The serious slopes of Schladming

By | Category: Travel destinations
Cross country ski-ing in Schladming- Rohrmoos

Cross country ski-ing in Schladming- Rohrmoos

Arriving in Austria, a heavy drizzle was draping both Salzburg and the surrounding mountains in a thick, grey blanket. I could feel my heart sink a bit as I’d been hoping for a few days of excellent skiing. The drive to Schladming, a former mining town turned world-class ski resort, took less than an hour, but in that time the landscape was transformed from a blanket of grey into a blanket of snow – I had reached the land of powdery slopes and my faith in Austrian skiing possibilities was instantly restored.

Schladming is part of Ski Amadé  in the region of Styria. Nicknamed “the Austrian Three Valleys”, it’s the second largest ski area in Europe, including a network of 28 villages in five separate counties, all connected by bus. As there are all of 860 km (535 miles) of downhill slopes and also 700 km (435 miles) of cross-country tracks, I would certainly be spoilt for choice here. I settled in at the out-of-this-world-fabulous hotel with the tongue-twisting name Pichlmayrgut (instantly converted to “Pickled Mayor’s Gut” by us English-speaking guests), in the village of Pichl, just outside Schladming centre, and then took an exploratory amble before heading off to get my skis.

Ski-ing in the sun

the sunlight here can be very strong. Don’t forget the sunglasses

Skis obtained in the late afternoon, I opted against strapping them on straight away, since it was getting late, not to mention it was also snowing cats and dogs. A bus ride took me up to Almdorf-Reiteralm, the latter one of the mountains in the area, where I was catching a snowmobile further up the mountain to Hochalm a typical, traditional Styrian restaurant.  An exhilarating ride up the mountain paths in the deep snow brought me to the cosy timbered Alpine hut, where there was nothing for it but to tuck into an enormous, but flavoursome, pork steak with plenty of trimmings – Austrians don’t skimp on the portions. Well-fed and all schnappsed out (avoid the zirben, aka pinecone, schnapps at all cost), I sensibly turned down the option of taking myself back down the mountain on a small toboggan and instead opted for another ride on the snowmobile before collapsing in a happy heap in my ancient abode. Next day was slope-day.

Now, I’m originally from Sweden and we do like a bit of skiing, but don’t think this gave me any unfair advantage – on the slopes of Schladming it wasn’t long before I was as higher up than most of the mountains in Sweden put together and needless to say I’d never skied at such heights in my native lands. Used to gentle hills, all those red runs were something of a shock to the system, but what a gorgeous day on the pistes. After the heavy snowfall the night before, the weather had cleared and I found myself skiing in blazing sunshine. Fresh snow, fresh air, fresh sun – ski bliss! The slopes weren’t overly busy and with so many runs to choose from, there was no risk of getting bored.

© Riesneralm-Bergbahnen

© Riesneralm-Bergbahnen

I spent the day skiing the Reiteralm with a few suitable and timely breaks for hot chocolate with whipped cream and warming, hearty goulash soup, stopping every now and then to enjoy the sweepingly majestic Alpine views in the sun (i.e. I was feeling rather unfit and kept needing a breather). Thighs protesting increasingly violently, I eventually had to give up and head back to the hotel in the afternoon to recover, and what better way than by enjoying Pickled Mayor’s Gut’s excellent spa facilities? A mix of whirlpool and sauna worked wonders for my aching limbs and a short siesta, or whatever the Austrian equivalent might be, meant I was just about able to stay awake for the 5-course dinner in the elegant hotel restaurant.

snow hiking in Schladming

snow hiking in Schladming

Slightly stiff the following morning, I was ready to hit the slopes again, this time in the main skiing area of Schladming, the Planai, which hosted the Alpine Ski World Cup in 2013. Up here, the choice of mostly red and black runs was even greater – there’s actually a slope where you can ski down to your own choice of music blaring through a vast speaker system. Sadly I couldn’t find any Swedish folk songs and had to ski down to some good old rock ‘n’ roll. The Planai slopes work best for the more experienced skier who is able to ski after lunchtime schnapps and vast amounts of food, including the ridiculously scrumptious kaiserschmarrn dessert, a shredded pancake with sugar and, in this case, blueberries.

By the end of day two on the slopes my thighs were protesting slightly less, so I figured it would be a good day to indulge in the silly pursuit known as après-ski. The centre of Schladming has a whole heap of bars and, after some deliberation, trying to decide which might be tackier, I ended up in the Hohenhaus (yes, the name appealed) inside the Tenne après-ski complex. Surrounded by cheerfully drinking Germans, scary music and large-scale, equally scary TV screens, I tried to get into the spirit of things with, well, some spirits. Things perked up when a lady called Antonia, dressed as Little Red Riding Hood but rather older than said fairytale creature, did a live show, much to assorted male Germans’ delight.

What can I say? It was an experience far more terrifying than the steep slopes of Schladming, but I’d probably be ready to do it all again the next day.

For more information about Schladming- Dachstein, click here.

Images © Schladming-Dachstein

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