We decided to start this Austria trip 2 days early, and see where we could get a last minute booking before heading to Lech. The Montafon valley is a place I’ve been keen to visit, especially in a good snow year, so when a room became available just before we left at the Hotel Montafoner Hof in Tschagguns, all was good.
We always seem to have good fortune with snow in Austria. And these two days were to be no exception, as big fat flakes of fluffy snow started falling out of the sky soon after our arrival. Plenty had fallen by the next morning when we got on the ski bus (150m from hotel) to Valisera (10 minute ride), and loaded the deserted gondola up to the Silvretta Montafon Nova ski area, the largest in Montafon. A day of exploration lay ahead. (pics here)
It’s hard to do an area this large much justice in a day. But we tried our best! The best terrain was to be found in a deep dip between the top of the two gondolas that rise up from the valley. Variable visibility made it tricky at times, but we found plenty of untracked boot deep fluff just off groomers all over the mountain. The groomed black run, piste 20, was a ripper, and as we hooked back towards the lift, a huge tract of steep off-piste became obvious, bounded by piste 20 and the red piste 28. This is where I’d head next time!
There was buckets of snow down to valley level, making the 1200m vertical groomers a must. Even as the runs levelled out to roads low down, I derived great amusement from skiing past barns full of cows, people’s houses and the inevitable après bars. It’s a true Austrian ski experience, not to be missed.
The snow had abated by the evening, and as we had to catch a 2pm train on Saturday, we thought we’d check out the local Golm area for an extended half day. The hotel ski shuttle had us at the base by 9am, on a perfect bluebird day. All around a panorama of white, jagged peaks unfolded as we rode the gondola and then a chair to the top of the 2100m Golmerjoch.
The snow was already softening, so we set out to explore all the groomers, as yesterday’s pow looked pretty tracked out and now sun beaten. After 3 or 4 runs we casually headed over to the back side, where the Diablo piste – the steepest in Montafon – lay waiting. However, the fun wasn’t on piste, but off. I was staggered to see untracked deep snow, in perfect condition in this north facing bowl, straight under the chair. Maybe the chair had been closed Friday, but I’m afraid I didn’t stand around and contemplate such things for more than a millisecond!
I had two runs straight under the chair before the fluff was tracked out. then the best of all was an excellent run down the steep ski route 21 which hooked into the bowl from the top of the Huettenkopfbahn. A few more short fluff shots, and it was time to move on. But it was lovely powder skiing for an hour!
In order to work up an appetite for Erbensuppe, we decided to take the run from the top of the Golmerjoch down to the base of the gondola at Vandans. This was a real surprise, 9km long and 1450 vertical metres. The first third was high speed groomers, and then it mellowed out to a decently pitched cat track through the trees. After the gondola station at Holzschopf however, red piste 8 opened up into a high speed ripper, with still firm snow protected from the sun by trees. Serious entertainment!
If we’d had time, we’d have done this run again, but a short journey to Lech beckoned. Fortunately, the snow at valley level was good enough for us to ski all the way to Tschagguns, just 200m from our hotel. It was a bit sloppy and gluey in the sun, but another classic Austrian experience, skiing past houses, farms, crossing roads, avoiding cars!
And so ended two fine days in Montafon. There’s easily enough skiing in the valley’s ski hills for a week or more, as the Schruns and Gargellen areas look very tempting for a couple of days each. We were also really lucky to stumble on the Hotel Montafoner Hof. It was a delightful hotel, excellent food, top wellness and swimming pool area, and free wireless Internet. With a free shuttle to Schruns and Golm, the free Montafon ski bus 150m away, and the train station at Tschagguns 300m away, it’s pretty convenient too!
2 days: 7400, 6200m
Season Totals: 27 days, 205,000 vertical metres. 6 powder days