PLANETSKI TOURS THE SKIWELT
21st January 2020 | James Cove, SkiWelt, Austria
Last modified on May 16th, 2021
It’s one of the largest linked areas in Austria, but not one we know that well. Time to change that.
See below for a full article about our recent visit to the SkiWelt as we skied the entire area.
And what did we do on our final night?
A visit to the fabulous Tirolean town of Kufstein that sits on the River Inn that is well worth a visit.
It’s castle and fortifications date back to the 13th century
It is the second largest town in the Tirol after Innsbruck and has a history stretching back.
I could recite the history of the place but the images will give you a better idea of what to expect.
Here is the first view as you get off the bus in the main street.
And then in to the Old Quarter.
It’s Town Hall was built in the Middle Ages and underwent a full renovation in 1923.
By night the place is stunning.
And what is through the doors?
A gin bar that’s in the “Guinness Book of Records” for the most gins on offer in any bar in the world.
Somewhere over 1,000 apparently.
And I of course am something on an expert in distilling gin after my recent exploits in Park City, Utah.
Kufstein – miss it at your peril…
The SkiWelt area in the Tirol has 284kms of slopes that are served by 90 lifts.
Its resorts include Soll, Westendorf, Hopfgarten, Ellmau, Going, Scheffau, Itter and Brixen in Thale.
Kitzbuhel is just a short bus ride away and a lift pass extension is offered for a day visit.
It is relatively low with the skiing only going up to 1,957m but it has state of the art snowmaking with 1,700 snow cannons and 69 piste bashers to push it all into place.
On my visit there was plenty of snow all the way down to the valley floor.
I had a special behind-the-scenes look at the grooming and snow-making operation and will be reporting back on that later this week on PlanetSKI.
I arrived on the overnight sleeper train and was met with some fresh snow and some fabulous night skiing, as I reported in my first post.
What a difference a day makes.
Today looks like being is a bluebird day once the sun burns off the low-level clouds, with sunshine and fresh snow aplenty.
The plan was to head over to Westendorf – the area that offers some of the best skiing in the SkiWelt.
But first it was cruising some of the slopes above Hopfgarten, Ellmau and Soll.
It is mainly a ski area for those that like the groomers.
There are 121kms of blue runs, 127kms of red runs and 36kms of black runs.
Out of its 284kms of slopes, 229kms can be topped up with man-made snow.
It all began 42 years ago in 1977 when the cable cars of the 6 villages decided to link up.
At the time it had Europe’s longest chairlift with a length of 2,830, that was in Hopfgarten.
- In 1948 it installed the largest lift in Austria in Westendorf.
- In 1970 the longest furnicular in Europe was built in Ellmau.
- In 1988 the first 8-seater chairlift was installed in Soll.
In total it has invested €550m since 1948 – €73.4m this winter alone.
It now has 2.6m ski days per winter season with up to 50,000 people per day skiing it slopes in high season.
There is some off piste to be had, but most people that come here are families and intermediates.
The ski rental shops mainly stock piste skis.
I had to ask specially to get some fatter ones at the Intersport shop.
They were more than happy to get a pair of Blizzards out of the back room for me so I could venture into the fresh snow.
And change them to Stockli piste skis when I wanted.
And then to Westendorf.
Looked decent enough at the top.
And looking down to the village.
First stop was lunch and one of the best Kasespalzle I had tasted.
With views to match.
Image © PlanetSKI.
Food is taken very seriously here, as it is across many of the Austrian ski resorts.
In my experience it is up there with the food found in Italian resorts – very tasty and at a good price.
Unlike some (many) resorts in France I could mention.
Another striking aspect of the SkiWelt is the lift system.
It is state-of-the-art and can move 147,576 people per hour.
This winter there is a new 8-person chairlift in Westendorf and a new combined chairlift and gondola on the other side of the valley.
And talking of good lifts here’s a neat way to store skis heading up in a gondola.
Image © PlanetSKI.
Also every single base station in the SkiWelt has a ski storage depot, so you don’t have to lug your skis back to your accommodation.
And the price for heading to apres without skis to worry about?
€2 per night.
I didn’t come across a single queue all day long.
90% of the lifts are fully operated on eco-energy.
Being environmentally – friendly is important here.
The energy for the snow cannons is produced by the Tirolean Hydropowder company, Tiroler Wasserkraft.
The water used is of drinking quality and eventually goes back into nature’s water cycle.
In 2008 it introduced the first solar powered ski lift.
It was a drag lift in Westendorf.
The area now has a special heat recovery system, so the excess heat produced by lifts goes to heating some of the mountain restaurants.
In 2017 it was named “Ecological Ski Resort of the Year” in the World Snow Awards for all its initiatives and commitment to the environment.
I should know – I was one of the judges.
And as the sun went down as my time in SkiWelt drew to a close I could only reflect on the area….
SkiWelt, Tirol, Austria. Image © PlanetSKI.
It was fabulous simply to discover more about a ski area in Austria that I barely knew.
It had a genuine and authentic alpine feel to it, with first class guest services.
From the sign-posting on the slopes to the service in restaurants and bars.
Like North America the customer is put at the centre and that is evident in so many instances each day.
It slightly reminded me of skiing in the Dolomites with its flattering slopes, extensive snowmaking and stunning scenery.
And the downside?
It is too low.
With skiing starting at 620m in Hopfgarten and going up to just under 2,000m in Westendorf.
Some of the linked ski areas elsewhere in the Alps hit 3,000m and if the SkiWelt had an extra 1,000m it would be up there as one of the best.
But it absolutely makes up for this in what it does offer – stunning Tirolean scenery, great piste skiing, excellent mountain restaurants, Austrian apres, superb accommodation and alpine charm.
I’ll be back.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
See here for more about the SkiWelt.
And here for the Austria National Tourist Office
Tickets from London St Pancras to Amsterdam start from £35.00 one way
This journey takes four hours and seven minutes
Tickets from Amsterdam to Wörgl start from €90 one way
The train departs at 18:59 from Amsterdam on Friday evening and arrives at 07:47 at Wörgl on Saturday morning
The full Alpen Express journey time is 12 hours and 48 minutes
The service runs every week, with the first departure on Friday 20th December 2019 and the final inbound journey on Saturday 14th March 2020
See the full details here.
Accommodation was in Hopfgarten at the Das Hohe Salve Sportresort
During the winter (when the Alpen Express runs), prices start at €160 per person per night.