Kaunertal – Glacier Snowboarding in Spring

Kaunertal is nestled in the Tirol region of the Austrian Alps, but is a lesser known figure amongst it’s bigger and louder siblings, such as the Après party towns of Ischgl and St.Anton. Kaunertal is one of those rare and sought after ski resorts that has maintained an aura that is authentically original and has avoided the glossed brush of commercialism.

Kaunertal is a glacier resort and accommodation is found in a collection of small villages linked together by a single mountain road much lower down. It was early May and hot! Looking out at the rolling lush green hills from my hotel room, it was hard to imagine that I would be snowboarding in powder the next day. Only a glimpse of the white topped mountain in the far distance gave a hint of what the resort had to offer.

For most, you would travel to Kaunertal by car (I picked up a hire car from Munich Airport) and the drive up the winding mountain road to reach the glacier ski resort is breath-taking. Over valleys, dams, and turning into steep cliff hugging turns, it felt fitting for the set of a James Bond film. It was incredible to see the landscape turn for green to white before my eyes as if it was being photoshopped as I was driving. Overall the journey is a 45 minute drive.

Road to Kaunertal Austria

I was there for the UK organised Spring Break Snowboard Test Week and the mountain had been taken over by over 350 snowboarders. Don’t let that put skiers off as the UK snowboarding community are a friendly bunch and the mountain was certainly big enough for everyone!

This was as good as it gets for spring snowboarding; a blistering hot day without a cloud in sight and plenty of snow! The first port of call is the Snow Park which can be seen straight ahead from the car park and is accessed by a T Bar. The park is fully loaded with features and will keep any park rat happy with an array of rails, rollers, kickers, table tops, hips and spines, with spring conditioned soft landings. The park has something for everyone and although beginners will find plenty to get started on, it is more catered for the intermediate and advanced riders. It has to be said that the Kaunertal Snowpark is one of the best you will find this side of the Alps.

From the car park a bubble gondola takes you up to the highest point where you can enjoy long, interrupted runs down to the bottom, including a new wide tunnel to snowboard through that cuts through the mountain and opens up more terrain to explore. The long, wide and sweeping red and black runs are great for charging the mountain, with plenty of natural kickers, rock drops and banks to enjoy by the side. Also, don’t be surprised to see a few gap jumps across the mountain road during the Snowboard Spring Break!

Venturing slightly off the piste runs was also great fun. On my second day we had a storm which left fresh powder to to mess around in. Powder riding in the Alps in May is certainly an experience that doesn’t happen often so I seized the opportunity while I had the chance. Venturing off-piste on a glacier in spring can be dangerous and prone to avalanches so I didn’t venture far and kept the line of the resort runs in view at all times.

Kaunertal Glacier Austria

Old powder can be crusty but this has to be expected for the time of year. With the sun beating down on the snow all day, it can get slushy late afternoon. Not that this is a problem as riding slush can be the most fun you could possibly have with a plank and one of the virtues of spring snowboarding.

There is only one restaurant but it is large and situated by the car park. It is self service style with a large choice of salads or hot meals for lunch. The food is okay but pricey, so it is wise to be organised and save on the beer euros by bringing up your own packed lunch which can be kept in the car.

I stayed at the 3 star Hotel Tia Monte which is the first hotel you come to from then Kaunertal glacier. The rooms are large and functional with a shared wood decked balcony with a breathtaking view of the Alps; ideal for cracking open an cold beer and enjoying the last few rays of sun after a hard day on the slopes.

The staff were very friendly and the rooms were cleaned every day with fresh towels provided. The evening meals consisted of a buffet style starter with the choice of various salads, cheeses and meats, as well as soup. The main meal being a meat dish with a vegetarian starter, and is followed up with a set dessert. The food was not overly exciting but enjoyable enough. Unfortunately, the complimentary wine, beer, teas and coffees are only available to those who are fully inclusive, but with the wine and beer so cheap from the bar, it didn’t really matter.

Kaunertal is not usually known for it’s Après ski, but with so many snowboarders in town it was always going to to get lively once the sun went down and the Kiwi Bar was the place to be to kick the evening off, be it at a slow pace. With a relaxed atmosphere, this hotel bar is a perfect place to unwind and chill with a cold beer. Their pizzas are also very popular and despite the fact that I had already eaten, the smell and look of the pizzas being served around the bar was almost too unbearable to resist!

At about 11pm everyone starts filtering out to the Pffif Alm Bar. This is a traditional Austrian bar complete with the Austrian bar ritual of Hammerschlagen; a game that involves hitting a nail into a large log using the sharp end of a hammer. It is more difficult than it looks, especially after a few pints and beware, the loser buys the round! The locals put an interesting twist on the game by tossing the hammer into a 360º rotation before catching and swinging the hammer down in a single movement. I stuck to the less flamboyant method in fear of accidentally embedding the hammer in my own skull, or worse, someone else’s!

The Pffif Alm has a friendly atmosphere and is popular with the locals. A good place to wind down the hours while enjoying an Austrian beverage or two. And like everywhere else in the area, beer is cheap with a pint costing less than 3 Euros!

You will not find Kaunertal listed in a glossy brochure of a high street travel agency and long may that continue. The area has that familiar Austrian feel to it but Kaunertal has a very unique and understated personality. The glacier is ideal for Spring snowboarding/skiing and it’s quaintness is suited for families or small groups of experienced riders that are not interested in the Après madness that you will find in the more well known Austrian resorts.

Beginners may struggle as most of the runs have steep and narrow parts to them, but intermediates should enjoy the challenge. More advanced riders will be in their element with plenty of natural features, off-piste options and one of the best parks in Austria.

The Spring Break Snowboard Test week is a fantastic way to end the season and is amazingly good value for money with great combination deals of accommodation and ski lift passes. Not only do you get the chance to try out all the latest snowboards, bindings and boots from all the top brands for next season, it is a great experience and vibe being part of the UK snowboard scene with pros and amateurs all in one place sharing their love of the mountains and snowboarding.

Jamie Barrow spring break 15

The following two tabs change content below.

Mark Barber

Snowboard Editor at Snow.Guide

Firmly established within the snow sports industry, Mark Barber is Snowboard Editor of snow.guide. Mark has a solid background in snow sports and travel writing, as well as being an international published author.

Mark is also the manager of Jamie Barrow (Britain’s fastest snowboarder)

Latest posts by Mark Barber (see all)

Spring Break

Kaunertal Spring Break Snowboard Tests 2015

 8 years ago

Frozen Underground Map

WIN A Custom Map From Frozen Underground

 7 years ago