Stuben: tranquility on the Arlberg
Glamour and profile neuroses? Luxury boutiques and trendy bars? People who like to cruise around in expensive branded ski clothes or who park their luxury SUV as close to the slopes as possible in a heated underground car park? “We don’t have anything like that,” says Willi Mathies, legendary ski instructor from Stuben who has served for decades.
Stuben is a small mountain village on the west side of the Arlberg. A traffic-calmed village street, a village shop and a Pilsstube, a handful of hotels and a few lodges and chalets. But no fuss, hardly any chichi or fuss. Après-ski, for example, has never been a big topic in Stuben. Stuben is pure skiing in winter. What is particularly in demand in times of Corona.
Here, as elsewhere in Austria or the ski areas in South Tyrol and Switzerland, hygiene concepts have been developed for the upcoming winter season. Crowds of people at the lift stations and counters should be avoided. Ski passes are preferably available online, when queuing at the lift, as in other public areas, a minimum distance and mask requirement apply. This should be specially monitored this winter, also in rooms.
Whoever comes there wants to ski and nothing else. Hannes Schneider was born in 1890 in the tranquil parlor, a place that today does not even have 100 inhabitants. Schneider is the Austrian ski legend par excellence, leading actor in films such as “The White Rush” and the founder of the Arlberg technology. This is a special way of driving with closely guided skis. In Schneider’s tradition, local ski instructors impart their knowledge and skills to the guests. In Stuben you live right on the slopes, you can completely forget your car for your vacation days.
The local mountain Albona enjoys cult status in freeriding circles with its many deep snow variants. Stuben was always a little out of the way, unlike other places on the Arlberg. Thanks to new lift connections, the entire huge ski area up to St. Anton and via Lech even to Warth and Schröcken can be reached on skis from Stuben. 300 kilometers of slopes are waiting for you. Not bad for the small room.
Accommodation tip: “Arlberg Lodges”. Tastefully furnished apartments with lots of wood and breakfast and lunch service. From 160 euros per lodge and day for two to four people (arlberg-lodges.at). Info: stuben.com
Niederthai: Flying high in the branch from the Ötztal
Loud and fun ski areas are currently not very popular. If you still want to experience and enjoy the Ötztal, before Corona with Sölden, well-known for après-ski qualities, you can retreat to an idyllic mountain village here.
Niederthai is hiding in the Horlachtal, a branch of the Ötztal, at an altitude of 1550 meters. You can get there on a well-developed road from Umhausen. When you arrive, you can look forward to a lot of peace and quiet and alpine nature. Apart from mountain farms and a few inns and hotels, there are no more than four ski lifts, three of which are drag lifts.
Cross-country skiers have a good time here, with 31 km of trails that are mostly still snow-sure. The three kilometer long track into the Horlachtal is particularly appealing. Like the neighboring Tauferberg, the valley is ideal terrain for winter hikers and snowshoeers.
Up there you feel far away from wintry mass tourism. If you still long for Sölden, Ober- and Hochgurgl, the established Ötztal ski areas, you can take the ski bus for a trip there.
St. Leonhard: Skiing against the backdrop of the Dolomites
Alta Badia has developed into a premium ski area in recent years. A total of 500 kilometers of slopes are available if you add the offers in the neighboring and directly connected Val Gardena. The World Cup races shortly before Christmas also had good advertising effects, as did the star restaurants in the valley.
If you want to enjoy the excellent skiing fun against the backdrop of large Dolomite peaks such as Sella or Marmolada, but still want some peace and quiet, the small village of St. Leonhard is ideal. It is located on the northern edge of the ski circuit on the sunny western slope.
Here you can still find the typical viles, the Ladin mountain farms, the wood of which has darkened over the centuries. Tiny, loopholes-like windows let very little light into the interior. Here time seems to have stood still in a down-to-earth way, here many people make a pilgrimage to the birthplace of Saint Joseph Freinademetz, who was once a missionary in China.
Also very popular: take the lift up to the pilgrimage church Heilig Kreuz and have the famous Kaiserschmarrn served in the historic inn next door. In the ski huts around St. Leonhard, old Ladin dishes are still served, as traditionally prepared by mountain farmers for generations.
With the La Rüa chairlift you have a direct connection to the valley station in La Villa and find a large selection of slopes there: the Gran Risa World Cup slope or would you prefer to go right to Val Gardena? On the Sella Ronda or left towards Falzarego and Cinque Torri, to the five rock towers? An excursion to Marmolada is also possible.
Accommodation tip: “Hotel Cavallino”. Modernized middle class hotel with good wellness facilities in the village center. From 84 euros per person with half board (cavallino-altabadia.it). Info: altabadia.org
Geiselsberg: At Plan de Corones, from bed to the ski slope
The Kronplatz in the Italian part of the Puster Valley is one of the most popular ski mountains in South Tyrol. You don’t have to find it beautiful, the bare block. There are wonderful descents from the summit at 2274 meters to almost all sides. A total of almost 120 kilometers of slopes come together.
The best way to experience the Kronplatz is if you don’t stay in the valley like the majority of winter sports guests, but settle in Geiselsberg. The tiny mountain village at 1400 meters halfway up on the east side spoils its residents with spectacular views and absolute proximity to the very wide and well-groomed slopes.
Here in Geiselsberg you almost fall from bed onto the slopes. There are some good hotels where the time away from the slopes doesn’t have to be boring. Excursions with the ski bus also bring variety here – something to Olang or Bruneck.
Sils: Between fairytale castle and celebrity traces
Do artists and intellectuals tend to be people who like to hide in places that are nice and nice and quiet? If so, that would explain the clientele who like to turn up in the village of Sils in the Engadin in the Swiss canton of Graubünden a few kilometers west of St. Moritz. There you keep a respectful distance from the commercial hustle and bustle in the world-famous fashionable winter sports resort.
You can stroll and cross-country ski on the lake shores, and in winter ice-skate in frozen water. Walks or cross-country excursions lead to the romantic Val Fex. There you can fortify yourself in lonely inns with barley soup, Bündnerfleisch and hash browns and enjoy the elitist calm that Friedrich Nietzsche, Hermann Hesse, Albert Einstein, Thomas Mann and David Bowie appreciated there. Most of them stayed in the archaic and exclusive “Waldhaus Sils”, which towers like a fairytale castle above Sils Maria.
But that’s just one part of the story. Sils Maria is also a place for skiers. At the edge of the village, the cable car starts up to the famous Corvatsch ski area with 120 kilometers of slopes up to an altitude of 3300 meters. On the rather sporty Hahnensee run you could ski straight to St. Moritz – and from there by bus or taxi back to the enchanting sleepiness of Sils.