Throughout the fall we had been on the fence about whether we would spend time skiing in the Alps. Cost was the main factor for hesitation: resort accommodation prices are high, ski rentals and lift prices while cheaper than California still add up, and we had to obtain all the necessary clothing. The second factor for hesitation was that Gigi and I just are notenthusiastic about skiing. The boys, however, love skiing (Jordan) and snowboarding (Justin). Upon reflection, and the fact that this week has been fantastic, it seems silly that we ever waffled on the idea of skiing in the Alps. This trip is supposed to be about adventure (and we just found out we will be spending a week in Sri Lanka in March, stay tuned) and having once-in-a-lifetime experiences. A week of skiing in the Alps fits that bill, as all of our Sierra Nevada skiing friends would agree.
Once we decided we would go skiing, we had to find a resort, and there are 5 countries to choose from: France, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Germany, and Slovenia (Slovenia had the top rated ‘budget’ ski resort in a Guardian newspaper review). Switzerland was out for the high cost of the country and that the country requires snow tires for all cars during the winter months. We were not buying winter tires for one week’s worth of travel. We looked at the French resorts as they were closest, but we were interested in seeing a different country.
By chance when I was googling ‘family ski resort with indoor pool’ (we ended up dropping the ‘indoor pool’ requirement in our search) I found out about the resort of Obertauern in Austria. We had never heard of it, and once there the people told us that the resort’s clientele was 70% German and Austrian and that it was so well known in these countries that they did
not do much marketing. Obertauern had these things going for it: high elevation for guaranteed snow, lots of intermediate runs, big ski school for kids, it is a small town, and I speak German. The week we are here is considered low season, so prices are better and there were plenty of vacancies. We found the Aparthotel Steinadler, which has vacation apartments with complete kitchens.
I am writing this blog on our last day in Obertauern, and I can definitely say that from a skiing standpoint the week has been outstanding. Temperatures have been in the low 20’s Fahrenheit, and we have had fairly consistent light snow for 5 of the 6 ski days with 1 ½ days of blue skies. The area has gotten about 100 cm of fresh snow in the past 10 days.
With the light snowfall we have skied on fresh packed powder every day. The runs are long and wide, the vistas are expansive, and lift lines are short to non-existent. There are 24 lifts in the valley, and you can ski around the whole resort clockwise or counterclockwise in a little over one hour. They call this the ‘Tauernrunde.’ We put Justin in two group lessons over two afternoons to help him with his snowboarding. Due to low season, he got a 1:1 lesson the first day, and a 1:2 lesson the second day. Now, he has mastered getting off the ski lifts and can snowboard any run I can ski on, although I have to stay behind him and stop often. That is fine with me. Jordan, on the other hand, has become fearless and fast in his downhill decent. On any run, he completes 3 runs to my two runs. By the time I get to the lip of a steep part of the run, I see Jordan’s blue jacket at the bottom, the boy keeps his skis pointed downhill. We thought about putting Jordan in ski school, too, for a few days, but I found I was enjoying skiing myself and skied everyday as his partner instead.
It snowed fairly hard this last day, but the wind was calm. The boys discovered off-piste skiing. They skied/snowboarded through knee-high powder, tumbling and laughing as they fumbled their way down the hill to meet me back on the groomed piste. They don’t know how to ski in powder yet, but they sure enjoyed trying.