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Postcard from Obergurgl-Hochgurgl - James Cove, Obergurgl-Hochgurgl
Thursday November 26, 2015 - Email this article to a friend

As resorts open across the Alps the PlanetSKI content editor, James Cove, has spent the weekend in the Austrian resort of Obergurgl-Hochgurgl in the Tirol.

I usually start my ski season in one of the high altitude glacier resorts of the Alps - Tignes, Saas-Fee, Zermatt, Soelden, Pitztal, Stubai or Hintertux.

Not this year.

For me the season of 2015/16 has kicked off in Obergurgl-Hochgurgl.

It has 110kms of slopes - pretty much all the runs were open and there was skiing right down to the resort. I skied them all except four.

"We are usually the first non-glacier resort in the Alps to open due to our high altitude and snow record. This year we started skiing on 12th November and we will continue until the end of May," said Leo Holzknecht from the resort's tourist office.

The resort hasn't had the significant falls of recent snow that have been seen in the north-western Alps.

Resorts like Avoriaz, Andermatt, Engelberg, Arc 1950, Les Menuires, Val d'Isere, Verbier, Val Thorens and others are covered in the white stuff.

Here it is a simple covering, but there is enough to be had.

More than enough.

Obergurgl-Hochgurgl, AustriaObergurgl-Hochgurgl, Austria
















The main reason for my visit was to attend the official opening of one of the most unique lift stations in the Alps.

The Top Mountain Cross Point is a gondola lift, motorcycle museum and restaurant all rolled into one; see here for that story.

But I was also here to ski and ski I did. 

I ducked out of the 2-hour and 4-course lunch to commemorate the opening of the Top Mountain Cross Point. 

I was part of an international group of journalists and the great & the good of the resort and the valley were present, but I made my excuses and left. 

"Don't worry James, I know you have spoken to all the relevant people and you always prefer to ski rather than eat lunch, so have a great afternoon," said Leo to me.

I was the very first person on the lift as everyone else was busy dining.

Obergurgl-Hochgurgl, AustriaGoing up
















At the top the cannons had been doing their stuff.

Obergurgl-Hochgurgl, AustriaHelping hand  for winter
















Lower down the piste bashers had been doing theirs.

Obergurgl-Hochgurgl, AustriaHello winter
















There was not really enough snow to venture off piste, especially as I was on my own.

But there is some very good freeride terrain.

Another lift is planned as a second stage to the new gondola and it will open up some more off piste terrain in the ski area.

"We have some fabulous terrain here for freeriding and ski touring. It is something of an undiscovered spot in the mountains and there is powder here to be skied many days after a snowfall," said the head of the ski area, Werner Hanselitsch.

Obergurgl-Hochgurgl, AustriaOff piste beckons
















I slammed round the near-deserted pistes on my new toys - a pair of Atomic Redster GS racing skis.

I loved 'em.

Obergurgl-Hochgurgl, AustriaStriking the pose

















Obergurgl-Hochgurgl, AustriaNew toys
















Obergurgl-Hochgurgl is not a resort that rolls off the tongue (trying saying that after a few après ski beers in the Nederhutte). 

Neither does it roll off the list of most popular resorts in the Alps.  However 25% of the resort's overseas visitors come from the UK and it is second to Germany.

It is the best-selling resort of Crystal, the UK's largest operator, and for Inghams Obergurgl is the number one Austrian resort.

The hotel I was staying in, the Edelweiss and Gurgl, is the top selling hotel in Austria for Inghams.

See here for more details on one of my favourite Austrian hotels.

I have visited the area in the summer on a hiking trip with my young son a few years ago as we went on a digital detox.

And I am delighted to have started my winter here for the first time.

I ended my day at the Top Mountain Star restaurant at the top of the resort as the sun set. 

Obergurgl-Hochgurgl, AustriaObergurgl-Hochgurgl, Austria
















It was the perfect place to gaze across the Alps and contemplate the winter ahead.

Bring it on!  Smile

Obergurgl-HochgurglSun sets on season opening
















Last year I skied in 57 different ski resorts in Europe and North America across 99 days.

This year's diary is filling up with Trysil in Norway, Ruhpolding in Bavaria in Germany and all the resorts of Les Trois Vallees in France all booked in before Xmas.

Then there is The French Pyrenees, Spain, Canada - plus dozens of resorts across Austria, Italy, Switzerland and France. 

Japan is on the cards and Iran is tbc.

As darkness fell I skied down with friends behind a piste basher that had the double advantage of illuminating the way and smoothing out the day's bumps and ruts.

Obergurgl-Hochgurgl, AustriaDarkness falls
















I was grinning from ear to ear (even if my thighs were burning).

Thank you Obergurgl-Hochgurgl.

If the rest of my skiing days this winter are half as good as my opening one, then it is going to be rather a good season.

Obergurgl-Hochgurgl, AustriaWinter gets underway
















See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the world of snowsports.

For the spirit of the mountains

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