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Ski guide: SkiWelt, Austria

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SkiWelt Wilder Kaiser-Brixental is the full name. It names the two regions that joined up to create this spot. There are almost 180 miles of skiing between nine villages offering mostly easy-going skiing.

The region

While some resorts are well-known names like Ellmau, Soll and Westendorf, others are less well-known such as Scheffau or Itter or Brixen im Thale. You can see them all while you ski. The exception is Kelchsau off the main circuit with its three small lifts.

Skiing

Skiing is a mix of blues and reds with a few blacks. This makes it great for intermediate skiers and people who just enjoy cruising. Skiing safaris are a great way to get better at skiing. You’ll rarely visit the same run twice, and you can spend great days going from one place to another. Scheffau is located in the middle of the Wilder Kaiser stream. Hopfgarten is at one end and Ellmau, Soll, and Itter are at the other. There’s plenty of mountain-top skiing in this area, some in open snow, others down in the trees.

This is a relatively small peak at 5,500 feet. It’s not as high as other areas and it’s not as steep. Ski down the back to the bridge that crosses the main road. The scenery changes, however, as you ski over the back. These peaks, as well as Westendorf (6400ft), are more alpine.

This area is great for beginners, as there are beginner areas in every resort, and easy slopes that run from end to end. It allows improving skiers to explore the mountains without fear. For daredevil and enthusiastic boarders, there are fun parks with bumps and jumps in many villages.

Experts will not find much to challenge them. However, the ability to travel and enjoy the many thrilling runs down to valley-level, can make up for it.

Why not go there?

It’s huge and beautiful. But there’s more. SkiWelt can also be linked by the Ki-West lift to the similarly impressive Kitzbuhel region for another 145 miles.

The KitzSkiWelt Tour is a new mega-day out. It’s a 55-mile round trip from Going in SkiWelt up to the Kitzbuhel region’s far edge and back. It is important to be at the right spot when the lifts open. Even experienced skiers admit that they are unable to return before the lifts close.

SkiWelt is a new signposted tour that covers 42 miles clockwise and 52 miles counterclockwise. It can be started in any village.

Night skiing is an exciting experience. Soll is Austria’s largest floodlit area, with six miles of runs and several lifts, open Wednesday through Saturday.

The ski area has won an eco award. The Sonnenlift drag-lift was the first 100 percent solar-powered lift. Two other lifts also use solar power. Ellmau is currently building a photovoltaic setup to power the valley and lifts. Another source of power is 100 percent renewable hydropower. SkiWelt’s 15 snow storages are replenished by rain or snowmelt in the summer.

Drinking and eating

Stocklalm is a great place to have apres-ski. I was there when a gentleman in a pinstripe shirt stood outside playing sax to a disco tune as the afternoon ended. The Saturday teatime fondue consisted of beef, chicken, and pork. Real rolls were also available to break up and dip.

Umadum Stubn

Umadum Stubn is Austria’s highest revolving dining room at 6,000ft. It is a modern timber mountain house with its interior turning in a circle every 60 minutes, offering stunning views of the 70-plus 10,000ft peaks. Austrian lunch specialties included a Tiroler groestl and a cabbage salad (EUR11.80).

The Salvenkirchl Church, a timber-clad church on the exterior, but classically stunning inside, is located nearby.

There are many lovely restaurants to choose from depending on where you’re staying. The Sonneck overlooks the Ellmau golf course and offers a cozy, traditional setting with delicious food from the younger, more modern team.

Michlwirl Westendorf combines an old-fashioned tavern setting with modern interpretations of classic dishes such as blood sausage roast and guinea fowl with asparagus risotto.

There are many bars nearby, but this is not a well-known apres-ski spot. The Moonlight Bar is located at the bottom of Soll’s slopes. It is lively late into the night, especially when it is night skiing.

Alpeniglu dining

Alpeniglu is a collection snowy igloos located above Brixen. The outside bar makes a great spot for a late afternoon snack on a spring day. You can also book dinners at the indoor (in-igloo), ice bar or among the ice carvings of the main igloo. 18 mini igloos are available for overnight stays. There is even an igloo chapel for cool weddings.

Where to stay

Hotel Leitenhof views

Scheffau is an excellent choice, as it’s right in the middle. Hotel Leitenhof is located above the village, across the valley from ski slopes. It takes only five minutes to get to the large base area via shuttle minibus that stops at the door. The main hotel is white-painted with turreted rooms and chalets are located on the slope above the bathing pool. Another building with suits has balconies at its top.

The hotel’s garden and surrounding forest provide the perfect setting for the restaurant, as well as the Pavilion bar.

KRAFTalm, a modern rustic delight at 4,450ft high on the slopes above Itter is located on the site an old mountain hut. The spa’s 29 rooms are richly decorated with granite grey, reclaimed timber and designer touches. It also has an indoor/outdoor pool that shares the view of the mountains from the sauna. Modern Alpine cuisine – great for a sunny cup of coffee while you’re passing.

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