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A review of Ski Amade (on two consecutive years)

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
As I've spent my yearly vacation there on two consecutive years, I figured I might as well contribute a bit here and not just mooch advice off of ya. Little Angel

So let's talk Ski Amade, and I'll break the review down by sections for different topics, but first I'll tell you about the parameters of our trip so you can adequately compare our situation with yours:
    • On the last 2 years we spent 2 weeks (Saturday to Saturday) in the Ski Amade region, in the last week of February. In both cases, we flew in to Munich, rented an estate car and drove over.
    • We were parties of 3 (first year) and 2 (this year), all intermediate plus snowboarders, all just under 30.
    • On both occasions we chose to base ourselves in Flachau, and drive to the different resorts included in the pass every day.

Why did we choose Ski Amade, and Flachau specifically?

I've first read about Flachau here, I believe. It's not a resort Israelis go to often, and not advertised by any of the local ski tourism agencies, which for us was a bonus. Additionally, it seemed accessible, cheap, vast in size, and historical snow data indicated stable and consistent snow coverage even when other resorts in the eastern alps were severely lacking despite the relatively low altitudes. We really enjoyed the Dolomiti Superski area in previous years and hoped to recreate that success with the Ski Amade region which boasts somewhat similar size and variety.

We went there a second time because one of our regular buddies could not join (due to unrelated injury) while myself and the other partner felt we haven't made the most of it and were willing to return for more.
We chose Flachau as our base simply because when laying out the various resorts and snowparks on a map it seemed like the most central point, from which most destinations are within what we consider a reasonable driving distance (up to 40 minutes).

Getting there and getting around

As mentioned we drove from Munich, on Saturdays. We met the usual traffic on the 99 around Munich, but were able to skip the massive queues down on 8 before the turn south to Austria as we were to continue east towards Salzburg. Traffic that way seemed less dense on the first year, but not much better this year, and the overall travel time heading out from Munich just before lunch was close to 5 hours (including a stop for lunch and a brief stop at the border to buy the vignette). Traffic does loosen up significantly once you enter Austria, but unlike the German Autobahns this is no time to fire up the afterburner, as Austria is much stricter in its enforcement of speed limits than its friendly northern neighbor.

The A10 autobahn goes all the way from Salzburg through the entire Ski Amade area which means access is easy even in winter conditions. Most of the way is driven on a proper dual carriageway and is a breeze even in winter conditions, and as the valleys are mostly low and quite flat the driving between resorts is also very easy going. Two exceptions to this that we encountered were the B163 between Wagrain and St. Johann which is quite curvy and tight (very fun if you're also a petrolhead), which can be skipped by taking the longer/faster route via A10, and the B164 going west into Muhlbach/Hochkoenig which is a fantastically beautiful curvy piece of road that was as fun for me to drive on as the actual skiing, but my buddies did go a little green and grimacing. No idea why rolling eyes

Overall everything was clear of snow and easy to drive to, ample parking everywhere for absolutely free, no steep slopes or chain-requiring mountain passes to traverse here which makes this a truly car friendly ski resort, just like we like. Didn't use the ski bus system at all.

Accommodation

First year we booked an apartment in Reitdorf, a hair north of Flachau, called Unterbaumgarten (Fam. Oberauer). We got an apartment + adjacent double room which shared a balcony but had no door between them, which meant to cross between we would have to either go via the outdoor balcony naked, or dress up and go via the hallway. Guess which we opted for most often Skullie With this combo we had 2 double beds, a single bed and a sofa, two TVs and bathrooms, a kitchen and all the storage we could need for 3 people or more, all for under 900 euros (300 pp) which is a steal. Really friendly family and a beautiful farm with friendly cats and dogs roaming around.

Second year as there were just two of us we opted for a hotel and booked a double room B/B at the Hotel Lisa right across from the Achter jet chairlift. At a much steeper price (1200 euros, or 600 pp) we did get the bang for our buck with a beautifully furnished room, fantastic breakfast and very friendly service, as well as as near as makes no difference ski-in/out in Flachau's linked resort. Fantastic stay which I can recommend wholeheartedly.

The resorts

• Flachau/Wagrain/St. Johann
This long, linked area going over 3 valleys is an excellent starting point with plenty of wide easy reds and tighter blues snaking around them. You can ski all the way from Flachau to St. Johann and back in a few hours enoying some fantastic views from the various peaks and the G-link gondola crossing one of the valleys. Lots of friendly lunch options, not incredibly crowded and we haven't encountered any difficult pistes that gave us trouble, seems this is a very accessible and fun area for those wishing to rack up some mileage without actually going too far. The run down to town does get quite beat up as the day progresses, but at worst there is an option to go down by a small gondola. What Flachau itself lacks is a proper snowpark, though it does have some funslopes to play on. Offpiste areas seemed limited as most runs are enclosed by trees, but there are several more open/exposed areas to enjoy and on a better season with more fresh snow that variety might grow larger.

• Flachauwinkl Shuttleberg
This small resort slightly south is just a few minute's drive away, and is an absolute mecca for freestyle boasting both the enormous Absolut park and the Burton Stash, as well as a large pipe which was closed both years due to lack of sufficient snow as it's quite low down. It's a small area without many pistes but the main ones are long and varied enough and doing the full run down was a lot of fun. It gets very slushy and playful about half way down. The area seems to try and cater for kids and freestyling teenagers most. At first, I thought there would be some dissonance between the two groups - rowdy, beer drinking cigarette smoking teens and soft little kids? But in truth, what I observed was that it works just fine. Yes, you get the occasional swearword or whiff of someone's "medicinal herbs" if you hang out at the bottom of the Absolut park, but everyone seemed friendly, respectful of each other's space and equipment and getting along just fine. The "chill house" at the bottom of the park is a nice touch, with a skateboard ramp, climbing wall, clean bathrooms and sitting areas which provides a good place to rest between runs, hide from heavy snowfall, or just stash your backpack and jacket while you do sunny park laps. The Absolut snowpark itself is brilliant, with multiple sections of varying difficulty levels running in parallel over a long run and serviced by a dedicated chairlift it's a park where you can spend the entire day and come back for more. Overall we really did love this area, and returned to it most often. The one thing it's missing is food - there's pretty much just 1 or 2 places to get lunch and they are nothing to write home about.

• Zauchensee
Right opposite of Shuttleberg this small area is chock-full of rolling blues and nearly devoid of people, making for a great place to stretch your legs and enjoy how pretty and serene the area is. It gets less sun than the Shuttleberg so snow seems to stay in better shape but can get a bit icy here and there. We only visited once as there wasn't much for us to do, but I image for beginners it would be quite a good place to practice.

• Schladming/Planai
On paper, Schladming seemed very inviting with a serious snow park and supposedly good snow coverage, perhaps thanks to the nearby Dachstein glacier. It's a more modern town with a multi-level parking garage and modern looking shops.
It's a very large linked area with plenty of runs for all levels, but we focused mostly on the snowpark, which ended up being a bit of a disappointment. While it does have many features and is arranged and kept in perfect condition, the layout just didn't work for us. Steep icy landings made crashes frequent, the close proximity of features made runs less efficient, and worst of all once you get down the only way to get back up is via a drag lift. Yes, drag lifts are a common way to service parks, but I hate it with a passion, and even then in most resorts there's an option to ride out further down and away from the park, either returning by chair or simply going elsewhere - not in Schladming, where the park is a dead end trap from which escape is possible only by the slow, queued, frustrating drag lift of doom.
I know it's a much loved resort by many, and thus what I'm about to write will wrinkle some eyebrows, but we absolutely hated Schladming. On our one single visit every single run was windswept and icy, so much so that my partners opted to quit early and head down via gondola. I decided to brave the piste down to town (and made it a good 10-15 minutes faster than they) but it wasn't much fun.

We did not visit the Dachstein glacier.

• Hochkoenig
We visited the area for one day on both occasions. We would probably return more, but it was the furthest away area. The valley is beautiful, the prettiest of all we visited in the region in my opinion, and the resort is quite large spanning multiple peaks which makes for a great destination for long distance touring (not quite the Sella Ronda but good enough). Again, we focused mostly on the snow park and boy was it a boon and a beauty. Hochkoenig, bless them, opted for the rare but much superior layout of park where features are scattered down a long run, and not packed together in a sort of "freestyler ghetto". Serviced by a gondola (with WiFi!), split into sections with features for all levels on each section, a sweeping mild slope provides not only lots of freestyle variety but also plenty of breathing space in between to gather your bearings and prepare. We absolutely, truly loved it to bits, except for maybe a couple flatter icier spots in between sections where a beginner snowboarder might have some trouble.

• we did not visit the Gasteins, as we decided the drive was too far.

Towns, shopping and dining

Most towns we visited were small and with classic Austrian charm. There are plenty of dining options, from a McDonalds at St. Johann and quick/cheap Turkish Kebab to higher-end restaurants with polite service and reservations required. Overall I wouldn't say the area is a culinary heaven but it is definitely sufficient and even has some international cuisine options available.
Shopping was good - there are several large supermarkets open quite late, gas stations with essentials open all night long, and many shops, pharmacies and other businesses. We enjoyed Altenmarkt which as a town without a resort of its own feels more like a town people actually live in and not just a resort, but still has a small town's charm, which is nice. A walk along the main street got us covered with souvenirs, curious food items, and even some good deals on snowboarding gear (especially the 30 euro pants!).
Additionally, St. Johann is a much larger town which definitely feels more like a place to live than a tourist destination, with shopping malls and the like. Not much to write about but if you need to buy something and can't find it in the towns, you'll probably find it in St. Johann just a 20 minute drive away (such as, a big mac. I'm sorry, I can't help it Embarassed )
As for apre, there doesn't seem to be much of it. We did see some bars and clubs, some even seeming quite elaborate in decor, but empty. Maybe we didn't go to the right place (we didn't try too hard) but it definitely does not feel like a party town.

Other notes
    • It seems the majority of tourists in the region are Austrian and German, and in many places English spoken is quite rudimentary and English menus are nowhere to be found. I was never much of an issue, and I got along just fine with my extremely limited German vocabulary and I even think it adds to the charm of an authentic European town, not knowing what the locals say about you Laughing
    • It's completely possible to venture out of the valleys and even make a day trip to Salzburg. Outside of the region you'll find more shopping options and services, if you need 'em.
    • I do not believe chains are likely to be needed anywhere within the region we visited. But at your own risk, of course.
    • On-mountain dining is not as varied as some resorts. You won't go hungry, but the're aren't loads of places to choose from. Those that you will encounter however all have very fair prices and we had no complaints at all.

This got quite long, but I hope some of you find this information helpful, and that despite my sometimes cynical attitude (humorous! I swear!) none of the above will be offensive to anyone. Remember, I'm just an idiot strapped to a board, what do I know.
Feel free to ask me further questions if you've got 'em!
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
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@motig, good review. If you go back and want to party one night it’s not too difficult to find in Flachau. It’s actually pretty well known for the apres.

Give Schladming another go. If you like the Konigstour in the Hochkoenig then have a go at the 4 Berge, start in Reiteralm head to Hochwurzen, Planai and then Haus before heading back.

Fageralm is definitely worth a visit for a day. Or in the past we’ve spent part of the day skiing Radstadt/Altenmarkt then the other half of the day Fageralm.

It’s a brilliant area.
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Great review 👍🏻
I have family in Austria and if it wasn’t for them, I probably wouldn’t have tried this area but I have been skiing/boarding there for nearly 30yrs.
As you mention, there are other resorts in the Alps that are bigger and better, but I think on the whole it is just a typical Austrian area full of charm and character.
We have been to Solden (which I love) the last few times, but our son has just turned 4 and I would prefer for him to learn on the gentler less crowded pistes in Zauchensee, so we have booked for March next yr. We stay in Altenmarkt, which as you say is not a resort, more just a little town, but is perfectly adequate for all needs, then drive up the hill to Zauchensee (approx 5km) and park in the underground (free) carpark.
The runs arn’t too challenging, but coming down the World Cup run on a board is interesting to say the least 😳
I would definitely recommend this area to anyone who are beginners or who have young families 👍🏻
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What good is a review without some photos? So I've picked just a tiny bit to show off the area:

The view we had from our room in Hotel Lisa. I know a parking lot won't seem all that attractive at first but to see it start filling up as the sun rises and people come in from all around the world (or Europe at least) to get their fix of snow was incredibly motivating. Being right at the chairlift made us feel like we're at the front, and have a duty to get up, dress up, and ride the crap out of those pistes.


A view towards Flachau and the valley shows no lack of snow even at the lowest altitudes. Not bad for as dry a season as we had this year.


One of the days greeted us with quite a heavy snowfall and low visibility, but it cleared up and left behind some fresh powder to enjoy. We spent the day touring the length between Flachau and St. Johann:


This photo is from the previous year, which left a better taste than this one (mostly due to weather) at this specific area. One of the Hochkoenig snowpark's top sections, a joy to ride.
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motig wrote:
What good is a review without some photos? So I've picked just a tiny bit to show off the area:

The view we had from our room in Hotel Lisa. I know a parking lot won't seem all that attractive at first...




Thanks for the motorhome parking tip!
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@motig, That's my apartment block in photo 1 - the one just sticking out behind the yellow hotel There are 3 identical blocks. Not as close as you were, but closer than some folk in the car park!
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@holidayloverxx congrats, I'm now jealous enough to re-evaluate my life choices snowHead
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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!
@motig, 6 years now - perfect timing, a happy coincidence of a small inheritance and something available in my price range. Very little comes up in Flachau
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Well you know, for starters, I'd need to re-think this whole being born outside of the EU and having no EU passport/residence thing. Then, the circumstances that led me to living in a country with absolutely no winter sports. Then, once those two are figured out, I'd also need to work out an alternative source of income as I don't think many ski resorts also host software development offices (although Park City UT does have the SkullCandy office, which is fantastic, I've been there!) - with all these hurdles, I don't think I need to worry about real estate availability in Flachau just yet. Shocked
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@motig, https://www.karriere.at/jobs/software-developer/salzburg wink
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Well, there go all my excuses. Packing my bags then! Laughing
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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.
I live half the year out there and love it. Zauch is my fav local resort but mainly for the tree skiing and off piste. Awesome hiking and biking in the summer too Toofy Grin
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I live half the year a 30 minute bike ride from the beach. I also live the other half of the year in the same place, and in neither half do I ride the bike or visit the beach...
This is off topic but since no-one other than Flachau residents seems to care about this review: you lucky basterds, how often do you actually get on your skis/boards with a lovely resort in your back yard? Do you go up for a few runs before/after work? Weekends only? Take days off to ride? etc.
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You know it makes sense.
@motig, I live in the UK, mine is just a holiday flat but I generally get 4 weeks skiing a year there and go in the summer for a week
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Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
@motig, thanks for the time and effort. We've done Radstadt twice, Schladming and Wagrain. This year its Flachau in March.
It is 6 yrs since I last skies, but thanks to a new hip 9 months ago it's on again. I fancied The Dolomites, but flights, transfers and accommodation are so much easier to sort for a group in Austria.
Can't wait
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 Poster: A snowHead
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I couldn't know for sure but I suspect as with any resort a lot would have changed since your last time, hopefully mostly for the better.
I can heartily recommend the Dolomites. Been there twice as well on consecutive years, stayed in Campitello and Canazei. Had a fantastic time, the views are astonishing, the food is fantastic, and the variety of pistes and areas is the best I've experienced, in Europe at least. One of said trips we were a group of 13, we rented both apartments in one house (one hosted 7 of us and the other 6 more) and they were very good, right near Canazei's center. I could probably dig up the place's details if you'd like.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
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@motig, all booked thanks. A house that sleeps 22, just behind the Starjet chair in flachau. 1st morning I will be catching the 8.41 bus instead of the Starjet, and have my first turns above Flachauwinkle and that lovely run back down.
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@motig, last year I did get 96 days skiing, plus a bit of winter climbing. I generally do aboiut 5 days a week, my aging body can't cope with much more. It is nice being able to cherry pick the best conditions, or just do a mornings skiing.

I've been to some good apres sessions around Flachau, next time you are out (fingers crossed) we can see what is on during that week. There are quite a few snowheads living around the Amade region these days.
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@motig, I moved to Ski Amadé over 4 months ago. I work 4 days a week so that's potentially 3 days a week to go skiing. Not too shabby.
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Lovely review of an incredible part of the world!
Next time you are here you must visit Dachstein West and Dorfgastein/Großarl (they are linked) All resorts are IMHO hugely underrated, and Großarl is fantastic for beginners/nervous skiers, far more so that Zauchensee which loses the light at about lunchtime early season making the last run home sometimes a bit precarious, also there is only 1 blue down to the car park, the other 4 are 2 blacks and 2 reds , one being the Worlds Cup run, which is something of a lottery at about 15.00
Shocked


I was really surprised at your dislike of Schladming, next time you are here, if you like , come out with me and I will show you some lovely mellow runs around Schladming and Hauser Kaibling .

When you say there wasnt much apres, did you not visit the Dampfkessel in Flachau? Or the Hofstadl a bit further down? I know its not comparable with Saalbachs Happy Hour but there are some really great places if you want a late afternoon dancing on tables and forgetting where you left your skis Skullie Skullie
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Scarpa wrote:
....I generally do about 5 days a week, my aging body can't cope with much more...

Something about that combo tells me, and I might be wrong, that we're at quite different stages in life. Smile I just hope that when my contribution to the economy/society/my savings accounts is sufficient for retirement, I'll still have the physical ability to enjoy the slopes (tbh, unlikely. Progressive chronic arthritis). My thought was more - if someone working a regular office job 5 days a week lives near a resort, how much do they actually get to ski? When I visited a business partner of mine in Denver this January, I had a weekend off and hopped over for a couple of days at Breck. The CEO then told me he was incredibly jealous because he didn't go skiing once this year yet... And he lives in Denver! rolling eyes Get my point?

Kooky wrote:
I was really surprised at your dislike of Schladming, next time you are here, if you like , come out with me and I will show you some lovely mellow runs around Schladming and Hauser Kaibling


It's not for lack of mellow runs, or lack of runs in general - Schladming is definitely large and has enough pistes for every level. We did almost every run in the Planai section before I took the #1 down and my friends went on the #3 and took the Planai I gondola down from it's middle station because it was too icy to be enjoyable.
But, with snowboarding there are 4 things that kill a boarder's joy, based not only on my experience but on literally every single boarder I have discussed this with:
1. flat/uphill sections; 2. skewed runs (those that have a significant slope sideways); 3. drag lifts; 4. ice
And Schladming had all 4 of these, all over, when we visited. The ice isn't the resort's fault, maybe even the layout of the run down to town is out of their control... but that dead-end drag lift serviced park? That's definitely their fault. It's idiotic. A newbie could literally get trapped there, and have to walk out. Same for someone who got injured, or broke a binding, or in other words - it's not a problem until it is. It's one thing to have a drag lift service the park - it's a different story when it's the only way to get out of it! In my book, a design choice like that is unforgivable.

Regarding Apres I did not look for places in advance - but on both occasions we did go out to the center of Flachau and walked it edge to edge. All the way from the roundabout at the north to past Star jet at the south, including side streets. We saw full restaurants, we saw the occasional straggler having a smoke outside, but no parties, and definitely no drunks prawling the streets - which might be a very positive things for many! In comparison, Mayrhofen or even Canazei at night feels much much livelier.

What I can say is that for 20-somethings, go to the Absolut park's chill house. Friendly folk both local and from far away who'll be glad to share a smoke, do a lap together, or just chat. There's a certain vibe there with freestyle skiers and boarders from all around Europe that was surprisingly positive, and you'll get to chat with the park's shapers too if you hang around long enough.
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@motig, the damfkessel and Hofstadl are at the bottom of the slopes so you wouldn't see them from the main street, also the umbrella bar at the bottom of the achterjet is jumping - you will have seen that staying at the Lisa.. late at night is the Yeti Party Haus, again near the Lisa but it probably doesn't get started till midnight
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Hmm.. I think when we got out the umbrella was done, and possibly the Yeti didn't start yet Smile We did go there and it was deserted. But this is good intel for whoever goes there next so thanks!

By the way, while the Dolomiti Superski does have more pistes (~1200 vs ~700 km iirc) the Amade region has a distinctive advantage - it's much easier to reach all the resorts. Most of the distance is covered on well built dual carriageways and the rest are relatively flat and with pretty much direct access from St. Johann, so if you stay in that central area you'll never drive more than 1 hour for any resort in the pass, as far as I could tell. The Dolomiti resorts are scattered way further, and even within the central hub of Sella Ronda because you have to drive over several passes, getting to the opposite edge (such as Canazei to Alta Badia) takes a good hour an a half of twisty steep (and fun!) roads. So in the end, the amount of accessible terrain in the Dolomiti pass is realistically less than with the Amade pass unless you stay for 2+ weeks and don't mind a lot of driving.
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@motig, yeah the umbrella winds down at about 8pm. The Dampfkessel finishes at 9 and the Hofstadl just keeps going

Love the dolomites too - snowHeads have 2 bashes there every year
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@motig, I think @Scarpa may have given you the wrong impression of his age! Laughing
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@hammerite, Laughing Well I have just turned 50.
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@Scarpa, practically a pensioner then!
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