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TR: Improvers in Westendorf (SkiWelt) 17th-23rd March 2018

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Sadly back from an unexpectedly brilliant week in Westendorf, so thought it might be worth a trip report! Apologies if this is a bit long...

Skiers: A pair of mid-30s improvers; this was our 5th week skiing (we started late...), and our second trip this year. We skied in Saalbach-Hinterglemm in January (there's a short TR for that hiding in the S-H thread), and felt some improvement so decided we should keep that going with another trip. We usually try and stick to blue runs and have had a bit of a mental block about red/steeper blue/more challenging runs, so the purpose of this holiday was to try and overcome that now we're a bit more in control.
All the costs except for food below are total for two people.

Travel: Booked flights from Gatwick to Innsbruck on BA a month or so ago, £285 return. We initially also booked a hire car from Innsbruck, but cancelled it and took the train instead. Total for the return trip from central Innsbruck to Westendorf station (changing at Worgl) was approx £50 (as opposed to nearly £200 for a hire car). The bus from the airport to central Innsbruck was dead easy to use and a couple of euros each. We messed up at the Westendorf end though by not booking a taxi from the station to the village - assumed there would be some waiting for arrivals. This meant a rather irritating 15 minute walk up to the village with bags. Not the end of the world but a bit sweaty! We got a taxi back to the station at the end of the trip, cost about a fiver. Overall, the journey was pretty easy, the only glitch was a missed connection in Worgl on the way back and a half hour wait for the next train, luckily we'd left plenty of time so no drama.

Hotel and food: We booked the Hotel Alpenhof just two weeks before the trip (we were waiting to see where the snow was decent near Innsbruck, answer this year was everywhere!). Nice small hotel, basic but very comfortable. No lift though, rough on the legs after skiing! We paid £500 for 6 nights, bed and breakfast. Breakfast was simple but good - decent coffee, hot boiled eggs (my favourite comfort food...), fresh breads, juice, fruit, hams etc... For dinner we ate twice at the hotel's very good Italian, Il Vagabondo - tasty pizzas and meat dishes, we had some excellent venison dishes one night. We tried Fienn Sinn once and it wasn't great, just a bit overpriced for not amazing food, summed up by a slightly stringy fillet steak at over 30 quid Shocked . Then twice at the restaurant at Hotel Mesnerwirt which was cosy and good with lovely filling Austrian dishes and tempting puds. Prices everywhere tended to be £15-£25 for a main (each), more for steaks.

Ski hire, lift pass and lessons: We internet booked 5 days of ski and boot hire from Hausberger, going for the middling quality skis, for around £160 in total including storage (the shop is at the bottom of the Schneeberg chair which is basically the easy way onto the hill). Had no problems with them at all (except for me getting used to them, I'd always had the most basic beginner skis before) and the service was very friendly. Lift passes for 5 days for the Skiwelt area were £310 in total, and we had a day in Kitzbuhel which was £40 total for the add-on (for info, the Skiwelt pass gets you on the bus from Ki-west to the Kirchberg lifts, then you buy the add on there). We booked two days of 2 hour private lessons with Klaus Hain (Schneesportschule Alpin), an independent instructor who was for us absolutely perfect - sense of humour, very experienced, excellent at explaining why we should do certain things to improve (which many instructors we've had have not been able to do) - to be honest he made our holiday as we really felt we got better under his instruction. £200 in total, and worth every single penny, such a confidence giver.

The skiing: We had 5 days of skiing, of which we spent 3 in Westendorf only, 1 in the wider Skiwelt area, and 1 skiing over to Kitzbuhel. The conditions went from mist and spring slush on Sunday, through low cloud, cold, and continuous light to heavy snow Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, then a cold but blue sky day on Thursday to finish. There was LOADS of snow to ski on - I realise we got lucky as this season has been amazing, but we were surprised by how good even the lower runs were (bearing in mind that Westendorf sits at 800m). The snow making and piste maintenance is clearly top quality here.

Day 1, we had a 'getting our legs back' day, and tried out something we'd decided to do before the hol - namely, not stop and look down each bit of a run (and contemplate, and get scared, and freeze, and decide it's too steep for us...), but just crack on and ski down things without thinking too hard! Worked pretty well we felt... we stuck to the main home run blues off the Alpenrosenbahn and Choralmbahn gondolas, starting from the middle stations (110a, 113), then working our way up to do 111, a long blue from the top of Alpenrosenbahn to the bottom of the Chorlambahn. In the slush, the latter run had some bumpy, irritating parts - but as we discovered later in the week, with nice snow 111 is a gorgeous cruise down for improvers. There are a couple of steeper bits but all nice and wide. We also discovered that to get back to Schneeberg from 110a, you have to do a bit of the 110b red - felt a bit intimidating at first, but actually not much steeper than the blues and the snow was always good, we didn't see a bump on it (you may be able to tell we're not great at dealing with bumpy pistes...).

Days 2 and 4 were again spent in Westendorf, lessons in the morning and then practice, practice, practice in the afternoons. Our lessons were focused on the short blues and reds served by a chair and drags at the top of the Alpenrosenbahn (114 red, 115 blue, bottom part of 117b) - steep enough to be a good challenge for us and ideal for the lessons (no poles? but how do I keep upright...?), but no doubt pretty dull for decent skiers. Our practice in the afternoons we mainly stuck to 111 again and 110b (red) from the middle station. Visibility was pretty poor up top, and in fact we scared the poop out of ourselves on the Wednesday afternoon by trying out the top of 117b from the Fleiding chair - heavy snow, couldn't tell piste from sky, and far steeper than we were used to (with a narrow bit thrown in). Yuck.

Day 3 was Skiwelt day - we'd thought we might try and do red 11 down from the skiweltbahn to Brixen, but again visibility was pretty bad up top and I'd read that it was pretty challenging, so instead we downloaded to Brixen on the gondola and popped back up the other side (easy connection across a little bridge, and felt better about being a shandy when watching people use the drag rope that gets you across the flat valley floor from run 11, looked like a pain in the hole). Across at the main Skiwelt and it became clear that all that I'd read about the map/piste marking being awful was quite true. We spent some time getting lost, and not knowing what runs we were on or not, but still having fun on the shorter reds and blues in the middle of the area. Amazing how much time can be wasted looking at the damn map though! We decided to try a longer red than we'd previously had the guts for and did the red 60 down to Scheffau - really nice, a definite thigh burner for us because we had to try harder, but perfect snow, few people and nice wide steeps to find a rhythm on. Of course, having done that we decided that the red run back to Brixen, 6/1b, would be absolutely fine... and it would have been, had 1b not been a sheet of brown ice. Still, we made it down (making use of the side-slip!); it was odd that this was the only piste in really poor condition we skied all week, not sure if it's a lack of snow making, or just overuse? Overall, we didn't touch the sides of the Skiwelt, there is just so much of it, with nice wide pistes. However, I would say that when it is recommended for blue run only skiers I'm not convinced - because of the piste marking and where the lifts were, we found that we had to take reds to get to where we wanted to be, and I don't think that we'd have been as happy with that in our third or fourth week skiing. It's all in the mind I know, and probably helped us get over the whole 'argh, it's a red' thing!

Day 5 and the sun shone finally! One day of good visibility was a bonus... especially as this was Kitzbuhel day and we were determined to ski over there from Westendorf down the Ki-west red. Getting over to the Ki-west is straightforward from Westendorf, about the only thing in that part of the area that makes sense on the piste map... the return was less obvious, especially finding 117b blue (rather than 117b red which we didn't want to do again) - you have to come off the Windauberg chair, go onto the red 118 which is on the left looking down, then bear immediately left down what looks like a narrow ski route - it soon widens out and takes you off the the Talkaser chair, and so back up to blue 111. Anyway, back to the Ki-west - and the run of the week. This is a glorious red, not too challenging for weaker skiers, and with easy-outs for the two steeper sections (marked black, and very short). So glad we had the guts to try this run, it was probably more purple than red and on that day empty. snowHead Swift bus ride from the bottom and you are at the Pengelstein I gondola and up towards Kitzski. I'll fully admit that we were a bit too tired that day (and felt we'd achieved something doing Ki-west) to do justice to the area, so we spent a fair amount of time just pootling around on the blues around the Pengelstein peak - nice and wide, and fun to just mess about/practice on. We then took blue 25 towards Kirchberg. This blue is basically a narrow winding road in the top part, which is an avoidance for red 25a - we swiftly decided that the red was the better option, wide and not too steep. The blue bit was really unpleasant for those of us who don't like narrow runs. The bottom part of the blue widened out and was nice and cruisey. Then all the way back up on various lifts/runs (and now totally knackered having done the snowplough of fear on the narrow bits of 25), to head down blues 30 and 31 back down to the Pengelstein bus stop - much more like it, a continuous, fairly gentle, wide, fast blue (I wish all blues are like this, makes me feel a more competent skier than I am!), and a super confidence boost for the last day of skiing on tired legs. On and up the Ki-west gondola and a slightly confusing mission home, and that was us done.

Lunches and apres-ski: erm, I can't contribute much here as we mainly lunched on bratwursts at whatever mountain restaurant happened to be nearest when hunger hit, and we did no apres-ski at all as we couldn't quite face Gerry's Confused However in Westendorf, we had nice hot choccy stops at the 11er Alm on run 111 and Alte Mittel on red 110, cosy types of places. The Bruchstall was decent for end of day drinks on the terrace (and the cheese and ham toasties were good!). Our evening drinking was pretty much all at the Village Pub - a dark and smokey little place which was pretty quiet and suited us fine as smokers, and had a darts board and that nail bashing game. As others on here have mentioned, Westendorf does seem to be the smokiest of Austrian resorts - I wouldn't like to be in the pubs and bars if I wasn't one of that ilk. Special mention to our particular apres treat - coffee and cakes at Cafe Elizabeth, absolutely delish!

So overall, would we return? Absolutely - this may be controversial, but I preferred this area to S-H (except for apres ski...), and Westendorf really is a nice village to stay in and ski from. For an improving skier there is more than enough to keep you busy on the slopes, and the runs are generally excellent (given decent conditions of course). I felt we spent less time on lifts here than we have in other resorts, and had more opportunity to try a variety of slopes without feeling totally intimidated. We also felt that the area was very good value in comparison with others - accommodation in particular - and it's SO easy to get to without a car. We'd maybe consider staying in Kirchberg next time, and getting a superski pass to be able to do more of the Kitzbuhel side but still re-visit the marvellous runs in Westendorf. Anyway, if it looks like Austria has had a bit of decent snow, stop worrying about the low elevation of these places and go, it's worth it! Smile
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
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Cracking report - really interesting and detailed. We went to Obertauern this year and you could t move for snow. It does seem an exceptional year. Glad you had a great time.
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Thanks! Very Happy I read your Obertauern report, you sound a similar skier to me... I always scour the reports for 'best blues'... You might like Westendorf, the reds are very flattering (put in context, I hobbled down blues in S-H in Jan, poo-ing myself, and wooshed down them in the Skiwelt, and managed to get over the 'red block')

Agree that the snow this year seems out of the ordinary - it was dumping again on Friday when we left, end of the season looks like it will be amazing!
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I have always thought the SkiWelt signs and maps one of the better places. Only occasions I have ever had problems was in white outs Smile .

The piste down to Brixen from Hochbrixen always seems to have poor snow even when every other piste has perfect packed powder, best avoided by any but confident skiers. The Tanzer blue run to the edge of the village is much better but it is not open that often (no snow making). The difference between a blue and a red piste is often difficult to tell, I would say most of the red pistes in SkiWelt are on the easier side (possibly be blue elsewhere) with a few exceptions (eg the run to Brixen noted above, the run down to Brixen on the other side, more because of the length - the "black" section in the middle has a path alternative)

It is certainly a place to help build confidence, personally I would say "friendlier" in skiing terms than S-H. The snow has definitely been very good this year but most years you would find good conditions from mid January until the first week of March.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
I don't think there's any real mystery why the Brixen Abfahrt (home run) has poor snow. It's south facing and quite low. If you have a look at google maps, it's about the only south facing run in the SkiWelt.

It could have been worse, it could have looked like this:



That was the first week of March last year. Having had such good snow up high, we failed to notice that the run was south facing. There was no snow at all on one bit.

Overall thought, I thought the SkiWelt area was brilliant.
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munich_irish wrote:
I have always thought the SkiWelt signs and maps one of the better places. Only occasions I have ever had problems was in white outs Smile .


There may have been an element of us being quite disoriented - for some reason we never knew which direction we were facing last week! - but I maintain that in that tangle of lifts and pistes in the middle of Skiwelt, nothing makes ANY sense and runs mysteriously disappear... Laughing Next time we'll know better and follow our noses... wink
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ElzP wrote:
Thanks! Very Happy I read your Obertauern report, you sound a similar skier to me... I always scour the reports for 'best blues'... You might like Westendorf, the reds are very flattering (put in context, I hobbled down blues in S-H in Jan, poo-ing myself, and wooshed down them in the Skiwelt, and managed to get over the 'red block')

Agree that the snow this year seems out of the ordinary - it was dumping again on Friday when we left, end of the season looks like it will be amazing!


Thanks. Mr Bambi has skied in Westendorf and loved it so we will definately do it at some point. Ref signs, we went to Ellmau (Skiwelt also) about 5 years ago and spent most of the week trying to figure out the map so I get where you are coming from. Love the idea of flattering reds Very Happy
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Excellent report. We have holidayed in Skiwelt last few seasons and just today we were talking about visiting S/H on our visit to Lofer next season.
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Thank you , great report, gives me confidence in taking my wife who has been skiing Corvara/Dolomites for the past 3 years. Asked for advice on SH's and got some good feedback from Munich Irish and others about the skiwelt area. Now booked Brixen, so bring on Jan 2019..
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Cheers folks.
@2waterford, we did really liked S-H as well; if it's a day visit, the Leogang sector might be worth a thought, quiet and long, lovely runs (and a lift straight up to the famed Chicken Man which features heavily in the S-H thread...)

@Simon94 Enjoy! Pop over to the Westendorf side if you get a chance, it's really nice. Smile Brixen looks perfectly placed for it all! Sure Munich_Irish has already mentioned, but you can also get the train direct from Brixen to the bottom of the Hahnenkamm lift in Kitzbuhel as well (our instructor recommended we do this but we chose to ski over instead). You can't beat the place for convenience.
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Thanks for a great report - we were there for a long weekend at a similar time. We skied in SkiWelt last year and were v glad we chose to return. Some of the other valley runs were still in great shape - surprisingly the long red to Itter became one of our favourite runs, it was in excellent condition and we only saw about 2 other people on it, perfect. Would happily return to Westendorf - v doable for a long weekend even flying via Munich.
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Shhhhhhhh Motherof3 - don't tell them about the long red to Itter. It is a secret! Anyway with the dreadful Skiwelt signing it is almost impossible to find.

As for ElzP report - great - someone else asked about transfers from Westendorf and I did say take a taxi phone number as there are no cards in the station with numbers on. I was also amused to see someone else struggling with 117b - the truth is that some bright spark put the sign below the turn off and unless you are on the left (wrong side of the piste as it is a RH turn) there is a conveniently placed tree hiding it!
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I am a bit perplexed as to why so many Brits find the piste marking difficult to understand, it has always seemed pretty clear to me. That said I do remember my first visit to Westendorf, it was early season, the SkiWeltbahn had just come into operation. Though you could ski all the down to Westendorf itself not all the pistes were open. We twice tried to find the Choralmbahn only to end up at the bottom of the Alpenrosenbahn gondola again. It took us a while to work out that we had to head in completely the "wrong" direction at the Talkaser restaurant to get to the long piste down through the trees to get to the lift to take us back towards Brixen. There were signs pointing to "Brixen" but given that geographically it is in the opposite direction it took us some time to accept they were correct Smile
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munich_irish wrote:
We twice tried to find the Choralmbahn only to end up at the bottom of the Alpenrosenbahn gondola again. It took us a while to work out that we had to head in completely the "wrong" direction at the Talkaser restaurant to get to the long piste down through the trees to get to the lift to take us back towards Brixen. There were signs pointing to "Brixen" but given that geographically it is in the opposite direction it took us some time to accept they were correct Smile


Laughing This is it - why the signs are confusing! We had several 'but it CAN'T be that way' moments where the signs pointed in what to us looked like the wrong direction, or in both directions, or in the direction of a lift we were convinced we didn't need to get... I'm a sign follower when driving but I still follow my nose geographically - but my OH is not a sign follower, so he was staring at google maps which also didn't necessarily match up with the signs on the ground!

Still, no bad thing, getting a bit confused meant we just had to ski, rather than quibble about red vs blue and all that jazz.
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