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Austrian Alps: Resort for beginners in December

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Hi all, it's my first post here however I have read many threads over the years.

I'm having a real hard time picking a Ski resort in the Austrian alps the week before Christmas. I'm taking a group of beginner skiers who have had one lesson on an indoor slope. I would have chosen Westendorf as that is the first village I learnt to ski at and found it pretty good. The problem with Westendorf is the snow unreliability, I really want to give my friends the best experience so I wouldn't like to risk Westendorf.

Can you think of any other resorts that are snow sure in December but are also kind to beginners? I was thinking Ischgl might be an option but then I seen there are more red runs than anything else.

Any advice would be great!

Thanks
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Definitely take a look at Obergurgl. Very high (about as high as non-glacier skiing goes in Austria) and so should be snow sure in December. Not a massive resort but plenty big enough for beginners. Lovely long blues - especially in the linked area of Hochgurgl which you might also consider as a base. Downside is that cheap accommodation will be hard to come by, and also because it is so high, December can be very cold. For that reason it is a favourite of ours in March! Obertauern is also high, but we have never been there.
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I'd also suggest Obergurgl to be a good beginners option, pretty snow sure
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I would say Ischgl should be one place to consider. It is very snow sure, I have skied there in December when there has been no other non glacier resort open. The red run issue only applies to the runs to the village, beginners simply take the gondola home . The main skiing starts around 2000m and there is a big bowl around the main lift station with plenty of nursery and easy slopes. Down sides might be the cost (it is not a cheap option) and also the height means it is exposed in poor weather.

Another spot might be Obertauern, a bit more traditional though not the biggest place. Enough to keep beginners amused for a week maybe not so much for the more experienced. Fairly easy access from Salzburg.

Not been to Obergürgl, some folk seem to love it (as the above posts show) others not so keen.

If you can wait until last minute to book then Ski Welt or Kitzbühel ideal along with Ski Amade area
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Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Thank you for all the advice! It seems to be quite tough to get a hotel at Obergurgl that doesn't cost an arm and a leg at the moment.

Do you think I could stay at Solden and then travel to Obergurgl daily for the skiing? I haven't heard the greatest things about Solden on this forum though.

I do like the sound of Ischgl but I'm not sure if it would be intimidating.
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@maddren, Ischgl is not intimidating. There are plenty of nursery slopes and a good network of blue runs, many of the reds are also straight forward. Of course there are blacks and ski routes for those who want them too. For beginners or nervous skiers you just need to avoid the red runs to the village (no hardship). Ischgl isnt a typical Tirolean ski village like Westendorf, but it is snow sure and is probably better for beginners than Westendorf or similar.

None of these places are going to be cheap, if that is a big issue then mid January is a better time. Whilst pre Christmas does see plenty of cheap offers and slightly cheaper lift passes these are related to the probability of decent snow conditions. Snow sure spots like Obergürgl and Ischgl will charge accordingly.
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I may be controversial here but I would recommend somewhere lower, with trees. As a beginner being up above the trees with little visibility might be a very intimidating experience. Beginners don't need perfect powder, but they do need to be able to see where they are going and above all, they need to enjoy themselves.

December is notoriously cloudy, and can be very cold. I know I wouldn't want to be above 2,000m in such conditions.

Choose somewhere that has gondola-accessible nursery slopes at around 1,200-1,600m. Most of Ski Amadé would suit, or SkiWelt. Pick a nice town too, with other activities, Austrian charm, nice huts.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
I agree with Obergurgl/Hochgurgl as being as snow sure as you can get in December. In fact it usually opens on the 2nd Friday of November and I can't recall a year in the last 5 when it didn't.

As far as the tour operators go its going to be mainly expensive but if you look on Trip Advisor you can go down the list to the pensions and it gets a lot more reasonable.

I might wait and see. Pretty much nowhere is busy then long as you don't go into the Christmas week which is 21st/22nd Dec onwards this year.

Last year, for example, had you done that you'd have been able to ski anywhere?


Last edited by After all it is free Go on u know u want to! on Thu 2-08-18 11:14; edited 1 time in total
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@maddren, I'd say @queenie pretty please makes a very good point about the trees and the cold although Obergurgl does have three or four tree lined runs in the 'Zirbenwald' area below the Höhe Mut peak which would probably be enough for complete beginners for a week. Obergurgl is a very small village which has probably grown to about 5 times its size since the development of skiing. There is great apres ski in its original meaning (i.e. just after skiing) but by 7pm there are only a couple of bars and most folks retire to their hotels for the evening.
For that reason I would also consider an alternative pretty village or town for that seasonal feeling and other things to do and see. Glacier resorts will be the best bet for the best of both worlds. You could go to Kaprun, for example, which is medium sized village with glacier skiing guaranteed high above on the Kitzsteinhorn and lower slopes on the Maiskogel and at Zell am See available if the snow's good. But if the snow is poor or very late be aware you could be living in a green wet valley which isn't going to make it feel very seasonal nor ski holiday like.
IMHO I would only consider anywhere outwith the glacier resorts and the high resorts already suggested if you are going to wait and see how the snow comes and book late. The primary requirement is snow to ski on and only a few places outwith the glaciers will give you a reasonable certainty of that in December.
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Thanks everyone, you have given me a lot to think about.

@robboj, I would love to stay somewhere that is quite seasonal and has a nightlife. Seems like Obergurgl is the best place for the actual skiing but not the best for other activities such as apres ski.

This is going to take quite a long time for me to sum up haha. I would leave it until later however I'd be worried that I couldn't get accommodation if I left it too late.
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Quote:

The problem with Westendorf is the snow unreliability

Well that's news to people like me who go to that region every year mid December and over Christmas/New Year. Even the other year when there was a general snow drought, they still had top to bottom skiing. The snow making facilities are immense. In a normal season mother nature takes care of matters on her own.

I think Westendorf is a perfect place for someone's first trip. As would be Soll or Ellmau.
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Not sure that anywhere will be full enough to have a good nightlife atmosphere the week before christmas (are we talking from Sat 15 Dec?).
If so from my experience obergurgl during that week will be more lively than the big resorts as it takes less people to fill Obergurgl. The big resorts during that week (e.g. Sölden. St Anton, Kaprun) have resembled a ghost town with most apres ski bars shut and the ones that are open having more bar staff than customers.
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Pruman wrote:
Quote:

The problem with Westendorf is the snow unreliability

Well that's news to people like me who go to that region every year mid December and over Christmas/New Year. Even the other year when there was a general snow drought, they still had top to bottom skiing. The snow making facilities are immense. In a normal season mother nature takes care of matters on her own.

I think Westendorf is a perfect place for someone's first trip. As would be Soll or Ellmau.


You can only make snow if the temperature is low enough and in general the lower the resort the higher the temperature . Westendorf, Soll and especially Ellmau are all pretty low (Sub 2000m Peak, circa 800m village) surprised they can be snow sure mid dec.

https://www.bergfex.at/soell/panorama/
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You know it makes sense.
I've been water skiing in Ski Welt (Westerdorf/Soll) in January, Definately would'nt risk a 800-900m resort for December. 20 years of experiance in December skiing in Austria says go high. To keep it simple I've foumd the following all reliable over the years, Ischgl, Ober/hochgurgl, Obertauern Zauchensee, Kaprun. Obertauern would be my choice. Its easy to navigate, plenty of runs to the valley,
usually lots of snow from late Nov, Good ski schools and good quality equipment hire. Hotel Schutz is mid priced, and centrally located as well as covered by most TOs.


Last edited by You know it makes sense. on Fri 3-08-18 18:43; edited 1 time in total
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Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Zell am See as robboj has suggested. if it has its own snow, all good. if not, Kaprun glacier is a short bus ride away. Plus good night life and 'pretty' village with its lakeside location..
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 Poster: A snowHead
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@maddren, the availability of accommodation will depend on which week you are actually looking at in Dec?
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I agree with the various comments about skiing below the tree line being better especially for near beginners, lots of good places in Ski Welt / Kitzbühel etc and Ski Amade (first place I went to ski was St Johann im Pongau) etc. However whilst I have been skiing in Ski Welt at the beginning of December there have also been years when the skiing is very limited until the middle of January let alone pre Christmas. If you are not comfortable with leaving it to the last minute to book then you will need to either take a fair risk and hope for early snow fall and low temperatures or plump for one of the higher resorts and live with potential poor weather. Pluses and minuses to either option.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
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Big fan of Obergurgl, as well. Found the ski school works well with beginners and they do have a learning slope right at the base. If they progress past the very easy slope, the ski school can take them higher up the mountain to the Hohe Mut gondola and they can ski from the middle station down without being above treeline.

Snow has always been great when we've been there. If you do want to stay in Solden, its only about 20-25 minutes away from Obergurgl.
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Hinterglemm or if you need to be double sure wrt snow reliability then Obertauern
Done the week b4 xmas in both and rate both highly.
I'd say Obertauern is slightly easier to navigate and more suitable for beginners
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Hi guys, I ended up booking Obergurgl due the amount of people that recommended it. Fingers crossed the weather is clear!

Thanks for all your suggestions, I'll be sure to keep the other resorts in mind in the future as well.
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good choice, as snow sure as it gets..
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DB wrote:
Pruman wrote:
Quote:

The problem with Westendorf is the snow unreliability

Well that's news to people like me who go to that region every year mid December and over Christmas/New Year. Even the other year when there was a general snow drought, they still had top to bottom skiing. The snow making facilities are immense. In a normal season mother nature takes care of matters on her own.

I think Westendorf is a perfect place for someone's first trip. As would be Soll or Ellmau.


You can only make snow if the temperature is low enough and in general the lower the resort the higher the temperature . Westendorf, Soll and especially Ellmau are all pretty low (Sub 2000m Peak, circa 800m village) surprised they can be snow sure mid dec.

https://www.bergfex.at/soell/panorama/


FWIW I skitour Westendorf pretty much every November before the lifts open (nostalgia for an old family holiday haunt), and it's totally skiable even with only 5-10cm of snow due to the grassy meadows: https://www.instagram.com/p/BbuPhh-AtEv/ Cannons always blasting early too.

That said, I don't think it's the best resort for beginners. The actual nursery slopes are among the best I've seen, but most of the longer pistes/valley runs have a couple of deceptively steep pitches that make some nervous.

Obergurgl will be great for snow, but there can be a real issue with visibility if it's snowy. However you should be able to head down the valley to Sölden (never skied there, but I think there are lower slopes with trees?) and Hochötz if the conditions dictate. Worth checking how that would work with lift passes though.

Otherwise Kitzbühel could be a good option. Always seems to get a number of pistes open early, will be quiet slopes at that time of year, and from what I can remember a larger number of cruisey pistes than Westendorf (for better skiers I actually prefer Westendorf though).

Schladming could also be an option, though I've never skied there.
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Stubai
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maddren wrote:
Hi guys, I ended up booking Obergurgl due the amount of people that recommended it. Fingers crossed the weather is clear!

Thanks for all your suggestions, I'll be sure to keep the other resorts in mind in the future as well.


What accommodation did you book?
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robboj wrote:
maddren wrote:
Hi guys, I ended up booking Obergurgl due the amount of people that recommended it. Fingers crossed the weather is clear!

Thanks for all your suggestions, I'll be sure to keep the other resorts in mind in the future as well.


What accommodation did you book?



Stalker Alert!!!!!! wink
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@maddren, You will love Obergurgl - make sure you book dinner one evening up in the mountain at the Hohe Mut All - a memorable experience with excellent fondue, wine and a great party atmosphere - but book early as very popular. I have already booked for early January!
Also have lunch at the Schonweisshutte - they tow you to the restaurant on skis!
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
Hohe Mut is great day or night... one of my favorite spots for a meal as you sit on the terrace and enjoy the view of the nearby glaciers. The Top Mountain Star, on a clear day, is perfect for an afternoon drink. Also a big fan of the Top Mountain Crosspoint restaurant, especially when the weather is not as cooperative. Museum is worthwhile if you are truly into motorcycles.

Heard nothing but great things about Schonweisshutte although never personally made it. Heard you have to ski your way back, though. Not sure if that would be an issue for the beginners in your group.
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Bob wrote:
robboj wrote:
maddren wrote:
Hi guys, I ended up booking Obergurgl due the amount of people that recommended it. Fingers crossed the weather is clear!

Thanks for all your suggestions, I'll be sure to keep the other resorts in mind in the future as well.


What accommodation did you book?



Stalker Alert!!!!!! wink


Damn! Rumbled! Madeye-Smiley
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 You know it makes sense.
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robboj wrote:
Damn! Rumbled! Madeye-Smiley


No, you're probably just nosey! (Like me Embarassed . I wanted to know, too. Is it somewhere I've stayed? Somewhere I've contemplated staying?)
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
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maggi wrote:
robboj wrote:
Damn! Rumbled! Madeye-Smiley


No, you're probably just nosey! (Like me Embarassed . I wanted to know, too. Is it somewhere I've stayed? Somewhere I've contemplated staying?)


Yes a bit of that and also wanting to help make sure they book skis etc at the best place. OberG isn't big but there's a rental shop in every corner and if you happen to book at the opposite one to where you're staying it can be a long and/or steep walk for newbies with kit?
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