Au-Schoppernau offers good skiing, many affordable hotels and is a convenient base from which to explore Bregenzerwald's three best ski areas - Diedamskopf, Daműls-Mellau and Warth-Schröcken..
If you're looking for a quiet, relaxing and affordable winter sports holiday in an authentic unspoiled Austrian village, Au-Schoppernau in Bregenzerwald is easy to get to and well worth considering.
While Au-Schoppernau's Diedamskopf ski area has just 40km of pistes, the there is as much as 215km if you include the nearby ski areas at Daműls-Mellau and Warth-Schröcken, which are within a 20km radius of Au-Schoppernau and easily reached by car or free ski bus. Warth-Schröcken also has direct lift access to the huge Arlberg ski area that also includes Lech-Zurs and St Anton. Most Bregenzerwlad ski passes entitle you to discounted skiing in the Arlberg ski area.
There's downhill skiing to suit all ability levels as well as good opportunities for ski touring, cross-country skiing winter-walking and other activities including paragliding in Diedamskopf. Compared to bigger better known ski resorts, the main draw back for families with teenagers and some adults is the relative lack of apres ski.
There's plenty of good accommodation to choose from including affordable 4-star hotels, 3-star hotels and private apartments. Hotel Krone in Au deserves special mention for its splendid spa and wellness area and the Gasthof Adler in Schoppernau is among the best hotels in the region.
The following hotels have been visited by Ultimate-Ski.com and are recommended:
Gasthof Adler, Schoppernau 4-star
Erlebnisreich Natter Hotel, Schoppernau 4-star
Hirschen Wohlfuhlhotel, Schoppernau 4-star
Hotel Wirtshaus zum Gamsle, Schoppernau 4-star
Haus Marlene, Schoppernau 3-star
Diedamskopf ski area offers 1,200m vertical elevation between 820-2,020m, 40km of well-groomed pistes and ski routes served by an efficient lift system and the Au-Schoppernau ski school which employs about 50 ski instructors. The ski area, which is small but fun and suitable for all ability levels, includes 11 blue runs (13km) for beginners, 10 red runs (18km) for intermediates and five black runs (9km) plus three ski routes for advanced skiers.
Although smaller than either Warth-Schrőcken or Daműls-Mellau, the Diedamskopf ski area is quite steep in parts and the black runs are steep enough to challenge advanced skiers. There are freeriding opportunities off-piste for advanced skiers and the impressive Pleasure Diedamspark has some sizeable jumps as well as plenty of kickers, boxes and rails to challenge and entertain boarders and freestyle skiers.
Access to the ski area is by Diedams gondolas 1 and 2 ascending from the Diedamskopf base station (820m) to the restaurant at middle station (1,670m) and continuing up to the SB-Panorama Restaurant (2,020m). The SB-Panorama Restaurant has a large sun terrace from where you can walk up to the top of the Diedamskopf (2,090m) to admire the views of Lake Constance and the surrounding panoramic mountain landscape.
The ski area covers a wide open area between two mountains: Diedamskopf (2,090m) ski runs face south-east and in good weather are sunnier for longer than the shadier Falzerkopf (1,968m) slopes which point south west. Although the terrain is quite steep in parts the ski area includes good groomed runs for beginners.
There are regular free ski bus services running between the villages of Au Schoppernau and Warth Schrőcken, and between Au Schoppernau and Daműls-Mellau. Both of these ski areas are covered by the same 3-Taler lift pass and are less than a 20km free bus ride from Au-Schoppernau and are well-worth visiting.
The Daműls-Mellau ski area is the biggest in the Bregenzerwald with 109km of well-prepared pistes. Situated between the villages of Daműls (1431m) and Mellau (688m), the Daműls-Mellau ski area is especially good for confident beginners and intermediates who like to ski fast on wide open pistes. The pistes are also fun for advanced skiers and there are often good opportunities to ski deeper untracked snow between the pistes. Daműls is one of the most snow sure villages in Austria and there are many ski-in, ski-out hotels high in the ski area which have good mountain restaurants. Plan to end your ski day at an umbrella bar on the mountain or one of the terrace bars.
The ski area at Warth-Schrőcken includes 66km of well-groomed skiing which is best for intermediates and beginners, but there's also plenty of off-piste skiing for more advanced skiers including guided skiing from Warth to Lech - Zurs and back, all of which is off-pistem often quite challenging including avalanche prone slopes and hence not to be attempted without a guide. The ski bus from Au-Schoppernau deposits skiers at the top of the Hochtannbergass (between Schrőcken and Warth) and next to the Saloberjet chairlift. The Hotel Kőrbersee is ski-in, ski-out and recommended for lunch and for a last drink on the mountain before skiing the long run from Kőrbersee down to Schrőcken (1269m). Alternatively you can head back to the bottom of the Saloberjet chairlift, where you started, and catch the bus back from there.
The backbone of the Au Schoppernau (Diedamskopf) ski lift system is the 8-person gondola rising from the valley lift station (820m) via middle station (1670m) to the Panorama Restaurant (2020m), just a short hike from the top of the Diedamskopf (2090m). The 40km ski area covers a bowl between two mountains, Diedamskopf and Falzer Kopf. In addition to the gondola, two high-speed chairlifts, the 6-seater Panoramabahn and 4-seater Breitenalp chairlifts, and two T-bars provide easy access to well-groomed runs between the two mountains and two different ways to ski back down to the valley.
The Bregenzerwald 3-Valley Lift pass, which covers Diedamskopf (40km), Warth-Schrőcken (66km), Daműls-Mellau (109km) and numerous smaller ski areas in Bregenzerwald, and free travel on public buses. Full lift passes are available for periods of 2½ days or longer with the usual range of discounts for children and senior citizens, and with the advantage that lift pass prices in Bregenzerwald remain up to 20% cheaper than lift passes in most other ski resorts in Austria.
For more information about lift passes contact the 3-Täler information centre:
3-Täler Information Centre
6863 Egg, Vorarlberg
Tel: +43 (0) 5512 2365-30
Tel: +43 (0) 5515 4110 0
Although the ski school in Au Schoppernau is used to fast-tracking novices, the Diedamskopf ski area is relatively steep and not recommended for novices and early stage beginners.
Beginner skiers at Diedamskopf can ride the Diedams gondolas 1 and 2 to the Panorama Restaurant at 2020m where they can enjoy skiing a netwrok of eleven blue runs high in the ski area. The blue runs on Diedamskopf are served mostly by a T-bar and two chairlifts on either side of the ski area. Beginners also have the option to ski the longer blue run (6) down to the mid-station gondola then ride back up and ski more laps.
Having exhausted the options available on Diedamskopf, competent beginners based in Au Schoppernau can progress to nearby Warth-Schrőcken, a larger (66km) ski area with good terrain for skiers of all abilities including good beginner slopes throughout the ski area. Beginners in Warth-Schrocken usually start skiing relatively short blue runs next to the main Saloberjet chairlift at Hochtannberg then progress to ski longer blue runs accessed by high-speed chairlifts either side of the Hochtannberg pass and enjoy lunch at one of several mountain restaurants including the popular Hotel Kőrbersee, Hotel Jaegeralpe and Sporthotel Steffisalp.
Another option just 8km from Au-Schoppernau is Damuls-Mellau, the biggest ski area (109km) in Bregenzerwald including longer and wider blue and red runs for beginners and intermediates, and more mountain restaurants, but most beginners will have an easier time skiing Warth-Schrocken.
Regular bus services, free for 3-Taler Ski Lift Pass holders, make it easy to travel between Au Schoppernau and the nearby ski areas at Warth Schrocken and Damuls Mellau and for beginner skiers based in Au Schoppernau to enjoy the benefits of all three ski areas covered by a single lift pass.
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While the 40km Diedamskopf's ski area is not big enough to entertain most intermediates for more than a day or two at most, what skiing there is on Diedamskopf is good fun and includes some testing black runs. With more and better skiing nearby at Daműls-Mellau (109km) and Warth-Schrőcken (66km). intermediate skiers visiting Bregenzerwald for a short 3- or 4-day ski break or longer are recommended to explore all three ski areas and Au-Schoppernau is the most convenient location from which to do so.
Starting with Diedamskopf there are 11 blue runs and nine red runs for warming up in the morning. Ignore the impersonal main restaurants at the lift stations and head over to Käsker Restaurant on Breitenalpe, which is a more charming rustic mountain restaurant, though not exceptional by Austrian standards. After lunch, test your skills on three relatively steep black pistes running from the top of the gondola down to mid-station then have a crack at black 15 on Breitenalpe or ski route 3. Finish your day and your exploration of Diedamskopf by skiing the relatively long red run (22) or longer red ski route (21) from 1670m or 1470m respectively all the way down to the valley station at 820m.
A free ski bus service winds its way from Au (820m) along scenic alpine roads for 8km to Daműls (1431m) which is the most interesting entry point to the Damuls-Mellau ski area with 109km of well-groomed pistes including some exceptionally wide open runs which are just perfect for intermediate skiers and boarders. The Damuls-Mellau ski area, and Damuls in particular, features numerous ski-in, ski-out hotels and mountain restaurants and offers an altogether better on-mountain eating and après ski experience.
The Warth-Schrőcken ski area, 15km from Au-Schoppernau, is easily reached by a free ski bus service to the Hochtannbergpass where the Saloberjet express lift opens up another 66km of mostly blue and red runs providing good skiing for intermediates. Like Daműls-Mellau, the Warth-Schrőcken ski area is home to several good ski-in, ski-out hotels and mountain restaurants including the Sporthotel Steffisalp, Hotel Jaegeralpe and Hotel Kőrbersee.
Black 15 below Breitenalpe on the Falzer Kopf side of the Diedamskopf ski area is a near straight black run with a near 40 degree pitch at times. Easily visible from the Diedamskopf side, it is best skied with sharp edges or when deep in powder, because that side of the ski area faces south west it can be icy early in the morning.
Blacks 1 and 1a are also reasonably steep and number 9 is super quick red run which is fun to ski when not busy. Red 22 from Diedamskopf middle station (1670m) down to the valley lift station or you can ski down red ski route 21 which is a service road in summer and narrower.
Outside the designated ski area there is steep off-piste on the western flank of Diedamskopf and on Falzer Kopf's south-eastern slopes, none of which should be attempted without a guide. Qualified off-piste guides can be arranged through the Au-Schoppernau Snowsports School.
Diedamskopf terrain is naturally steep and hence it's important to check snow conditions and pay attention to avalanche warnings, updated daily in season by the Vorarlberg Avalanche Warning Service (Tel: +43 (0) 5574 201 1588), and to respect hazard signs warning of cliffs which are a real danger if you stray off-piste without a guide.
The Daműls-Mellau ski area nearby has 109km of well-groomed red runs including some exceptionally wide runs for intermediate and advanced skiers to enjoy carving at speed. Though there are relatively few black runs and the groomed trails are not especially challenging, the Damuls-Mellau ski area is very enjoyable and after fresh snowfall includes plenty of opportunity to ski untracked snow between pistes.
The Warth-Schrocken ski area, 15km from Au Schoppernau, has plenty of off-piste terrain for advanced and expert skiers including ski touring to the higher reaches of Warther Horn, Karhorn and Auenfelderhorn, and quite callenging off-piste terrain between Warth and Lech.
Bear in mind that the road between Warth and Lech is permanently closed in winter because of significant avalanche risks so if you are planning to ski off-piste it's advisable to check avalanche risks locally and hire a local mountain guide.Contact the Au Schoppernau Snowsports School or Markus Moosbrugger, Ski Guide in Schoppernau, for more information about guiding.
Although the groomed area is comparatively small, many runs are wide, with option to take steeper lines and very few flats. The ski area between Diedamskopf (2090m) and Falzer Kopf (1968m) is wide and open, but natural terrain lines are fairly steep. Accordingly, it's important to check locally for avalanche warnings and not to disregard the yellow triangular "Absturzgefahr" warning signs showing skiers falling over cliffs. Though Diedamskopf ski area is relatively small, the risks off-piste are real and should not be underestimated.
Pleasure Diedamspark, the best park in Bregenzerwald is reshaped daily and features a beginners' area with rails and boxes, curved and kinked box plus triple kicker line for intermediates and Pro line with up-down boxes, a fun box and numerous kickers in all sizes:
For more Information about the Pleasure Diedamspark:
Tel: +43 (0) 5515 4110-0
Park operators Qparks are one of the market leading terrain park companies, who operate a dozen or more parks at ski resorts in Austria including parks St Anton, Ischgl, Solden and Kitzbuhel. Qparks is also expanding into Switzerland and Italy and in addition to designing and shaping, they also organise events at each of the parks.
There's not much to say about Diedamskopf mountain restaurants other than they meet most basic needs and are best experienced in good weather.
The Panorama Restaurant at 202,0m is a 350-seater self-service restaurant forming part of the top gondola station with a large sun terrace and panoramic mountain views of the mountains of Vorarlberg and the Arlberg. The Stern Bar is open on the terrace in good weather.
The Wedelstube Restaurant in the middle station (1,670m) between Diedams gondolas 1 and 2 is described as having a rustic interior, non-smoking "silver service" restaurant, unique Wedelbar and a sun terrace with loungers, but it's nothing special.
The latest addition to the Diedamskopf ski area is the Käsker Restaurant at Breitenalpe on the Falzer Kopf side of the ski area. Käsker, which has seating for 68 people, is rustic inside and out and is a good place to shelter in a white-out and for eating al fresco on Käsker's sun terrace.
The villages of Au-Schoppernau are situated in a flat valley floor either side of the Bregenzerach river and surrounded by the rocky limestone peaks of Hochkünzelspitze, Zitterklapfen, Annalper Stecken and the striking Kanisfluh massif. Au and Schoppernau village centres are about 3km apart.
Both villages are pretty and dominated by attractive buildings built almost entirely of wood in traditional Bregenzerwald style, demonstrating high levels of craftmanship and wonderfully clad on the outside with pretty Schindeln wood panels.
The village buildings are lovingly maintained and it would be hard to distinguish old from new except that the newer buildings are lighter in colour for a few years until their wood is darkened by sunlight and often successfully combine timber and modern building materials, big impact glass windows and glass walls which blend well with the traditional style. A strong sense of ecological awareness is also evident.
Bregenzerwald communities benefit from increasing numbers of winter sports visitors and tourism generally but they are not overly dependent on tourism. The communities derive their income in roughly equal proportions from crafts, tourism and agriculture and hence villages like Au and Schoppernau are unspoiled. It's not uncommon to see large yet pretty farm buildings in the centre of villages which characteristically include a farmhouse, stable or dairy and hay barn under one roof and farm animals visible outside as well as inside.
Given that the villages are traditional and completely unspoiled, it's not surprising that Au-Schoppernau doesn't offer much in the way of retail therapy. Nor are there many après ski bars, but as the Bregenzerwald regions appeals mainly to families and couples attracted by the good choice of affordable accommodation the lack of nightlife is not a problem.
The Tourist Office website lists about 20 shops, including three supermarkets and four schnapps distilleries as well as bakeries, organic food stores, a few snowsports shops and, surprisingly, the internationally renowned lingerie brand Wolford has a factory outlet shop in Schoppernau which is well visited.
The Diedamskopf ski area has 44km pistes skiing and 1190m vertical elevation from 2060m down to the valley lift station at 850m on the edge of Schoppernau and where there is plenty of free parking. Next to the gondola are nursery slopes for complete beginners and the main ski area is suitable for all ability levels, but best for intermediate and advanced skiers who can test their technique on some of the steeper black runs.
With plenty more skiing nearby at Warth-Schröcken and Damüls-Mellau - both are no more than 20km drive by car or bus from Au-Schoppernau - there's a total of 199km piste skiing to enjoy and Au-Schoppernau is a good place to stay if you want to spend 1-2 days skiing each of the three ski areas. Getting to Au-Schoppernau is easy as it's only 2 hours from Zurich airport and if you plan your journey well you can easily ski same day as arrival and departure. Airport transfers can be booked online at Mytransfer.at.
Tourist Office Au
6883 Au, Bregenzerwald, Vorarlberg, Austria
Tel: +43 5515 2288
Tourist Office Schoppernau
6886 Schoppernau, Bregenzerwald, Vorarlberg, Austria
Tel: +43 5515 2495
There are lots of winter activities to choose from including cross-country skiing, winter walking, sleigh riding, tobogganing and snow shoeing, para-gliding and hang-gliding and ski touring.
Many guest come to Au-Schoppernau in winter for cross-country skiing. There are 62km of cross-country ski trails at 850m including 50km of classic cross-country ski runs and 12km of skating runs to choose from. Cross-country ski runs are open and prepared daily from mid-December until Easter.
Cross-country ski lessons are available from the Au-Schoppernau Snow Sports School and equipment can be hired at Sport Gorbach and Sport Fuchs in Au or at Sport Matt in Schoppernau.
The Au-Schoppernau "village cross-country run", which is 13.6km in length and 85m difference in altitude, is "easy to difficult" in parts and takes you on a route around and between the two villages with the chance to stop off for a drink or for lunch in Au or Schoppernau.
There's plenty more cross-country skiing nearby at other villages in Bregenzerwald including the more difficult Falkenkopf cross-country ski run at Warth-Schrőcken which is 8km in length and 100m difference in altitude, between Salober car park at Hochkrumbach and the frozen lake Kőrbersee where you can enjoy lunch at the popular Hotel Kőrbersee or outside on the sun terrace.
If you're not a skier but enjoy winter walking, there are 35km of well marked winter walking paths in and around Au-Schoppernau including the well-prepared path running from Au (800m) along the northern edge of the Lug to the Boden mountain pasture, a rural settlement with chapel, at 1200m, where you can enjoy good food and a drink at the Bergkristall hut. The difference in altitude is 400m up and down and total hiking time is about 3 ½ hours or, if you wish, ride a toboggan from the Bergkristall hut back down to Au. Contact the tourist office (+43 (0) 5515 2288) to check opening times and conditions for tobogganing.
There are lots more opportunities for winter walking at other Bregenzerwald villages nearby including the hiking path from the Hochtannbergpass (1676m) up to the Wittelesattel (1750m) then down to the Hotel Kőrbersee for lunch. Difference in altitude 90m and total hiking time is about 2 hours.
Wrap up warm in a blanket and enjoy a horse drawn sleigh ride through the romantic winter landscape around Au-Schoppernau, with views of the Kanisfluh. Sleigh rides are available locally in Au-Schoppernau from four coachmen. Contact the Tourist Office (+43 (0) 5515 2288) for more information.
There's a small children's toboggan run with moving walkway at Hotel Gasthof Post in Au and special toboggans can be hired for use on a 650m toboggan run at the Grunholz drag lift in Au, which is also open for night time floodlit skiing from 7-10pm on Wednesdays and Fridays. Bregenzerwald Tourist Information lists half a dozen more toboggan runs in Au-Schoppernau ranging in length from the 300m Schrannenbach to the 5.5 km toboggan run down from Neuhornbach to Schoppernau, Toboggans can be rented locally at Sport Gorbach and Sport Fuchs in Au or at Sport Matt in Schoppernau.
After an early evening dinner, your hotel will arrange a taxi to take you to meet your guide who will equip with your snow shoes and head torch to light your way through the snow-covered winter landscape at night. The guided tour takes about 2 hours and is rewarded with an ice cold drink of water from a natural source and a warming shot of schnapps provided by your guide. To book a night time snow shoe tours or for longer and more adventurous day time snow shoeing and tobogganing (6 hours) contact the Au-Schoppernau Snow Sports School (Tel: +43 (0) 5515 2133)
Adventure sports enthusiasts may like to try paragliding. The Diedamskopf is known for its laminar upwind and forgiving thermal conditions, which makes it an excellent venue for training paragliders. Flyers take off in a south, south-easterly and easterly direction across steep slopes from 2070m down to 850m. Also there are two take-off ramps for hang-gliders. For information about tandem paragliding or to learn to fly solo contact the Moosbrugger Air Taxi (www.bestofdiedams) or Bregenzerwald Flying School (www.gleitschirmschule.at).
For more information contact the Tourist Office
Au-Schoppernau Tourist Office
Tel: +43 (0) 5515 2288