PISTE, POWDER & NO POLITICS
15th December 2019 | James Cove, Altenmarkt-Zauchensee, Austria
Last modified on December 27th, 2019
You may have read my first report about how I decided on a last minute break for a couple of days to get away from the never-ending saga of UK politics.
In the little-known short break destination of Alternmarkt-Zauchensee that is under an hour from Salzburg in Austria.
Altenmarkt 842m, sits at the base of a wide valley and oozes genuine alpine charm.
At the end of the valley is the World Cup resort of Zauchensee, 1,350m, that boasts some varried and challenging skiing.
I’ll try not to mention or think about you-know-what.
The state of the dis-United Kingdom didn’t spring to mind as I walked out of my hotel and saw the slopes in Zauchensee that I’d been unable to view due to a dark arrival mention in my first post the previous night.
Steep slopes, immediately above the village is always a sign of a good ski area in my book.
The day awaited.
I know absolutely nothing about Zauchensee and I was keen to explore.
The piste map looked modest, but then piste maps rarely tell the whole story.
Zauhensee has 65 km of pistes and 25 ski lifts.
It sits in the mighty Ski Amadé area that is one of the largest areas in the world – 760 km of piste and 270 ski lifts.
It was steeper than I imagined and the terrain far more extensive than the piste map led me to believe.
I began by cruising the blues and reds.
And looking across to some of the other areas in the Ski Amadé.
By mid-morning I had made a few judgements from the top of the resort as I had spun round the politics-free slopes.
By this time on a Sunday back in the UK I would have listened to a bit of Broadcasting House on Radio Four and also maybe watched the Andrew Marr Show on BBC 1 while flicking through the Sunday papers.
And then there is Sky News.
Undoubtedly I would getting more and more angry by it all if I was at home in the UK.
Politics and the state of the Dis-United Kingdom are off my agenda.
There was the serious business of skiing to be done.
The snow is decent enough, though this part of the Alps hasn’t seen the consistently huge falls of elsewhere.
It began well in November with 70cm in resort and 1.5m up top, but then temperatures warmed up.
The lower slopes are being prepared and the snow cannons are doing their work.
But conditions are certainly decent for the time of year.
I was being show round the slopes by one of the local ski instructors, Peter Walchhofer.
“There are big variations of possibilities on the mountains here with slopes for beginners and intermediates and perfect for good skiers too,” Peter told me.
“The off piste is excellent with no long walk ups and the tree skiing is superb.”
I had to ask.
“Are you by any chance related to the Austria ski racer Michael Walchhofer as I think he comes from round here,” I enquired.
Peter threw back his head in laughter, “He’s my younger brother.”
You can probably guess my next question.
Before I could say three times winner of the World Cup Downhill Crystal globe trophy, Olympic silver medalist, winner of the Hahnenkam and one of the best downhill ski racers ever produced by Austria or anywhere else, I was standing with the big man himself.
In front of his trophy cabinet in the Hotel Zauchensee Zentrum that he now runs.
I could only admire his new baseball cap. 😉
And big he most certainly is.
And with that it was off for lunch.
And the restaurant has its own story, full of ski history, but more of that in my afternoon post where I will take a more detailed look at the resort and what it has to offer.
I have one recommendation: put Zauchensee on your list, as it is an utter stunner.
Here are just some of the social media posts from PlanetSKI readers after I mentioned I was heading to this part of the fabulous Austrian Alps:
Aileen Eglington – There last year..great area..love Flachau also.
Kostas Valtadoros – Zauchensee…this was the first ski resort i was in alpes ..i love this place..hav fun
Domagoj Persen – Very good small ski resort, also Flachauwinkl is also great and offers a lot.
Alison Carsley-Lebatard – Great resort, also on of Ski Ski Amadé ski pass – with over 750km of pistes.
Scott Fraser – Great place and great people.
Gawd it is nice to be away from the politics in the Dis-United Kingdom.
Now the trouble with the last few years in UK poliics is we all keep having to make choices between the various points of view who we might wish to support or diagree with.
My choice at the Adler Horst restaurant was a similar but simpler one.
Out or In.
I chose in and soon I was tucking into one of my favourite mountain lunches in this part of the Alps – Specknoodle Suppe.
It cost €5.20 (£4.40) and is pretty much all the fuel you need.
The restaurant also answered a question I had been asking myself during the morning.
Why does everyone here in Zauchensee seem to ski on Atomic skis?
They are everywhere.
It turns out the former owner of the Adler Horst mountain restaurant was none other than Alois Rohrmooser, the founder of Atomic.
He set up the first atomic ski production base in nearby Wagrain back in the 1950s.
He soon needed a bigger factory and moved to Alpenmarkt where the top of the range models are still made to this day.
People here buy local – the factory is just a few kms down the road.
And after lunch this was the non-political landscape I viewed.
UK politics seemed a long way away as my camera swung to the right.
Most are in 4* hotels but there is a 3* hotel, plus a youth hostel.
There is also a small number of self-catering appartments and chalets.
The biggest number of visitors to Zauchensee come from Germany.
Next it is Holland and Belgium, followed by the British.
The Brits don’t come in large numbers but I heard a number of English voices out on the slopes and in the bars.
All too soon the day drew to a close and we skied the final runs of this fabulous ski area with the December sun dropping behind the mountains.
A thought occurred to me.
Now I have been fairly bowled over by Zauchensee – a resort I had never heard of until now.
Should PlanetSKI create and hand out one its highly covereted and utterly random awards?
Last month we gave out the gong for The Best Ski/Boot room in the Alps.
It went to the Fahrenheit 7 hotel in Val Thorens, France.
It has a bar, table football and comfy sofas:
The question now is whether we should create a category of ‘The Best Resort in the Alps You Have Never Heard Of’.
I would give it some thought tonight.
And talking of tonight, it ain’t over folks.
I’m off to the Advent Market in nearby Alpenmarkt to get in the Xmas spirit
Check back later…
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