Solden is one of Austria’s best. Step out of the iceQ restaurant, 3048m up on top of Solden’s Gaislachkogl summit, cue Bond theme tune on your music, clip in, and you’re living the dream skiing in 007’s Spectre tracks..
This is not just another ski holiday! No wonder the Bond team chose this spectacular piece of Tirol as the location for some of Spectre’s best sequences – they had all these amazing views as backdrops, awesome terrain for the ski stunts, yet access is so easy, just a two stage express gondola ride up nearly 1700 vertical metres from Sölden’s village centre far down in the valley below.
The new second stage opened in 2010, followed by the Ice Q in December 2013, an outstanding deluxe restaurant with table service, offering gourmet Alpine Cuisine, excellent wines, 94 seats inside, 34 seats on the terrace and an awe-inspiring rooftop terrace.
Accommodating movie stars and a 500 plus film crew is no easy task either, but Sölden provides a great range of accommodation, 578 options from family run bed and breakfasts to the 5 star Das Central Alpine hotel.
The ski area is up there with even Austria’s best, and the only one in the country to offer 3 peaks over 3000m altitude – Gaislachkogl (3,048 m), Tiefenbachkogl (3,250 m)
and Schwarze Schneide (3,340 m). Collectively they are known as the BIG 3 Vista Points, and you must at least do the first two, which are lift accessed, featuring the Ice Q as noted with a viewing platform connected to roof terrace, and a vertigo inspiring suspended “Pyramid’ walkway at Tiefenbachkogl. The highest, a natural platform at Schwarze Schneide, involves a 90m vertical hike above the gondola station. It takes about 20 minutes, and is well worth it for the spectacular 360 degree panorama spanning over 100km from the Dolomites in the South to the Zugspitze peak in the North.
You could cruise around and visit a different one each day, or you could take the Big 3 Rally challenge and ski them all in the same day — a new route which is set to become one of the classics, over 50km of great skiing.
Of course with altitudes like this you are guaranteed long descents, over 2000m lift accessed vertical; a super long season, from October to May; and reliable snow conditions. So reliable the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup Opening events are scheduled for October 22nd & 23rd, with Women’s and Men’s GS events up on the Rettenbach Glacier.
In fact the “autumn season” from late September offers 10 lifts, 34.5 km of runs and up to 575m vertical on the Rettenbach and Tiefenbach Glaciers.
These are linked by a scenic 1.7 km long ski tunnel at 3,240m above sea level that guarantees a quick and easy change from one glacier to the other, so you can ski both on the same day. It’s a 14 km drive or bus ride up from Sölden to the glacier ski area.
In the main season the terrain choice explodes to 145km of runs, hooked up by high tech lifts. The improvement there continues next season with a new state-of-the-art feeder gondola to the Giggijoch ski mountain to be installed featuring 134 ten passenger cabins and a high level of comfort, including escalators and elevators at the base station, and a ground-level exit area right to the ski slope on the top station. It’s no coincidence that the world’s best lift company, Doppelmayr, is Austrian.
Around 76% of the groomed pistes have snowmaking, while the extensive off-piste provide the true alpine terrain experience that is the primary lure for expert skiers looking for a challenge.
To stretch the legs the longest run is 15km, dropping 1880m vertical.
When it’s time to relax and refuel 33 mountain huts and restaurants are scattered around the area, plus plenty more dining options in the villages.
Aprés ski starts early, often with lunch, and skiing down past umbrella bars and mountain huts before you even get to the main pubs and restaurants in the village will test your stamina.
There are far too many options to name them, but Philipp at the Gaislachkogel base is legendary, and a great main starting point and meeting point for lost friends as several downhill trails funnel down to it. Solden’s party strip along the main street kicks over to nightlife mode around 9pm and continues till late, so you can surge on with the crowd. Depending how you count, around 90 bars, restaurants and discos cater to many tastes, mostly loud with some great music happening. If you prefer things a bit quieter stay up at Höchsolden at 2090m, which gives you direct access to the high alpine in the mornings.
fast facts The Ötztal areas are linked by a bus network that’s free for skiers.
getting to Solden Fly to Innsbruck 85km to Solden and bit more to Obergurgl/Hochgurgl depending on conditions; or Munich 210km 2 – 3 hours. Rail to Ötztal Bahnhof with bus/taxi to the resorts.
more info www.austria.info/skiing www.oetztal.com/en-winter
ski tour packages www.travelplan.com.au www.mogulski.com.au