Skiing in Obergurgl

Obergurgl ski area, together with neighbouring Hochgurgl, enjoys an enviable snowsure position because of its high altitude. The season opens at the beginning of November and closes 1 May. Combined with their modern snow making equipment and the lack of queues, these resorts are especially good for the beginner and intermediate skiers who will love the long wide, motorway pistes.

Obergurgl Ski Area Overview

The ski area, including the Kirchenkar mountain gondola II extension that opened in November 2018,  totals 112km of marked pistes, divided more or less equally between Obergurgl and Hochgurgl, with 90% covered by artificial snow cannons.  The ski area is graded approximately 30% beginner (blue), 50% intermediate (red) and 20% advanced (black) runs and served by 25 ski lifts and gondolas with a capacity of around 40,000 riders per hour.  With a combined total of just 4,800 beds in both resorts it is easy to understand why queues are almost non-existent.

The ski slopes are mostly above the tree line and wide open with a lower density of skiers and fewer snowboarders than other resorts. This apart from anything else gives a greater feeling of safety and less congestion. At times it really does feel like a private ski resort. Consistent upgrade improvements on the speed of the gondolas and the chair lifts, means there is virtually no queuing even at peak times such as New Year, February school holidays and Easter; so more time spent skiing than waiting to ski.   Some may find taking skis on and off frequently to ride the gondolas an irritation, but all of the modern high-speed chair lifts have bubble covers to reduce the wind chill – a plus point!  There is no snowboard park in either resort; Obergurgl had one briefly one year but abandoned it the next for lack of support and demand.

For advanced skiers there are 20 km of black runs, the best in Hochgurgl being the black run down Festkogel through the Ferwalltal, and the Fer Valley. The Kirchenkar mountain gondola II has also opened up plenty of freeriding. In Obergurgl the black run from from the Top Mountain Hut at the Hohe Mut summit is a fiercesome challenge. If this doesn’t prove enough, there are larger glacier ski areas at Tifenbach and Rettenbach above Solden, a 20 minute bus ride back down the valley from the bus station in the centre of Obergurgl. A day’s lift pass will cost extra unless it is pre-booked at the same time as a week’s Obergurgl / Hochgurgl ski pass.

Experts looking for off-piste skiing in both areas will not be disappointed with mountain guides available to show the best routes. Telemark Skiing offers off-piste tuition with a full day tour included over Easter if conditions permit.

Obergurgl Ski Area

Obergurgl has three main lift systems. From the lower end of the village the Festkoglbahn rises to 2,630 metres from where a descent on route 6 and then 7 will link up with the Plattachbahn chairlift up to the Festkogl summit (3,035 m). At the top end, the Roskarbahn quad chairlift and the new Hohe Mut bahn gondola both start almost next to each from outside the Edelweiss and Gurgl hotel. The Roskarbahn arrives at the same point as the Festkoglbahn while the Hohe Mut bahn goes all the way to the top of the Hohe Mut (2,670 m). From here and the top of the Festkogglbahn there are connecting runs enabling skiers of all abilities to explore the entire area above Obergurgl. Route 3 from the top of the Festkogl takes you down to the Top Express gondola system which joins up with Hochgurgl.

From the summit of the Hohe Mut (meaning ‘high courage’) at 2,670m there is a steep and exhilarating black mogul descent leading to the option of red or blue runs back down to the valley or a similar choice of runs down to the Steinmannbahn which opens up other ski runs at the top end of the valley. An excellent reason to be skiing at midday in this area is the location of Obergurgl’s two best mountain restaurants, the Nederhutte and David’s skihutte.

On Tuesdays from 6.30 – 9.30pm you can enjoy Night Skiing on 8km of floodlit ski slopes with access from the Festkogl lift. At the top the Obergurgl Ski School Instructors perform an impressive ski show with stunts and jumps before the event is rounded off with a fireworks display. This occurs from December to April providing the snow remains frozen.

Hochgurgl Ski Area

With a similar ski area to Obergurgl, entry to Hochgurgl’s slopes is either from the bottom of the Hochgurglbahn station lift which has a car park, or from the Top Express gondola linking Hochgurgl with Obergurgl. This can be accessed by taking route 3 from the Festkoglhutte at the top of the Festkoglbahn.

The premier and most exhilarating ski run for testing speed and stamina covers 8km with a vertical drop of 1,200 m and starts from the top of the Wurmkogl peak (3,082 m / 10,109 ft) via Route 25, through the tree line just below Hochgurgl and down to the bottom of the Hochgurglbahn.

There are two other routes down to T-bars either side of the Hochgurglbahn lift. From the start of the Top Wormkogl lift you can either branch out half way down onto blue Route 32 which turns into a black funnel for the final section down to the Wormkugl Hotel. (Watch out for the final part of the T-bar on the way up which gives a sudden lurch to almost lift you off the track).

The new Kirchenkar 2 lift above Hochgurgl which opened in November 2018 created two new high-altitude pistes, Piste 43 (blue) and Piste 44 (red). The lift ascends to 2839m above sea level, so it also opened up new testing North-facing terrain on both sides of the lift for freeriders and off-piste skiers.

There are a few challenging black runs at different points above and around Hochgurgl for advanced skiers, while beginners can enjoy a number of easy blue runs on which the ski school operates.

Beginner Skiing in Obergurgl and Hochgurgl

Obergurgl’s wide open, treeless runs are perfect for beginners to build confidence. Once the basics have been mastered on the gentle beginners slopes close to the town, ski school groups are soon up the mountain above Obergurgl.

Obergurgl’s beginner runs are wide and flat. From the top of the Roskartbahn and the Festkoglbahn there are a number of gentle blue runs which either lead down to the Top Express gondola for the 12 minute ride to Hochgurgl, or the long and winding run via blue run 6 back down into Obergurgl. The area above David’s skihutte is a favourite for ski school formations practising their turns, with a pleasant run back to town.

In Hochgurgl the blue run 27 from the top opens up into a vast width of blue runs where the space gives a real feel of confidence and where beginners can expect to make good progress in or out of ski school. Most of the blue runs end up either at the bottom of the Wurmkogl I chairlift or from there down to Hochgurgl itself.

The two areas to watch involve lengthy T-bars. Blue run 32 turns into a short black run at the bottom part leading to the tricky Vorderer Wurmkogllift T-bar with a tendency to lift you upwards and off balance towards the end, and on the other side of Hochgurgl where there is a wide underused gentle run down to the kirchenkartlift T-bar. Assistance is given at the start of both T-bars.

Obergurgl does not suffer from day visitors and hence the slopes are uncrowded even at weekends.

Ski Schools & Ski Lessons in Obergurgl-Hochgurgl

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Intermediate Skiing in Obergurgl and Hochgurgl

The Obergurgl-Hochgurgl ski area is a paradise for intermediate skiers where the height of the resorts gives some of the best snow conditions in Europe. The intermediate pistes are wide, undulating long and varied – this is motorway skiing at its best! And there is even more available at bus-linked Solden.

On the slopes above Obergurgl there are three main red runs. The shortest is red 7 from the top of the Festkogl, the highest point above Obergurgl, with the alternative descent being a challenging black run. The other two red runs are long, fast and a good test on thigh muscles. From the top of the Festkoegelbahn, red run 1 descends the full length of the gondola on the Ferwalital valley side down to the lift start. At the top end of the Otztal valley above Obergurgl, red run 16 drops from the top of the Hohe Mut all the way to the bottom of the Steinmannbahn, and more importantly David’s skihutte.

Hochgurgl ‘s two best runs for intermediates are red run 25 from Hochgurgl down to the bottom of the Hochgurglbahn gondola with its mixture of twisting turns through the treeline. For those wanting to measure their improvement, the blue run from the top of the Wurmkogl then connects with red run 25 to provide a varied and really exhilarating downhill experience, a descent of 1,200 metres.

The other treat is the seemingly much underused red run 20, probably because the only way up is by a very long and tiring T-bar. The motorway run is fast and sweeping where full throttle can be given without fear of traffic congestion. No doubt this will all change once the T-bar is upgraded to chairlift status.

At the top the Kirchenkarbahn Sektion 1 is the Kirchchenkarthutte – a good refreshment point before taking the new Kirchenkar 2 lift which opened in November 2018 and which ascends to 2839m. This created two new high-altitude pistes, Piste 43 (blue) and Piste 44 (red) which then join Piste 41 (blue but with the option of a red run variant – piste 42) continuing all the way down the mountain to the Top Mountain Cross Point – a seriously testing, thigh-burning workout if you try to do the whole descent without stopping – it has a vertical of about 800m.

Intermediates based at Obergurgl will also want to visit Solden, which is another high-altitude, intermediates’ paradise, jut 20 minutes down the valley road. Both resorts are part of the Otztal Superski area so most Obergurgl-Hochgurgl passes include days at Solden.

Advanced & Expert Skiing in Obergurgl and Hochgurgl

Obergurgl has a handful of testing black runs, the most challenging being black 11 from the top of the Hohe Mut Festkogl down to the Nederhutte. There are lots of off-piste skiing, freeriding and ski-touring possibilities to discover with a guide, both locally and in nearby bus-linked Solden (also covered by the Otztal ski pass).

Although on-piste in Obergurgl there is a lack of long duration black runs, the mogul run from the top of the Festkogl to the bottom of the Gipfellift, is a real joy especially after a fresh snowfall. In Hochgurgl, there are likewise a number of black runs with black 27 from the Top Mountain Star Restaurant and black 32 on the Konigstal side being the pick.

Ski racers with a craving for the competitive edge can enter the weekly ski races for visitors which take place every Thursday in Obergurgl and Friday in Hochgurgl.

Off-piste there are an abundance of good slopes on either side of the Festkgol and Hohe Mut which depending on the snow conditions open up descents visible from the Hohe Mut restaurant and the Festkogl. Similarly, in Hochgurgl there are a number of favourite areas close to the pistes and a series of exciting runs from the top of the tree line down though the woods.

The new Kirchenkar 2 lift above Hochgurgl which opened in November 2018 ascends to 2839m above sea level, so it opened up new testing North-facing terrain on both sides of the lift for freeriders and off-piste skiers.

For a change of geography, Solden is only a 20-minute bus ride away, and well worth visiting to ski  Solden’s famous Gaislachkogl peak (3058 m) for great off-piste skiing.

Hiring a mountain guide, available through the ski school or specialist guiding companies, is the best way to find the best off-piste itineraries and best snow on any given day and to ski safely.

Boarding & Freestyle in Obergurgl and Hochgurgl

Obergurgl has no permanent designated terrain park for snowboarders and the frequent high winds which whip off the powder, leaving the slopes hard and fast for carving.

In Hochgurgl the snowboarding terrain park has been disbanded and the focus switched to Solden which is a measure of the declining popularity of snowboarding in both resorts. According to the ski schools this has been increasingly the case over the last few years following the emergence of carving skis. While neither resort can claim to be a top boarder destination the slopes are wide and uncongested and the gondolas and chairlifts lifts are all designed to make riding easy. Both ski schools offer 2-hour daily snowboarding lessons on request.

Mountain Restaurants in Obergurgl and Hochgurgl

The mountain restaurants in Obergurgl and Hochgurgl typically provide a high standard of food at reasonable prices and staff mostly in traditional Tyrolean costume, are happy and welcoming. The good news is that there are no self-service motorway style restaurants in either area.

Obergurgl Mountain Restaurants

The restaurant at the top of the Hohe Mut provides good food, outdoor seating and a majestic view over the top of the Alps.  Rebuilt recently, with sheepskin rugs covering the chairs, and excellent Austrian cuisine, you will find it difficult to leave quickly!   At the summit of the Festkoegel lift, the Festkoeglhutte has an open air restaurant and a separate indoor circular bar which booms out music across the slopes as you put on your skis after alighting from the gondola. The busiest time is Tuesday evenings when the bar is packed for floodlit night skiing and the fireworks display.

But the real stars of mountain refurbishment are located lower down at David’s Skihutte and the Nederhutte. The former is run by David and his friendly helpers in their lederhosen with their bonhomie contributing to the lively atmosphere. The large tables guarantee conversations with strangers quickly ensue. The gluwein is the best on the slopes and the food portions are filling. Try the tasty Tyrolean Grostel (panfried potatoes with bacon, onions, meat and salad), and if you have any room left go for the homemade apple strudel and vanilla sauce.  Finish with David’s schnapps – this legendary and lethal brew is made from the local pine cones to warm the cockles of your heart!

The Nederhutte is a larger and more modern version of David’s skihutte with young staff working the tables at fast pace with their wireless order pads. The food is equally good with Gergrillte Schweinsripperl (grilled spareribs with garlic bread and salad) a firm favourite. But the highlight is the four times a week (Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Fridays) live music which starts at 4pm with the lead guitarist leaping onto a table to get the event underway. Before long he is followed by the punters bringing a new meaning to table dancing. Make sure you are there by 2pm if you want a table – it’s a great experience lasting until late and not to be missed, including their ‘Rock around the Fondue’ evenings.    If you cannot face skiing back down, snowmobiles run at regular intervals to take you down in a trailer!

Hochgurgl Mountain Restaurants

For the visual aspect, you can’t beat the new state-of-the-art designed rotund Top Mountain Star restaurant on the pinnacle of the Wurmkogl whilst enjoying a hot chocolate or gluwein. Perched on top of the mountain the views are spectacular with 23 alpine peaks stretching out over the Oztzal Alps and the Dolomites.  The Top Mountain Star restaurant closes at 5 pm but is available for private hire and at affordable cost if spread between 50 or 60 people, with access up and down by piste groomers.

Over to the left, just away from the top of the Kirchenkarlift is the unpretentious Kirchenkarhutte which is a small outpost run by a couple of characters who provide basic fare; a good re-fuelling stop.

Lower down, the Hochgurgl Hotel has a sunkissed outdoor patio restaurant with views down towards Obergurgl and the top end of the valley. Excellent sausage dishes, including a wholesome Grilled Sausage with sauerkraut and roasted potatoes with bacon washed down by a beer; the more wealthy among you might be tempted to 40g Beluga caviar and fine wine.

A hidden gem for lunch is the Wormkugl Hotel’s veranda (a real suntrap), which is a short walk from the bottom of the black route 32 which can be the only reason it is not overpopulated. Josef is a genial host and the menu is well recommended along with the house wine. The only route out is the T-bar but after a large lunch Josef may be able to assist with the hotel minibus up to Hochgurgl.


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