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Domain: None, although is included on the Salzburg Superskipass
Date: New Year 04/05
Our holiday: Two couples new year trip away, two later intermediates, one early intermediate and one almost beginner
Website : www.obertauern.com and www.obertauern.at both have accommodation booking. www.tauernrunde.at has lift info and piste opening details.
Basics : Obertauern is one of Austriaâ€™s few purpose-built resort set high on the snowy Tauernpass which goes from Radstadt south to near Villach. Itâ€™s about an hour and a half from Salzburg and can be reached by train (to Radstadt and taxi (or bus â€“ not late at night) or by direct taxi transfer (good value and convenient if split between a few of you). Itâ€™s also possible to talk the Planai bus driver (headed to Schladming) into picking you up and dropping you off in Radstadt from where you can get a taxi to OT .
Lift system : Almost exclusively chairs apart from a couple of access gondolas and from memory two draglifts (in nursery areas). Mostly modern high-speed chairs with some slower ones.
The terrain : The ski area is based on the â€˜Tauernrundeâ€™ or mountain circuit which can be skied in either direction. Itâ€™s highlighted on the piste map in red or green and you can follow the red or green signposts when youâ€™re out skiing. The resort is at about 1700m which is great for snow reliability but the only drawback is that it offers a fairly short vertical. There are 95km of piste and because of the circuit, you do get a fairly good feeling of travelling, but the extent of the area is not massive so you do end up skiing the same pistes over and over, albeit having great fun doing so . The pistes are mainly red and blue with only about 4 blacks, one of these being the fearsome Gamsleiten piste â€“ not for the faint-hearted. The top is steep and mogully and once you have got on the lift, thereâ€™s only one way down ! There isnâ€™t however a lot of expert terrain, but what there is, is quite good fun.
My sister was an almost beginner (had one day in Scotland 15 years ago) and was able to ski the circuit pretty well by mid-week (I flatter myself that my tutoring had something to do with it), so learners can â€˜travelâ€™ almost as much the experts.
Most of the skiing is above the treeline and the area offers some stunning views. We were there for new year and did unfortunately have some problems with visibility due to the cloud and snow.
The snow : Absolutely buckets of it, and it tends to stay around too and stay in pretty good condition. Grooming whilst we were there was excellent (despite the fact that it snowed solidly for a week).
Off-piste : We didnâ€™t do much off-piste on this holiday as I was spending much of the time tutoring my sister who was a beginner, and to be honest, I didnâ€™t see a huge amount of ideal off-piste territory, although there was some. Because the skiing travels around the circuit, you always need to be sure you end up at the right height for the lift you were aiming for.
The resort : As stated above, this is one of Austriaâ€™s only purpose-built resorts, so it doesnâ€™t have the typical charm and character of the Austrian villages with their onion-dome churches etc. Most of the buildings are fairly high-rise chalet style hotels, including some really gaudy buildings in lurid pinks and yellows. That said, it has a lot more charm than the other purpose built resorts Iâ€™ve been to, and the Austrian aprÃ¨s-ski means that the atmosphere around town is fairly jolly. The area around the Latschenalm seems to be the hub of aprÃ¨s-ski activity. Most guests are German, Austrian and Dutch and you donâ€™t see a lot of brits around. I donâ€™t think it would be a great place for non-skiers as there isnâ€™t much else to do, although this is a good resort for skiers to meet non-skiers back at the village for lunch, as you are never that far from it.
Food : We ate in the hotel every evening, but on the mountain, the Edelweisshuette was good and the on-piste Austria hotel. The two restaurants up at the Seekar area were also great. There are lots of lovely traditional table service restaurants here which is nice when youâ€™re tired. Food is almost exclusively Austrian and pizza/pasta based.
Accommodation : Accommodation is a mix of hotels, B&Bs and apartments, with most being hotels, all of a fairly high standard. We stayed at the Wisenegg which is a little bit out of town. It was great in terms of food and service, and we could ski in at the end of the day which is the main things. The local taxi service is very cheap and efficient (we called them at 9.30pm on new years eve and they arrived in 5 minutes!) so itâ€™s easy to get around if youâ€™re staying out of town. The village is a bit strung out along the main road, so if you are a family group, make sure your combination of accommodation, rental and skischool works as there could be some longish walks, although the place isnâ€™t that big!
Costs: As itâ€™s a high resort for Austria (and especially for this region), it is quite popular, and is therefore not cheap, but it also isnâ€™t expensive! We paid EUR75 per night for HB (New Year week) in the Wisenegg which compared with lots of bigger resorts is a bargain. There is also a wide choice of accommodation with some youth and sports hostels for those on a tight budget, to luxury hotels costing five times as much. Cost of food and drink on the mountain is fairly uniform - EUR5 for soup, EUR7/8 for pasta or sausages, EUR10 for something bigger.
Conclusion: A great all-round resort, not typically Austrian but a lot nicer than many other high-altitude high-rise resorts. Good value overall.
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