If you head south from Innsbruck, towards the Brenner Pass and Italy, you soon come to one of the most achingly beautiful valleys in the Tirol. Stubaital.
Turning off the autobahn, where huge lorries labour up to the pass, you almost immediately find yourself in another, much more peaceful, world of wonderful wooded slopes, picturesque villages – and full of fabulous skiing.
A few minutes into the valley and you come to the substantial village of Fulpmes, with a compact but spectacular skiing area above the village marketed as Schlick 2000 – mainly intermediate slopes but with some good challenges if you know where to look. And most of the skiing here is in a massive bowl with the snow well protected by a surrounding mighty rampart of mountain peaks.
Nearby is the delightful family skiing area of Serles, above the little village of Mieders. And also close is the beautiful village of Telfes, one of the sunniest in the Tirol and a wonderful place to stay – it’s just a few minutes by ski bus from Schlick 2000.
About 10 minutes further down the valley you come to Neustift with a very scenic ski area on the slopes of the Elfer, which you reach from the village by an eight-person gondola. From the valley, the slopes of Neustift take on a somewhat dramatic, towering appearance – with a restaurant near the top station seemingly clinging to the side of the piste. But the skiing is suitable for families, and there are some lovely wooded runs all the way back down to the valley.
As you gaze further down the Stubaital you will see snowy heights glinting in the sun. This is the crowning glory of the Stubai Valley – the Stubai Glacier, offering guaranteed snow not just through the winter but right through the year. This is reached by the gondola complex at Mutterberg at the head of the valley, about 20 minutes by bus or car from Neustift.
The glacier has a wide range of cruising reds and blues, plus a choice of bump and steeper runs, all between 10,500ft and 7,550ft. It also has nursery areas, with magic carpet lifts, terrain parks and half-pipes, restaurants, ski school and ski hire – and Austria’s highest mountain restaurant. In the depths of winter it is often possible to take the fabulous six-mile Wilden Grub’n off-piste run from the glacier down to the bottom station.
Elfer, Schlick2000, Serlesbahnen and the glacier together gives the Stubai Valley a total of 150 kilometres of runs – all on the StubaierSuperski pass, so you can ski a different resort each day if you wish. And snow guaranteed! A free ski bus system links the resorts along the valley and there are also frequent ski buses to and from Innsbruck.
Eat, drink and sleep Stubai
The Stubai Valley is a place for chilled out wining (and beering and schnappsing) and dining after skiing – with a few lively moments at some of the umbrella bars of course. And the valley is full of great hotels.
The Hoferwirt in Neustift is a fabulous place to eat – for its charming, mellow, wood-panelled parlours as well as superbly cooked and presented Tirolean cuisine. The Gasthaus Alt Bärnbad, an atmospheric old building, is also very popular – maybe difficult to be a vegetarian here though, with a lot of local game on the menu. Superb venison! And to push the boat out, put yourself in award-winning chef Thomas Strasser’s hands at the Hubertus Stube at the Hotel Jagdhof – maybe going for the loup de mer confit with Pernod-Waldmeisterlack on sunchoke mousseline and walnut mousse. Yes, really – it’s fabulous.
Apres ski after a day on the glacier begins at the umbrella bar at the gondola valley station at Mutterberg (if the snow’s been good you might have skied down on the Wilden Grub’n run). At Neustift you can work your way through a variety of good bars and nightclubs – such as the Dorf Pub, the American Bar, Aumis, Bierfassl, Harry’s pub, the Zwickl bar and Hully Gully’s. If you find yourself in Fulpmes, after riding the Schlick 2000 slopes, try Ossi or Corso.
The luxury Jagdhof, a Relais & Châteaux hotel is the choice if the budget is not the main criterion. The facilities are superb and the hotels manage to keep a wonderfully intimate atmosphere despite its size – the mark of a classy establishment. And the ‘Vitality World’ spa has 17 varieties of baths, steam baths and saunas! As well as heated indoor and outdoor pools.
At the four-star Hotel Tirolerhof you’ll get a warm Tirolean welcome from the Pfurtscheller family – two different generations of them in fact. The hotel is in the village centre and a short walk from the ski bus stop. It’s also close to the lift that will take you up to the resort’s great toboggan run. Tobogganing takes place on Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights.
Also in the village centre is the recently refurbished Augarten, a traditional and charming hotel run by the friendly Schöpf family.
The prestigious Hotel Stubaierhof in Fulpmes is centrally situated and handy for the ski bus for the short ride to the lifts. It also has a fabulous spa, with indoor swimming pool, saunas, whirlpool – and a salt grotto.
So what’s happening in Stubai this winter?
Enjoying the nightlife in Stubai will be easier this season with the Nightliner bus connecting the resorts along the valley. Whether you try the 20m high ice climbing tower on the Stubai glacier, or if possible the icefalls of the Grawa – and Pinnisvalley waterfall – you will take unforgettable memories home with you!
Every Monday throughout the winter there is ice-climbing instruction on the 20-metre ice tower on the glacier – contact the mountain guide office in Neustift for details. And winter mountain climbing lessons are on offer too.
As a magnet for families, the Stubaital offers masses of attractions to tempt people to take a break from the slopes; indoor swimming pools (free entrance with the Superski lift pass), curling, skating, snowshoe walking, paragliding, tennis – and tobogganing at Neustift on an amazing nine-kilometre run, the longest in Tirol.
Mountain facts: 150 kms of runs in total. Blue runs – 23. Red runs – 13. Black runs – 6. Nursery slopes in every village, as well as up on the glacier. Eight snow cannon, 12 mountain huts. Total number of lifts – 41. Mountain restaurants – 12. Tobogganing in the whole valley
The Stubai Glacier – the biggest glacier ski area in Austria
Stubaital – the Stubai valley – multiple award winner for being snow-sure from October to June
Winter sports variety in 4 ski regions – Stubai Glacier, Schlick 2000 ski resort, Elfer and Serles cable cars
150 km of slopes – one ski pass for two days minimum
67 km of toboggan runs, the biggest tobogganing centre in the Tyrol, 5 illuminated runs
130 km of cross-country ski runs – snow guaranteed on high-altitude runs
Snow parks on the Stubai Glacier and the Schlick 2000 ski resort
Skiing tickets FREE for children under 10 when accompanied by a paying parent
Creche facilities in the BIG Family Ski Camp at the Stubai Glacier and “Ronny’s Kinderland” children’s centre in the Schlick 2000 resort
Named as the most family-friendly ski region in the Alps in 2010 by Germany’s motoring organisation ADAC
Quick and easy travel by air, rail and car – 20 minutes from Innsbruck
Ski guide written by Rob Freeman