THE SEASON STARTS
20th October 2016 | James Cove, PlanetSKI Editor
Last modified on September 13th, 2020
We are in the glacier resort of Stubai in the Tirol in Austria. It is the resort’s busiest time of year with thousands and thousands out enjoying the snow.
If I were to ask you what the busiest time of year is for a ski resort what would you say?
Perhaps Christmas or Easter?
Well for Stubai you’d be wrong.
It is October and November – now.
And that is not because conditions are poor in mid-winter, but rather because it offers some of the best early season conditions of anywhere in the Alps.
I usually start my season in October in one of the 5 glacier resorts in the Tirol and it is often Stubai.
This year I have chosen well.
This was the scene that greeted me as I stepped out of the main gondola at 9.15am on Thursday October 20th.
Up top it did not disappoint.
At weekends there are around 6,500 people on its slopes.
It opened its slopes on September 30th this year so has already been going three weeks.
“Most of the other resorts are shut at this time of year so for people that want to ski and snowboard and get some of those wonderful early season days then this is the place to come,” said Barbara Schonherr who works in the marketing department of the resort.
“It may seem strange that October and November are our busiest times, but it is true!” she added.
So, who comes?
There are a lot of people race training – clubs, ski instructors and professionals.
And it has a world-class park that opens this weekend – some of the best athletes in the world come to train ahead of the season.
And it’s a magnet for the wannabes too.
There are intermediates out having lessons.
Then there is the other end of the spectrum.
There are a few dozen British people out in Stubai at the moment.
One UK tour operator, Zenith Holidays, offers the Austrian glacier resorts in the autumn and has seen numbers growing.
“Many people think people ski on ice up on the glaciers, but there is always a covering of snow and sometimes powder. This weekend we have families out for half-term and some beginners too,” said Katie Waddington from Zenith Holidays.
“We advise our clients that there is no top to bottom skiing, but there are plenty of slopes, the fun park is open and there is après ski too,” Katie added.
Zenith Holidays also offers the glacier resorts of Soelden and Pitztal in the Tirol at this time of year: see here for further details if you fancy an autumn ski trip.
So, what is the snow like at the moment in Stubai?
Last week there was 40cm and we had around 5cm on Wednesday night to freshen things up.
The temperature was well below zero so the on piste snow conditions were firm and grippy.
Off piste we were able to put in a few fresh tracks in the powder.
However don’t believe it is like the middle of winter.
The runs down to the valley floor are closed and the ice hasn’t yet formed on the lakes.
There are some huge bare patches.
Overall though it is fantastic and a great way to start the winter.
There are thousands and thousands of us out here at the moment making this the busiest time of year for Stubai.
And there are many good reasons why we are all here.
UPDATE, Friday 21st – This weekend the most expensive new lift in the Alps opens in Stubai – the 3S Eisgrat.
It cost €60m.
James has not only managed to secure a seat on the first gondola but he managed to get a lift down in it as they were going through the final tests.
He will have a full report on what makes it so special over the weekend.
And, knowing James, as well as the lift he will no doubt be testing the WiFi 😉
UPDATE, Saturday 22nd – And here is the report from James as he secured a place in the first gondola.
See here for further details about it in an earlier story on PlanetSKI as we looked at a few of the new lifts opening across the mountains for the 2016/17 season.
See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the world of snowsports.
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