Obergurgl is a family-friendly traditional Austrian village, situated high up in the mountains at the head of the Otztal valley. Together with lift-linked Hochgurgl, it has some of the most snowsure non-glacier skiing in Europe. A bus link to nearby Solden provides further high-altitude skiing which can be needed because the Gurgl ski area alone is not very large.
Obergurgl is the second oldest ski resort in Austria after St Anton, with a long history of looking after skiers and their families. It’s also the exception to the rule that Alpine ski resorts can be low-lying charming traditional villages, or high-altitude snowsure modern resorts, but they can’t be both; because Obergurgl is charming, with a nice village centre and a church dating back to 1737, but it’s also located at 1930m above sea level, with powerful lifts within 5 minutes walk of most of the accommodation that whisk skiers up to 3000m, guaranteeing good snow throughout its longer winter season.
Accommodation is still mainly in traditional 3-star and 4-star family-run hotels, although there are some apartments, chalets and pensions as well. The apres-ski starts well before the lifts close with live music and tea dancing on tables at the mid-mountain Nederhutte and other bars on the lower slopes. The fun carries on back in the village for a while, but then quietens down because Obergurgl is the kind of resort where most guests return to their comfortable hotels to eat a gourmet dinner at night with their families, rather than carry on drinking in a rowdy bar.
‘Gurgl‘ is the official name of the ski area which Obergurgl shares with Hochgurgl, a modern, purpose-built, satellite resort 6km away, which is really just a cluster of ski-in/ski-out hotels high above the tree line at 2150m. And skiing in Gurgl is all about quality not quantity. Its height means good snow conditions are the norm which helps skiers and boarders of all standards. The lifts are excellent, with hardly any queues, and the chairlifts have covers which can be a godsend. There are nursery slopes for beginners with free lifts for those attached to a ski school and when they get a bit more confident, they have plenty of gentle blue runs to move onto, especially in the sector above Hochgurgl. Intermediates will be able to ski all the pistes – even the blacks are not very threatening. Advanced skiers will find very few challenges on piste but there is excellent off-piste to explore with a guide, and a small freeride area around the Kirchenkarbahn 2 lift.
Gurgl is not a large ski area, though, with only 112km of piste, 25 lifts, and about 40 runs. Fortunately, it’s just one part of the Ötztal Super Ski area that also includes nearby Solden. This is only 20 minutes down the valley road and there are frequent free ski-buses linking the two resorts, which together have enough skiing for anyone for a week.
So is Obergurgl the ideal compromise for a party that demands a high-altitude ski resort with guaranteed snow but also wants a charming traditional village? Well put it this way: you won’t find anywhere that is higher which is nicer, or anywhere nicer which is higher. But also remember its altitude can be a double-edged sword. In a cold, wintry January, Obergurgl can be a bit bleak.
Obergurgl Pros & Cons
+ Snowsure / long season
+ Obergurgl + Hochgurgl + Solden have a big enough ski area
+ Nice village
+ Excellent ski touring and good off-piste freeriding with a guide
+ Fun après ski
– Late at night Obergurgl is quiet and Hochgurgl is dead
– High, bleak setting with few tree-lined runs to retreat to in bad weather