Obergurgl: A Week in the Austrian Alps

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Days 6 – 13 of 18.  I have been looking forward to writing about our unforgettable time in the Austrian Alps.  We spent a week in the modest ski town of Obergurgl.   Snowboarding was the highlight of our kids’ holiday.  I don’t ski or snowboard, but I love snow.  When it snows, the world changes.  And I don’t think I will ever get tired of it.  My husband doesn’t dislike snow, but he hates the cold.  He knows that our kids and I light up at the sight of snow, so he happily shivers for us.

Obergurgl is at far end of the Ötztal Valley (Gurgler Tal) in the beautiful region of Tirol.  Tirol, both a summer and winter holiday destination, is located in western Austria, with Innsbruck as its capital.  Innsbruck was host to the 1964 and 1976 Winter Olympics.

Obergurgl is one of the snowiest towns in Tirol.  It is one of the two parts that make up the Obergurgl-Hochgurl ski area, “The Diamond of the Alps.”DSC_0295

IMG_3114Now let me list down the reasons why we chose Obergurgl among many other ski towns in Austria:

1.Obergurgl has guaranteed snow in December, which was the single most important factor we had to consider since we were flying thousands of miles precisely for that snow.  I had to compare the elevation of several ski towns in my research and found that the highest ones are in Tirol.  At an elevation of 1930m, Obergurgl receives tremendous amount of snow even at the village level.  Skiing season is historically from mid-November to May. This year it starts on November 14.

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Plenty of snow at village level, truly a winter wonderland

2. Obergurl is reputed to be one the best family ski resorts in Tirol and we can attest to that.  There are many things to do for the entire family on and off-slope.  Since the entire village is covered in snow, children do not have to go far and high to play in the snow. We were there during peak skiing season and yet the slopes and the village were not awash with crowd.  There was minimal traffic too so we knew it was safe for our kids to walk or take the shuttle bus to their snowboarding lessons on their own.

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Frolicking in the snow on Christmas afternoon
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Our family sledding just behind a row of apartments on Christmas Eve
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My husband and I enjoying our wine and coffee while looking outside the glass panel where our Joaquin was freely sledding with other kids in the village

3. It is a small and traditional village with rustic huts in the mountains and a church at the centre of its town.  It has a couple of five-star hotels and a few dozens of modern guesthouses and chalets but it is able to maintain the traditional feel.  The village is compact but not crowded.  It had that feeling of exclusivity.  From research I learned that it celebrates Christmas and that really sealed the deal for us.  We would be there on Christmas day and we were determined to hear a mass or at least visit a church.

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Centre of the village as seen from the church

4. Obergurgl is easy to reach from Salzburg, the city we were coming from.  It was just 2hrs and 15mins by Railjet to Ötztal Bahnholf and from there we were picked up by our pre-booked private car for a 1-hour drive.  There were public buses from Ötztal to Obergugl as well and we actually saw people with skis and large suitcases taking them. Obergurgl could also be reached via Innsbruck, and from there a 1hr and 30min drive.

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Minimal traffic in Obergurgl, we let our kids walk to their lessons on their own

5. Based on my research, Obergurgl is a favourite among British families and so we knew we would not have difficulty communicating in English (since we couldn’t speak German).

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6. There are sufficient slopes for beginners and intermediates.  We were there during peak skiing season and there were no queues for the lifts and the slopes were not crowded.  Our kids spent most of their lesson at Hohe Mut Bahn 1 run which is classified ‘Easy’ but compared to Japanese and American (where our kids have rode and skied before) standards, our kids said it was more challenging.  There are also advanced slopes in Obergurgl but those looking for more could head to neighbouring Sölden and Hochgurgl.

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On top of the Hohe Mut Bahn 1 run around 9 or 10 am

7. Obergurgl is surrounded by mountains and there is a small river that runs along the valley, which means a breathtaking snowshoeing and hiking nearby.  We experienced this ourselves and I’ll share more about it in my next post.

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This was my favourite scene, although it was after a snow storm
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This was during a guided snowshoeing tour

8. The main ski school, Skischule Obergurgl, has snowboard instructors.  This became important especially after we realised that snowboarding doesn’t seem as popular as skiing in Austria.  Our kids enjoyed their lessons with Christof, who has been professional and helpful.  We entrusted him with our boys and he brought them down to the village with exciting stories each time.

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The boys with Christof, their instructor.

9. We wanted to do tobogganing and although Obergurgl has none, we knew that its sister ski resort, Hochgurgl, has this, morning and night.   Hochgurgl was a short distance from Obergurgl.  We took the shuttle to get there.

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Tobogganing at Hochgurgl

10. For a small ski town, it has a good number of casual and fine-dining restaurants especially in the village.  The most convenient for us especially at lunch was the pizzas and pastas at Pizzeria Belmonte where we had a few meals.  Après ski was largely burgers and beers and some music, no wild parties that I could recall.  The absence of wild parties was also another reason why we choose Obergurgl.  I’ll recommend a few restaurants in my next post.

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Lunch on top of the mountain was as beautiful as this at Hohe Mut Alm.  This was before hungry families like ours invaded this place. 

There were other things that we wanted to do while in Obergurgl but we decided not to pursue them:

Sölden to see the James Bond Spectre museum – it would take half a day for this activity and our kids refused to leave the slopes so we skipped this.   It would take 30 to 40 minutes to get to Solden on a zigzag road (we go to know about this because we passed by Solden on our way to Obergurgl), so it became less appealing for me as well.

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Photo credit: https://www.soelden.com/winter.html

Aqua Dome to relax in the pools  set on snow-covered grounds like in the picture – but we passed by Aqua Dome on our way to Obergurgl and we noted that there was no snow yet in that area (Aqua Dome is in a much lower altitude). Also it would take the entire day for this and we all agreed that the pool in our chalet was enough.

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Photo credit: https://www.aqua-dome.at/en/winter-holiday/

I’ll post more on Obergurgl soon, meanwhile here are other blogs on our Bavaria and Austrian holiday:

  1. Munich: Start of our family’s tales from last winter
  2. Munich: Viktualienmarkt Biergarten
  3. Munich: BMW Museum and BMW Welt
  4. Munich: Theatine Church and Odeonplatz
  5. Munich: Christmas Markets
  6. Munich: Hofbrauhaus Beer Hall
  7. Munich: City Aparthotel München
  8. Salzburg: Birthplace of Mozart and Silent Night
  9. Salzburg: Hohensalzburg Fortress 
  10. Salzburg: Residenzplatz Christmas Market
  11. Salzburg: Salzburg Cathedral
  12. Salzburg: Silent Night 200 at Salzburg Museum
  13. Salzburg: Silent Night Tour by Bob’s Special Tour
  14. Salzburg: Silent Night at Oberndorf and Laufen
  15. Salzkammergut: Road Trip to Hallstatt
  16. Salzkammergut: Christmas Market at St Wolfgang
  17. Salzburg: Krampus Run at Hellbrunn Palace
  18. Salzburg: Imlauer Hotel Pitter Salzburg
  19. Obergurgl: Chalet Obergurgl Luxury Apartments
  20. Obergurgl: Hohe Mut Alm Mountain Restaurant

 

16 comments

    1. Thank you Neek for dropping by. 🙂 We’ve never heard of that ski resort before so we were so happy that it turned out more than we hoped for. We were lucky with the weather during that week, too. The sky was blue and the pictures turned out good.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. When I first visited Obergurgl in 2000 it felt like the end of the world, so remote and RELATIVELY untouched. The outside world is now sadly creeping in and during every visit since, always during the summer hiking season, it is becoming more and more overdeveloped. One only has to look at nearby Soelden, further down the Oetz Valley, to see how unstinting those tasked with slavishly maximising revenue from the mountains can be.
    Obergurgl is still a unique environment but has become less a village settlement for a few hundred locals with an albeit significant tourism element, at the expense of developing into an almost artificial, purpose-built holiday facility that in effect shuts down during the warmer months. Nearby Hochgurgl was unashamedly built for this purpose, but Obergurgl now feels like a cynical project that bears little relation to the miniscule village from which it became famous after being ‘discovered’ almost 90 years ago by Auguste Piccard. Regards.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Charlie. I could appreciate your sentiments on over-development and I also hope that Obergurgl would be slow on that aspect. I understand what you mean about Hochgurgl and especially Solden. We passed by their towns and my thoughts were, ‘I’m glad we didn’t choose this!’ We came from a city state and when we reached Obergurgl, it did feel like the ‘end of the world’. Compared to the other ski towns we’ve been to (but so far we’ve only been to Tahoe, Niseko and Zermat), Obergurgl still seemed secluded and exclusive, it was peaceful up there. Up to now when we think about it, my husband and I could not believe that we’ve been there. We had an amazing time. Do you have a blog on your first visit to Obergurgl? I would love to read it and see some pictures too. I went through some of your posts but I only found the recent ones. 🙂 — Amor

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hello. Thanks for your reply. I am glad you took the view that Obergurgl is still relatively disconnected from the rest of the world; of course, peace does reign there.
        I suppose after 21 trips to Austria I have though seen negative changes to the landscape of which those who are first time and less-frequent visitors wouldn’t be aware.
        I haven’t done a blog on my first visit to Obergurgl, which is now 19 years ago. The pictures from that trip aren’t digitised but I will think about rectifying that. I will though at some point put up some recent summertime photographs of the area and point you in their direction! Best wishes.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Wow 21 times! That’s amazing Charlie! I’d be lucky if we could even go back again. Yes yes please do write about your first trip to Obergurgl. I’m gonna plan another trip to Europe next year, around winter again. I’ll check out your blog, I think I would be able to get a lot of ideas from you. 🙂 – Amor

          Liked by 1 person

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