Solden, Austria Ski Holidays

Ski Resort Review: Solden, Austria

Blick auf HochsöldenCredit: Wikipedia

Solden stretches for more than a mile along the Otz valley and benefits from some of Austria's most snowsure skiing and liveliest apres-ski. Having three 3,000m ski mountains and 85 bars and restaurants, the possibility for enjoyment is, quite frankly, staggering. The traditional Tirolean buildings are attractive enough, but traffic is Solden's primary problem, particularly because the resort is just an hour from Innsbruck. Another problem for others is the wild nightlife, but as the tourist brochure states: 'This is not the place for zither music and dewy eyed couples'. If you're in it for zither music, go to the throb-free Zwieselstein instead.

With the largest glacier skiing area in Austria and most of the pistes over 2,000m, Solden is the best choice for the spring break with the winter season lasting till May. At 1,350m, the resort itself is a bit less snowsure but all the home runs are covered by snowmaking.

There are 34 lifts and main mountain access is via two gondolas, at opposite ends of the village but linked up by a ski bus. One goes up to the Giggijoch ski area, the other towards the perma-snow on the Tiefenbach glacier. The two areas are joined at altitude by the Glacier Express gondola.

There are 150km of generally intermediate piste to choose from. Complete novices are restricted to a few un-snowsure nursery slopes just on top the village, but anyone else would want to head for the heights and a wide selection of blues and reds, including a 13km descent from the glacier to the valley floor. Experts will also delight the the testing blacks below Hainbachjoch.

An eight-person gondola on the Rettenbach glacier takes you to 3,247m on the Schwarze Schneide ('Black Blade'), allowing skiers and boarders to try the the 'Big 3 Rally' -more than 10,000 vertical meters in around four hours of hard skiing.

The cozy Huhnersteign is a favored place to get away from the icy blasts of the high Rettenbachtal. It specializes in blood-warming soups such as Tiroler Speckknoderlsuppe (soup with bacon dumplings) and exotic cocktails. For the 'highest pizza in Austria' visit the Tre Milla Pizzeria at the top of the Gaislachkogl (3,058m). At Hochsolden, Eugen's Obstlerhutte and the Sonnblick Scene both have a lot of 'rustic' ambience to draw in the crowds.

Solden's BASE Youth World Boarderpark at Giggijoch, just off the Hainbachkar lift, has impressive kickers, a number of rails, a 14m-long spine and half-pipe. The BASE Easycross and Racecourse has curves, waves, moguls and jumps. If you're after free riding, head for the off-piste below Gaislachkogl.

Skiing and drinking are the two main pastimes in Solden, so sore thighs and heads can be soothed at the excellent sports centre, having a swimming pool, bowling alley, tennis courts, fitness centre and all manner of hangover-friendly saunas and steam baths.

Near the bottom of the pistes at Ausserwald, s'Pfandl is the ideal place to sample belt-busting Tirolean treats like boiled pork ribs and dumplings, while back in town Corso and Tavola serve up decent pizzas. For something a bit more haute, the handsome, wood-panelled Dominic and the Castello Falkner Hotel 'Good Life' are the sassiest eateries in the area.

Solden's legendary partying begins early, with afternoon skiing and apres ski mixing into a beery blur at high-altitude bars like Giggitreff and Gampe Aim. Back down the mountain, the mainly German and Dutch crowds continue partying in their ski boots at the myriad of bars along Solden's 'party mile', like the glass-enclosed Bla-BIa Ice Bar at the Hotel Dominic and Bierhimml (beer heaven). Other finds include Philipp's at Ausserwald and the Otzi Keller - a tribute to the celebrated ice man who was dug up in the area after a 5,000-year freeze.

The five-star Hotel Central has a spa. Not to be outdone, the four-star Hotel Regina includes a 'Cleopatra bath' with mare's milk or honey and cream. If you favor vertical to horizontal, Hochsolden's clutch of four-stars are all piste-side and snowsure. Best is the Edelweiss, with comfortable rooms, indoor pool and within walking distance of the slopes.