The golden leaves are still on the trees, but Gurgl is the first non-glacial ski area in Tyrol – and one of the first in the Alps – to be open every day.
On Thursday, November 17, the lift switch was activated and the party was in full swing over the weekend. A Christmas market with buglers, a gala dinner in the angular Gurgl Carat congress center (the resort bills itself as the Diamond of the Alps) with a multi-course menu designed by young chefs from local hotels, surrounded by an exhibition of modern art and sculptures. Creators of the Austrian Alps.
More snow fell on Saturday and Sunday and temperatures did not rise above freezing, allowing the guns to pump non-stop. Saturday was clear all day while Sunday we woke up to snow, and Monday there will be impressive overcast and more sun – lots of snow to come.
That’s why an early-season (or late-season) ski holiday would be so special in Gurgli, one of Austria’s snowiest destinations.
Located in the Ötztal valley, Gurgl is one of the highest ski resorts in Austria, with a base level of 5,900 feet and a peak of 9,940 feet. The main village is Obergurgl, while Hochgurgl, a purpose-built community with half a dozen ski-in ski-out hotels, sits at 2,200m; their ramps are connected by a horizontal Top Express gondola.
There are 70 miles of merry slopes which, due to the elevation, are mostly above tree line (unusual in Austria). The red runs wind their way along the mountainside along the valley floor, often offering a challenge, but also giving way to the less confident.
Two elevators start from a building in the center of Obergurgl; Sloping sideways to the bottom of Hohe Mut Bahn 2, the Hohe Mut Bahn 1 cable car offers different shades of red and blue and some off-piste and safety to the other side in a family-friendly area with a freestyle park, cross-country skiing and slopes for beginners.
Another lift, the Rosskarbahn, a large smooth gondola new for the 21/22 season, glides right up to the second run. Halfway the Top Express skips two valleys (one of which is King’s Valley, an off-piste adventure) to Hochgurgli. There are many more blues and reds here, even a handful of short blacks, best viewed from the resort’s highest point, where the space-age Top Mountain Star restaurant sits on a ridge overlooking Italy.
Ski passes for three days or more are valid for all six resorts in the valley, including tiny Hochoetz and mighty Sölden with its twin glaciers.
Why go there
There is enough skiing, but the area is not exhaustively large. Obergurgl is a chic little village with nice hotels. Hochgurgl is even smaller, but the hotels are just as good. The Alpine diamond sparkles with precious stones. Top Mountain Star, a circular glass-walled shelter for coffee, hot chocolate (rum!) and drinks, with an access ladder in the shape of a shooting star, sits atop Hochgurgli, a jagged ridge overlooking all of Italy. The view is constantly changing to fog, clouds and sunshine.
This and much more about Hochgugli is part of the family empire of cute 50-year-old identical twins, motorcycle lovers, Alban and Atilla Scheiber. The showpiece is Top Mountain Crosspoint, a state-of-the-art lift station, restaurant and museum at the entrance to the Timmelsjoch High Alpine Road, a winding summer journey through Italy favored by cyclists and open-wheelers. – First-class sports cars. Opened in 2016, the Top Mountain Motorcycle Museum features a collection of 200 motorcycles. It was almost completely destroyed by fire in January 2021, but in December, thanks to fans and friends, it was rebuilt bigger and better with a new collection.
Not just for motorcycle enthusiasts, remember the impressive Henry Ford Museum near Detroit, a window into history, 400 motorcycles from luxury Harley-Davidson to Wolverhampton and Ruislip products from the 1920s, panoramic images celebrating Austrian adventurer Max Reisch (drove to Indie in 1933). , a collection of historic snowmobiles (including Harleys) and cars. There is also a simulator so you can sit on a motorbike and drive all the way to Italy. All for free (plus the 007 Elements James Bond experience in Sölden) with a six-day ski pass.
There is a Piccard memorial in Obergurgl, commemorating balloon adventurer Auguste Piccard’s 1931 emergency landing on the Gurgler Ferner glacier.
Food and drinks
Top Mountain Crosspoint is the biggest and best of the day, with a large deck for sunny days, a large contemporary log cabin with hanging motorcycles, memorabilia and historic resorts. Tiroler Groestl, a classic Grill dish of potatoes, beef and fried egg, €16 and hearty Milanese pork bread, €18.
The Wurmkoglhutte is self-service, the Festkogl Alm offers Tyrolean specialties with a glacier view and is a warm place for night skiing. The Nederhütte at the top of Hohe Mut Bahn 1, the town’s lively ski wonder, serves food, drinks and lively après ski treats with live music.
In the evening there are gourmet restaurants, although many are located in hotels. Hotel Enzian has a cozy South Tyrolean fondue room, while Hotel Edelweiss & Gurgli has a fondue room with a glass vaulted ceiling above the fireplace. The large, wood-paneled dining room offers a contemporary five-course menu with Austrian touches: barley. Soup, dal more fish and local beef. Located in Hochgurgli, See You is dramatically modern, all concrete arches and polished wood, offering ‘alpine tapas’.