4 January 2012. 1 comment

Category: Austria, Ski Archive

On the slopes in Silvretta Montafon & paying for a ski holiday with cattle

Amid fears of ‘no snow Europe’ and scaremongering in certain  newspapers, our colleague Suzie Nott visited Silvretta Montafon in Austria at the beginning of last month and tells us, how even in the second week of December, the skiing in the Montafon Valley was well underway.

Touching down in Zurich I crossed the Swiss border into Austria to the Montafon Valley, located in the south western corner of Austria, where I stayed in the traditional village of Gaschurn. A crowd of hundreds that evening congregated to celebrate the grand opening of the new €30m lift built to connect the Hochjoch (mountain passes in the Ötztal Alps) and the Nova (the Silvretta Nova is one of the largest ski areas in Montafon with 26 lifts and 114km of piste in its own right), making it the largest ski area in Vorarlberg. The Silvretta Montafon now proudly ranks in Austria’s top ten ski resorts.

Below: The new lift system between Hochjoch and Nova Montafon

The local priest – who also had a book out on how to make your own Schnapps 101 different ways – blessed what is now the strongest and most challenging lift ever to be built by the lift building company, Doppelmayr. The new lift can carry a massive 2700 people an hour to the Hochjoch area, has heated seats and solar panels to power the announcement system inside each of the 8 person gondolas. Leaving nothing out they had even invested in tinted orange windows for the second stage of the lift to give clearer views over the valley.

With 246 kilometres of varied slopes and an impressive backdrop of mountains, the Montafon Valley remains unspoilt and old Austrian traditions are still around – or so it seemed with the Schnapps making priest. Apparently the exchange of wood for other goods and cows to cover your rent is still a way of payment here; as one old boy once tried with the newly appointed Chief Executive of Silvretta Montafon when she first arrived just 3 years ago. I should probably advise you to take these stories with a pinch of salt, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if they were true. Imagine someone paying for their ski holiday in the same way…

On the mountain and there was plenty of snow (see my photos below). However, being early in December only a couple of resorts and a handful of runs were open. That said, our time on the slopes was great fun and the snow was fresh and powdery (with recent snowfalls the weekend I arrived). And we weren’t the only ones flocking to the slopes – excited locals and kids who were taking full advantage of a religious bank holiday to ski the 2,400 metre high area for the first time that season.

The lifts were quiet and the online ski hire check in was state of the art and saved lots of time.  The freshly prepared food at the mountain top restaurants was first class and the beer cheaper than other more popular resorts that I’ve been to. On top of this, the sun was shining, the snow had arrived and the ski season had begun. The vibe was happy. What more could you want? In an ideal world, and with a bit more snow, I would have been able to experience crossing from one valley to the next, but never mind, I hope to that when I return.

Silvretta Montafon facts:

  • 56 KM black slopes- 12 KM apple strudel made and eaten per year
  • Distance driven by piste bashers of the Silvretta Montafon per season is the equivalent of Gaschurn to New York
  • 64 KM red slopes
  • Widest slope – 250 Metres
  • Narrowest slope – 3.5 Meters
  • 476 Metres – The longest ski tunnel in Europe
  • 126 KM blue slopes
  • 246 KM marked descents
  • 9 ski schools

Visit Crystal Ski’s Silvretta Montafon page for more information.

This post was written by Suzie Nott, CRM executive at Crystal Ski.


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