Skiing in Garmisch-Partenkirchen

Garmisch-Partenkirchen Ski Area

Although Garmisch is famous for its glacial slopes well above the tree-line on the flanks of the Zugspitze, and for its annual World Cup races, they are separate entities and not linked by piste: the races are held not on the Zugspitze itself, but lower down on the wooded slopes of Kreuzeck in the so-called “classic” ski area.

There are some 57km (36 miles) of groomed runs in the resort, and a total of 254km (159 miles) in the region. The main slopes at Garmisch-Partenkirchen are in the classic area, which combines Alpspitze, Kreuzeck and Hausberg. Another area, Wank, overlooks Partenkirchen, but has no marked runs. Skiing is possible, but there are no lifts, so you have to hike up. Although technically the Wank area has the longest “run”, the longest named and lift-served run is the Riffelriss – Eibsee descent on the Zugspitz slopes (5kms – just over 3 miles). In the classic area (i.e. the main slopes away from the Zugspitz) the longest run is Standard-Tonihütten (4.5 kms/2.8 m).

The high-altitude Zugspitz area on the glacier has stirring views right across the Alps far into Italy and Switzerland as well as Austria. But as only half the mountain is in Germany, there are also Austrian slopes to consider – at Ehrwald, Lermoos, Berwang/Namlos, Bichlbach, Biberwier, and Heiterwang am See (The Tiroler Zugspitz Arena). These Austrian resorts, along with Seefeld and Mittenwald, can all be skied on the so-called ‘Happy Ski’ Card.

There are three ways of reaching the Zugspitze slopes, which adds a little variety to the prospect of the longish journey to the glacier. From Garmisch itself there is a choice between cable-car and cog railway. Unless you are in a rush to reach the slopes, the railway, with a short cable-car ride at the end of the journey, is more fun. The cable-car takes you to the very top of the Zugpspitze, but since it is absolutely unthinkable (to all but the most extreme skiers) to ski down to the glacier, it is necessary to take another cable car down to the slopes on the Zugspitze Platt.

On the Austrian side, the glacier can also be reached from the Tyrolean resort of Ehrwald, which helps create all kinds of skiing possibilities.

The classic area combines Alpspitze, Kreuzeck and Hausberg. Kreuzeck is where skiing started in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. As early as 1926 the first skiers intrigued the locals at the Hexenkessel. The classic Kandahar and Olympia downhill runs were cut between Hausberg and Kreuzeck.

Although one glacier visit is a must, once the novelty has worn off, most skiers prefer the closer and much more substantial classic slopes with a big network of cable cars, gondolas, chairs and drag-lifts. Most will make for the summit station of the Alpspitz cable car at 2,050 metres (6,726 ft.). From here they can reach the slopes at Osterfelder and Längenfelder before moving on to the Kreuzeck area, with its fast new 15-person gondola. Although few bother with the long hike to the top, the Wank area offers panoramic views across the Esterberg, Ammer, Karwendel and Wetterstein mountains. It also has the resort’s longest descent of 8.7km (just over 5 miles).

At the Eckbauer, the smallest ski area in the resort, a three kilometre (two miles) intermediate descent takes you down to the Olympia Ski stadium, the location for the traditional New Year´s Ski Jumping competition.

The high-walled stadium looks much the same as it did almost 70 years ago when it was at the centre of the celebrated1936 Winter Olympics – the Games when downhill skiing events were first allowed to be part of the Olympic schedule. The original observation towers are still there.

At the end of the war which followed soon afterwards, the US Army built a European recreation centre here, and GI ski enthusiasts were among the first to test the prototype ski safety bindings developed by the now well-known Hannes Marker. To this day, American skiers visit Garmisch in their thousands. There are four American-owned hotels, and the Americans even have their own mini-resort, complete with its own ski hill and T-bar, for US Army and NATO forces.

Garmisch-Partenkirchen Ski Beginners

Garmisch-Partenkirchen is known for its steep World Cup runs. However, beginner skiers will not be easily bored. Both the Classic and Zugspitze areas offer novice pistes, but the Zugspitze ski area is more suited to strong novices.

There are 18kms of runs suitable for beginners – 3km at Eckbauer, 10 km at Hausberg/Alpspitze, and 2km on the glacier. The Hausberg area (1,340 metres (4,396 ft.) on the Classic area has the highest concentration of novices pistes, but strong beginners will find that skiing on the glacier to be well within reach.

The Hausberg area the novice pistes are served by a quad chair and a handful of surface lifts. The runs are not particularly remarkable and unless beginners want to stray onto a red run, theyll be stuck in the Hausberg area. The other blue pistes higher up the area are all served by lifts whose base stations require skiing a red run to reach. Additionally, there is no summit to base blue run so beginners will need to download on the Hausbergbahn. Some novices feel a bit hemmed in by this configuration.

Up in the Zugspitze area, many of the red runs are on the easier end of the spectrum. In fact, we found it difficult to distinguish between the red and blue pistes on the glacier. Skiing on the glacier is something of a novelty and most beginners will enjoy the experience of riding through the mountain on the Zugspitzebahn cog-railway (just follow the signs for the “Zahnradbahn”).

Garmisch-Partenkirchen Intermediate Skiing

Intermediate skiers love Garmisch. At the Classic area, long pistes spread across huge vertical drops make the resort a favourite with intermediates. The Zugspitze area’s above-treeline glacier runs are not to be skipped on clear days.

The Classic area has the longest and most impressive array of intermediate runs. It is possible to ski1300 m (4,265 ft.) from the top of the Alpspitzbahn down to the base. Three former downhill runs (Olympia, Kochelberg, and Standard-Tonihutte) fall over 600m uninterrupted. The Olypmia run hosted the 1936 Olympic downhill. Lots of vertical is possible by lapping these three pistes and they’re so enjoyable that many first-timers end up skipping some of the more intersting intermediate runs near the summit of the Classic area.

We particularly recommend a run down Bernadein. Serviced by its own surface lift, this run drops through a narrow gap in the mountain before opening up into a wide piste between two towering rockfaces.

The Zugspitze area is an intermediate’s paradise. The glacier has 15km or so of relaxed wide-open skiing, all above the treeline. The runs are a bit on the easier end of the red spectrum and strong beginners will find many of them within reach. There are no advanced runs on the glacier, so intermediates can explore the entire area. If taking the Zugspitzebahn through the mountain to the top, be sure to check to see if the Riffelriss run is open. When it is, get off the train at the Riffelriss station to ski this often-missed red run back down to the Eibsee Zugspitzebahn train station.

Garmisch-Partenkirchen Advanced

More advanced skiers will want to try the celebrated Kandahar run and the other testing runs at Kreuzek like Olympia and Trögellifthang.

The Kandahar, with its vertical drop of 940 metres (3,084 ft) is the resort’s signature run (3.7 kms/ 2.3m) – but very few skiers would want to try to beat the sub two-minute record time for its descent. There is a particularly challenging descent, which should only be undertaken with a guide, from the top of the Zugspitze down to Ehrwald in Austria. At Wank, the only local skiing at Partenkirchen, the forested gullies below the Sonnenalm Lodge are ideal for advanced skiers who don’t mind walking up to get some good off-piste and powder.

Garmisch-Partenkirchen Boarding & Freestyle

The glacier has become one of the most popular meeting places for snowboarders and freeriders.

It features a 140-metre (459 ft) superpipe and a fun-park for all boarders and slopestyle competitors. There’s a kickerline with four straight jumps, and a combination of handrails. Carvers also concentrate around the Alpspitzbahn cable car. There is a specialist snowboard school: Snowboardschule Erwin Gruber.

Garmisch-Partenkirchen Mountain Restaurants

The glacier has some of the most scenic eating, with a “free” four-country panoramic view in the Gipfel Stube and in the Panorama Bistro.

Many restaurants have sun-terraces with outstanding scenery. The Sonn-Alpin self-service restaurant has Asian specialities as well as local dishes. The Pflegersee specialises in fondues. The Eibsee-Alm has a beer garden. The Gschwandtnerbauer specialises in organic produce. The Pflegersee does fondues.

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