Ischgl, Austria, Feb. 3, 2017

Resort and backcountry skiing and snowboarding in Europe and Asia, including our famous reader-submitted No-Bull Snow Reports.

Ischgl, Austria, Feb. 3, 2017

Postby Tony Crocker » Sun Feb 05, 2017 11:51 pm

IschglMap.jpg

Another period of unsettled weather was predicted, but Friday proved manageable even though it was cloudy most of the day. This is about as much sun as we saw, looking up the C2 chair about 10AM.
IMG_8384.JPG


Once again we moved quickly to the E sector, this time hoping to try the E5 tram which we had bypassed Thursday in favor or powder laps on E4 and the scenic run to Samnaun. Top of E4:
IMG_8387.JPG


With the weather it was not obvious the E5 was running. Just a handful of people we there though the electronic board said it was open. One of the tram docks was out of our sight line and a few minutes after we arrived it left the station. So we got on the next tram in 10 minutes and headed up to Piz Val Gronda. The upper half of the tram and piste 42 were in the cloud but fortunately the snow was soft and forgiving enough for decent skiing in low visibility. Halfway down we emerged from the cloud.
IMG_8389.JPG


Past the tram base we skied piste 40 to E4, then 20 into the C sector. 20 was a steeper version of the tram run, low vis but forgiving and consistent snow. We continued on 23 to the C5 lift and took a lap there on 14a.
IMG_8390.JPG


Next time from Geitspitze we skied 72 on the Swiss side and took a short break at Salaas.
P2030336.JPG

A bit different from traditional on-mountain architecture in the Alps

If it’s cloudy in the Alps and you’re not sure of orientation, here’s a hint.
IMG_8392.JPG

Lounge chairs nearly always face south.

Back up the O1 lift we skied pistes 14 and 12 into Austria. We rode B2 over this boulder field and skied piste 11 down to Idalp.
P2030340.JPG


Then we took the B8 lift to ski the 7a run which had been closed Wednesday.
IMG_8394.JPG

Still nice scenery despite some flat light on the upper half.

At the bottom of 7a we took the short F1 lift. From the base of F1 we could see a slide path that had run to the ground.
IMG_8396.JPG


We skied to the A2 gondola and finished the day with a 4,000 vertical run down 4 and 1a to town.
IMG_8397.JPG


Total for Friday was 26,400 vertical. We were lucky to have only 2 runs in bad visibility, which coincidentally had the best snow of the day.
http://bestsnow.net
Ski Records
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
User avatar
Tony Crocker
 
Posts: 9790
Joined: Thu Sep 23, 2004 10:37 am
Location: Avatar: Charlotte Bay, Antarctica 2011
Location: Glendale, California

Re: Ischgl, Austria, Feb. 3, 2017

Postby jamesdeluxe » Mon Feb 06, 2017 3:32 pm

Any final thoughts about the visit, different regions, comparisons with North America, etc.? Very few people have the time/means to go on a three-week Alps trip so you're providing a unique POV.
User avatar
jamesdeluxe
 
Posts: 3318
Joined: Mon Oct 04, 2004 3:19 pm
Location: South Orange, NJ

Re: Ischgl, Austria, Feb. 3, 2017

Postby Tony Crocker » Tue Feb 07, 2017 12:10 am

jamesdeluxe wrote:three-week Alps trip

As with Japan, it helps amortize the higher airfare cost to stay more than one week.

The Sandhof in Lech is by no means unique as a representative of the Austrian all inclusive hotel model. All four hotels we we used had nice dinners and basement wellness/spa facilities. I guess I should mention that in all of the Austrian hotels the sauna/steam rooms are marked as "naked only." And unlike Japanese onsens they are not sex segregated. Liz commented that with a big group of friends like the Diamond Dogs, many Americans would be uncomfortable. But as just a traveling couple with other patrons being a bunch of anonymous Germans we didn't mind.

Overall it's easy to see why the Austrian hotel model is a success. You get a high standard of all inclusive services, very self-contained and relaxing after skiing, at lower prices than in North America. Some British visitors commented that both hotel and lift facilities in Austria are much better than in France. Obviously it's not as cheap as the Salt Lake or interior B.C. road trip model, but you could probably approximate that staying a few km away from the resorts in many places in Europe. Remember that lift tickets cost about half as much as in North America.

The Sandhof was definitely smaller scale than the other places. It was easy to engage the maitre d'hotel Martin in some very illuminating conversations about many aspects of the ski industry in Austria. What sets the Sandhof apart is its superb location in Lech, where most accommodation is much more expensive. The Alpinresort in Saalbach was nominally more expensive than Sandhof, but not really since it also included a bottle of wine with every dinner for which we paid extra at the other hotels.

The Sonne in Ischgl was similar price to Sandhof and the Vital and Sport in Brixen was noticeably less. The Brixen hotel was not at the lifts but on a bus route with a end-of-day piste coming from SkiWelt. And SkiWelt is not going to impress most North Americans from a ski perspective. It's the same kind of trail complex, relatively short vertical runs and snowmaking dependence as a lot of American resorts both East and West, just on a larger scale.

I've commented on ski area analysis in the daily TR's, but SkiWelt/Kitzbuhel and Saalbach were never on my radar before this trip due to low altitude and presumed snow unreliability. I booked both just a few days before we left the Arlberg, knowing what ski conditions to expect. Those expectations were generally met. It was a surprise that areas that vast could be supportable mostly on manmade snow. The late January timeframe is good for them for the same reason as at Jackson Hole: valley inversions can prevent the base area snow from melt/freezing. You do get that telltale manmade subsurface, which Liz said is typical of moderately above average conditions in the Northeast.

Saalbach is Vail-like in many ways. Terrain is concentrated in the broad intermediate range, layout is good to spread people around and it has Vail-like amenities at much lesser prices. I would still never book these places far in advance. It rained in that region twice during our third week, all the way up SkiWelt and more than halfway up Saalbach and Kitzbuhel. But our experience shows that it's not difficult to get lodging on short notice, and not necessarily for the whole week. Saalbach and Kitzbuhel have great powder potential if you get lucky and both rate to be very non-competitive. But the powder is likely to be decent only for a day or two, not several days later as we saw at Warth and you might see at Ischgl.

The Sandhof in Lech to no surprise is high demand and you will have to stay there for a week and book well in advance. We had to book in October and go one week earlier than I wanted. But we had James-like good fortune because that earlier week turned out to be the one with cold powder. As I said in one of the reports, I view Lech as the more desirable base location in the Arlberg vs. St. Anton.
1) Much easier access to Warth-Schrocken
2) The new lift connection from Zurs to Rauz has a much higher volume of people/lift line potential day-tripping from St. Anton to Lech/Zurs vs. the opposite.

The Arlberg is what's most famous to North Americans, and for advanced/expert terrain it is indeed a far cut above the other Austrian places we skied, snow conditions permitting. The usual snow condition problem there is altitude/exposure, but in our case it was low tide coverage. The super steep stuff at St. Anton was not being skied much for that reason. Martin said we were better off having the unusually cold weather to preserve the powder. My 2013 trip to the Arlberg was more "normal." Coverage was better but you had to go way off piste with guides to find any decent powder.

Ischgl is Austria's most reliable resort for snow surfaces. The Arlberg is snowier but lower with much more sun exposure. Low tide limited the off-piste in Ischgl this trip too. "Normal" should be better. I don't see why a lot of Ischgl's ungroomed north and northwest facing slopes wouldn't have chalky packed powder from mid-January to late March in most seasons. Ischgl has an intermediate reputation and those off-piste areas are not as steep as what I skied at Grands-Montets, Verbier or Zermatt. But they are comparable to Mammoth's chairs 3 and 5 or Vail's Back Bowls, so good enough for powder days and interesting enough for other times too.

What was weird about this trip vs. North American skiing is that nearly all the skiing was either groomers or powder. There was very little ungroomed non-powder skiing. Once the ungroomed snow wasn't powder it was nearly unskiable. This is possibly par for the course at the low altitude places. At Ischgl it was cement-like new snow that didn't get skier packed like it would at most places in North America. Some of it does get skier packed in the Arlberg, because that region attracts more people who want to ski off-piste.

I have to add that my perfect :evil: :twisted: record with the airlines on ski trips to the Alps is still intact after 5 of them. James thought we chose wisely this time to return via Amsterdam vs. Paris or London, but Murphy knew better. Amsterdam had fog yesterday morning so they held our plane in Zurich for nearly two hours. Thus we landed in Amsterdam at 9:50AM, about the time our flight to L.A. was schedule to take off. Surely the fog would delay that takeoff? No, it left on time without us. :evil: So we were rerouted through... Heathrow. :lol: That flight was about 45 minutes late leaving ~2:25PM. The Heathrow transfer was reminiscent of Charles de Gaulle: walk through one terminal, get on a bus for 15 minutes to another terminal, go through security again, and naturally our gate was the most remote one, with the message board flashing that it would soon close. The good news was that we made the flight to L.A. but to little surprise our luggage did not. It just arrived at my house an hour ago.

We were supposed to be home in time to go to Richard's Super Bowl party, but instead arrived 7 hours later. Fortunately the flight from London to L.A. was on tech-savvy Virgin America, so they showed the game on their sports channel. Unfortunately the video feed cut off as we came in for the landing, early in the 4th quarter with score 28-12. After we landed and organized our carry-ons I pulled up a streaming radio station with score 28-20. But the customs/immigration room at LAX shuts down cell service. By the time we got past that to baggage claim the score was tied with seconds to go in regulation. I did hear the overtime while waiting for our missing luggage.

To recap my Euro ski trips with the airlines:
2004: Delayed departure from Geneva to Frankfurt. I barely made the connection to the flight home but my luggage did not, arrived the next day.
2008: Leaving La Grave to Salt Lake via Paris, my luggage did not make it. I got it after 3 of my 4 ski days at Iron Blosam. Admin kindly furnished all of my ski clothing, but I had to rent boots and skis. After that experience I bought a carry-on backpack/ski boot bag.
2013: Flying to Zurich via Heathrow, the latter airport couldn't handle 2 inches of snow and cancelled most outgoing flights. Richard and I spent the night in London and arrived in Zurich 24 hours later than planned and missed the first dinner at the Sandhof. My skis arrived 3 days later.
2014: We booked the Zermatt trip only 3 weeks in advance after the Diamond Dogs had a last minute opening. Consequently we changed planes in both JFK and Paris. My skis made it to Geneva but my other bag did not for another 30 hours. After the 2008 fiasco I was prepared and had boots and ski clothes in my carry-on.
2017: See above, fog delay, rerouted flight home landing 7 hours later than scheduled. Luggage arrives 24+ hours later.

My luck with the airlines other than the Alps is quite good. We had 3 major expeditions to Asia last year with no glitches. I've only had a lost luggage incident on one other ski trip: skis were 2 days late arriving in Canada for spring break 1999. In all my years of travel I've had maybe two other incidents of luggage delayed by one day, fortunately on the coming home end.

In 2006 going to Canada I had situations like this year in both directions of delayed flights and missed connections. I missed the only flight into Kamloops so Alaska Airlines had to pay for a $215 cab ride from Kelowna to Kamloops. On the way home I missed the connection to Burbank and got sent to LAX. But for that hassle I got a $400 voucher which I used the next season for a spring trip to Mt. Bachelor.
http://bestsnow.net
Ski Records
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
User avatar
Tony Crocker
 
Posts: 9790
Joined: Thu Sep 23, 2004 10:37 am
Location: Avatar: Charlotte Bay, Antarctica 2011
Location: Glendale, California

Re: Ischgl, Austria, Feb. 3, 2017

Postby jamesdeluxe » Tue Feb 07, 2017 11:34 am

Nice summary.

Tony Crocker wrote:The Sandhof in Lech is by no means unique as a representative of the Austrian all inclusive hotel model. All four hotels we we used had nice dinners and basement wellness/spa facilities. (...) Overall it's easy to see why the Austrian hotel model is a success. You get a high standard of all inclusive services, very self-contained and relaxing after skiing, at lower prices than in North America. Some British visitors commented that both hotel and lift facilities in Austria are much better than in France.
Some all-inclusive hotels have excellent cuisine, facilities, and ambiance, some less so; some include lift tix, others not. Sandhof was outstanding value on pretty much every level at that price point. I was shocked that such a place existed given what I'd heard about Lech and how it wasn't for net-worth mere mortals like me. That said; the place where I stayed the year after Sandhof was the same price and had decent food (amenities and location were not as good). I always wonder why Lech's marketing association doesn't fight that inaccurate perception about how it's only for the truly rich.

Not sure about the British visitors' comment -- I've stayed in very pleasant/cost-effective places in France too.

Tony Crocker wrote:Obviously it's not as cheap as the Salt Lake or interior B.C. road trip model, but you could probably approximate that staying a few km away from the resorts in many places in Europe.
I've done that on a few occasions: for example being based in Galtür, ten minutes away from Ischgl at the end of the bus line, saved me about $600 and it was much calmer than Ischgl's high-octane ambiance, but many people enjoy being near the party-til-you-drop festivities.

Tony Crocker wrote:The SkiWelt is not going to impress most North Americans from a ski perspective. It's the same kind of trail complex, relatively short vertical runs and snowmaking dependence as a lot of American resorts both East and West, just on a larger scale.
Yes, its only superlative is from a "travelling from village to village" perspective, which as we know, basically doesn't exist in North America. The new Park City/Canyons complex approximates it to a partial extent, I'd guess, but not completely. Didn't you say that there was a run back to Brixen that had 3,000+ verts?

Tony Crocker wrote:What was weird about this trip vs. North American skiing is that nearly all the skiing was either groomers or powder. There was very little ungroomed non-powder skiing. Once the ungroomed snow wasn't powder it was nearly unskiable. This is possibly par for the course at the low altitude places.
Based on my anecdotal experience, you had a perfect storm of conditions/weather that resulted in this situation. I'm almost always skiing ungroomed non-powder there. Still, you had a mostly enviable three-week run.

Tony Crocker wrote:I have to add that my perfect :evil: :twisted: record with the airlines on ski trips to the Alps is still intact after 5 of them.
Flying nonstop from the East Coast, I've never had flight/baggage issues. A definite consideration for Americans living in the west that makes them less likely to fly to the Alps, especially if they're only planning to stay a week there.
User avatar
jamesdeluxe
 
Posts: 3318
Joined: Mon Oct 04, 2004 3:19 pm
Location: South Orange, NJ

Re: Ischgl, Austria, Feb. 3, 2017

Postby Tony Crocker » Tue Feb 07, 2017 11:29 pm

jamesdeluxe wrote:Didn't you say that there was a run back to Brixen that had 3,000+ verts?

Yes the run back to our car was about that, and the run from Hohe Salve to Hofgarten is 4,000. But those are the exceptions in SkiWelt. Also, you were in this region in 2003 in spring, way past its prime time. Don't a lot of people download at the end of the day when the low elevation snow is marginal? Lots of Euro areas can have marginal snow on the runs down to the resort towns, but most of them have 2,500+ vertical terrain pods above those runs, Ischgl being a good example.
http://bestsnow.net
Ski Records
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
User avatar
Tony Crocker
 
Posts: 9790
Joined: Thu Sep 23, 2004 10:37 am
Location: Avatar: Charlotte Bay, Antarctica 2011
Location: Glendale, California


Return to Europe & Asia

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests


All content herein copyright © 1999-2017 First Tracks!! Online Media

Forums Terms & Conditions of Use

cron