Skiing — Day 5: The Ski Welt Area, Austria

Exploring the Ski Welt area

January 2015

On day 5, I took a bus to the Ski Welt area.

Ski Welt consisted of the resorts Going, Ellmau, Scheffau, Söll, Itter, Hopfgarten, Brixen, Kelchsau, Scheffau, and Westendorf.

I was dropped at the Hopfgarten gondola and bought a €47 day pass.

Ski Welt is interesting. It is a vast area, and after two hours of skiing, I had not skied the same run, or seen the same lift, twice.

It was a cold day, but the snow was good. There was some ice, but mainly loose fine granular.

Mid-morning snack

Mid-morning, I stopped for a warm and a cup of hot chocolate. I had no idea where I was on the mountain, near Scheffau?

I asked another skier where I was — Restaurant 42 — Bergrestaurant Jochstubun. There was no free Wi-Fi. According to the piste map, there was free Wi-Fi on the mountain, but I couldn’t find it.

Photo by Author — mid-morning snack stop — Restaurant 42 — Bergrestaurant Jochstubun
Photo by Author — mid-morning snack stop — Restaurant 42 — Bergrestaurant Jochstubun

Getting lost in the Ski Welt ski area

Ski Welt is a big, interconnected ski area. But, the connections between the different ski areas are subtle. The piste map is crowded with information and confusing, and the pistes are poorly labelled. Plus, there wasn’t always a big freestanding map at the lifts. It was easy to get lost, and I spent 30 minutes trying to get out of a bowl.

There were only two lifts out of the bowl. And, regardless of which one I took, whichever route I took, I ended up back at the bottom of the bowl. I was stuck.

I finally escaped my Ground-Hog Day skiing experience when I noticed a very subtle left fork off one of the lifts. I had skied past the fork many times. The trail fork finally got me out of the bowl.

By now, I was miles from where I needed to be to get the bus back to Niederau, and I was getting short on time.

Ski Welt — a summary

I had a great day skiing Ski Welt, despite getting “trapped” in the bowl between Eiberg and Brandstadl.

The ski area is big. After skiing it for 6 hours, I doubt I covered more than a fifth of the terrain. It would make a good place for a week’s skiing holiday. I would suggest centrally based around Scheffau or Söll so that the whole area can be easily accessed.

From Niederau, the ski bus drops you at Hopfgarten, which is described as the ‘entrance’ to the ski area (you can see the top of Hopfgarten from Niederau). Hopfgarten is only 7 km from Niederau.

Photo by Author — confusing signposts at Ski Welt
Photo by Author — confusing signposts at Ski Welt

Having Hopfgarten close to Niederau is great (€18 each way in a taxi). Being dropped at Hopfgarten is a problem as it is at one end of the ski area. It takes two long gondola rides and quite a bit of skiing involving black runs (in my case) to get to the main ski area.

Photo by Author — is it just me, or are those signs confusing?
Photo by Author — is it just me, or are those signs confusing?

Overall, skiing was good. There was a mixture of blue, red and black runs. The runs were also a mixture of narrow cross-mountain trails and wide pistes. Snow conditions were generally good — a combination of ice, artificial powder, and well-groomed. I even encountered spring skiing on some of the south-facing slopes.

Photo by Author — Ski Welt
Photo by Author — Ski Welt

The biggest problem with the ski area is the ski map and the poor piste marking. I can’t recall the last time I found a ski area so confusing and spent so much time staring at a ski map. The ski area could be improved with more large maps at ski lifts and better and more extensive piste labelling.

Photo by Author — Ski Welt
Photo by Author — Ski Welt

Nightlife in Niederau — back down the Cave Bar

I had a brief look around the bars of Niederau.

Most of the bars in town are in the hotels. There were three I identified: one near the main gondola lift, one across the road from the gondola, and the Cave Bar.

I ended up back down the Cave Bar as the other two bars were dead. One had two people in it, one of which was the barman, and in the other, all the men swivelled around to look at me as I walked in. Not a particularly warm welcome.

So, choices for nightlife in Niederau are limited.

One thing that I did find odd was the smoking in bars, as it doesn’t happen in the UK.