Base location: Söll, SkiWelt
Dates: Sunday 10th to Thursday 14th December
A little late, but better than never...
When you find yourself with 9 days of annual leave left and can only carry over 5 of them, what could you possibly do with 4 days? The answer came in the form of an email from Jet2 reminding me that they flew from Stansted to Salzburg, which made me wonder why I'd not used them before despite being a regular out of LBA for several years. The answer was that they only fly on Sunday and Thursday, which is odd for a ski destination where most bookings are Saturday to Saturday. But hey, that meant that 3.5 days skiing could be had and the bonus was that the return flight was £59 and carriage of my wheeled ski bag with all of my kit in it was an extra £1. I've never been on a solo trip before, but I was prepared to give it a go and see what happened, especially as I'd had some contacts in the run-up and had made arrangements to meet up with a fellow Snowhead for a day.
The only problem was that the weather forecast in the UK was for heavy snow, so with a 5am departure to get to the airport for an 8am flight and the weather forecast showing snow from 5am, I had flashbacks to 2010. The M11 was snowy but the surface was clear, while the mid-stay carpark had a dusting of snow
The airport was open, my skis were checked in, and security was negotiated in less than 10 minutes. The gate was allocated, we boarded the aircraft, and all looked good until a 20 minute delay was announced for de-icing. With that completed, we were pushed back and made our way to the runway - which didn't look hopeful.
However, the flight departed without incident, and we arrived in Salzburg only 10 minutes late. I had arranged a hire car via Holiday Autos, and despite it being from Megadrive I was out of the airport within 25 minutes of landing. With no issues on the way to Söll, I was at the lift car park by 1330, and having extracted my kit and changed beside the car, I was on the first lift up by 1350. Conditions in Söll were excellent, the best early season they've had for a long time, and the pistes were quiet and in a good state
Having regained my ski legs on Sunday afternoon, Monday was planned for a trip across the SkiWelt, completing as many of the valley runs as I could. This didn't start well, as the run into Itter was closed as the uplift was not yet operational, but I then completed the runs into Hopfgarten and Brixen in quick succession - the run into Brixen in particular was a joy, as I'm used to it being a slushy mogul field, but with the conditions and the lack of people it was in perfect condition all the way down
Crossing to Scheffau, a chance encounter and a throwaway comment introduced me to a great group who took me under their wing for the rest of the day - so thank you Jim, Martin, Steve from Hotel Gänsleit, and their friends for making me feel very welcome as we covered the valley runs in Scheffau, Ellmau, and back to Söll.
Tuesday was the appointed day to meet up with Jafa in the Kitzbuler Alpen, and after a drive around the hills I'd been skiing on the day before, we met up at the Fleckalmbahn. Having bought the Salzburg Superski pass for 3 days, this was included in the covered areas, and having previously visited Kirchberg and Kitzbuhel at a time when conditions were far from ideal, I was keen to give it another chance especially with a guide who knew the area well. The only problem was the very heavy snow which fell continually through the day, which made for an interesting tour - where last time there wasn't enough snow, this time there was almost too much, and Jafa and I rotated the role of entertainment provider as we discovered the perils of unexpectedly skiing off the side of the piste into thigh deep snow in a whiteout. I can certainly confirm that Kitzbuhel had enough snow, but I'm not sure I saw much of the area through the day, especially as ice was freezing across our goggles for much of the time, requiring a wipe every 10 seconds or so to be able to see anything at all. Without a guide who knew the area, I would have been lost in minutes and so I have to say a very big thank you to Jafa both for his navigational assistance, and for his hospitality - I'm sure he wouldn't have chosen these conditions for his first day of the season, but having made the offer he stuck to it, and I thoroughly enjoyed the day despite the lack of visibility. I have no photos from this day, for obvious reasons...
That only left Wednesday, and with no plans and a bluebird day forecast, I checked on the coverage of my pass in the hope of finding one of the smaller areas to explore for the first time when I realised that it also included the Zillertal Arena from Zell am Ziller up to Gerlos and Konigsleiten. I'd been there about 10 years ago and enjoyed it, so for both variety and to see the old place again I drove over for the day. What a day it was - lots of overnight snow, blue skies, and pistes which had no more than 5-6 people on in total.
The link from Zell over the top and through the back valleys was one of my most vivid memories from the last time I was there, and it didn't disappoint on this occasion either. With no signs of habitation and the lifts mainly hidden by the terrain, it felt like I was in the Antarctic.
I made the most of the day, returning to Zell after 4pm - though unfortunately I took the unpisted and mogulled ski route down into town, which my legs didn't thank me for. I'd had an incredible day, and my first full day of skiing on my own proved to me that I could enjoy it rather than it feeling odd. In scenery like this, what else could I do?
I stayed at the Gästehaus Edinger in Söll, at 40 per night for a single room with breakfast. Evening entertaiment was at the Whiskey Muhle, Schulhaus and Bella Vita in Söll (part of the reason for choosing this location), with an excellent steak on the final night at Auf da Muhle restaurant.
In an exceptional start to the year, I had an exceptional trip. I'd never considered skiing in December before, but I doubt this will be the last time!
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Glad you enjoyed it. When there`s snow, without a doubt then and the first week after New Year, from a pure skiing point of view is generally the best of the season. Other than 2006/2007, over the last twenty years, there`s always been sufficient snow to have a great time in Kitzbuhel before Christmas. It kind of kick starts Christmas.