on the slopes at higher altitudes the snowfall has been mighty impressive over the last few days. Today we were up in Mayrhofen and despite the snow being heavy at resort level, the amount that has fallen on the Ahorn peak is really something to behold. I am not sure if it was an anomaly but the pisten bully on the Ahorn peak today was bring down a wall of snow with it, whilst the off-piste snow was seriously deep:
A Pisten Bully working to the limits today on the Ahorn – image © www.skiingaustria.co.uk
Temperatures are set to be mild for next couple of days and then falls from mid-week onwards with snow arriving and continuing through the weekend.
With packed slopes over New Year and little coming down from the skies to replenish the slopes, it is great to say that the slopes are heading for a reprieve with the peak season almost over and the skies thick with snow clouds. The northern Austrian ski holiday resorts are once again set to benefit the most as the system that is rolling in right now is coming down from the north. The Bregenzerwald, Arlberg, the Zugspitze Arena, Ski Welt and Kitzbuhel ski regions are best located to wring the most snow out of the imminent system. The snow is forecast for the entire weekend and into the beginning of next week, this is expected to be followed by sunny and dry weather. Our forecast for the coming weeks – more snow, more seats and more parking spaces!
The opening weekend of the 2012/13 winter season kicked off with powder snow in Ischgl. Whilst there hasn’t been a great deal of snow in recent weeks, what there was offered the lucky ones on the slopes some great tracks off-piste. It needs to be said as well that the ski service shops in the region will be smiling after the weekend – from the vantage point of numerous chair lifts it was common to hear the traumatic sound of ski-on-rock. I completely annihilated a ski in Ischgl some years ago – the rocks there are utterly remorseless.
We didn’t stay for the season opening concert featuring Amy Macdonald – Ischgl has a tendency to trap those walking the streets after dark and do terrible things to their immune systems -since a busy week lies ahead we took the escape route after the skiing. If you are interested in skiing some of the very best terrain in the Alps and feel that you can handle the pace off the slopes then Ischgl is a must ski resort.
After a great on the snow of the Stubai Glacier we descended to the base-station via the Gamsgarten gondola. With a chill in the air and kicking off the ski boots I looked up at this from the car park:
The moon rising over the ridge and the twin gondolas illuminated in the late autumn afternoon. Not a bad place to be at all!
Just back from the Rettenbach and Tiefenbach glaciers high above Solden in the southern Otztal valley. There has been no new snow over the last week and yet conditions on the glaciers were sensational, the snow conditions were superb and the skies were pure blue. There were a good number of people on the twin glaciers today but maybe fewer due to the fact that Obergurgl opened this weekend, offering further ski and snowboard resources just south down the valley. You can see a video snow report from the Tiefenbach today:
Just as last year, Ischgl is set to be among the leading group of non-glacier skiing areas in the Alps to see skiers and snowboarders on its legendary slopes. Whilst the glacier skiing areas have seen significant crowds over recent weeks in Austria, the crowds are set to converge on other areas in the coming weeks. As well as perfectly groomed slopes in the Ischgl ski area, the clear skies made for some sensational images on the resort website. Luckily for some members of the local ski school and the lift company, it was only them on the slopes to power down the slopes. The lifts are set to run from the 23rd November onwards and being Ischgl there are a whole lot of ways to enjoy oneself off the slopes including the season opening concert programme:
November 24, 2012
November 28, 2012
November 29, 2012
December 1, 2012
Getting on to the snow early season in Ischgl is a great option due to the fact that it is often mighty difficult to get on it at other times of the winter given the massive draw of this mighty resort. Pack the fat skis and the aspirins – Ischgl is relentlessly good.
Where there were 3, there is now just 1. The phenomenal Tirol Snow card that covered the entire ski region of the Tirol including the Kitzbuhel ski region, the whole of the Zillertal Valley, Alpbachtal, the entire Innsbruck valley etc, etc had until this year 3 glaring omissions – Solden, St Anton and Ischgl. 2 of those mega resorts have now signed up to the Tirol Snow Card and add to staggering total of 4000km of skiing and 1133 ski lifts in a total of 86 ski areas, all covered by one ski pass. The Tirol Snow Card is valid from the 1st October until the 15th May. It is surely splitting hairs but St Anton is one omission, the 1 resort that remains outside of the Snow Card in Tirol. Surely they cannot buck the trend next winter? Oh well, even without St Anton am Arlberg the Tirol Snow Card has to be the greatest ski pass on the planet. 7 and a half months of skiing in 86 ski areas for €670!