I’ve been suffering from snow withdrawal. It’s been a few seasons now since I hit the slopes and so I’ve been dying to get back on skis. It just so happened that this holiday coincided with the end of a really tough six months in work and couldn’t have arrived at a better moment…
Picking the destination this year, we went a little off piste in our search for the white stuff, if you’ll excuse the pun. Generally, fly in to Salzburg and you’ll head off up the mountain towards Saalbach or Mayerhofen but we chose Obertauern. In a nutshell the resort offers a short flight, a short transfer, is high enough for reliable snow cover, extensive enough not to get bored and boasts some lovely hotels. Describe it like this and Obertauern sells itself so I couldn’t help but wonder why I hadn’t heard of it, nor had anyone I’ve spoken to about it since. And… after a week here, I’m still wondering! There’s pretty much nothing not to like. Why isn’t this place overrun?!
It’s certainly not awash with English guests and those who have pitched up in town tend to be a certain amount older than your average piste-bashing, après-loving Brit in places like the Tree Valleys or St. Anton. You’re more likely to come across Austrians or Dutch visitors who are often weekenders with journey times so short. All told, this makes for a more subdued atmosphere, very civilised indeed. Don’t get me wrong, there’s après here for those who want it, and you could certainly have a big night out in town but, on the whole, it’s more merry drinks and music on a wide terrace in the sunshine or in any one of the numerous, piste-side mountain huts than raucous, tabletop partying.
A word about the pistes. Obertauern is a quite the snow bowl. Pistes surround the town almost 360 degrees and the lift system is arranged in such a way that allows you to ski the circumference in either direction. Known locally as the two Tauernrunde, this network is clearly signposted on the slopes and means you can tour the town in either a clockwise (red) or anticlockwise (green) direction. Besides this, there’s about 100km of meticulously groomed and varied terrain to explore. Although I’d say best suited to intermediates with the majority of runs wide sweeping blues or pleasant, tree-lined reds, there’s off-piste and the odd challenging black here and there. A couple of our favourite runs to avoid the crowds were 8e (steepish red) from the top of the Grunwaldkopfbahn and 16b (very gentle blue) down to the Zentralbahn. The piste map signals the ‘super seven’ highest peaks from which you can enjoy some of the best views and the panoramas on a clear day are truly something else. Another big plus is that, for the most part, lift queues are very short indeed and, even at their worst, you can expect everyone to adhere to basic queue etiquette (a principle so important to us Brits and so obviously lacking in many French resorts).
As for Obertauern itself, the town isn’t likely to win any beauty pageants. awards. It is pretty much just base camp spread along the main road. From a practical point if view it’s got everything you need for the week including a well stocked and reasonably priced Spar. Part of the reason I don’t resent the underwhelming village however, is that the standard of accommodation is so high you need not wander far for anything in any case. More to come on that point in my next post – a review of our hotel, Hotel Steiner.
In summary, if you don’t mind relaxing with a glass of wine (or a hot chocolate) and a good meal after a leisurely and scenic day on the slopes rather than hitting the bars hard every evening, Obertauern may be a great choice. What the town lacks in alpine charm, the friendliness of the people and the enjoyable skiing makes up for in spades. Who knows, maybe it’s not a big name in the UK because the Austrians have kept it hush hush. Well now it’s our little secret too.