Schladming Ski Area
The slopes comprise a vast area of Styria’s Ennstal region, with four principal mountains – Hauser Kaibling, Planai, Hochwurzen and Reiteram – plus the Dachstein glacier and several smaller areas. The Planai and Hochwurzen are the central and most important mountains.
Altogether the Dachstein-Tauern ski region comprises nine ski mountains with 223kms (134 miles) of pistes. Schladming's four main linked ski areas alone will keep most skiers occupied for the duration of their stay, although with some exceptions, off-piste is not one of their strengths. 35% (79km) of pistes are graded blue for beginners, 50% (112km) are red runs for intermediates and just 15% (32km) of pistes are rated black for advanced skiers and boarders. According to official statistics, snow making capacity covers 995 of the ski area and there is night skiing on Hochwurzen and Galsterburg.
Each of Schladming's four linked mountains is served by a gondola (the Haus slopes can be reached by cable car too). Each of the main ski areas are connected by ski shuttle bus which is complimentary for holders of a valid ski pass.
Satellite areas are bewilderingly plentiful, and include Schladming-Rohrmoos, Pichl-Reiteralm; Ramsau, Haus, Gröbminger Land, Naturpark Sölktäler, Vitaldörfer Öblarn and Niederöblarn, Donnersbachwald and the Bergregion Grimming. Even more impressively, Schladming's slopes are included in the vast Ski Alliance amadé region, which includes the Gastein Valley resorts, Flachau/Wagrain and the Gasteinertal and covers 276 lifts serving 860 km of pistes in a total of more than 30 resorts.
Most of the skiing here is an intermediates' playground - an attractive prospect for most skiers and boarders, except perhaps for beginners, for whom the layout is a little awkward, and the beginner slopes difficult to get to. The skiing includes some of the longest uninterrupted runs in Austria; for example, the Plain downhill 4.6-km (2.8 miles), the Hochwurzen downhill 7.7 kilometre (almost 5 miles), Hauser Kaibling FIS downhill 7km, Galsterberg downhill 7km and the 6km Reiteralm downhill.
The 'local' slopes stretch from Hauser Kaibling (2015m), above Haus, to Planai (1894m), Hochwurzen (1850m) and Reiteralm (1850m). Fageralm (1885m), farther along the valley towards Radstadt and Salzburg, is another small area. In the other direction east towards Linz and Graz lies the pretty village of Haus-im-Ennstal, flanked by two gondolas that rise to the top of Hauser Kaibling. Beyond Haus, the Galsterbergalm (1986m) above the community of Pruggern provides even more terrain.
Fundamentally the skiing is similar throughout the resort: with fairly long, fairly steep gladed runs. Exhilarating, but a little on the "samey" side. However it must be said that there is considerable satisfaction to be had from travelling under your own steam from one area to another, and the broad scope of the skiing means that the slopes are usually relatively uncrowded. Also included on the pass is high-altitude skiing on the glacier skiing at Dachstein (2700m), above Ramsau, reached by cable car from Turlwand.
During its more famous World Cup days, Schladming was traditionally an early venue for the World Cup downhill tour. It retains its World Cup status, but is now better known for its floodlit World Cup slalom nights at the Planai area each January. The 'nightrace' has become hugely popular in Schladming, attracting enthusiastic crowds to what many people argue is the highlight of the season here.
On January 22, 2008, one of the biggest parties in the Alps will once again herald the race in which the most talented World Cup racers will try to emulate last winter's winner Benjamin Raich (victorious in this race for the fourth time) More than 50,000 spectators were there in January 2007 to watch Jens Byggmark, a World Cup rookie who won two slaloms at Kitzbühel double-winner battle it out with the Austrians Mario Matt and Benjamin Raich, finishing second to Reich.
The ski season normally opens late November and runs until mid-April and with the support of state-of-the-art snow-making canons the well-groomed slopes are kept in good condition, with tip to bottom skiing, until after Easter.
Out of season the Dachstein glacier remains open for ski touring.
Schladming Ski Lifts & Lift Passes
Whichever way you look at it, Schladming's lift system is intricate but efficient. There are 52 ski lifts in an around Schladming’s 4-Hills Ski Area and the entire Dachstein-Tauern ski regions has 109 ski lifts serving 223km of piste.
A single lift ticket covers not only 109 ski lifts in Dachstein-Tauern but a total of 276 ski lifts throughout the five different ski regions that make up the vast amadé ski alliance which includes Dachstein Tauern and four other ski regions with 30 cable cars/gondolas, 74 chairs and 172 surface lifts serving 860km (537 miles) of runs across an area vast as to be almost meaningless except for resort co-operation and marketing purposes.
The Dachstein-Tauern region lift system itself includes 1 cable car, 8 gondolas, 25 chairlifts, 57 drag lifts and 18 magic carpet lifts for children spanning nine ski mountains: the 4-Hills Ski Area of Hauser Kaibling, Planai, Hochwurzen and Reiteralm plus four satellite ski areas - Fageralm, Galsterberg, Stoderzinken, Rittisberg - and the Dachstein glacier.
The central Planai ski area has the busiest lift network - modern, mainly high capacity chairs serving blue and red runs that snake down through woodland. Planai is reached by a gondola from the edge of town. Alternatively you can drive up to a car park just below the mid-station.
A ski shuttle bus runs connects the lift stations along the valley floor and is free for ski lift pass holders.
The region doesn’t work quite so well for beginners, who – depending on where their accommodation is – may have to cope with a complicated journey either by road or, for more advanced novices, by lifts to get to and from the nursery slopes.
Beginner skiing in Schladming and Rohrmoos
The obvious mountain to start exploring is Planai (1,894m / 6,214ft), the nearest to town, and dominated - as is much of Schladming's skiing - by red runs. There are good nursery slopes near the top. But unless experienced enough to cope with the runs down to the Planai West chair-lift link which, rather quirkily, goes through a tunnel as it takes skiers to the outer base area of Hochwurzen, complete beginners will prefer the Rohrmoos plateau, which is a bus ride away for skiers based in Schladming.
Unfortunately beginners finding their ski legs at Rohrmoos have to pay for a full lift pass.
Ski Schools & Ski Lessons in Schladming
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Much of the skiing here is ideal for intermediates and families. In fact, depending on your point of view, one of the region’s strengths – or weaknesses – is that so much of the terrain is within the capabilities of the average skier.
The central and busiest mountain, Planai, is a veritable cat's cradle of red runs interspersed with almost as many blues - 25kms of the 32kms of runs are intermediate.
The pattern is similar on Hauser Kaibling (where almost the entire mountain is easy-to-intermediate), Hochwurzen (which has no black runs at all in its 15kms of skiing) and Reiteralm (where 21kms out of 27kms are intermediate, with skiing up to 1860m).
The Reiteralm 'round trip' is a six-kilometre downhill run starting from the Gasselhöh top station, moving on to the Holzer slopes, the Reiteralm piste itself and then finally down the 'Finale Grande' - up to 80m wide in places - right next to the new Silver Jet cable car.
At Planai-Hochwurzen there are wide, long slopes which the resort says, poetically, "will make a carving fan's heart beat faster" There's night skiing there too with the three-kilometre floodlit racing slope.
The connection between Hochwurzen and Planai has vastly improved with the opening of the new "Goldenjet", which transports skiers to Planai in just a few minutes.
Even on the Dachstein Glacier, intermediates rule: most slopes are lower-intermediate friendly. Of the total 18 kilometres of skiing at Ramsau/Dachstein, 14 kms are easy-to-intermediate.
And even on the Fageralm (930m - 1885m), the mountain beyond the Reiteralm, there are no black runs either on this sunny and scenic plateau.
The Mitterfager run there can be skied by the whole family. It's a blue run, with a vertical drop of around 200 metres, which can even be attempted by relative beginners.
There's breathtaking scenery too, with wonderful views across to the Dachstein.
The skiing includes some of the longest uninterrupted runs in Europe; for example, the 4.6-km (2.8 miles) FIS downhill run or the 7.7 kilometre (almost five miles) Hochwurzen Valley.
In the days when Schladming had a regular World Cup downhill, it was a severe test of the racers' skill and bravery. "It was quite difficult skiing out of the trees into the open because of the sudden change from relative shadow to bright sun light" says Konrad Bartelski, the former British World Cup downhill specialist. "Imagine driving down a windy forest lane at night, trucking along at 85 mph and there is a loose connection to your headlights?
That's what it was like chasing down the hundredths of a second on the Schladming downhill. The sunshine cuts off as the dark shadows from the trees, momentarily extinguishing your sight, with only a safety net to protect you from colliding with one of the stout tree trunks hiding behind them. And Schladming had one of the most dramatic finishes on any World Cup downhill as you sweep down straight into the town at 80 mph - simply breathtaking."
Elsewhere, the Edelgriesskar - a challenging black run from the Dachstein glacier to Ramsau has a vertical drop of 1,500 metres. For a wonderfully scenic and breathtaking exhilarating run, take the Kaibling six-seat chair to the top of the World Cup run on Hauser Kaibling (red and blue sections) and ski down to Haus (Vertical: 400 metres).
Whilst not a major destination for off-piste adventure, Dachstein-Tauern is well known for ski touring with 8 back country routes for guided touring on or off the Dachstein glacier and guides are available via the ski school. The Edelgriess is an 18km freeride downhill route across the Dachstein massif down to Ramsau and the 25km Austrian national ski tour across Dachstein glacier to Hallstadt is recommended, with a guide.
Schladming Boarding & Freestyle
The Dachstein-Tauern region is one of the best destinations for snowboarding in the Eastern Alps and the world's biggest snowboard school is in Schladming.
The area has three halfpipes, a boardercross run and an excellent terrain park. There's a halfpipe in the middle of the Planai area, and another at the top of the gondola at Reiteralm. But pride of place goes to the huge halfpipe in the snowpark along the valley at the top of Galsterbergalm.
At the 300-metre-long "Hochwurzen Playground" boarders and free-skiers can demonstrate their tricks on a five-metre rail-line, a rainbowrail, a pro-jump with a 12 metre table, and a curbbox on slopes that are floodlit from Monday to Saturday. There's a Straight Jump with a six-metre table.
Those who want to explore the backcountry at Planai, Hochwurzen and Dachstein can talk to one of the local mountain guides.
In November there's a "Pleasure Jam" in the Burton Superpark on the Dachstein Glacier when world-class professional boarders like Marc-André Tarte and Stefan Gimpl train before the new season starts, with a big noswboarding exhibition and parties and concerts in Schladming.
The Burton super-park on the Dachstein glacier is open in early summer and in the autumn - one of the best freestyle playgrounds in the eastern Alps.
Many professional snowboarders like Flo Mausser and Marko Grilc spend their autumn on the Dachstein preparing for the winter season. The Superpark, with its kicker and rails, is designed by the snowboard pro Bernd Mandlberger.
Schladming Mountain Restaurants
There are restaurants on every mountain, particularly the busiest, Planai which has no fewer than 15, starting with Planaistub’n Charly’s Treff right at the bottom of the lifts at the Planai stadium – a natural meeting place.
The Zum Holzhacker on the lower slopes is right next to the start of the FIS slalom run.
The Schladminger Hütte is handily placed at the top of the gondola.
Onkel Willi's, with live music and a sun-terrace, is popular.
A little way below Onkel Willy's is the Märchenwiese Hütte, which specialises in home cooking. The Larchkogelhütte is right next to the Lärchkogel chairlift upper station. Other choices include the Weitmoosalm and the Planaihof. The latest addition to the huts on Planai is the Schafalm with 500 seats, directly under the Top Station of the Planai Gondola
On Hochwurzen above Rohrmoos, the most popular choice is the Seiterhütte which has a sun terrace below the summit of Hochwurzen, and nearer the nursery slopes at Rohrmoos, there's a choice between the Tauernalm, the Hotel Austria and Jagastüberl.
At Haus, the Krömmelholze gets many people's vote.
Schladming is a small, historic mining town, dating back to late medieval times of the early 14th century in the heart of the Schladming-Dachstein-Tauern-Region in Styria, one of Austria’s largest provinces.
The attractive town centre, with its tempting tea rooms, is close to Salzburg, to which day trip excursions can be easily arranged. Six hundred years ago, then a walled town, Schladming was known principally for its rich silver, lead, and copper ore deposits. Most of the town had to be rebuilt around 1525 after a revolt by miners and peasants, which led to most of the buildings being burned to the ground. This led to an inevitable decline in the mining industry.
Schladming, which hosted the World Championships in 1982, is also linked with one of the world's greatest skiing icons. It was here, three days before Christmas in 1973, on the difficult Planai course, that the legendary Franz Klammer won the first of his 25 World Cup downhill victories - a record to this day. More than a quarter of a century later, Schladming was also the location where Austria's more recent skiing phenomenon, Hermann Maier, started his extraordinary come-back to top-flight racing after almost losing a leg in a road accident in 2001.
Over the years many of the Austrian ski team, as well as Britain's Emma Carrick-Anderson and Johnny Moulder-Brown have attended Schladming's celebrated Handelsschule ski academy. Schladming was also once the haunt of the young Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was born nearby.
Schladming Bars & Restaurants
There’s an unusually wide selection restaurants – more than 40 all told – with everything from fine dining at the Hotel Post to Giovanni’s universally acclaimed pizzas.
The Talbachschenke, a converted wine cellar offers traditional Austrian Grill cuisine. The Dorf Stockl, in the centre of Rohrmoos is a mountain restaurant which also has a celebrated a la carte menu the evenings. In the basement you'll find the Knappenkellar - a restaurant-cum-disco-cum night-club.
One of the most popular haunts is Erlebniswelt (Adventure World) at Rohrmoos, with its Knappenkellerdiscotheque, Pfitschigogerl bar and Dorfstöckl restaurant. If you want to make yourself heard (a rarity during après ski), try the Talbachschenke.
Other agreeable places to meet for a drink include The Pub and The Beisl, both just off the main square. There are two other discos in the vicinity: the Sport Alm in Ramsau and the Erlebniswelt in Rohrmoos.
The Siglu Bar has a daily Jägermeister competition, with live music on Mondays, and Thursdays, hits from the 1980s and 90s on Tuesdays, "pay for one drink, get two" from midnight on Wednesdays, Ladies' Night on Fridays and cheap drinks on Saturdays. Austropop 4 Ever is the Sunday night 'attraction'.
The Szenario, which specialises in freshly-baked baguettes has a grill evening on Thursdays and a "pop-song" evening to celebrate the "best of 50 years of music history". It warns guests: "You may overstay and still be here at sunrise!"
The X-Small bar has music, cocktails and "some of the best Austrian wines" to wash down pizzas and baguettes.
By general consensus, Schladming's nightlife is lively but rarely too rowdy. Opposite the Planai gondola, Charly's Treff also known as the Planaistub'n is complete with photographs of Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was born not far away in Graz.
Loud music announces the usual party atmosphere at Onkel Willi's - once amusingly described in the Guardian as "a goldmine disguised as a ski emporium…inside, you can't breathe; outside, you can't hear".
Later, revellers move on to establishments like The Pub, La Porta, close to the old town gateway, and the Hanglbar (ten pin bowling in the basement, with lanes hand carved into rock).
Late-night party-goers favour the Sonderbar disco beneath the Hotel Rössl, which - even with three bars - is kept busy.
Schladming Other Activities
There are plenty of activities for non-skiers in Schladming-Dachstein region. Besides a range of other sports (winter and summer) activity many of the hotels have Wellness Spa facilities and Salzburg - Mozart's birthplace - is a worthwhile excursion.
Schladming has an exceptional toboggan run (floodlit at night), from the top of the Hochwurzen (1,850m) down a spectacular 7km run into the valley, and there are almost 306km (190 miles) of cross-country trails in the region and 30km (19 miles) of winter walking paths. There's night skiing too. Other alternatives to skiing include snow-shoeing, skating, curling, hot-air ballooning, paragliding and sleigh rides, usually combined with a restaurant visit.
A new swimming complex opened for the millennium. This includes a slide fountain and wave machine as well as an all year round heated outdoor pool. The indoor sports centre at the 4-star Sporthotel Royer includes a large pool, bowling alley, table tennis, indoor tennis, squash, a shooting range, a sauna, solarium, and a massage and beauty parlour.
Don't miss the town centre. Or a visit to one of the tea-rooms: the Café Niederl in the middle of the square serves delicious cakes.
Day trip excursions to Salzburg can be arranged.