Obergurgl is a high-altitude resort with gorgeous scenery, a cheerful family atmosphere and a long ski season. If you’re in any doubt as to how snow-sure it really is: the ski season closes on May 1, yet 18 out of the total 21 lifts are still running, there’s still a decent snow-cover with more snow forecast for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
Here are six good reasons to ski there:
The Manageable Size of the Resort
Obergurgl is a small resort. I learnt to ski here when I was seven and it hasn’t grown a lot since. Yes, there are more smart hotels and apartments than there were back then, but the village ‘high street’ is no more than a cluster of hotels, a handful of bars and restaurants, a small supermarket and a few shops – but no designer boutiques and no clubs pulsating music into the early hours.
If you are staying in an outlying hotel – which even then is only likely to be a maximum ten minutes’ walk from the centre – there’s a frequent and free shuttle bus backwards and forwards. Annoyingly, the bus service ceases for about an hour at lunchtime.
The Fact That it’s at the End of a Valley
The resort doesn’t attract weekenders, simply because it’s at the end of a valley (the Oetztal) and therefore not particularly accessible. If you’re coming from, say, Innsbruck you’ll reach the much bigger resort of Solden first. Most people won’t carry on any further. This means that the resort never gets crowded and you’ll only wait five minutes at the most for a lift, even during high season.
During school holidays there can be bottlenecks in the main beginner hub with its blue and green runs, especially at the end of the day when the ski school classes all come down the mountain at the same time. However, we often found ourselves completely alone on the black runs – which would be classed as reds in a resort like St Anton. Obergurgl isn’t known for steep-and-deep terrain, although if you book a local guide you can actually find some decent off-piste and ski-touring in springtime.
It’s a Great Little Place to Learn
The Obergurgl Ski School has always been of a very high standard – only attracting the very best and most highly qualified instructors. This applies to both skiing and snowboarding. We took 13-year old Isaac with us to learn to snowboard for the first time and by Day 5 he had advanced from complete beginner to accomplished intermediate, able to tackle every run on the mountain. Similarly, his seven-year-old sister Daisy had a great time with all-British beginner classmates. By the end of the week she’d proudly claimed her ski school bronze medal and graduated from the nursery slopes.
We came across quite a few British instructors working at the ski school, and the Austrian instructors all speak fluent English – plus a handful of other languages too. The only drawback is the lack of non-ski kindergarten. This means that the resort is best for children who are old enough – and keen enough – to ski all day long. The ski school operates from a convenient 10am to midday, then again from 1.30pm to 3.30pm. Supervised ski school lunch is offered between the morning and afternoon sessions. Lift passes are free for children aged nine years and below.
There’s a Long Ski Season
Obergurgl is at 1950m and when we were there in mid-April the skiing was good until lunchtime, but then started to become soft and slushy in the afternoon. However, if you took the 3.6km Top Express gondola over to Hochgurgl the altitude there is that bit higher (up to 3080m), meaning that the slopes were good all day long. So it’s just as well the ski area remains open until May 1.
The Hotels are Good
Money no object, I would have chosen to stay in either the Hotel Edelweiss & Gurgl (by the way, it has its own indoor horse riding school) or neighbouring Hotel Jenewein, which are both ski-in ski-out and right by the main nursery slopes and ski school meeting place.
However, we stayed in the more reasonably-priced Berg Vital Hotel Alpenaussicht. Whilst it’s not bang in the village centre, the bus stop is right outside the door and there’s a second nursery slope nearby, as well as a mini supermarket, a pizzeria across the road, a good ski shop, and the Festkogel gondola that takes you into the main lift system.
The Alpenaussicht is an extremely friendly place to stay, with excellent half board cuisine (including a daily vegetarian option). Everything is eco-friendly and organic: from the bathroom products to the non-allergenic duvets and pillows in all the bedrooms, and the flexible kitchen with its organic food sourced from local farms. There’s no pool – but the spa has two types of sauna, a steam room, and an infrared cabin with light therapy. There’s a playroom and small gym, too. All day long you can help yourself to fruit and to a range of healthy water ‘flavoured’ by mountain crystals – such as rose quartz (for heart and circulation) and amethyst (for strengthening the immune system).
…and Prices are Reasonable
Ok, so is in the Eurozone, which makes it not as cheap as it used to be. However, it’s still cheaper than mainstream France or Switzerland. Lunch in town (essential if you’re going to take your kids out of ski school at midday) costs around 9€ for a spag bol. Up the mountain in the excellent Top Mountain Crosspoint motorbiked-themed restaurant above Hochgurgl it costs 13.50€ for a Country Pizza (mozzarella, bacon, onion, sweetcorn and chilli) and 16€ for a large Chef’s Burger. In the delightful Hohe Mut Alm in Obergurgl you’ll pay 11.50€ for a spag bol and 5.90€ for a small mixed salad.
We stayed at the four-star Hotel Alpenaussicht with Crystal Ski Holidays. It costs from £858pp for one week half board, including Gatwick-Innsbruck flights and resort transfers. Direct flights are available from all major UK airports. Click here for more information on the Tirol.