I hadn’t heard much about Sölden before a friend mentioned it to me. There are plenty of more well known Austrian resorts, especially among British skiers, but looking at it in black and white, I found myself asking why I hadn’t considered this resort before.
In fact my mental check list ran something akin to, does it have a big / varied ski area? Check. High altitude skiing? Check. Short transfers? 1 hr 10 from Innsbruck (check). Good apres ski? Aplenty (check). Glaciers? Uh, two! (Check). And, with British skiers outnumbered by Austrians, Germans, Dutch, Scandinavians, Russians and pretty much all other skiing nationalities, it seemed like a great resort for those in our group wanting to experience something truly authentic.
So it’s a bit of an unknown then…great!
Digging a bit deeper it’s hard to understand why this resort isn’t more popular in the UK. It’s got a wide variety of terrain with nearly 70km classed as easy (blue) runs, over 50km of intermediates red runs and nearly 30km of difficult black runs. Access to the mountain is made easy too, irrespective of where you’re based in resort.
Whilst the town itself won’t be amongst the prettiest you’ll find in Austria, it’s got a charm all of its own and certainly has plenty going on. It’s a resort known for its events both on and off the slopes with David Guetta (you’ll have danced to one of his tracks even if you don’t recognise the name) visiting this April. The hustle and bustle of Sölden is located on Dorfstraße, the main street through the town, with the Giggijoch lift at one end and the Gaislchkogl lift at the other (you’ll want the free shuttle to get between the two but both get you up to mid mountain quickly from 8.30am).
Most of the town’s apres ski is centred around the base of the two cable car lifts. The Giggijoch lift is the party end of town with the large, yet packed, apres ski bar Kuckuck at the very bottom of the lift and selling shots of Spiegelei, which literally translates to “fried egg”, served in real egg shells. The photo shows the same drink in s’Finale, an on the slopes apres ski bar, where they have a slightly different approach. Here they give you a beer mat to cover the top of the glass, which you then shake to mix the cream and liquor together.
A short walk away are Almrausch, Marco’s and Schirm bar – the last of which can be a struggle to physically get into, but its dancing on the tables certainly makes for a lively atmosphere from 3pm onwards. Marco’s is well located as one of the resort runs finishes right outside. It can get busy inside here too but sitting outside with the first beer of the afternoon was the way we chose to do it (and avoids what can be a smokey atmosphere inside).
As for what to drink, if you’re after something more thirst quenching than Jagermeister or Spiegelei, be sure to order a Radler. It’s the German version of a shandy and better when fresh from the tap rather than from out a bottle!
You won’t be pushed to find good and well priced food in Sölden. Most dishes are between €8-14. In fact all 4 of us were surprised at just how reasonable dining out was. We found the Corso restaurant (just over the bridge in the centre of town) the best and the busiest – so be sure to book ahead or arrive early. Also try the Gasthof Grauer at the far end of town and for something a bit more special, be sure to visit the Hotel Bergland smack in the centre of town. We tried the fondue and raclette here and found both to be fantastic, along with the very authentic interior and polite and attentive service.
The ski schools in Sölden meet at the top of the Higgijoch lift just above Hochsolden. Like all Austrian ski schools, lessons started at 10.30 and finished at 3pm with a break from 1-1.45pm for lunch. The self service restaurants at the Giggijoch offered plenty of choice at reasonable prices although finding a seat / table (particularly for groups) might be a problem at peak times. The instructors were patient, helpful and crucially, English speaking, with one of our group stating they’d had ‘their best ski instructor yet’. What’s more, there’s plenty of easy terrain and nice sloping blues that are reached by taking the lifts directly from the ski school meeting point.
The Ski Area
Mirroring the apres ski, the choice of where to ski / snowboard in Sölden is vast. Some of our favourite runs were on the Tiffenbach glacier (my personal favourite was the blue No. 38) as well as the blue No.2 running to the extreme left hand side of the resort. My favourite spot for lunch was also on this run; the Bubis Skihutte is more authentic than the mid station eateries and has a great menu. If you’re lucky you might also be treated to music by Andrea and Andreas (a local band with the photos in their posters nearly as old as the music they play) whilst you sit and bathe in the sunshine.
There are some challenging red runs right across the resort with No.1 being among the most tricky. After descending around 200-300m however you’re met with a choice of further reds which all lead to the blue No.6. From here, you’ve easy access to either side of the resort. For advanced skiers the black runs No.s 31 (off the Rettenbach glacier), the Schwarzkogl No.25 and the mogul run No.14 will pose interesting challenges (as I found out to my cost on one gloriously hair raising run).
Finally, the long run from the bottom of the glacier (No.30) is a nice sweeping blue that follows the valley between the two sides of the resort and is part of a whopping 15km run! A word of caution though as this run can get really busy from 2.30-3pm onwards as it’s the most direct route down from the two glaciers.
Sölden is right up there as one of my favourite resorts. The short (and pretty) transfer through the Ötztal valley, the views from the top of the glaciers (you can see the jagged outline of the Dolomites from the very top), the photo opportunities from the two viewing platforms overlooking the nearby resort of Vent (which is rumoured to link with Sölden one day) and the truly friendly atmosphere this resort offers makes me hope that more British skiers will consider Sölden as a possible ski destination in the near future.
This post was written by Jon Paget, Social Media and Online PR manager at Crystal Ski.
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