Touchdown in Munich and the excitement levels are through the roof. The air is chilly and the sky just beginning to lighten from the inky blackness of night. We are on our way to Ellmau, a village in the Tyrolean Alps that is to be the setting for the next week’s winter wonderland adventure in Austria!
Our first adventure in Austria
As the picturesque town of Kufstein looms before us, a winding road can be seen disappearing into the Alps and we know our adventure is just around the corner. Snaking up the mountainside, the snow becomes thicker and thicker and soon we are on our way to Ellmau, Austria. The driver announces that the fields of snow we see on our left are actually the area’s golf course – a massive attraction in the summer months that now looks like the perfect place for cross-country skiing!
As soon as we pull into the parking lot at the Alpenpension Claudia we are out, kitting up and ready to hit the slopes – we have places to go and things to see! Heading to ski hire, a sneaky early morning schnapps sets the tone and we skip the bunny lifts and head straight to the gondola. Heading up the mountainside, we are amazed to discover free wifi in our gondola carriage and quickly shoot a message home to let everyone know we have arrived safely. And then the adventure truly begins!
Heading off to Alpeniglu
Our first night is to be spent not in a hotel, but in an igloo on the mountain! A couple of hours skiing later and our bodies remember what it is like to fly down the slope in a world of white. Arriving at our igloo accommodation, we stop for a gluhwein and to drink in the view. Towering over nine different villages, the SkiWelt Wilder Kaiser – Brixental offers one of the largest skiing areas in the world and picture postcard views that spread to the horizon. This is an immense winter playground. With the ability to visit a number of different towns from the slopes, a variety of children’s play areas, a staggering array of restaurants and bars and even a night skiing area, this is truly a skier and snowboarder’s paradise!
Alpeniglu is just one of the attractions that make this part of Austria so unique. That is why we simply had to check out this purpose built igloo hotel for ourselves. Our night included a lesson in ice carving, a fondue dinner around ice tables inside the dining igloo, a tour of the facilities very own ice carving exhibition (to see how the pros do it!), a torch-lit walk and then, of course, the night in an igloo! Although we were surrounded by frozen water, multiple layers of sleeping bags ensured we were kept warm, cosy and comfortable. I would definitely recommend you add ‘sleeping in an igloo’ to your bucket list!
Discovering the SkiWelt
After our adventurous first night, we enjoyed a leisurely week of discovering everything the Skiwelt Wilder Kaiser – Brixental had to offer! This included a vast array of runs – we almost never had to do the same run twice – and we even left having more we will have to return to enjoy. Other activities included curling, tobogganing and ice-skating and the ice show on Monday night in Ellmau was a highlight of our visit. We even got to enjoy night skiing in the largest night ski area in Austria at Söll. Skiing the floodlit slopes added a whole new dimension to the sport that you can be assured that from now whenever we go skiing we will look for a place that offers night skiing!
Another highlight of our stay included checking out the cows while stopping for a mid-slope hot chocolate, skiing down to Hotel Hochfilzer at the end of a long day for a warm bowl of soup, and discovering what new delectable concoctions were on the menu for dinner in the evening – the alcoholic sorbets being a sheer delight!
The technical details
We travelled to Austria for their Kaiser weeks which take place every year in January and offer a range of additional activities and discounted options during this time. Ellmau is really easily reached, sitting just over an hour’s drive from Germany’s city of Munich.
We were there between the 12th and 20th of January and although the area sits at a relatively low elevation when compared to some surrounding ski areas, the snow was fantastic. Good snowfall in December meant a great start to the season and although we didn’t get new snow before travelling the area is equipped with 229 artificial snow-covered kilometres of slopes so skiing is guaranteed. Thankfully when it did start to get a bit icy, a nice day of fresh snowfall arrived and while that did mean a day of very limited skiing – the following days where a bliss with fresh powder everywhere!
When it did come time to return in our boots and skis and depart our winter wonderland, there was a sadness in our hearts. Our Austrian adventure had come to an end, but we look forward to the day when we can return and enjoy the slopes we never got to do – discovering a different side of what has to be the best place to ski in Austria!