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Pros and cons of Gastein, Austria

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
We are planning a trip to Gastein, Austria, just after the 2004-05 holiday season. The cheep flights from Charlotte, NC, to Munich are too tempting. Munich to Gastein will be via overnight train. Any tips about the resort will be appreciated. Specifically, though, how will the snow be at that time? Everybody in our group that has boots, is taking them, and leaving their skis. Are there ski rentals for every range of ability? Our group has intermediates to all terrain advanced felluhs. How is the food? I assume the beer is great. Any nightlife? How cold is it really?

Thanks from the Mainiac
post #2 of 22
OK, when are you going - dates please!
I was skiing in Bad Gastein in mid march on fairly good conditions.
A visit to the thermal baths is a must, just remember - swimming trunks MUST be worn in the pools, but must NOT be worn in the saunas/steam rooms.

There's good terrain in that are for all levels of skiing. Can't remember the acreage, but I'd expect that if you looked at the linked resorts in that velley, you'd be looking at similar size to Whistler/Blackcomb.

In terms of food, I don't think there are any McDonalds etc, so you will be able to enjoy food with less processing to it.

I'll dig up a few photos, if I can find them.
post #3 of 22
Thread Starter 

Dec 27-Jan 6.

Thanks for the information!

post #4 of 22
OK, you'll have good snow, it will be busy, so expect lift lines - many people in the UK would take Christmas/New Year to go skiing.
I'll try to dig up some info for you - I have some things at home.
post #5 of 22
Thread Starter 

Got to the Bad Gastein site and checked the valley maps. There appear to a fantastic variety of pistes. Do you have any favorites? Suggestions? And as we will be there at a peak time....should we take our own skis?

Thanks again,

post #6 of 22
You can rent when you're there, just make sure you go for "superior" skis (or whatever they call the top level)

I'm not sure if you've looked around this site...
post #7 of 22

And play around with the linked pages!
post #8 of 22
You should have a great time. If snow conditions cooperate there is definitely enough ski terrain in the Gastein Valley to keep you very entertained for a week. One trail (Hohe Sharte) has a Whistler type vertical drop of 4800' feet. Austria is great for beer lovers. I'm a meat and potatoes type person and really enjoyed Austrian food too. I brought my own skis, but there will be plenty of equipment rental options. I enjoyed the company of Kurt Fuchs for a day. He's the modest co-owner/guide/instructor at Schneesport Schule Gastein. The wide open Schlossalm area of Bad Hofgastein is an intermediates paradise. I also enjoyed an area called Youngeralm. The funicular at Bad Hofgastein was crowded the day I was there. With luck January can often be snowy in the Alps, but early winter in Austria sometimes presents marginal conditions. If snow quality is less than optimal during your visit the nearby higher elevation ski terrain at Sportgastein should be a helpful option. I visited only for a day so I did not partake in nightlife, but there should be plenty. It is known to be a bit on the sophisticated side, maybe bring a coat and tie if you're into that. Austria in general is not as cold as New England during comparable winter months. Temperatures and weather should be reasonable during your visit, but there is always the chance of an extended January snowstorm which can sometimes shut down alpine ski areas for a day or two. But that's where powder comes from!
I was there in February of 2003, check this out if it doesn't put you to sleep:
http://www.dcski.com/news/2003/03_10_2003/salzburg.php3 (2nd and 3rd photos in this piece are from Gastein Valley) and http://www.dcski.com/news/2003/03_27...salzburg2.php3
post #9 of 22
When I first contemplated skiing in Austria three years ago, SkiEurope tried to sell me an inexpensive package tour to Bad Gastein. My wife, a European, balked! "That's a spa town filled with old folks who enjoy gambling and sitting in hot water," she said, "let's skip it and go to a real resort." We went to St. Anton instead:


We weren't dissappointed with our choice. The next year, we returned to the Arlberg, basing ourselves at Lech instead of St. Anton, but skiing extensively at both base areas and at Zuers:



Again, we were not dissappointed. In fact, ESTATIC would be a better word to describe that epic trip.

Last season, we branched out and skied Ischgl, Soelden, and St. Moritz:




Ok, so I still haven't made it to Bad Gastein and from what Jim has said and written, it is a great place worthy of a visit.

However, if I had to chose just one place to go within an easy train ride of Munich, the Arlberg would be my first choice hands down. Why? I'm an advanced skier who appreciates the challenge and variety of the Arlberg: steep terrain; slopes of every kind including ample tree lined terrain (a rarity in the Alps and useful in whiteout conditions that often plague these places in January); easy access by train; great restaurants including lots of good non-Austrian options; one of the best lift systems in the Alps (high-speed, high capacity); great mountain restaurants; lots of BIG vert. descents; history; etc. etc.

For lower intermediates, I really liked the Corviglia side of St. Moritz because of the low crowds, gentle slopes, nice snow, and sunny weather. For pure intermediates, Ischgl is superb. Ischgl also offers a lot of nice off-piste for experts but black marked piste there is limited. The extent of Ischgl is a little less than St. Anton but it is all interconnected by slopes and lifts--hence it skies BIG! Soelden has some excellent glacier areas and huge vert. but its extent is not the quite same as the other resorts mentioned. However, I could easily entertain myself for a week at Soelden. I love bagging 6500 feet of vert. in a single, non-stop, EPIC EPIC run. Every skier needs to experience this type of vertical at least once in Life.

I think you have two risks going to any Alpine resort in January:

Risk 1: no snow. Snowmaking in the Alps is generally limited to lower access slopes and is not nearly as widespread as it is in the US. Hence, if mother nature does not deliver, you are screwed! That's why most people pay extra and go in late January, February, or March.

Risk 2: A week of snow with many upper slopes closed and low visibility, white out conditions. I met a couple who experienced this type of weather at Ischgl this year in January and they hardly skied at all. Skiing was almost more trouble than it was worth. Hard to believe but anyone who has skied above the treeline in whiteout conditions will probably agree that such conditions are not for the faint of heart.

PS the word "Bad" in German means spa.
post #10 of 22
Thread Starter 
johnfmh and jamesj thanks for your thoughtful posts. My son in law is Polish, and his mother lives in Munich. She suggested the Bad Gastein resort, and the prices are very good. As far as terrain is concerned, three of the guys and one of the gals in the group can handle anything, and the rest are intermediates interested in easy cruising. It appears there is something there for all of us. I have, however, sent the group links to this site so they can view the excellent commentary about the region.

Again thanks, Mainiac
post #11 of 22
St. Anton is not much further to Munich by train than Bad Gastein (about 1 hour further), and one can certainly find reasonable hotels there.


However, for easy cruising, Lech is certainly better base in the Arlberg than St. Anton, which is known more for steep terrain. Lech, though, is much more expensive than St. Anton and order of magnitudes more expensive than Bad Gastein. It also does not have a train station, so you have to take a Post Bus it from Langen to get there. Therefore, Bad Gastein may be the place for you. My BIG concern is snow. As a general rule of thumb, resorts near Salzburg get far less snow than the ones west of Innsbruck. Furthermore, early season snow conditions often suck in Europe. You must remember that Europeans don't make much snow, and snowless Christmas-New Years periods are becoming the rule, not the exception at many resorts.

Two superb, snowsure places for intermediate cruiser types are Solden and Ischgl (especially Ischgl). With respect to Ischgl, I've never been to a mountain more ideally suited to intermediates. The only problem again is COST. Ischgl is not cheap. Solden is cheaper but not as charming at St. Anton, Lech, or Ischgl. However, at Solden, the high altitude terrain and glaciers will guarantee your group good skiing early in the season. There's a reason why Solden typically hosts the first World Cup race of the season--SNOW!!!
post #12 of 22
I did some more research on Bad Gastein and believe it or not, I changed my mind about the place and will probably go there myself this season. However, I will stay at Schladming--connected to Bad Gastein by the Ski Amade Passs.


The amade Ski Alliance comprises not only 5 skiing regions with 865 kms of pistes, but also 5 independent and individual holiday regions with 28 resorts:

Salzburger Sportwelt
Schladming Dachstein-Tauern
Hochkönig's Winterreich

The Gastein part of the network consists of several base areas:

Bad Gastein
Bad Hofgastein
Grossarl Tal

Here's what I learned about Bad Gastein. The place receives a respectable 600 cm of snow a year and is a haven for experts because of the off piste terrain above it and Sport Gastein. There's also a lot of pure intermediate terrain there--especially in the Dorfgastein/Grossarl tal. The Dorfgastein/Grossarl area also is where the most infrastructure investment has been--it has the most new chairs. Sportgastein, Bad Gastein, and Bad Hofgastein have the more upper level skiing and the best off-piste options but infrastucture is less advanced--more slow chairs and surprisingly, lots of pull lifts. Be sure to learn how to use a pull lift on gentle terrain before you try them on steep slopes. Also, if you laugh on these rigs, you fall.

The major complaint I've read about Bad Gastein is that snowmaking is limited--only 30 percent of its terrain is under the guns. The town is kind of like a slightly run down version of St. Moritz so if you like the imperial splendor of Spa towns, you'll like Bad Gastein. Lots of big stone hotels on a hillside--sort of an urban enclave in the middle of the countryside. Spa towns like this tend to be places where you need to where a coat and tie for dinner and women wear fur.

What really sold me on the place is the access via the Ski Amade pass to Schladming's 7 mountains. The Schladming area, although it gets slightly less natural snow than Bad Gastein (500 cm), boasts some of the best snowmaking in the Alps--nearly 100 percent. Much of the terrain is also wooded and north facing so it holds snow well. Wooded terrain is also a godsend on snow days because as we all know, trees offer much needed contrast. Schladming is more of a traditional Austrian Village than Bad Gastein. Arnold's family comes from this region: the Styria provence of Austria. For kicks, one can also ski the Dachstein glacier above Schladming nearly all year long.

Each region within the Amade system has free ski busses, but it is not clear whether one can travel freely by bus between subregions. For me, that's no problem because I will have a car--I need it to visit relatives in nearby Slovakia, where I also hope to do some skiing. But for you folks, you may have to pay for ground transportation should you decide to ski Schladmiing instead of Gastein one day.

A final positive about the whole region is the access to Salzburg, Linz, Vienna, Bratislava, and Munich. In the end, this access issue is what is really selling me on this region because my time in Europe will be so limited. Salzburg and Linz (both interesting places with lots to see and do) are about 1.5 hours by train (50 minutes by car) from Ski Amade. Vienna, Bratislava, and Munich are about three hours by car and 4 hours by train. Access to Eastern Europe and relatively low prices makes Ski Amade popular with Slovaks, Czechs, Hungarians, and Poles so don't assume everyone will be German. Given the size of your group, it may pay to have at least one car. The car will make it easier for the skiers to range further afield in the Ski Amade welt, and give the non-skiers an opportunity to visit Vienna for a day. Salzburg and Linz, however, are probably more easily accessed via the train. Parking in European cities leaves a lot to be desired so regional trains are usually the way to go. If your group wants to go to Vienna, I suggest either spending the extra time on the train (you have to switch at least once) or driving to Schwechat Airport, parking, and taking the express CAT TRAIN to Wien Mitte. CAT takes you from VIE to MITTE in just 15 minutes. From Mitte, you can get to most of the famous sites by tram or subway. The VIE airport at Schwechat is only 2.5 hours from Schladming by car.
post #13 of 22
Johnfmh's wife is basically right - the Arlberg is prolly the best overall choice when taking the efford flying into Munich (or alternatively Zurich, Switzerland) to ski the Alps.
Coming down to price tags it may be worth checking out www.ski-arlberg.com to find some place close to Stanton but significantly cheaper (Pettneu, Schnann). In this case consider a rental car to be mobile - it definitely pays off plus you have the option hitting Ischgl too within a 30 minutes drive if you like to see another spot. Look also into renting an appartment there, me and my family did this a couple of years ago.
One more option: Wald/Kloesterle are two villages with own skiing just a 5 min cab ride from Langen train station but share the Arlberg ski ticket. Regular shuttle service into Stuben, the first Arlberg resort (approx. 10 min ride) with access to Albona/Stanton area. A very good spot to venture over to Lech btw., nested pretty central.
post #14 of 22

PLEASE DO NOT TELL ANYONE ABOUT STUBEN (Albona I & II). That's a state secret!!!!
post #15 of 22
Disclaimer: Stuben definitely is a place to avoid!
post #16 of 22

Gastein is a top ski area. We stayed Jan 04 based in Badgastein. The main area is the linked Stubnerkogel/Schossalm area, with Stubnerkogel having the tougher runs.Most runs in this area are pretty long typically 5km or longer, B11 is a tremendous cruise as is 7.8km H1 Hohe Scharte run down to Bad Hofgastein.
Graukogel is a small hill with tough runs, very quiet hardly any other people and excellent in bad weather as it is all below the tree line. Dorfgastein well worth a trip for good variety of runs, a couple of good 'ski routes'. Didn't ski SPortgastein, talked to a local who said it was generally cold and windy early season and best skiied later in the season.

Excellent mountain restaurants in all areas, recommend in particular Jungerstube on Stubnerkogel and Wengeralm at Dorfgastein. Nighlife in Badgastien can get very lively, although it is not typically Austrian.Plenty of good bars and the casino is worth a visit. Also recommend the thermal baths, our hotel pool was fed from the same source and it was a great way of soothing the aching muscles before hitting the beer.
post #17 of 22
I have not actually skied at Bad Gastein, but have been to many other Austrian Resorts, including nearby ones such as Schladming and the Sportwelt Amade Region. If the snow is good, I am sure you would have a good time there. As has been said, thermal pools are a great way of relaxing after a day's skiing! However, if you are concerned about the possibility of a lack of snow at that time of year, as others have said you are more likely to be guaranteed good cover in other areas such as the Arlberg. The other alternative is to choose a resort such as Zell am See (which is also on the main railway line) and which has access to a nearby glacier at Kaprun.
I think it's a smart move just to take your ski boots and rent skis in resort - there should be a large choice of the latest models and it avoids the hassle of taking them with you on the flight and train transfer. As regards food and drink, as you say the beer is good - either clear Pilsener lager types or cloudy but flavorful Weizen (wheat) beers. On a cold day a Gluhwein (hot mulled spicy red wine) is also recommended.
Austrian food is hearty and usually meat based, so it can be a bit difficult if you have Vegetarians in your group. Some main course specialities are Wiener Schnitzel (veal in breadcrumbs), Jagerschnitzel (usually pork in a mushroom and vegetable sauce), Forelle (trout) and Bauernschmaus (a Farmer's meal of humungous size : with different meats and Wurst (Frankfurter) served with potatoes and sauerkraut)). At the lunchtime Mountain restaurants they do quite hearty soups such as Goulaschsuppe or Erbsensuppe mit Wurstel (Thick Pea Soup with a Frankfurter). Other lunchtime favorites are Tiroler Grosstl (a bit like corned beef hash, often served with a fried egg) and Leberkase (meatloaf).
Finally, some recommended desserts! Of course you must try Apple Strudel, but other recommendations are Kaiserschmarren (chopped up pancakes dusted with icing sugar and served with a fruit puree) and if you really want some carbo loading, Germknodel, which is a sponge containing poppy seeds and jam, served either with melted butter(too rich for my taste) or vanilla sauce (my preference!)
Wherever you go, I am sure you will have a great time
post #18 of 22
In fact if you want to add tons of calories to your butt hit all the goodies on the food hills.
post #19 of 22
Alistair and Repair Man:

Do you need a car in the Sportwelt Amade Region? I'm thinking seriously of spending 3 nights at Schladming and 2 at Bad Gastein. Wife (a Euro) thinks a car is an unnecessary expense. My experience with the Alps suggests otherwise. Any thoughts? Also, can either of you comment more on the slopes at Schladming. I plan to travel in late January/early Feb.
post #20 of 22

The skiamade pass covers buses and trains that run between villages and lift stations in the region. Not sure if getting the bus invovles changing buses part way, although the journey by train definately involves at least one change. If you are not in a rush to transfer between Schladming and Badgastein then I suggest the train, if you want to maximise time on the slopes then the car is the better option. I can't comment on the skiing at Schladming although it is high on the list of resorts I want to ski in the near future.
post #21 of 22
I visited Schladming over 10 years ago, so things have probably changed a bit. However, the mountain adjacent to the town is called the Planai, served by the Planaibahn gondola whose base station is near the town centre. The skiing on the Planai links into the adjacent mountain, the Hauser-Kaibling, which descends to the adjacent village of Haus. Note this mountain is used on the FIS Women's World Cup Downhill Race Circuit. However, it's fair to say that the majority of the pistes in the Schladming area are European Red (i.e Intermediate Standard). Incidentally, when I was in Schladming, several of the restaurants had signed photographs of Arnie Schwarzenegger - apparently he liked to ski there sometimes (I guess these days as Governor he spends his ski vacations in California? )
A useful website for info is www.schladming.at (move the cursor to tourismusverband and select the english option). This links to Winter and Lift Prices, which show that in the high season (29 January 2005 to 28 March 2005) a 5 day adult pass for the Ski Amade Region (which includes Schladming, Gastein and other resorts) is 144.50 Euros, which I believe is approx US$175.
Hope this is of some help.
post #22 of 22
Thanks Alastair and Repair Man. I'll probably head over there in late January/early Feb. I'd like to spend 3 nights at Schladming and 2 at Bad Gastein. I'll probably rent a car because it will allow me to get more skiing in (a car is a time machine). The car will also allow me to ski in Slovakia, where I will be visiting in-laws. I'll probably ski two additional days in Slovakia: 1 at Jasna and the other at Donovaly.
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