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Domain: Ski Welt
Date: 21-28 March 2009
Our holiday: Travelling as a solo, using TO Neilson.
Website : http://www.skiwelt.at/en and/or http://www.wilderkaiser.info/en Webcams at http://www.skiwelt.at/en/webcams.html
Basics : The villages of Going and Ellmau are at the Eastern end of the Ski Welt area, about 1 hour 20 mins transfer from Salzburg airport by TO coach. I flew from Manchester to Salzburg, and due to a quirk of scheduling with Thomas Cook Airlines, this meant arriving in Salzburg at 11:40 one Saturday and not leaving until 19:05 the following Saturday. SO I was in resort about 14:15, and was on the lifts by 15:00 on arrival day.
Lift system : The majority of the lifts in the Ski Welt are now Chairs, with gondolas being the first lift up from most of the villages. the first lift from Going is a chair, and from Ellmau is a funicular railway (5 minutes between trains). Just about all the area is now interconnected by lifts, with a new gondola having been installed this year to connect Brixen and Westendorf. The main lift to the Astberg is about half way between the villages of Going and Ellmau, while the main Funicular runs from the outskirts of Ellmau village.
The terrain : The terrain consists mainly of one range of linked mountains, plus the Westendorf area off to one side a little. The pistes run in all directions, mainly red and blue, with a few blacks and a few marked "ski routes" around. The pistes are all labelled with numbers, with the number being that of the lift that you will reach at the end of the piste. Where multiple pistes lead to the same lift, they will be labelled something like 96b, 96c etc. The piste map is not particularly good - it can be difficult to work out what lifts you need to get from one part of the area to another. The labelling is generally good, although you do occasionally find that what was labelled at the top has disappeared without much warning (e.g. 97c and 99 labelled together from the top of the Brandstadl, but 97c disappears half way down unless you know where it goes).
The snow : As close to perfect as is possible at that time of year. There had been fresh snow falls a few days before, and coverage was excellent even in the valley. We also had heavy snowfalls mid week, resulting in several inches of fresh powder on top of the pisted runs on Thursday morning. The snow, although plentiful, was a little heavy and hard going for the bottom few hundred feet of the valley runs, but this was the end of March.
Off-piste : I don't really ski off-piste, but there was plenty of it around, and often with pistes running below, so it had to be avalanche controlled.
The resort : Ellmau and Going are two separate large villages, about 2Km apart. Fairly typical small Austrian towns, with a reasonable variety of accommodation/eating places/nightclubs/shops.
Food : In resort, I only ate in the hotel. On the mountains, I would recommend the Panorama restaurant at the top of the Hartkaiser (fantastic views, very modern with escalators to the loos), The Rigi at the far end of the area, or the Aualm next to the base of lift 71 (which seems to be a required link when heading back towards Ellmau).
Accommodation : I stayed in the Blattlhof hotel, which is on the main road between Ellmau and Going (but you don't hear the road from inside unless you have your windows open). Listed by Neilson as 3*, by the Austrian tourist board as 4* (the difference probably because it has a swimming pool only in the summer). Very spacious single room. Decent Wellness area, although lacking a proper "cold room" and no whirlpool bath. Good meals - dinner 4 course plus salad, with a choice of main and dessert buffet, breakfast the usual cold buffet plus a couple of hot items. Also a small "skiers snack" provided between 4pm and 5pm. It is about 250m walk (uphill) to the Astberg chairlift, or ski buses from directly outside take you to either the Astberg or the Hartkaiser funicular in a few minutes.
Costs: Hot chocolate on the mountain â‚¬2.50-3.00, Gulaschesuppe â‚¬3.00 - â‚¬4.50, Tiroler Groestl â‚¬7.00 - â‚¬8.00 for a large plateful, large beer in the hotel â‚¬3.10. Lift pass (low season) â‚¬154 for entire Ski Welt area. More expensive pass available covering 7 areas in Kitzbuheler Alps region, but only worthwhile if you have a car and more than one week.
Conclusion: Probably the best ski trip I have had, partly due to the company (skied with two local snowheads during the week), partly due to the conditions, which were exceptionally good, and partly due to the quality of the both the accommodation and the ski area. I would very happily return to both the area and the specific hotel.
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