Nassfeld Ski Resort

Nassfeld may not yet be a big name on the lips of skiers outside Austria, but it is big in most other respects. Its lack of exposure is more because of a lack of dedicated international marketing than any shortcomings on the part of the resort – because its name is associated with plenty of superlatives.

It is the biggest resort in the province of Carinthia, the most southern ski resort in Austria and right on the Italian border with the longest gondola ski lift (the 4-mile, 3-stage Millennium Express). It also has the longest floodlit run in the Alps, a section of the seven-mile Carnia run.

But if little-known outside the country, the story is vastly different domestically. Major investment in recent years has elevated Nassfeld to the top ten of Austrian ski resorts. If its rapid progress and expansion is a guide, it will continue its climb up the rankings.

Nassfeld Ski Area

Despite being Austria's sunniest resort (with about 15 per cent more sunshine over the winter than the Tirolean resorts) Nassfeld also claims to be one of the snowiest. The major snowfall comes from the frequent visits by low pressure systems from the Adriatic rather than the northern systems that supply resorts in other parts of Austria. The weather systems from the sea provide heavy precipitation which falls as snow in Nassfeld.

The Nassfeld mountainscape resembles that of the Sud Tirol to the south-west and the slopes are protected by the towering ramparts of the Nock mountain range and the peaks of Rosskofel and Trogkofel. A lot of work has been done recently on many of Nassfeld's ski runs to make them wider and more 'carver-friendly' for sweeping grand slalom turns. Nassfeld also prides itself on the grooming of its runs,as well as its snow-making system which covers virtually all the 110-kilometres of runs.

Madritsche is the focal point of Nassfeld's skiing with runs radiating out to left and right. The higher and more advanced skiing is to the right beneath the Trogkofel at 2,280-metres. These slopes, with some well above the tree-line, are served by the Trogkofelbahn and Zweikofelbahn gondolas. There is some exciting terrain from the Trogkofelbhan including the superb sweeping Schnittlauchkofel run, which offers a black option in the Trogkofelabfahrt running parallel to it. There is an open-to-all timed speed run near the top of the Schnittlauchkofel.

The Zweikofelbahn bottom station at Rastl, beside that of the Trogkofelbahn, takes you to just below the Zweikofel. In the shadow of this peak begins the Carnia run which descends all the way to the Tropolach valley station - a wonderful slope which eventually takes you along a tree-fringed ridge to Gmanberg, the first station of the 4-mile long Millennium Express where the floodlit skiing begins once a week. The floodlit part of the run, 2.2 kilometres long, is open every Wednesday from 7pm to 10pm. This run is also a certified FIS race track.

At present, to return to Madritsche from the Trogkofel side of the mountain you can either ski down to the bottom and ride the Millennium Express again or take the Trogkofelbahn back to the top and follow the Sattelabfahrt run which links the two sides of the mountain. But there are plans to build a new lift from Rastl which will provide a quick return to the Madritsche slopes.

Back at Madritsche there are red runs galore served principally by the Madritschen and Trogel chairlifts. At the foot of the Madritschen 6-person chair is the on-mountain village of Sonnenalpe Nassfeld with ski-in ski-out accommodation. The Italian border is here and, indeed, you can actually choose to stay in the Italian part of Sonnenalpe. There is also another beginners' area here. At the foot of the Trogel 4-seater chairlift is another base area with carparks and restaurants.

 

The main nursery slopes are at Tressdorferalm, at 1,590-metres, which is beside the second station of the Millennium Express. Having the beginners' slopes area here means that novices can be assured of good snow and be in the sun instead of being down at the bottom of the mountain, often with poorer quality cover and in the shade. There are two beginners' lifts here too for easy progression.

Snowboarders tend to gravitate to the Garnitzen Alm area of the mountain - to the left as you look at the mountain - where there is a terrain park and half-pipe. The Snowboard Arena has quarter pipes, high jumps and a snowcross park guaranteeing plenty of fun and action.

Nassfeld has been the venue for the Snowboard Junior World Cup and four World Cup races, so is gaining a big reputation among the boarding brotherhood and the The Pipe is spoken of in hushed tones of reverence.

Nassfeld Ski Lifts & Lift Passes

Nassfeld is an instant surprise for first-time visitors. If they have in mind that they are going to a lesser-known resort, they are probably expecting a below-par infrastructure. What they actually get is a state-of-the-art, highly sophisticated lift network that compares with any in the Alps and surpasses many.

The bottom station is at 2,000 feet (610m) and the top station at 6,625 feet (2,020m) with 4,625 feet (1,410m) vertical elevation from bottom to top. There are 30 ski lifts serving a total of 110-kilometres of marked piste including five gondolabahns, four 6-seater chair lifts and four 4-seater chairs plus 17 drag-lifts. A high proportion of drag lifts admittedly, but drag lifts are still quite popular in many areas of Austria.

The ski lift network can shift 44,000 people an hour and such a powerful capacity has reduced queues to virtual non-existence. The flagship lift is the Millennium Express gondolabahn which whisks skiers and boarders from the Tropolach bottom station to Madritsche in 17 minutes - a four-mile journey gaining 1,309-metres in altitude.

The Nassfeld ski pass which, apart from day passes, covers all Carinthian and Eastern Tirol ski areas and is valid for the nearby family ski areas of Weissbriach, Weissensee and Kotschach-Mauthen. The areas are all linked by free skibus. The Nassfeld ski lift ticket costs from 159 euros for six days, from 128 euros for seniors and from 80 euros for children.

Nassfeld Beginner Skiing

Nassfeld has dedicated beginners' areas at Tressdorfer Alm, beside the second station of the Millennium Express gondola, and at the on-mountain village of Sonnenalpe where the snow conditions are better and the runs sunnier.

Beginner skiing in Nassfeld: Tressdorfer Alm and Sonnenalpe

Both areas have their own beginners' lifts with blue runs in the vicinity for easy progression. The resort makes great efforts to specialise in the care of novices with myriad languages available in the ski school - you're sure to find an instructor who speaks yours, BBC and estuary included!

Those staying at Tropolach can easily reach the beginners' slopes by using the gondola while those at Sonnenalpe are right there anyway. Lessons are available in any combination, group or private from a half-day upwards.

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Nassfeld Intermediate Skiing

Nassfeld is an intermediates' resort par excellence. It is dripping with red runs where intermediates can improve themselves without being terrified. There is a choice of red runs from virtually every lift – many of them more blue than red, the higher certification just because of the occasional steeper pitch.

The Madritsche area is where intermediates will tend to gravitate and an intricate network of reds and blues is served by the Madritschen 6-person chair, the Dreier draglift, the Sonnleitn four-person chair and the Millennium Express from Tropolach.

Staying at Sonnenalpe gives the chance to make the most of these intermediate slopes with the accommodation being mostly ski in-ski out - still a fairly unusual option for Austria. You can even ski straight down from the village to the Trogl 4-person chair which takes you up to Tressdorfer Hohe from where an array of blues and reds fans out.

And for intermediate skiers who want as much skiing in the sun as possible without the added complications of trying to see in a snowstorm Nassfeld typically offers more sunny days in Austria than other resorts.

Nassfeld Advanced Skiing

The tougher runs in Nassfeld are to be found to the right of the mountain as you look at it from the valley – the area below Trogkofel. These are served by the Rudnigsattel lifts, the Trogkofelbahn gondola and the Zweikofelbahn gondola.

Leaving the Rudnigsattel draglift to the left will bring you to a steep, unpisted ski route down to Mossern, which can be testing, while the Trogkofelbahn gives access to the steep and sometimes icy Trogkofelabfahrt black run. The area is full of steepish and interesting, sweeping red runs such as the Schnittlauchkofel down to Rastl. The Zweikofelbahn takes you to the wonderful Carnia run which goes all the way to the valley station at Tropolach, a vertical of nearly 4,000ft.

The Hohe-Hohe lift from Mossern to Madritsche takes you to the start of the unpisted and engaging Hohe-Hohe Variant black run. While the area is not known for fearsome black runs, when the snow is good there are a number of good off-piste and powder options within the ski boundaries and advanced skiers are unlikely to be bored. And in addition, there are the nearby off-piste and touring options to consider. The Lesachtal Valley is one of the most untouched landscapes in the Eastern Alps and a wonderful choice for ski-touring.

It is uncrowded with a good record for great snow and usually offers the chance to find untouched slopes. You can have first tracks here sometimes days after a good snowfall.

There are basically seven popular routes here, all scenically glorious. They require an ascent, on skins, of between two to four hours but the effort will be worthwhile with long, long, deserted descents, often in powder, of over 4,000ft vertical. The local tourist offices all have details of the possible routes with guides available from the ski school.

Nassfeld Boarding & Freestyle

Nassfeld caters for boarders and freestyle enthusiasts big-time with a famous half-pipe, quarter pipes, jumps and snowcross park. The resort likes to see itself as something of a Mecca for boarders with World Cup events having been held here.

Nassfeld similarly appeals to freestylers who have a terrain park with rails and jumps, mogul runs and a ski school that runs courses incorporating funpark and mogul skills.

Snowboarders tend to gravitate to the Garnitzen Alm area of the mountain - to the left as you look at the mountain - where there is a terrain park and half-pipe. The Snowboard Arena has quarter pipes, high jumps and a snowcross park guaranteeing plenty of fun and action.

Nassfeld has been the venue for the Snowboard Junior World Cup and four World Cup races and is gaining a big reputation among the boarding brotherhood. The Pipe is spoken of in hushed tones of reverence.

Nassfeld Cross Country Skiing

Nordic skiing is increasingly popular and exponents of the art can be seen on the slopes of Nassfeld. The ski school has instructors who can teach Nordic skiing.

There are more than 11 kilometres of high-altitude marked cross-country trails up on the mountain. One is on the Italian border - the Seeloipe, a 4.5 kilometre lakeside trail above Sonnenhalpe. Another is 4 kilometres long through the woods at Tressdorfer Alm and accessed from the Millennium Express gondola. 

But many cross-country enthusiasts will head for the 50 kilometres of double-track groomed trails at Weissensee which climb to 1,400-metres. Gliding along this network above the frozen Lake Weissensee is a supreme cross-country experience. At some points the cross-country trails run alongside the ice rinks,so entertaining impromptu races often take place between langlaufers and ice-skaters.

Cross-country instructors are also available from the ski schools and they teach both the classical and skating styles. Special packages are organised for cross-country skiers - they can include half-board in a hotel, ski rental for a week and a 3-day cross-country skiing course from 415 euros.

The trails are well-known in cross-country circles for being especially well maintained and have been awarded the Carinthian Cross-country Seal of Quality. They have even received a commendation from Markus Gandler, Olympic silver-medallist and World Champion, who often uses them for training. 'The trails are always in excellent condition,' he says. 'Just like the ones I'm used to in international cross-country competition.'

And of course, apart from ski rental and lessons, cross-country skiing is otherwise completely free throughout Carinthia.

Nassfeld Mountain Restaurants

Situated as it is on the Italian border, Nassfeld tends to be influenced heavily by Italian cooking in its mountain huts and also by Carinthian specialities. This melding of culinary styles can only be good for skiers and the standard of cooking is usually high.

Nassfeld is well supplied with mountain restaurants - 18 at the last count, 12 of them with table service. The Watschiger Alm is known for its kasespatzle (cheese noodles topped with fried onions) and kaiserschmarren (chopped up pancakes with sultanas and fruit compote) and its large sun terrace.

The Tressdorfer Alm specialises in pizzas and spare ribs and has an afternoon umbrella bar for early après-ski revellers. You can nip across the border to eat Italian-style at the Albergo Ristorante Al gallo Forcello at Pontebba - a restaurant so confused it has intriguingly an Austrian telephone number and an Italian fax number. Perhaps different rooms are in different countries with the border running through the middle of the building!

At Sonnenalpe, the Alpenhof Plattner does both good lasagne and Austrian grostl. The Rudnigalm, halfway down the Schnittlauchkofel red run, is another popular lunchtime stop-off with a good sun terrace.

Nassfeld Village

Nassfeld is very much a collection of villages, both on the mountain and in the valley, rather than a single entity. For ski-in ski-out convenience the choice is Sonnenalpe or Sonnleitn. Tropolach, a pleasant little community at the bottom station of the Millennium Express, can also be said to be ski-in ski-out.

All have basic shopping facilities - ski clothing and rental shops, bars and restaurants - but are not substantial villages. However, there is everything you need on hand for a ski holiday, especially with the fantastic facilities, spa, restaurants and bars, in the hotels.

The nearest town is Hermagor - the name comes from St Hermagoras, a bishop of Roman times who fell foul of the Emperor Nero and was subsequently tortured and beheaded (his statue stands in the town) - with a shuttle bus service to the slopes.

The nearest large town is Villach with a mass of shopping, restaurant and nightlife.

Nassfeld Bars & Restaurants

Arnold Pucher's stube in the Wulfenia Hotel at Sonnenalpe is the place to push the boat out; but it seats only 25 so book ahead of time on 0043 4285 8111. It’s the highest Michelin two-star restaurant in Austria. Dining here is not exorbitant with menus available at 90 euros or a multi-course tasting menu at 110 euros. Wine extra, of course, with 900 wines to choose from.

Most of the dining options are based at the hotels with the Al Gallo Forcello the obvious Italian choice and the Falkensteiner Carinzia at Tropolach for international dishes. The Barenhutte at Tropolach is popular, especially for ribs. The restaurant at the Hotel Lerchenhof in Hermagor, built in castle style, is worth a visit for its atmosphere alone.

Apres Ski

In Tropolach, at the base of the Millennium Express, the Barenhutte is the centre of après-ski. Partying can go on to the early hours here, with the serving of spare ribs, particularly if there is a lively crowd in from the Cube Hotel just across the way. The Cube also has a disco of its own.

At Sonnenalpe, the Hotel Sonnenalpe has a lively après-ski bar, as do many of the other hotels, and the Al gallo Forcello often has live music to entertain après-skiers. Umbrella bars are dotted about and drinking continues at a number of the huts until it is time to ski cautiously down to the hotels.

It is also quite common to travel to Hermagor where there are a number of lively bars. Not to be missed is an après-ski drink at the somewhat eccentric but quite charming Schloss Hotel Lerchenhof built as a chateau by the industrialist Julius Wodley in 1848 on a sunny plateau above the town. Set in parkland, it is now owned by the Steinwender family and Hans Steinwender is a lively host - the gluhwein flows at après-ski time and on some nights there is a disco.

But the winter highlight at Schloss Hotel Lerchenhof is a giant snowman built in the grounds amid great celebration which stays there all winter as the focal point of après-ski parties.

Nassfeld Other Activities

Nassfeld-Hermagor region sees itself as a total all-round winter holiday destination not just for Alpine skiers and snowboarders. Nassfeld-Hermagor has the largest cross-country network in the province of Carinthia with more than 300 kilometres of beautifully groomed trails. There is a 4-kilometre toboggan run on Naggler Alm at Weissensee near Nassfeld. It has become customary for a toboggan ride to be accompanied by yodelling, as loud as possible, from the participants.

The frozen Weissensee is the centre of many activities, including skating and ice golf. Skating lessons are available at certain times of the winter and ice golf is not really played directly on the ice, rather on a 'carpet' of snow that has been rolled flat. The technique takes some getting used to. Coloured balls are essential. The rough is where the snow has not been rolled and even coloured balls get lost easily here. An even smoother, more heavily rolled area acts as the 'green'. Or rather the 'white'.

Curling is very popular - an activity best practised with the aid of copious amounts of gluhwein and schnapps. Many of these activities are also on offer on the Preggersee, even closer to Nassfeld, as soon as it freezes over.

But it is the Weissensee that is famous for its Ice Skating marathon, held in February when more than 5,000 Dutch skaters travel there (2008 marks the 20th holding of the event) to see who can skate fastest over various distances. The highlight is the marathon itself covering 200 kilometres. The current record is 5hrs 11minutes.

Horse-drawn sleigh rides are popular, both over the ice and around the streets, and for winter walkers there are many cleared hiking paths. One of the most popular off-slope activities is taking advantage of the many hotel spas with a variety of treatments on offer from a haybath to a hot-stone massage.

Nassfeld Rating
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  • Nassfeld Statistics
  • CountryAustria
  • RegionSkiarena Kärrnten
  • Base600 m
  • Peak2002 m
  • Vertical1402 m
  • Ski Area280 ha
  • Beginner31 %
  • Intermediate59 %
  • Advanced10 %
  • Number of ski lifts30
  • Gondolas5
  • Chairlifts8
  • Surface lifts17
  • Riders per hour44000
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