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Location: snowHeadLand
Resort: Schladming
Country:Austria
Domain: The ‘4-Berge Schischaukel’, and the Ramsau-Dachstein area (not linked), and also part of the massive Ski Amade liftpass agreement (not linked).
Author: Deliaskis

Date: Jan 01 and March 07
Our holiday: First visit just the husband and I, both upper intermediates, second visit H, me and sister, who is a lower intermediate (4 weeks skiing but very sporty and took to it like a duck to water!).
Website : www.schladming-rohrmoos.com , www.skiamade.com, www.planai.at

Basics : Schladming is in the province of Styria/Steiermark in Austria, about 1.25 hours from Salzburg and close to Radstadt, Flachau, Wagrain etc.

Lift system : The system is in general modern and efficient, with lots of fast chairs and very few drags. We haven’t ever really seen any big queues, even getting out of town in the morning. The lifts link the main Planai mountain with the Hauser Kaibling to the east, at mountain level, and with the Hochwurzen and Reiteralm to the west (both valley level links). The resort is only at about 1000m, but the valley links are kept open against all odds, by amazing snow making efforts (see below). The Ramsau-Dachstein liftpass also covers the other regional ski areas, including the glacier, and a number of smaller hills on the way up to the Dachstein, and the Amade liftpass covers this region, Gastein valley, Flachau/Wagrain, Zauchensee, Maria Alm and many more. Flachau, which makes an excellent and easy day out, also has lots of modern fast chairs all over the mountain.

The terrain : There are a lot of miles to cover between the four mountains snowHead so the slopes are quite extensive, but as the four mountains are fairly similar in size and ‘shape’ a lot of the runs are very similar - mainly reds and blues, mostly tree-lined, all at roughly the same pitch. This doesn’t mean it’s dull though, it’s a great place for cruising and is relatively quiet, so that you can work on your technique with no fear of any nasty surprises or big crowds. The world cup slalom run into town is closed until after the race at the end of January, after which mere mortals can ski it. It’s not too scary but is one of the few black runs on the mountain. There are some extensive nursery slopes over at Rohrmoos, which is a village on the way up to the Hochwurzen. If you’re not staying there, it’s a bit inconvenient for beginners to get to, one of the reasons why Schladming isn’t an ideal resort for absolute newbies, although there are some more limited nursery slopes on the Planai too. Mixed ability groups might never see each other if some are learning over at Rohrmoos and the rest tearing around the other mountains. For groups above lower intermediate stage, there’s loads of terrain. Getting up to expert level, there are few real challenges.

The snow : Well we’ve been twice. The first time was in January and we had excellent snow, and grooming was immaculate every morning. The resort is low altitude but north-facing so it holds the snow well. In addition to that, it has the most impressive display of artificial snow making I have ever seen. A large proportion of the pistes are covered and despite daytime temps of over 20 degrees when we were there in March 07, the valley level links between the mountains were kept open. It is definitely a resort where in a poor snow year, you know you will be better off than most of the resorts within a 50km radius, with the exception of glaciers and high and snowy Obertauern. Despite its altitude, and because of the snowmaking, I would always consider Schladming as an option, and would see snow reliability as a plus not a minus Smile .

Off-piste : It’s not an ideal off-piste resort, as a lot of the pistes are lined by thick forest, but there are a few opportunities on the high bits of the Hauser Kaibling and the Reiteralm snowHead.

The resort : Schladming itself is a real town with a life of its own outside of tourism. It’s definitely a small town rather than a village, and the centre is contained within the historic town walls. There are lots of old buildings and many of the hotels have history going back many years. There is a variety of places to stay and eat in town, see below for details. In terms of nightlife, it’s definitely not a rowdy resort full of big groups, but it’s lively enough at après-ski time. Probably not the place if you want to party until dawn though. A number of good ski and skiwear shops so lots of choice if you’re looking to hire or buy equipment. The world cup night slalom in January transforms the town as thousands of visitors arrive. It’s a spectacle and is worth a visit. Hotels don’t seem to hike up the prices for this which is good.

Food : On the mountain, there is lots of choice, from tiny wooden mountain huts, to larger restaurants with big sun terraces. All have a character of their own, but the menus tend to be similar - warming and filling soups, sandwiches, sausages, pasta, pizza, schnitzel etc. those with a large appetite could choose a ‘Brettljause’ - a big wooden board full of slices of ham, salami, cheese, other cold meats, chilli peppers and onions, and several slices of bread. Gravity will get you down the mountain after that! In the town, there are a number of excellent restaurants attached to hotels, including the Landgraf and the Alte Post. They mainly offer good quality Austrian style food, and in the Landgraf in particular, there are some excellent fish dishes. There is a Papa Joe’s Mexican restaurant on the main square above a Konditorei, and a Chinese in the shopping centre behind the main square. The best meal we had was at an excellent steak restaurant tucked away on a back street. It was called the Talbachschenke and was really fabulous, but recommended for carnivores only! A number of pizza and pasta places means there’s really a lot to choose from so something for everybody’s tastes. For those who are self-catering, there are a number of big supermarkets and a farmers market once a week on the square. Near the car park to the Billa on the way into town, there is a mobile chicken shack where you can by rotisserie chickens and chips to take away.

Accommodation : We have stayed in the Alte Post which was lovely, although back in 2001 before the new owners took it on, so can’t comment on what it’s like now. More recently, in March 2007 we stayed in the ground floor apartment in Has Girik, a small private apartment house opposite the hotel Sport Royer. The apartment was spacious and clean, not modern in style but certainly comfortable and well equipped. It is very good value, and the lady who owns it is very friendly and helpful. They have a bread service so breakfast doesn’t involve a cold morning walk! The house is quietly situated and is just a 5 minute level walk to the lifts in the morning, and to the town centre. The nearest restaurant and supermarket is just a couple of minutes walk.

Costs: Schladming doesn’t have any of the inflated prices of some of the bigger name resorts, but everything is of a fairly high quality in terms of accommodation and food, so it’s not a real budget option, but it is very good value. Pizzas from about EUR6.50, meat and fish dishes around EUR10 upwards, etc.

Conclusion: Well we liked it enough to go back a second time, and the snow reliability and Amade liftpass mean we would always consider it as a reliable choice in the future. Would definitely recommend for people of lower intermediate level and above, but I wouldn’t really recommend it for mixed ability groups though. World cup week has an atmosphere all of its own and is not to be missed.

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