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Trip report Westendorf

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Just back from a generally excellent week in Westendorf. Visited for a weekend last year and went back this year for a week as a group of 5.

Travel:

Flew LHR to Munich. Arrival at Munich was efficient, cleared passport and picked up bags within 25 mins of touchdown. Departure was a different story..... horrendous queues at Gate B to have passport checked (manually - just 2 people on duty), followed by security. Even though we were 1.5 hours early, I don't think we would have made our flight (our plane was slightly held up by having to remove bags due to someone failing to make it). Top tip: make the 5 min hike to Gate C, where bizarrely there is no passport check and there was no queue. You can then walk through to B via an automatic passport check, airside. Security still a nightmare, with everyone going through a full body scanner, and the almost everybody having a manual search - in my case because of a tissue in my pocket.... Unbelievably inefficient.

We transferred by train - 2 hours, with a quick change at Munich Ost and another at Worgl. All very easy and on time. €240 return for 6 people (cheaper to buy a group ticket for 6 than 5 individual tickets on www.bahn.de). Then picked up by taxi arranged by hotel for the 5 mins to the hotel (€10).

Hotel/eating:

We stayed at the Hotel Garni Austria. €50 per person per night B&B. Excellent central location, nice comfortable rooms, great showers, good breakfast and incredibly welcoming and helpful owner (Veronika). Throughly recommended. Try to get a room at the back overlooking the slopes - the road the other side can be noisy at night with late-night revellers. We ate out each evening. There are limited non-hotel restaurants in town, so it was a mix of these and hotel restaurants. Some comments: Reiterstuberl is probably the most up-market of the non-hotel restaurant, which was nice, but quite pricey. Need to book here. Il Vagabondo in the Hotel Alpenhof is a nice Italian, which was a nice change to the standard Austrian fare. The restaurants in the Hotel Jocobwirt and the Hotel Post were also nice. We were less keen on the Die Muhle (poor food) and Feinn Sinn (really), which was Ok but rather unfriendly.

Ski hire:

We hired from Hausberger, right by the slopes. Good kit, reasonably priced. 15% if you book online (you only pay when you collect). They have a heated ski deposit at the bottome of the slopes, which led to a slightly irritating misunderstanding. You can use this for free if you hire kit from them. However, the wording is not clear, and it turned out this only applies to kit hired from them. If you have your own boots you have to pay for those, which seemed rather petty. To be fair, they did waive it when we (gently) raised the matter.

Weather and snow:

A mixed week weather-wise. After the freeze of the previous week, it had warmed up dramatically and rarely reached freezing even at night. Sun and Mon were beautiful days, with the snow holding up well despite the heat (a bit slushy and cut up in the afternoon). Tues snowed and rained a little, but not too bad. Wed was colder, and nice in the morning, but heavy snow in the afternoon, turning to rain in the village (a good day for a long lunch!). Thurs was a bluebird day, with some nice powder to be found in the morning (heavy in afternoon), especially in Kitzbuhel, and Friday was warm with mix of cloud and sun - very slushy and cut up in the afternoon. Temp drop and new snow needed soon. Snow generally in better condition on the Kitzbuhel side than Ski Welt.

Skiing:

Westendorf is brilliantly located between Ski Welt and Kitzbuhel, allowing you to get the best of both. Worth paying the extra €30 for the Super Ski pass if you are going to Kitzbuhel more than once, otherwise upgrade for the day (€272 for 6 days Super Ski). The link between Westendorf and Kitzbuhel is a short bus - about 4 mins and we never waited more than 5 mins. The various areas have a different feel:

Westendorf itself has some nice runs (especially the Ki West to Kitzbuhel and the run 11 down to Brixen to link to the Ski Welt. It also has probably the steepest black in the area (but very short). A couple of fun blues to the valley floor. The run home can be rather cut up and busy in the afternoon - our weaker skier downloaded on the gondola to the half way station rather than do that with tired legs.

Ski Welt is mainly cruisy red and blues, with some enjoyable long runs to the various villages at the valley floor. Some of the links can be a bit flat and short, but worth making the effort to explore all the areas, as all have some good runs. Ski Welt was quite busy - no queues longer than 5 mins, but the slopes were quite busy and quite a lot of people skiing at speeds beyond their ability (and not looking before they set off -why do people do this??). Pretty area, mostly tree-lined. For less able skiers, the route back down to connect back to Westendorf at Brixen is quite tricky (piste 6/1b), especially in the afternoon when very slushy, bumpy and full of people. Less confident people would be advised to cut across on 2a to the top of the gondola and download - but easy to miss the turning.

Kitzbuhel has more of a high mountain feel, with more skiing above the treeline, especially in the Pass Thurm/Jochberg area over the (amazing) 3-S gondola. Snow was better over here - less slushy. Some excellent runs - we especially enjoyed the long blasts down to Kirchberg, and the itinerary 75 in the powder on Wed morning, as well as the runs back down to Pengelstein on the way back to Westendorf. A few nice, but short blacks, nothing terribly hard.

A word of warning: the piste maps and sign-posting are universally awful - the worst I have ever experienced. Expect to get lost and see it as a way of skiing slopes you might not have done otherwise.

Eating and drinking on the mountain:

There are a huge number of nice huts, mainly serving the usual Austrian staples. Prices are generally similar - we found that a large beer, a main each and some shared puddings, and perhaps some coffees, for 5 would come to about €100 - €110 every day. A round of drinks at the end of the day was about €17 for 5. The huts we liked most were:

The Rubezahl Alm (58 above Elllmau)
The Alpengasthof Hochsoll (46 above Soll)
The Ochsal (at bottom of Ochsalm chair above Kirchberg - slightly pricier than others, but good food)
The Brechhornhaus (74 at the top of Westendorf)


Apres/nightlife:

It is a small place, so a bit limited. Gerry's on the nursery slope can be reasonably lively with the traditional Austrian cheesy music at the end of the day, and the Nagelhutte is fun for a bash at the nail game. We did not go to the Bruchstall at the top of the nursery slope, but it looked quite popular. There are a few pubs, bars and clubs for later on - but they were very smokey - compared to anywhere else I have been in Austria, the smoking in bars was worse here. It really is time Austria joined the 21st century in this respect, as it is the only reason I would think twice about coming here.

Overall:

A great week. Westendorf makes a great base to cover a huge area of varied skiing. Nothing really hard-core, but great for a mixed group. Westendorf itself probably not ideal for beginners due to the tough home run - beginners might be better in Soll, Scheffau or Ellmau. Not party-central, but enough life to keep you amused in the evenings. Quite low, so does seem to be suffering from the current warm spell with rain at the lower levels, but snow holding up well despite this.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Excellent report, many thanks. I'm seriously considering Westendorf for Feb half term. I had been looking at first week in April (and still might be as a second trip if time, money and conditions allow).

The reason for the change in plan is that the group I've got to organise the trip for, is potentially much bigger than I initially thought and saying, "we'll just go somewhere where there's snow, I don't know where or how much it will be." is difficult to sell to people who aren't regular skiers.

The group could be anything from 3 to 9 in size, consisting for definite: one adult and one teen who can ski anything on-piste but aren't obsessed by mileage so are more likely to try to find some nice, fun empty pistes with no lift queues.
Probable: One adult who past experience says will be permanently terrified and never venture past the nursery slope.
Also definite: one stroppy madam whose lack of fear is matched only by her lack of technique and stubborn refusal to be in ski school. High speed snowplowing followed by midweek injury followed by needing to be cajoled out of her room to join her mother on the nursery slope.
Possible: kids who have not skied on a mountain but hopefully will have learnt the basics in a dome. As well as a couple of adults who fit somewhere between the above in terms of experience.


So I thought Westendorf would work because...

Easy transfer, train from Innsbruck, quick and cheap.
Lots of blues allowing fair amount of easy travel around the resort.
Ease of venturing further afield if we wish with two massive areas on the doorstep.
How close the village is to the lifts and slopes - I hate having to cram onto a bus first thing or having to take a gondola down last thing. Accommodation in my original choice, Kirchberg, always seemed to be too far from the town or too far from the lift.
And in Austria because I like Austria.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
@Penry, You might want to consider Brixen too, not quite as pretty but much improved now the through traffic goes through a tunnel. It has a very good beginners area at the top of the gondola and then plenty of easy blues off towards Scheffau and Ellmau. The downside if there are less experienced skiers is the red on the south side of the valley is almost always difficult due to poor snow and the long red on the north side is excellent but maybe a bit daunting for near beginners (easy to get the lift down in both cases). Lots of accommodation near the lifts so buses can be kept to a minimum. Another area that might work is Ski Amade. There are various resorts but Zauchensee might fit your criteria nicely, no buses at all (accommodation clustered around the bottom of the lifts at the end of a valley), short transfer from Salzburg and a good variety of skiing.

I would be a bit dubious about your plan for train from Innsbruck airport to Westendorf (Brixen is same station, the actual Brixen station is a good way away from the village). First you need to get from the airport to the Hauptbahnhof either bus or taxi, then shepherd your group onto an appropriate platform with all their bags, avoid the faster trains (RJ & EC) as always difficult to find seats, get a slower regional train, change at Wörgl lugging bags on to another platform, finally you will need to book taxis from the station (none there). As much as I like train travel with a group of any size booking a transfer will be much easier.
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 You need to Login to know who's really who.
You need to Login to know who's really who.
Cheers @munich_irish, I'll take a look at your alternatives. I think I originally discounted Brixen on the basis of downloading from both directions for inexperienced skiers and that there's a lot of village that's not near the lifts and, selfishly, because I fancied exploring Kitz more than SkiWelt. Zauchensee I didn't even realise was a place; on the piste plan it just looks like a ski station. I'll take a further look at both.

And, sadly, you're probably right about the train.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
If your motivation is for you to mainly ski Kitzbühel whilst the others amuse themselves then Westendorf is maybe slightly better though the access is pretty much the same. The run down from the Westendorf side to Brixen is a good one, there is a short genuine black section but there is a path around that bit, a good way to end the day. The run down to Ski West is also good and the bus link to the Kitzbühel skiing easy (not much more walking involved than getting onto the gondolas). I would say that the nursery slopes are better at Brixen, more of them, up the mountain and with gentle blues nearby ideal for nervous skiers though not sure if there is a reduced beginners pass of some sort. Westendorf is better for sitting drinking beer / schnapps / jägertee at the bottom of the lifts at the end of the day Smile
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