PUBLISHED: 16:16 07 January 2009 | UPDATED: 10:22 23 August 2010
Fancy some early season skiing? Why not try Austrian gem Obergurgl, writes Phil Griffin EARLY season skiing and Austrian resorts do not normally go together too well due lack of snow reliability. BUT there is at least one exception - and it s a real sta
Fancy some early season skiing? Why not try Austrian gem Obergurgl, writes Phil Griffin
EARLY season skiing and Austrian resorts do not normally go together too well due lack of snow reliability. BUT there is at least one exception - and it's a real "star" - Obergurgl.
For the past three seasons, a ski buddy called Snowy (yes, it's true) and his family had been extolling the virtues of this charming small resort and this season managed to persuade me to break away from the reliable high French Alps bases to give it a go.
With European ski resorts enjoying some of the best early season snow for years, a quick check of the internet confirmed that Obergurgl was also disappearing beneath metres of the white stuff.
Any seasoned skier or boarder knows that if you have the nerve and hold out until the last minute there will always be a bargain to snap up. It's a balancing act: book too early and it's going to prove costly, book too late and the last few places will go back up in price.
I was lucky enough to grab an absolute steal - a three-star hotel with half-board, flights and transfers with Thomson Ski - a snip at £275.
With Obergurgl convert Mark Snow in tow, we couldn't believe the deal, especially when we arrived at the Hotel Lohmann. One of the best hotels in town, we had an enormous room with twin beds, double sofa bed, dining area and fridge, and a sitting area with a television. And the bathroom was something else...
There had to be a catch we thought. But the hotel's first impressions did not disappoint, with sumptuous food - unlimited free wine or beer with evening meals - rounded off with a banquet on the last night.
The village itself is compact and attractive, with the skiing linked to nearby Hochgurgl - and the huge ski area of Solden being only a 15-minute free bus ride away.
Obergurgl boasts some fine bars and restaurants, but it is certainly not for the lager-swilling brigade - a la St Anton. Although there is a crazy Austrian bar with live music just a little way back up the home run to the village. The Nederhutte encourages dancing on tables and is in stark contrast to the tranquillity of the rest of the resort.
After a few beers, you might not fancy the floodlit ski back to village - so take advantage of a free skidoo lift. Great fun on the ultimate boy's toy!
Obergurgl and neighbouring Hochgurgl boast some great skiing, a mixture of reds and blues - something for the whole family.
One of the highlights of the week, for me, was working our way across to the ranges to the newly-built Top Mountain Star, a panorama bar towering at 3,080m above sea level. With breathtaking scenery all round, it comes a close second to the sights from the Aig du Midi above Chamonix and down the Valley Blanche.
It's the sort of place that leaves pictures indelibly printed in your head - for use on those days when you are having a bad day at the office...
Apart from enjoying incredible snow - it stopped for just two days in a fortnight spell - we had a great day's skiing at Solden.
Although the resort itself might not be particularly appealing - unless you like laddish bars - the pistes were tremendous.
Wide, sometimes gentle, sometimes challenging - an excellent mix.
And we were lucky enough to find a real gem - a "proper" wooden-built mountain hut complete with Alpine memorabilia, stunning views and gulaschesuppe and home-made sausages to die for. A far cry from some of the canteen-style restaurants of the French Alps.
As well as charm and great skiing, Obergurgl is also famous for at least one other thing - it's clothes boutiques. Women's heaven.
It seemed that almost every hotel not only had its own ski shop, but at least two floors of designer outfits - Prada, darling, seemed to trip off the tongue with such ease for some... I can see why the Hotel Hochfirst is popular with the stars, such as Take That.
The ski shops, too, boasted the latest designs - and definitely the latest equipment.
One great advantage of hiring at the start of the season is the racks of brand new skis and boots - take your choice.
An affable chap called Herwig, who runs Riml Sport, was incredibly patient as people came back day after day to try out ski after ski.
Nothing was too much trouble for the guy - even when the soles of my walking boots decided to split and let in snow. Out came a free caffine-loaded cup of expresso while he super-glued the cracks - "no charge, sir."
I suppose his attitude summed the whole laid-back feel of Obergurgl. Service was king no matter where you went - a real "star" of a place.
I'll be back. Like the aptly named Snow family, I was hooked.