Wildschonau, Austria Skiing Resorts

Wildschonau, Austria Ski Holidays

Wildschonau, Austria, in spite of its quite misleading moniker, this 24km-long valley is far from being wild. This is where much of post-war Britain learned to ski, and to them it continues to be good old Niederau: pretty, undemanding (besides a few underrated black runs), unassuming, friendly, peaceful (by day) and, as compared to major Austrian resorts, fairly cheap. There is little in the way of decent skiing at neighboring Oberau, but higher up at Auffach, 7km away, the slopes are reasonably extensive.

Rathaus OberauCredit: Wikipedia

In Niederau, hard skiers should head for Marchenwiesen, a fast, steep cruiser that casts down from the top of the eight-person gondola at Markbachjoch (1,500m), and Tennladen, a steep black run that begins as a red at the top of the Mittermoosjochlift before diving down to join Marchenwiesen. There are also two challenging, ungroomed ski routes (Stock and Sixtwiese) running on the front face. Further afield in Oberau, you won't find much to keep you, aside from the black Riedl run, and the same goes for the two small, charming areas of Roggenboden and Thierbach. But Auffach, the last resort in the valley, has a throng of good, sweeping, above-the-treeline red runs on the Schatzberg, and some wonderful skiing in wide gladed trails going back down to the gondola base.

The bulk of the good restaurants in the valley are found in Niderau. At the bottom of the Arena lift, the Tennladen Stuberl attracts the biggest crowds, while the Panorama Hotel restaurant is a reliable self-service alternative. The Anton-Graf-Hutte on the Lanerkopfl is a lovely old place having a fine terrace that serves excellent dumplings and Kaiserschmarrn (chopped-up pancake with raisins, icing sugar and plum jam). The Markbachjochutte, aka Rudi's, is also a must, if only to try its specialty dish, Germknodel (yeast dumplings made with brown butter, vanilla sugar or poppyseed and warm milk). At Oberau, the Riedelhof serves succulent wiener schnitzel.

Auffach has a terrain park by the Thalerkogel lift, with jumps, rail, corners and a half-pipe. The snow park, at the top of the Baby Lift at Hornboden, also has a half-pipe. At Niederau's Race 'n' Boarder Arena accessed by the Arena lift, there's a boardercross course and the Speed Track & Coin Up time trial. The Palmer Xpark has quarter-pipes and various jumps.

Other than paragliding at the Flight School, skating at Kundl's Ice Arena or tobogganing at Roggenboden, the non-ski choices are quite a few.

Pizzeria Ferrari is worth a visit (particularly for its tasty 'Michael Schumacher world champion pizza'). In Auffach, the Gruttn Bar is popular, and the central Hotel Platzl has a great a la carte restaurant. The Gasthof Weissbacher is good for lunches - servings are large and ice-creams are terrific - while in Oberau you'll find some of the greatest cuisine at the Sno-Blau in the Hotel Tirolerhof and the Kellerwirt Wine Cellar. The Restaurant Thalmuhle is renowned for its Brezensuppe - a specialty comprising of a large pretzel soaked in soup, cheese and topped with fried onions and butter.

In Niederau, hotels like the Sonnschein, always tend to have busy bars, while Heustadl, aka Bobo's - a permanent wooden adaptation of an umbrella bar - is the in place at the base area. At Niederau, there's dancing at the Almbar and the lively Cave Bar at the Hotel Staffle. In Oberau, the places to try are the Sno-Blau, Cafe Maro, the Chimney Bar at the Gasthof Dorferwirt, the disco pub at the Starchentstuberl, and the Kellerwirt's Wine Cellar. r. In Auffach, the Grutt'n Disco Bar and Charly's Apres-Ski Bar, near the Schatzbergbahn, are the liveliest for post-piste pints.

Friendly staff and good food, this is where the four-star-Hotel Sonnschein comes in, which is run by Herbert 'the harp player' Thaler and his English wife Gill. If you'd want to be tucked away in a quieter part of the valley, the four-star Silberberger at Roggenboden is a secluded bolt-hole. The Tirolerhof at Oberau is famed for its cuisine and has two popular bars: the S'no-Blau, with live music, and the StadL a popular apres-ski spot. The Kellerwirt, also in Oberau, is among the friendliest hotels in the valley.

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