Less than an hour’s drive from Innsbruck airport, off the main motorway is a left turn into the Ötz Valley. Looking on a map the road goes on a fair few miles before it finally stops at some impassable mountains. There are a couple of great reasons someone decided to make a road that just stops here, Obergurgl (1, 930m) and Hochgurgl (2,150m), two of the most exclusive ski resorts the world.
With skiing reaching elevations of over 3,000m, it’s no surprise the ski area has been voted the most snow sure in the Alps.
Known as ‘The Diamond of the Alps’ Obergurgl is renowned for superb skiing, uncrowded pistes, modern queue-free lift systems and the choice of high quality accommodation.
Obergurgl and Hochgurgl have an unmistakeable attraction that once you’ve been – you’ll keep coming back.
A few of our favourite things:
- 110km of snow sure, fantastically linked, high-altitude skiing with uncrowded pistes and queue free lifts.
- The highest parish in Austria – with guaranteed snow and superb conditions from November through to May.
- High quality hotels – many of which are ski to and from the door (meaning there’s no walking with your skis, helmet and whatever else you’re carrying).
- The amazing views from the Top Mountain Star Restaurant in Hochgurgl.
- Nederhütte (see the après ski section).
The Ski Area
Obergurgl and Hochgurgl combined offers 110km of linked pisted ski area. The main attractions for loyal fans of Obergurgl are the wide-open, uncrowded pistes, modern, queue-free lift systems. The fact that most of the hotels are on the piste, or within a stone’s throw, is also a great bonus.
Obergurgl has plenty of wide blue runs – great for cruising and developing your technique. Intermediate skiers are well catered for with a good range of red runs. For the more experienced of you, there are some good black runs. If you like your off-piste, then head to the ‘Valley of the Kings’ – the area which sits between Obergurgl and Hochgurgl and is amazing for finding fresh powder – and great off-piste lines.
In the morning take the scenic Top Express gondola across into the main Hochgurgl ski area. You’ll find loads of empty blue runs to sweep down and enjoy.
Above Hochgurgl, the Top Mountain Star restaurant makes a great place for a hot chocolate stop – and the views from here at 3,082m are simply stunning. After a warming drink, jump back on your skis and enjoy the longest runs in the area – 8km along blue and red runs down into Pill that are well worth experiencing.
In the afternoon head back over to Obergurgl and the Hohe Mut area and you’ll find some great routes cutting through the trees.
Come late afternoon, head on down to the middle station by the Hohe Mut gondola, above Obergurgl, where you’ll find the highlight of the après ski scene – the Nederhütte. If you choose to stay and enjoy the hospitality until after dark, the piste down to the village is floodlit, so you can ski down – or if you’ve had one too many of the local schnapps then take the snowmobile taxi instead.
The lifts stay open until late at least once a week in both Obergurgl and Hochgurgl – it’s something special to ski on a floodlit piste. So that’s two nights of extra skiing you could squeeze in – all included on your lift pass. Also the bars stay open at the top too, so you can enjoy the entertainment at the weekly instructors ski show including stunts, jumps and fireworks before you ski down.
The ski school take children from 4 years old. The instructors can look after them during the lunch break and make sure they have something hot to eat – whilst the parents have the whole day to explore the area themselves. Kindergarten is available from 3 years old– where they’ll get a ski lesson taster and have a lot of fun playing around in the snow.
15 minutes by (the free) ski bus, down the valley from Obergurgl is the bustling village of Sölden which sprawls along the road. Hotels and après bars line the high street and the main gondola providing access from the village to the ski area passes overhead. For a small cost you can upgrade your lift pass and spend a day or two exploring this magnificent ski area. It’s huge and you could spend a week skiing in Sölden alone.
There are two glaciers here which mean good conditions are guaranteed – with skiing to well over 3,000m. The glaciers are connected by a tunnel which you’ll ski through and when you ski out the other end the views are breathtaking. Not to mention some of the best skiing you’ll do all week – from forgiving blues to world cup black runs. No surprise then that the USA ski team, including Lindsey Vonn, train in Sölden when over in Europe.
With 150km of piste in Sölden, exploring such a big area in just one day can be quite a challenge. Why not join your Crystal ski representative and other like minded individuals for a spot of social skiing? The reps know the area inside-out and can show you some of the best spots around.
Après ski and other activities
Run for the last 15 years by the infamous Rudi, the Nederhütte is a mountain après bar with real character. As you enter you’ll see lots of newspaper clippings confirming this bar is regularly voted in the top 10 après ski bars in the world and for good reason. Four nights a week Rudi issues his well versed welcome and is joined by his band to belt out a mix of traditional Austrian Waltzes and classic rock tunes.
On the band’s nights off they leave it up to a DJ to provide the tunes but even still the atmosphere is electric. Expect people of all ages dancing in ski boots (on the tables) whilst plenty of Flying Hirsches (Jägerbombs to the Brits), Schnapps and beers are enjoyed.
And if you (or your friends) don’t think you should make that final floodlit run back to Obergurgl and your hotel, the (free) skidoo service back to the village is essential.
Back in the villages the après scene is a little more subdued, but you can grab a glühwein at one of the umbrella bars or relax on a hotel terrace and watch the skiers coming down the mountain.
If you’re all about an early night before a full day skiing, then you’ll appreciate how quiet the villages seem in the evenings. However if you do want to carry on dancing into the night – there’s the Josl Keller nightclub (under the Hotel Josl) in Obergurgl open till late.
At the top of Obergurgl (in front of the Hotel Alpina) is an ice skating rink. Due to the elevation there are some pretty spectacular views, but if skating isn’t really for you then you could also try your hand at curling.
For a fun-filled adrenaline rush there is the toboggan track – at 3km long this is a real favourite for all ages and is open during the day and a couple of evenings during the week..
On Tuesday evenings, the local ski school put on their weekly ski instructor show. The story walks you through the history of Obergurgl with spectacular jumps, tricks and amazing fireworks.
There is a regular bus service up and down the valley – so if you fancy a day off the mountain and some full-on pampering, head down to the Aqua Dome spa centre in Längenfeld.
Accommodation in Obergurgl and Hochgurgl
Obergurgl and Hochgurgl have an impressive selection of top quality hotels – in both traditional and modern styles. Most of these have the convenience of skiing to and from the door and many have stunning spa facilities and in-house kids’ clubs – perfect for families.
The Hotel Alpina is spectacular – spacious rooms, fluffy bathrobes, kids’ club, spa area (with separate nude and clothed sections to save blushes), modern heated boot racks, ski to door, fine dining and brilliant service are just a few of the highlights to rave about.
For a more personal atmosphere, try the Hotel Madeleine, run by the Gstrein family – stylish and modern interiors decorated with contemporary artworks produced by Frau Gstrein alongside a small (but perfectly formed) wellness area, great food and friendly hospitality.
There are only around half a dozen hotels, all of a very high standard, to choose from in Hochgurgl. The Riml and Olymp are both pretty special hotels close to the slopes. Offering free childcare, top notch facilities and service to match. Neither will disappoint.