The picture above is of the Choralpe, the 1820m peak that sits above Westendorf. It’s the home of three scintillating top-to-bottom runs, and it’s the reason the skiing in this pretty little Tirolean town deserves wider recognition amongst modern skiers.
The best skiing in the Skiwelt is right here
Why are these pistes so good? Because all of them include extended fall-line sections. As most skiers know, a fall-line descent follows the slope straight downhill, rather than zig-zagging across it: and there’s nothing in skiing, on-piste or off, more satisfying. The mountain opens up beneath you, you settle into your rhythm, and let rip. Bliss.
As you can see from the picture, the shape of the Choralpe is tailor-made for this kind of straight-down skiing. The best of the runs is on the left as you look at it here. It’s piste number 11 on the piste map – the “Kandler” – and it drops through 1026 vertical metres, following the fall-line for well over half its length. Most of the way it’s a steep red, but there’s a short black section in the middle (which you can avoid if you’re spooked by the pitch). By the end of it your legs will be ready to explode.
€27m of improvements
Westendorf has spent a lot of money improving access to these pistes – €27m in the last five years, much of which has gone on new lifts: including a gondola up the Choralpe from Brixen, on the other side of the valley.
But all the same, this is still a bit of cul-de-sac in the Skiwelt. The Skiwelt is Austria’s biggest interconnected ski area, boasting 279km of pistes: and thanks to the new lifts, Westendorf is fully integrated into it. But the fact remains that most of the pistes are on the massif on the other side of the valley, between Brixen and Scheffau – and most skiers don’t seem to make it across to Westendorf. Which leaves the pistes here noticeably less crowded – and all the better because of it.
A good-ish terrain park
Oddly for such a small village, there’s also a long tradition of freestyle skiing on the Choralpe – thanks to the Boarder’s Playground at the back of the mountain. It used to be one of the most highly-rated in Austria, but is now no match for the likes of the Mayrhofen in the Zillertal, Laax in Switzerland, Breckenridge in Colorado or Whistler in Canada. If you’re serious about your jibbing and jumps, these are the resorts to target.
Oodles of skiing beyond the Choralpe
Westendorf may be home to the best skiing in the Skiwelt – but when you tot up all the local runs, they only cover about 50km. So you’ll need to get out and explore the massif on the other side of the valley if you want a week of variety. If the snow’s good, the top-to-bottom run from the 1829m Hohe Salve, down to Hopfgarten at 620m, is the pick of the pistes over here – and there’s some great skiing above Soll, too.
Don’t forget to check your stats on the Skiline, too. It’s a free service to anyone with a Skiwelt pass, and it tracks your progress around the mountain – at the end of each day you can see how many lifts you’ve used, how many km you’ve covered and how many vertical metres you’ve skied. It’s not a match yet for Vail’s amazing online Mountain Remix feature. But it’s a start.
What’s more, if you ski off the back of mountain (via an easy blue piste), you can access the slopes of Kirchberg and Kitzbuhel. There’s a short connection by bus, and then you’ve got another 168km of pistes to play on, on top of the 279km in the Skiwelt. A one-day upgrade to your Skiwelt lift pass, to cover the extra skiing, costs 15€.
Don’t expect lots of off-piste
As we said in our introduction to Westendorf, its relatively low altitude means the snow can sometimes be iffy. What’s more, if it does dump, the amount of thick forest on the slopes limits the amount of off-piste skiing you can do. So don’t come here expecting the kind of freeriding you can get in high-altitude resorts such as Val Thorens, Verbier or St Anton. This is primarily a place for on-piste skiing, and anyone who wants to push their powder-skiing skills needs to look elsewhere.