There’s 2 months to go ‘til closing; 100% of the resort’s open; fresh snow’s currently falling; and spring is in the air. Jump on a plane and aim for Innsbruck, from there the huge resort of Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis is waiting to be enjoyed, as travel editor Dave Windsor and his mates recently discovered.
What began as an intended exploration of Polish/Czech ski resorts ended up being an 8 hour roadie to Austria. The lack of snow in central Europe had me and my Polish-Aussie mates, Andrzej and Jarek, pondering what to do next: sightsee, eat pierogi, drink vodka (not necessarily in that order).
As luck would have it, Andrzej’s Dutch son-in-law, Serge, was straight onto WhatsApp, “There’s no snow in Poland guys, why don’t you check out Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis?”, Serge suggested, “As a kid my parents took me to Fiss and now it feels like my second home,” Andrzej’s daughter, Ania, also encouraged us “We’ve been going every year for 12 years. I love being there with the kids for many reasons – beautifully prepared ski runs for all of us, a fun Austrian atmosphere and great facilities.”
Andrzej’s skied there before and he too has great memories. “I love Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis”, he said, “there’s fantastic skiing variety and great après ski”. We looked at each other, checked out Google Maps and all voted in favour. Serge recommended a hotel in the village of Serfaus, made the booking and we were on our way. Aussie ex-pat Mat, now living in Amsterdam, also joined us.
First impressions count and the moment we arrived we were greeted at the resort entry with a beautiful smile, directions to our hotel and a handful of lollies. A sweet start to a sweet week in the awesome Austrian Alps. The charming village of Serfaus, together with its neighbours Fiss and Ladis, are nestled between 1,200-1,400m a little over an hour from Innsbruck. This season, Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis celebrate their 20th year as a massive combined resort boasting 214km of award-winning pistes, 68 lifts, 600 places to call home, countless mountain restaurants, huttes and options for a quick schnapps or three.
The ski area is predominantly above the tree line offering 460 hectares of terrain both on and off, so when the snow’s falling there are endless opportunities to ski freshies that funnell down to a high-speed lift. When it’s not snowing 80 percent of runs can be topped up with snowmaking.
“I loved the friendly and very helpful staff – from the lift pass shop to the ski hire to the beer tents that are everywhere!” says Mat, “There’s a huge variety of extremely well-prepared pistes, which seem to go on forever, and the views are stunning.”
The infrastructure is truly impressive and very Austrian (aka brilliant). Three gondola’s (Alpkofbahn, Komperdellbahn and Sunliner) fan out from Serfaus uplifting thousands of punters with ease. Once up the hill we could access over a dozen different bowls, faces, ridges and valleys. The 163 marked trails peak out at the 2,828m Masnerkopf; 1,400m of vertical can be skied from Zwölferkopf (2,596m) down to Ladis (1,200m); two slalom courses with official start gates, clocks and cameras not only captured my time, but also captured me on film and automatically uploaded the less than impressive video to their server for me to check out later; whilst the electronic ski pass tracked my progress across the 5 days as I racked up 213+ km and over 35,000 metres of vert.
We stayed in comfort at Haus Claudia an easy 150m from the lifts. For others further down the valley, they commuted on the world’s smallest, highest-altitude, air-cushion suspension, driverless underground railway. The 1.3km four stop metro shuttled punters up and down the village which made for a pretty unique “rush hour” between 8-9am each morning.
The madness continues at the convenient and super-efficient Patscheider ski & boot depot / hire shop located right under the gondola station – saving my mates and I the hassle of dragging our gear back and forth each day. The crew even kicked off our après sessions with a Jäger shot as we dropped off our skis.
Dining and après
Culinary and après experiences where nothing short of excellent. The food, beers and locally made pinecone infused zirbenschnaps all hit the spot. Highlights included a unique meal of locally grown BBQ yak, homemade venison sausage, fried onion and delicious kaiserschmarrn (pancakes) at Madatschen Restaurant. Lucia and Lukas made us feel at home, whilst Walter on the accordion had us tapping our toes and the locals singing along to Austrian folk songs. The easy half-hour walk not only built our appetite but gave us a spectacular lit up view of the 1.5km long Serfaus village.
Despite priding itself as a family resort, the Après scene is as good as anywhere. First stop was one of the slope side umbrella bars for a couple of cleansing ales which tend to go off from about lunch onwards. Then at the bottom of the Mittelabfahrt home run is the somewhat famous Patschi Pub which starts hard and finishes even harder as local DJs have the punters in a trance like state. The kitchen has a ripper array of ribs, wings, burgers and pizza’s too. Or for a more chilled after dinner drink the four of us loved the Universo Weinkapelle serving excellent Austrian reds.
Fun on and off
The fabulous skiing is brilliantly augmented by fun on mountain activities that are more at home in an amusement park than ski resort. 500+ vertical metre toboggan runs; the 80km/h 700 metre hang-gliding experience Fisser Flieger and 360 degree Sky Swing; the Schneisenfeger forest roller coaster; and like any self-respecting Austrian ski resort the ski school presents an hour long weekly Adventure Night featuring synchronised skiing, jumping, music, lights, skidoos and fireworks – even the Pisten Bully crew get in on the act. “The show’s a jaw dropping experience,” says Jarek, “they definitely know how to entertain.”
Prior to attending Adventure Night, Jarek and I caught a couple of gondolas to 2,350m for dinner at Restaurant Lassida. The fixed price menu was outstanding value as we both failed to clean our plates. And the live entertainment had us all cheering for more.
Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis ticks every conceivable box – on and off the snow. “It was an amazing experience!”, enthuses Alps first timer Jarek, “They have enormous skiing areas with great conditions, the après was an awesome way to kick on after a hard day on the slopes and I love the traditional Austrian food. I highly recommend a visit and can’t wait to go back in the future!” Mat agrees, “I’d be back in a heartbeat!”