Value for Money 72%
Soll is the uncrowned capital of the SkiWelt area and part of the Wilder Kaiser range that also includes the charming villages of Ellmau, Scheffau and Going. All of them are ideal for early intermediates and, during high season, party animals flock to Söll.
Gabriel Eder is an enthusiastic skier who grew up in the Tirolean Mountains. He gathered his skiing experience whilst travelling and working in Australia, as well as in Argentina. For more than ten years he been involved in the tourism business for the Wilder Kaiser region and is responsible for the lively village of Söll.
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Essential Advice for the Perfect Trip
As the largest bed-base in the region, Söll – where I work – is the uncrowned capital of the SkiWelt. The network of lifts spans the mainly gentle mountainsides surrounding seven resorts near Kitzbuhel. As well as Söll, the Wilder Kaiser area itself includes the medium-sized villages of Scheffau and Ellmau, and the small village of Going.
Two further resorts, Westendorf (now, in turn, linked to Kirchberg and Kitzbuhel) and Kelchsau, are linked into the lift system, the latter only by bus, but consider themselves part of the network and are included in the lift pass.
This is prime cruising country over undulating summer pastureland, well suited to skiers who have recently progressed from the nursery slopes and are in need of daily confidence-building mileage. It’s also a great area for intermediates who want to cover the kilometres, travelling from one pretty village and one enticing mountain restaurant to another.
In a bid to attract more families, the region has reduced the cost of a six-day child’s lift pass to 50% of the adult one, and offers free skiing weeks for children and special teenage prices.
The Wilder Kaiser resorts are in a good position for airports, set between Innsbruck and Salzburg airports, which are both 80km away. Munich is only 120km away, too.
Guide to the Mountain
“The three mountains are well connected and give you some great skiing,” said a reporter. Mountain access in Söll is by a two-stage gondola, which brings you swiftly up to Hohe Salve, the high point of the linked ski area. Ellmau is located between the villages of Going and Scheffau, in the vast SkiWelt circus.
The other linked resorts of Westendorf, Itter, Hopfgarten and Brixen-im-Thale also line the valley around the dome-shaped massif. They in turn link on to Kirchberg and Kitzbuhel. St Johann in Tirol is close by, although not linked into the lift system.
Each of the four Wilder Kaiser resorts (Söll, Scheffau, Ellamau and Going) provides alternative access into the system, either by the new gondola opening this winter in Ellmau, by quad-chair from Going, by two gondolas from Scheffau or a gondola from Söll. The resorts are linked on the main road by postbus, but not by free ski-bus, so in the afternoon it is advisable to keep an eye on your watch.
All of the Wilder Kaiser villages have dedicated nursery slopes at the bottom of the mountain. Scheffau is set back on the other side of the valley and has its novice area on a sloping meadow beneath the church.
The home run back to Söll is marked red on the piste map. It is covered by snow-cannons, but lack of natural cover can sometimes lead to icy conditions. Less confident skiers are advised to return to the valley by gondola.
The area is continually improving and updating, with some 1,500 snow-cannons covering up to 245km of pistes when needed and new machinery added annually. For the 2015-16 season the new Zinzberg eight-seater replaced the 20-year-old Jochbahn in Brixental.
It is one of the fastest chair-lifts in the world, travelling at a speed of 6m per second and using solar panels to provide some of the power. Ellmau also replaced its old Hartkaiser funicular railway with an impressive 10-seater gondola, complete with wifi and heated seats.
Anyone looking for more challenging slopes should go elsewhere
This is not a place for expert skiers who, despite the beauty of the scenery, will soon tire of the lack of challenge. It’s best to hire a guide if you’re in search of more difficult skiing, and hope the snow-cover is good enough to allow you off-piste. The best on-piste challenge is Lärchenhang, on the north side of Hohe Salve, which is a short and testing pitch.
Bear in mind also that it can get very busy at weekends: with locals flooding into the resort for a bit of R’n’R on a snowy Saturday, and although the lift system copes well, it can sometimes just shift the problem uphill. Midweek is quieter, thank goodness.
When the slopes aren’t too busy and when the corduroy is cold and crumbly, the SkiWelt is a good place for riders to cruise about at low speeds, getting the hang of their linked turns. But remember, this is a lower-altitude resort, and in a warm winter will suffer from the usual thaw/freeze cycle, as temperatures rise during the day and then fall overnight.
There are three snowparks in the Wilder Kaiser area: the Intersport Kaiserpark at Tanzbodenbahn above Ellmau, Crazy Kangaroo Park and the Funny Bird Slope (the latter floodlit at night) above Soll. There is yet another snowpark in Westendorf.
One of Söll’s claims to fame is that it has Austria’s largest night-skiing area, with 11km of floodlit slopes including a 3km run to the valley and a further three runs in Hochsöll. You will find yet more night-skiing at Brixen and Westendorf.
Where to Learn
When it comes to learning, the Wilder Kaiser resorts have a choice of 13 ski schools. These include Soll-Hochsoll, which is the original school that over the past 40 years has acquired considerable experience in teaching foreigners to ski. As a place to get to grips with the basics, we recommend it. Ellmau has three schools and a fourth especially for snowboarders, Scheffau and Going have several each.
This is a great place to take the family, with a good kids club and lots of fun. The area offers several family weeks with free skiing for the under-15s, special teenage rates and children’s prices at 50% off adult prices the rest of the time.
Located in the valley gondola station in Soll is Hexenwiese (meaning witches’ meadow) for little ones. This supervised place stands out from other children’s ski areas around the Alps in that it is completely built from natural materials without using any plastic. There’s a small hill, a tunnel and also a ski-through course with jumps. Kinderland Kornkammer (or KiKo) a kindergarten for ages one to five years (with skiing for the older ones) with themed rooms.
Snow Pirates Club (+43 664 1721963), at the top station Brandstadl gondola above Scheffau, offers daycare for children from newborn to four years of age. Lunch can be included and there are discounts for siblings.
Ellmau has wide and gentle nursery slopes close to the centre and a ski bus takes you to the new gondola, which beginners can ride in order to get to more nursery slopes at the top. Once up there, the new Hartkaiserbahn offers childcare for toddlers at Ellmi’s Kids Club (+43 5358 2320) – with a special children’s restaurant, ski school for adults and children, as well as ski storage.
When you’re not skiing, other activities available in and around the resort include snow-tubing at Ellmau, a 3.5km Hexenritt toboggan run that starts below Hochsöll, and Söll has two floodlit toboggan runs at Hexenritt and the Mondrodelbahn.
Non-skiers have 30km of winter hiking trails, starting from the Hartkaiser and Asterg lift stations in Ellmau-Going, from the Brandstadl lift station at Scheffau and from Hochsoll lift station.
Where to Stay
Soll is the largest of the four Wilder Kaiser villages set along the valley road that runs from Itter in the east to St Johann in Tirol further west, and onwards to Kitzbuhel. Starting from east, Soll is a friendly place set around an onion-domed church in the middle of a wide valley. The ski area is 1km away and best reached by ski-bus.
The seven four-stars here include Hotel Postwirt, which is in the village centre and has an outdoor swimming-pool heated to 33ºC (“brilliant – lovely food and plenty of it, as well as a friendly bar”).
Hotel Alpenschlossl is more luxurious, with an indoor pool complex and frescoed Sleeping Beauty Tower Rooms. Centrally-located Hotel Greil is a small family-run place, with an indoor swimming-pool on the first floor complete with massage beds in the water, rapids, and a cosy log fireplace next to it. It is also known for its good food and wine cellar.
Hotel Feldwebel is a converted 16th century building in the village centre, rated for its rooms and half-board food. Three-star Hotel Gansleit is a five-minute walk from the village centre with a ski-bus stop outside the door. It has 30 rooms and is family-owned, with the mother and daughter team running the restaurant. “The hotel was great and we were made very welcome” said a reporter.
Another three-star, Hotel Hexenalm is right by the slopes and highly recommended. Its bar has daily apres-ski with a DJ and live music. Aparthotel Bergland is typically Tirolean in style and is also conveniently located across the road from the ski-lifts. “I wish we had learned of this hotel sooner” was one comment on Tripadviser, along with: “If you want excellent food, with the most helpful and friendly service this is the place to be”.
Next village along the valley and slightly set back from the road is the traditional village of Scheffau. Here, Waldhof Resort is next to the slopes and gondola, and has been recently updated. Four-star Hotel Kaiser in Tirol is a good place to stay in the centre of the village and with an indoor swimming-pool and a children’s club.
Chalet Hotel am Leitenhof is ten minutes’ walk from the village centre, looks like a small castle from the outside and has woody 20 lovely suites and 11 chalets in its grounds, complete with Tirolean stoves and some with hot tubs. There’s a spa and a kids club here too.
Ellmau is a larger village with hotels, shops and bars lining the pleasant high street. It has one five-star, the ski-in ski-out Hotel Kaiserhof, set above the resort. The hotel has five restaurants, a spa and swimming-pool.
Hotel Christoph near the gondola, has light and bright bedrooms, as well as a spa and swimming-pool. Unusually for a hotel, all drinks are free with dinner. Family-run four-star Hotel Kaiserblick is also near the ski school and lifts.
But wherever you’re staying, there’s a free ski bus to transport you to the lifts. Cosy and central is Aktiv Hotel Hochfilzer, with a pleasant bar, indoor swimming-pool and outdoor hot tub. Sporthotel Ellmau is a large four-star on the high street featuring a swimming-pool and spa, as well as bedrooms decorated in modern alpine style. As well as all of these four-stars, the resort has a wide range of apartments and small guesthouses to stay in.
In the quiet little village of Going there’s the world-famous Biohotel Stanglwirt, which has a collection of Lippizaner horses you can watch performing through a glass window in the reception area. Their stables can be viewed through a window from the in-house ski shop. The bedrooms are lovely, there’s an indoor swimming-pool, and an in-house ski school.
Where to Eat
Most of the restaurants in Söll are in the hotels. However, Giovanni, Venezia (+43 5333 6191) and Hexenalm are all good pizzerias. Panorama Bad Café (+43 5333 544212) is out of the way but worth the walk for coffee and cakes.
Other eateries include Auf da Muhle in the Schindlhaus, Dorfstub’n which has carefully prepared food in a traditional ambience, The Postwirt which serves good food and fine wines, and Söller Stube is a traditional Tyrollean restaurant.
“The village, thankfully, now also has some more adult places in the shape of Bella Vita (+43 5333 20360) in Hotel Garni Tenne – with excellent food, and Rossini (+43 5333 5139) across the road,” advised a reporter.
Ellmau is a favourite with families, with a good selection of shops and restaurants along the main high street. Especially recommended is Weinatelier Agnes, which is part wine bar – part delicatessen in an attractive modern setting, serving delicious pasta dishes such as hand-made ravioli with spinach, ricotta and walnut pesto – and tray of three to four ‘tasting’ glasses of wine at a time if you so wish.
Other options include Pizzeria Sterndl (+43 5358 43002), and Absolute Ellmau (+43 5358 43583) for fondues and steaks. The new gondola station houses a restaurant, sports shop, apres-ski bar and an underground car park.
In quiet little Going there’s Pizzeria Primavera, a choice of five restaurants in Biohotel Stanglwirt, the Tirolean Stube in Gasthof Dorfwirt and the restaurant serving regional cooking in Hotel Schnablwirt.
Eating on the Mountain
You are spoilt for choice here since the mountainside is dotted with welcoming huts and large self-service restaurants – 77 of them in fact, all of them very good value. Over 20 mountain restaurants in the Wilder Kaiser region serve a special Breakfast on the mountain featuring regional and organic produce.
Söll has six restaurants in its immediate ski area, including Hexenalm where you can enjoy everything from a Lady’s Fitnessburger to a three-in-one plate of dumplings or the traditional Tiroler Groestl served in a pan.
Eight mountain huts are dotted around Scheffau, including the attractive Tansbodenalm at the top of the Scheffau gondola, which is open for breakfast (7€ per person for a good breakfast) as well as lunch. Ellmau has six in its immediate area, and there are two above Going.
Where to Party
“Good nightlife, if you’re up to it,” commented a reporter staying in Söll. Back in the 1980s, the resort was an annual mustering point for British and Dutch youth who did more drinking than skiing. It continues to shrug off its laddish image. Although the resort is noted for its nightlife, one reporter commented that it can be “fairly sedate” over Easter.
Whisky Muhle is the original venue, with live music most nights including UK bands. However, not all comments were favourable, including reports of drunken youths. The bar has a good steakhouse located on its roof.
Apres-ski begins early at Hexenalm (by the gondola station), and at Pub Salfenstadl (“enjoyable, if you can bear the smoke and the din”). The Moonlight Bar is a noisy pub and the Red Horse Sports Bar (the latter is British-owned) shows Premier League football, has live bands three times a week, and Guinness on tap. Rossini’s (+43 5333 5139) is rated for late nights. Schulhaus is a restaurant with bar.
Next best for nightlife is Ellmau which, although primarily a family resort, has several bars and discos. Most popular are Sandy’s Disco, Memory, and Pub 66, as well as the Cantina Bar which has DJs and Mexican food.
Scheffau is very quiet with the best venues the Waldhofalm and Schirmbar (+43 664 518 2506) for apres-ski at the foot of the lifts. Going is even more sedate, with the main nightlife taking place in the Stanglwirt and other hotel bars.