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Location: snowHeadLand
Resort: Au im Bregenzerwald
Country: Austria
Domain: Drei Taler
Author: carled
Date: Thursday 8th - Saturday 10th Jan, 2009
Our holiday: This was a semi-experimental short break to see the feasibility of getting to the Vorarlberg region from Friedrichshafen. Also gave my two daughters a snowy post-Christmas treat! And my Mum came along just so she could say she'd skied with her grandchildren...

Website :
Basics : Physically it's not far from Friedrichshafen - if hiring a car and driving it would have been MUCH quicker getting there, but we were keeping costs down and used public transport. You can get to/leave from Friedrichshafen airport by bus or train (or taxi, I suppose) and we jumped on the Bregenz express which was half an hour after we landed. €20 for 2 adults and 2 children to get to Bregenz and it took 40 minutes. From there it was the standard Postbus. €19.60 (again, for all 4 of us) to get all the way to Au, first on the no. 35 bus to Bezau (1 hour or so) and then 20 minutes more on the no. 40 bus. The No. 40 goes to/from Dornbirn, which is a bit further on from the valley than Bregenz. Theoretically you could get the bus all the way from Dornbirn to Au without a change if you went all the way to Dornbirn instead of Bregenz from the airport. So after landing at 9:50 or so, we were in resort for 12:40-ish. Using Google maps driving directions, it is 86km and 1h 22mins all the way from Airport to the door of our accommodation, so in theory you could be in resort for 11:30am allowing a bit of faff time at the airport with hire cars and if you had your own equipment, you could be straight up the mountain at Diedamskopf, the main area.

Returning we left the resort at 16:09 and did the same changeover in Bezau. As the bus was busier, we were a few minutes late getting to Bregenz and missed the connecting train (bus doesn't run late on Saturdays) so had to get a different one to the main town station. There was also a connecting train to the airport from there we could have got, but we were asking questions as it pulled away! so we got taxi instead (€11 from town to airport for 4 people & luggage). Arrived at airport with plenty of time to spare at about 7:30. Flight back departed on time (well done Ryanair!) and landed 10 minutes ahead of schedule (with a big BUMP!).

Lift system : It's limited, but we knew this before going. 55km-ish of piste, but lots of those are virtually next to each other and identical, so not much variety. a good mix of blacks, blues and reds though, with grading about right. (an absolute nutter black run down to gondola middle station, looks like a sheer wall when you approach it from the gondola!). Only three "main" lifts - the big gondola from valley to top (15 minutes) then a detachable 6-man and a moving-belt non-detachable 4-seater on the other side of the ski area. Also two or three t-bars around but we steered clear of those. A family day ticket (one adult and two kids under 16) was €52.20 and was good value. Individual adult cost was about €34 for the day, with reducing prices starting at 11am-ish. Non-lift-linked with a 3-day+ pass to other Bregenzerwald areas such as Damuls and Mellau (both about 10km away and reachable on free ski bus).

The terrain : The skiing is in one big area once you get up the gondola. Splits into a sort of cut where two hills reach. 70% of area is on left of hill as you look up, catches the sun all day. Remaining 30% is on right and is in shade a lot of the time. There is also a tiny t-bar in Au centre, but it's mainly for tobogganing and absolute beginners. It's always in the shade of the mountain so it's blooming freezing over there. Right side of main area is quieter as it's a blue rat run to get there (or I think you can get a short steep t-bar, but we didn't). Small area with a few reds and blues, but not much. We spent 90% of time on left area. This has a profusion of blues down from the closely situated top of the gondola and the 6-man lift. All runs lead back to either a long t-bar or the 6-man chair. Biggest queue was 5 mins. Many blue runs are just the same run but a few yards away from the others... so a bit samey, but loads of space and interesting hollows and bumps and gradient differences to allow you to muck about and always end up back down at the same spot.

From Gondola down to mid-station are steeper reds and blacks. A few of them (didn't go on them) looked seriously steep and we saw a few spectacular tumbles. Snowboard park off in this area too and visible from 6-man chair so you can see the nutter boarders having a long run up to the huge jump there. Most entertaining. All in all, quite a lot of variety to keep you busy for 2 days. More than that would get a bit samey.
The snow : Not snowed for a while, but the cold temps had preserved it all. Very soft and forgiving, no icy patches at all. South facing slopes got a little softer in sunshine, but nothing troublesome. Generally dry powder on top of firm piste, great fun. Trees in shade are still laden with snow, so looks great.
Off-piste : All tracked out, but whole area is one gigantic bowl, so in fresh snow it would have been brilliant with short (varying steepness) runs down to gondola mid-station. You can cut between all pistes and there are loads of small bumps, lips and jumps everywhere, so a real playground.
The resort : Very Austrian. No other English there at all and English not widely spoken, but certainly enough to get by if your German isn't up to much. Sprawling but very well connected with local ski bus every 20 minutes, so no problems. If you have the choice, choose to stay near to Diedamskopf gondola station, out of Au itself. Small collection of restaurants/accommodation/shops over there and much nearer to slopes. Still only 20 minutes from our accommodation to slopes.
Food : Didn't eat out. Self-catered in very handy kitchen of b&b. restaurants at top and middle stations of gondola and also near top of 4-man chair on other sife of ski area. All the usual self-service stuff.
Accommodation : We stayed in private guesthouse called "Helga Baer". Nice lady, nice breakfasts, clean rooms, useful public kitchen. Loads of other similar places.
Costs: Pound/Euro situation doesn't help! Pretty much parity at time of trip. B&B was €130 for two nights for me & my 2 daughters sharing a room. Beer on slopes €3.50 for half litre, €3 at resort level, so cheaper than most "big" resorts. Main meals in mountain restaurants €6-8 and sandwiches/snacks about €4. Gluehwein €3.50, soft drinks about €2.70 for 0.33 bottle. Did food shopping inc. snacks/choc/crisps for each night for all 4 for about €25 in local Spar, so relatively good value.
Conclusion: Not bad at all. Friendly resort, ski hire shops prepared to haggle a bit (we got equipment for first afternoon included in two day hire cost without much argument - skis & boots for girls was €28 for two days and a snowboard for me was €46 for 2 days). The travel is ok, could have been better with hire car, but would have made it much more expensive. Good traditional Austrian resort, lovely views, we had fantastic clear weather and good conditions (minus 14 in evenings was preserving the snow!). Thoroughly recommend a visit if you fancy trying it. Feel free to ask for details on anything that I've missed out if you're planning on doing it!

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