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Location: snowHeadLand
Resort: Obertauern

Country: Austria

Domain: Part of the Lungo region (Obertauern and 4 smaller nearby resorts, not linked to each other) and the Salzburg Superskipass region.

Lift pass: 7 days Obertauern only was just under €200 (€197 IIRC), 7 days Lungo region was just over €200 (€204 IIRC) (adult prices).

Author: Richmond.

Date: Feb 2009 (half term)

Our group: Family; 2 'adults', 2x 14yo kids.

Website: I used this one.

Executive summary (for all you busy people): A good intermediate resort, good snow, mercifully uncrowded at half term. Lacks atmosphere and challenge. The nearby resorts may be useful.

The skiing: The skiing is around a bowl at the top of a pass. The town is at about 1700m, the skiing goes up to about 2200m. The snow record is excellent (too much falling while we were there). The runs are short, the longest is about 500m vertical, and red or blue. There are a few blacks, all but one of which are really red, at least in the excellent snow conditions which we enjoyed. Few bumps in evidence, although I understand that the one true black gets bumpy (we didn't do it because of bad weather and griplessness). Not a large area, but we don't mind that at all. Pleasant but not very interesting skiing, and you can see it almost all from almost everywhere; there are no other towns or villages to ski to.

The lift system is reasonable, mainly chairs, one bubble, a few drags. Queues almost non existent even during half term week. The few slow 2 seaters could usefully be replaced, mainly to shorten freezing cold rides.

The weather was fairly foul for most of the 7 days we skied; a lot of snow, poor vis and high, bitterly cold winds; -15C and lower in places. We had one blue sky day, which was if anything even colder. As a result, we skied a couple of the other Lungo resorts (see below).

There are plenty of watering holes, all much as you'd expect, the usual Austrian stuff; wooden tables, stuffed animals and funny little bars looking like cheap conservatories, full of bull necked Austrians and loud Dutch getting pissed at lunchtime (and earlier). We didn't eat much lunch, but drinks were not cheap.

Off-piste: There seems to be plenty of (shortish) off piste runs served by lifts. Our kids took advantage of the mammoth dumps to have a couple of private lessons with Herman from the Grillitsch school. He found plenty of untracked powder on the day after a huge dump and the day after that (by which time it had become a bit wind packed, if that's the expression I want). I guess it's not a powder hounds' resort, which may be why the powder stayed untracked. Herman seemed to do a good job for the kids; my daughter was apprehensive (God knows why) but really enjoyed it.

The town: Purpose built in a vaguely Austrian style, not especially attractive, not especially hideous, lacks any real character. Basically a string of hotels along the main road, with a few side roads. We didn't explore the apres, although the one evening we ventured out, the number of staggering and prostrate bodies suggested that there was some. Nothing much for non skiers to do, although my son enjoyed a day and a bit's kite skiing, highly recommended (by him, it looked far too much like hard work to me).

We were on half board so only ate out on our last evening, in a perfectly decent pizzeria.

Kit hire: We used the branch of Ski World more or less in our hotel, because it was there. Seemed fine. The kids' boots were stiff, as they requested, and our skis slid down the mountain in the approved manner. The OL and I were recommended shorter skis than we'd normally go for; we gave them a whirl, and in the poor vis we were grateful for skis which turned on a 6d. The chap gave me a large schnapps from an optic on the counter at about 10.30 one morning when I bought a (very expensive) pair of goggs for my son (which just goes to show how cheap schnapps is and how big their mark up on goggs is, I suppose, but it was very welcome in the blizzard conditions that prevailed outside).

Accommodation: We DIYed half board in the Hotel Marietta, fortunately paid for last summer. Very comfortable (pool, spa) and well run but a bit lacking in character (perhaps the character of this resort is a lack of character). Food was good. Excellent buffet brekkers, everything you could reasonably want, some things you'd never imagine you'd want (a selection of whole grains and a mill to make your own bespoke wholemeal flour, anyone? My son enjoyed it mixed with hot choc.). Freshly prepared eggs, including omelets. Dinner also buffet, not the Banff Springs but a very good selection nevertheless, much cooked to order. Although I am sensible of the benefits of being able to stuff yourself until you're sick, and yield to no-one in my enjoyment of over indulgence in good food, I don't usually like buffet dinners, too many people milling about and it's difficult to eat with your mates/family. Fortunately, we could eat from the regular restaurant's table d'hote, which we did several times, perfectly decent, or from the a la carte at 50 % off, which we didn't. Comfortable but pricey bar with an apparently award winning cocktail waiter (who was black, thus giving the lie to any suggestion that Austrians are a bunch of racist gits. As if.).

The resort is popular with the Dutch, and it was a school hol there too, so the predominant voices on the slopes and in the hotel, and bloody loud voices they were too, were Dutch. When they start a conversation three tables away, it sounds as if someone is about to expectorate in one's beer, and the clothes are like a nightmare version of the 70s; blokes of 50 in hideous dress shirts with jeans, or sweaters in bright colours with no shirt underneath, women with jewellery which must have needed a crane to lower it into place, and all smoking like lums when they weren't snogging (and sometimes both at the same time). Hideous but harmless.

Travel: Due to me going for slash in the middle of the booking process, we had to fly LHR to Salzburg via Frankfurt to get reasonably priced tix (about £200 each IIRC). We flew Luftwaffe (in fairness to the real Luftwaffe, had they been as gripless in 1939 as Lufthansa were last week, the last lot would have been over by Xmas), who did not live up to their usual high standards; nothing desperate, but each leg was late in both directions, and boarding was chaotic. Three of us couldn't check in at Salzburg for the FRA - LHR journey. The woman at the desk at FRA tried, very helpfully, to get us four together despite us saying we weren't bothered one way or the other. She managed eventually to get a pair and two singles, but when we got on the plane, we were told it was a free for all. Not a problem for us but a bit of shambles (my son, rather shrewdly, managed to busk his way into business, despite the OL being thrown out).

We had a cab (a Merc van actually) up to Obertauern and back. On the way there, in heavy snow, we had to give a lift to some Brits whose cab driver hadn't thought to take chains, and we were then held up by a UK coach which hadn't put its chains on as soon as it should have. The cost, €199 return, was much cheaper than other companies I enquired of; good old VIP-Shuttle 99.

We stayed in Obertauern Sat to Sat. We skied all day on the second Sat and took the cab to Salzburg airport, where we stayed in the Pension Hutter, a basic but adequate B&B (no village or anything very near - arrive late and fed). If it was any closer to the airport, you'd have to go through security to get to your room.

Other resorts: Because of bad weather in Obertauern, we skied two days in the Aineck area, on the edge of the town/village of St Magarethen, chosen for being the lowest resort with the most tree runs. Very small, one chair, 3 drags, but very enjoyable indeed for some reason. Much better weather. We travelled by bus, included with the Lungo pass. Buses were OK, but a bit late and few and far between, and we had to change. On our second visit there, the bus from Obertauern was so late (snow and slow Dutch and German drivers, I think) that we missed our connection. Rather than wait, we skied the Grosseck-Speiereck area above Mautendorf over to St Michael and luckily connected with a bus to St Magarethen there. Prices for drink in these small places were about half those in Obertauern, food not as much cheaper.

I'd recommend the Lungo pass, not because the skiing in Obertauern is limited (although it is, but I don't mind that), but in case of foul weather in Obertauern and because they seem to be jolly places worth a visit in their own right.

Shall we go again? Probably not. Although we enjoyed it, neither the skiing nor the resort has enough about it to visit again when there are so many other places unvisited. Its best features are the amount and quality of snow and it's quietness at half term. If we do go again, I'll be tempted to have a car and stay in one of the nearby towns, probably Mautendorf, and use the Lungo (or possibly the Super Salzburg) pass to ski in Obertauern and elsewhere. The kids want to go back to St Anton next year, and I don't blame them.

Obertauern Resort Report Feedback Thread

Ian Hopkinson - Contains extended scenes of peril - Me & Mrs H
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