Days 6 – 13 of 18. A time in the snow, it has always been a highlight on our family’s winter holidays, and snowboarding is what our kids anticipate the most. I don’t snowboard or ski, but I love snow. I think it’s beautiful. And when it snows, the world changes.
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.
Anyway, I have been looking forward to writing about our unforgettable snow time in the Austrian Alps, where our family spent a week in the modest ski town of Obergurgl…
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.” Obergurgl and Hochgurl are two of the highest resorts in the Alps.
Now let me list down the reasons why we chose Obergurgl among many other ski resorts 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 started on November 14.
2. Obergurl is reputed to be one the best family ski resorts in Tirol and we could attest to that. There are a number of things the entire family could do on and off-slope. Since the village is covered in snow, children do not have to go far and high to play in the snow. They could sled practically everywhere! We were there during the peak season and several kids were doing group ski lessons and yet the slopes were not crowded. There was minimal car 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. There was no loud partying at night and we didn’t encounter drunk or rowdy people.
3. It is a small and traditional village with rustic huts in the mountains and a church at the heart of the 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. 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.
4. The village is compact but not crowded. It had that feeling of exclusivity. There were not many people even at peak period and from what we gathered, those who come to the resort are mostly repeat visitors.
5. Obergurgl was 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 the buses. Obergurgl could also be reached via Innsbruck, and from there a 1hr and 30min drive.
6. Based on my research, and interactions with some families during our visit, Obergurgl is a favourite among British and so we knew we would not have difficulty communicating in English (since we couldn’t speak German).
7. 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.
8. 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 did both and I’ll share more about them in my next posts.
9. The main ski school, Skischule Obergurgl, has snowboarding 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 was both professional and friendly. We entrusted him with our boys and he’d bring them down to the village with exciting stories each time.
10. We wanted to do snow tobogganing and although Obergurgl has none, we knew that its nearby sister ski resort, Hochgurgl, has this, morning and night. Hochgurgl was a short distance from Obergurgl. It was a short shuttle bus ride to get there.
11. For a small ski village, it has a good number of casual and fine-dining restaurants. The most convenient for us especially at lunch was the pizzas and pastas at Pizzeria Belmonte where we had a few of our 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.
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 or a whole 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 dizzying 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.
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 more than enough.
Here are other blogs on our Bavaria and Austrian holiday:
- Munich: Start of our family’s tales from last winter
- Munich: Viktualienmarkt Biergarten
- Munich: BMW Museum and BMW Welt
- Munich: Theatine Church and Odeonplatz
- Munich: Christmas Markets
- Munich: Hofbrauhaus Beer Hall
- Munich: City Aparthotel München
- Salzburg: Birthplace of Mozart and Silent Night
- Salzburg: Hohensalzburg Fortress
- Salzburg: Residenzplatz Christmas Market
- Salzburg: Salzburg Cathedral
- Salzburg: Silent Night 200 at Salzburg Museum
- Salzburg: Silent Night Tour by Bob’s Special Tour
- Salzburg: Silent Night at Oberndorf and Laufen
- Salzkammergut: Road Trip to Hallstatt
- Salzkammergut: Christmas Market at St Wolfgang
- Salzburg: Krampus Run at Hellbrunn Palace
- Salzburg: Imlauer Hotel Pitter Salzburg
- Obergurgl: A Week in the Austrian Alps
- Obergurgl: Chalet Obergurgl Luxury Apartments
- Obergurgl: Hohe Mut Alm Mountain Restaurant
- Obergurgl: Snowstorm on Christmas Eve
- Obergurgl: Day After the Storm
- Obergurgl: Snowshoeing
- Hochgurgl: Tobogganing
- Hochgurgl: Hochgurgl Cable Car Ride
- Vienna: First Impressions
- Vienna: Hofburgkapelle and Imperial Armoury
- Vienna: Schönbrunn Palace
- Vienna: Imperial Treasury and Hofburg
- Vienna: Prater
- Vienna: New Year’s Eve Fireworks and Waltz
- Vienna: Hilton Vienna Plaza
- Stuttgart: The Mercedes-Benz Museum
- Stuttgart: The Porsche Museum