21st November 2022 | Katy Dartford, Obergurgl, Austria.
The resorts of Obergurgl and Hochgurgl in the Tirol have opened for the season. PlanetSKI was amoung the lucky ones making their first turns of the winter. NEW
There was relief all around that Gurgl – Obergurgl-Hochgurgl, had managed to open at the weekend for the start of the 2022/23 winter season.
There hasn’t been much natural snow and 70 per cent of what there was in Gurgl was made by snow cannon.
The recent warm temperatures had also prevented much of the artificial snow from freezing overnight so nerves were high for the season opener.
In the end the weekend delivered.
It still felt very much like Autumn when I left Ötztal train station but by the time I’d got to Obergurgl – about an hour away – a burgeoning winter was clearly on its way with the orange and brown landscapes gradually getting more and more of a sprinkling of snow.
But locals were optimistic and the Christmas market was getting into the swing of things with traditional Austrian advent fodder – Glühwein, chilled Gruner Veltliner and Kiachln (doughy discs served with Sauerkraut and cranberry sauce) to get everyone in the mood.
And a spot of ice sculpting.
Saturday dawned bright and cold, with cannons pumping out snow around what seemed like every corner of the resort.
It was a fabulous feeling to be heading up the mountains for my first ski of the season.
I could see the peaks opposite the resort were still mostly brown with a white top.
But it was still a delight to be stretching the legs on a few runs at Obergurgl accessed via the Rosskarbahn and Betriebszeiten chair lift.
We then headed over to Hochgurgle via the Top Express gondola and took the Kirchenkarbahn to take in the views of the Ötztal Alps and the Dolomites from the Top Mountain Star, perched on the narrow ridge of Wurmkogl peak at 3080m, and warm myself up with a chocolate mit rum.
After lunch at Top Mountain Crosspoint – where you can find the Motorcycle museum.
PlanetSKI’s James Cove visited the museum at the end of last season.
It had re-opened after a fire destroyed it.
Back at the start of this season we finished with a few more runs in Obergurgl, including a pretty spicy, and icy black.
There was more than enough to do to warm the legs up for the new ski season even if there hadn’t been as much snow as normal for this time of year.
In Obergurgl alone around 4-5 thousand people, mainly locals – made it out on Saturday.
“Everyone has been working really hard, round the clock to make this happen, said a relieved Daniel Goldstein from the Otztal tourist board.
To mark the opening, Gurgle laid on a few special events, including an Alpine art exhibition at the Gurgl Carat congress in the heart of the village.
Featuring work from Peppi Spiss, whose grandfather starred in the 1930s ski film, Der Weiße Rausch” (“The White Ecstasy”), which clearly influenced his art works.
There was also a gala dinner with each of its five-course prepared by five local restaurants in the village, followed by a casino and live music.
When I opened the curtains on Sunday morning I was surprised to see it was snowing.
That wasn’t predicted in the weather forecast.
We blasted the resort which was now just waiting for the Hohe Mutt Bahn to have enough snow to open for skiers.
The pistes were already feeling different with a dusting of real powder.
As the morning went on the clouds burned away and we broke up the days skiing with some typical Tirolean food stops at the Top Mountain Star and Top Mountain Crosspoint.
Broth and cheese dumplings, schnitzel and rosti.
Then finished the day taking the Hohe Mutt Bahn to the Nedderhutte for Kaiserschmarm (strips of pancake dusted with icing sugar) and apple sauce before getting a bumpy snowmobile down.
Monday brought more unpredicted early morning snow and the pistes felt even better with the spicy black being much less slippery.
The peaks across the valley now looked less brown and more like they’d had a ‘Kaiserschmarm’ dusting of icing sugar.
Then the sun came out mid-morning bringing a perfect ‘bluebird’ day in November.
With the pisters preparing to open the Hohe Mutt Bahn in two days time and a cold week ahead predicted, it certainly looks like being a fine start to winter 2023.
What a way to start the season.