Soll and the Ski Welt, Austria

Ski Holidays in Soll and the Ski Welt, Austria

The nine villages of Soll, Brixen, Ellmau, Going, Scheffau, Itter, Hopfgarten, Kelchsau and Westendorf sit in the heart of the Kitzbuheler Alps. Collectively they form the Ski Welt - the largest circuit in Austria. Soll and its neighboring ski areas offer endless happiness for intermediate skiers but only a few for the advanced. But being able to ski from one resort to another... and another... and another is a completely enjoyable experience. There's no bus service linking up the resorts, so finding your way home successfully is crucial if you want to avoid an expensive taxi ride.

Kitzbüheler Horn, a mountain in Austria near the famous ski resortCredit: Wikimedia Commons

Soll is rather quaint, with a lively nightlife. The downside of the place is that it's tedious reaching the slopes. You need to take the shuttle-bus or drive because it's at least a 15-minute walk - no fun if you are hauling equipment, although you could leave your skis overnight at the base area. Likewise, because of the low altitude, the snow record is mixed: there is, however, extensive snowmaking and Soll is constantly upgrading its lifts.

After taking the first stage of the gondola (there are beginner slopes between the main road and the base area), intermediates and advanced beginners might want to pause at Hochsoll to enjoy a range of friendly, sunny slopes that radiate in every direction. The real gateway to the skiing is reached through the second stage to Hohe Salve, at 1,830m the highest point in the Ski Welt region. Having steep slopes on most sides (the red run down to Rigi is the easiest route) advanced skiers will be charged while lower intermediates may be appalled. As it turns out, these runs are among the hardest they are likely to come across all day. To launch yourself on the Ski Welt tour, you must negotiate a steep and sometimes icy run. Turn right for Kalbersalve, the fascinating resort of Hopfgarten (usually the first in the region to lose its snow) and Rigi; a chance to enjoy the wonderful gladed pistes the whole way down to Soll's other neighbor, Itter. When you turn left, you'll be heading for the far end of the circuit: Scheffau, Ellmau and Going, retracing your steps or probably returning via Brixen. To savor the circuit without having to negotiate the stiff Hohe Salve runs, you could take the cable-car from Hochsoll.

The Ski Welt region is peppered with restaurants - 73 total. The Stocklalm is a converted cowshed near Hochsoll that gives diners the chance to watch traditional bread-baking and cheese-making. Other nearby huts providing simple but good mountain fare include the Grundlalm. The Restaurant Ager, at the top of the Hohe Salve, has a revolving terrace, giving diners the chance to enjoy a superb panoramic view along with their meal.

There are four terrain parks and three half-pipes. Soll's is above Salvenmoos, near Hochsoll. But the ideal area for snowboarders is Westendorf, a resort that specialises in facilities for riders.

There's curling and ice-skating on the Moorsee lake, plus an indoor pool at the Panoramabad. Night time skiing is possible on a 3km run down to the village. The gondola runs each night from Wednesday to Saturday. You could even hire racing driver Gerhard Berger's private VIP gondola, complete with leather upholstery, curtains and champagne. This can be booked through the lift company.

The Hotel Postwirt serves organic treats, while the Hochfilzer Gasthof, at the base area, specialises in Tirolean dishes. If you are into spare ribs and history, head for the 500-year-old Feldwebel on a Monday night. The Alpenpanorama restaurant does a tasty farmers' buffet, while the Dorfstub'n specialises in grilled steaks.

Live music most nights is the norm in Soll. For years the Whisky Muhle, a large, loud themed disco featuring a giant paddle-wheel, has been the focal point of the nightlife, but rival establishments have sprung up. The Salvenstadl (Cowshed), which opens at 3.30pm for its 'Apres Ski Party', has live music most nights (karaoke on Thursdays), as does Buffalo's Pub  and the Rossini Cafe & Pub. The Austria Pub is another favorite. For those who enjoy home-made cakes, the Enzersberger coffee house is worth a visit.

Much like its skiing, a good deal of Soll's accommodation tends to be of an 'intermediate' level. The few four-star hotels include the ill-positioned but attractive Greil,  which offers a 'pamper package'. Delights include a sweat shack, hay bath and adventure shower. If that doesn't suit your taste, the Postwirt offers a choice between 'luxury' rooms in the annexe or 'nostalgic' rooms in the original building and is conveniently placed in the center of town. The three-star Feldwebel is also central and has internet access in 12 basic but comfortable rooms.

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