There are lots of opportunities to ski before the real winter season gets under way and Austria has some of the most extensive opportunities for glacier skiing, within the European Alpine region.
One of the most popular destinations is the resort of Solden. The town of Solden is situated in the south west of Austria in the Tyrol region close to the border of Italy. The closest airport is Innsbruck (1 hour drive), although flights into the city can be limited before the winter ski season gets under way. Alternatives include Munich (3 hour drive) and Zurich (3 hour drive).
Photo: Foto Nösig © Bergbahnen Sölden & Ötztal Tourismus
The town itself has a good selection of hotel accommodation which pre-season provides decent value for money, especially out of the main winter season. I recently stayed in the Hotel Tyrol which charges €74 a night including a 4 course evening meal and an excellent breakfast. There are of course a few cheaper hotels and there are more expensive ones too (Bergland), but the surprising thing was how many recreational skiers were in town spending their holiday skiing before the winter had even kicked off.
At this time of year, it is a huge advantage to have your own car available. The drive from the town of Solden to the glaciated skiing area takes around 30 minutes and although there is public transport available, it’s fairly limited and costs an adult €9.40 for a return trip. There are two starting points where car parking is available at the base of 2 separate glaciers. The first car park at the bottom of the Rettenbach Glacier has plenty of facilities including a large restaurant and test centres from the major ski manufacturers. Here you can rent out the latest skis and snowboards to try out before buying. By continuing along the road past the first car park and under a tunnel you can drive to the second car park at the base of the Tiefenbach Glacier. From here you can easily access the Snowparks and the runs on this side are slightly more difficult. Wherever you choose to park you’ll get quick access to the ski area and the two glaciers are linked together at the top via a tunnel. This extensive autumn skiing area is served by 10 Lifts including 2 gondolas and 2 chairlifts. There are several marked ski runs, all graded blue or red, with one black thrown in for good measure.
Like most glacier skiing at this time of the year (November) there is no off piste available and the skiing is mostly suited to intermediate skiers. The great thing is that the runs are not too busy and there are no lift queues either. During my stay the snow conditions were excellent with several centimetres of fresh snow providing perfect on-piste skiing. The length of the runs here are long and you could almost feel like you were in a winter resort during the ski season. The other difference here compared to some other glaciated ski areas is that both chairlifts and telecabin lifts are available, rather than just T-bars, so common on many others.
The Apres Ski in Solden at this time of the year is not exactly what you’d expect during the height of winter, although turn up a couple of weeks before I was there in October and catch the opening world cup ski races of the season and you’ll find plenty of parties in town.
The plus and minuses of skiing in Soelden:
Good hotel options
Value for money
Extensive glaciated ski area
Ski Test Centre on the mountain
Excellent restaurant facilities on both glaciers
Good lift infrastructure
Long drive from major airports
Busy main road through the centre of town
Require own vehicle for flexibility of glacier access