Skiing in Germany is growing in popularity with overseas tourists. German ski resorts have their own special blend of friendly southern charm and gemütlichkeit. Although not on such a grand scale as Austria, Bavarian Alps in southern Germany include some big ski resorts, principally Garmisch-Partenkirchen and the less well-known but impressive Oberstdorf.
Germany has a score or more of alpine ski regions, many of whose names will mean little to anyone outside Germany. Others such as Berchtesgaden and Oberammergau will be known for reasons not connected with skiing. Germany also has an extensive array of small ski areas in the Black Forest, although many of these are more suitable for cross-country skiing. While hoards of German skiers cross the border each winter to ski in Austria, rather than to ski in their own back yard, those who prefer to ski within Germany are more than happy that German resorts are less crowded than they otherwise would be. And many who do ski at home will make a second trip each winter to ski in Austria. Skiing in Germany definitely has its attractions – whether you try the larger resorts or the more intimate smaller ones.
Garmish-Partenkirchen with its celebrated Zugspitze mountain and Kandahar downhill run, was the scene of the 1936 Winter Olympics, when alpine ski events were first added to the ski-jumping and cross-country events. Oberstdorf, which held the World Nordic Championships in February 2005, enjoys links with Austrian skiing: curiously, Oberstdorf’s neighbouring Kleinwalsertal is part of Austria but surrounded by Germany. Garmisch and Oberstdorf, along with the substantial resort of Reit im Winkl and lesser resorts like Mittenwald and Oberstaufen, close to Lake Constance, all offer some excellent downhill skiing.
Berchtesgaden, for example, a collection of small resorts right on the Austrian border just 15 miles or so from the Austrian cultural centre of Salzburg, has a somewhat surreal dual attraction: a combination of superb scenery (the Berchtesgaden National Park is a region of outstanding natural beauty) and unsettling links with Adolf Hitler. Many more visitors come to this area to sightsee than to ski, but even from the ski area you can see the infamous ‘Eagle’s Nest’ – Hitler’s mountain refuge in the Second World War. On a more uplifting note, Oberammergau’s local skiing at Kolben and Laber attracts skiers who are also doubtless intrigued to visit the location for German’s celebrated passion play. Performed once a decade, this centuries old event involves more than 2,000 local actors, singers, instrumentalists and stage technicians in a performance lasting some six hours.