Powder, powder everywhere and not a slope to ski
News from the snowiest resort in the Alps: Ski Amade in Salzburgerland, Austria.
SUNDAY 13TH JANUARY
We arrive in Salzburg airport on Saturday, along with hundreds of others with the same great idea.
The small airport is packed, but the roads clear up as we leave and head, the eyes reflecting white from snow, to our little resort town of Maria Alm in the Hochkönig zone of Ski Amadé.
The ski area is named after Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who socially went by the name Amadé (we take from how he signed his marriage certificate) and was born in Salzburg.
It’s a great name for a ski area as well, rolling out and easy for all tongues, unlike many of the local villages and areas that make up the five regions of the whole ski area: Salzburger Sportwelt, Schladming-Dachstein, Gastein, Hochkönig and Großarltal.
Maria Alm this year has massively benefitted from a spanking new gondola in the centre of the village, connecting it to the rest of the 760km of ski slopes. It’s everything you’d wish for from a sweet, totally authentic traditional Austrian village.
Hospitality is warm and welcoming at lunch in the family run Hotel Eder restaurant in town, and the scenes of men and women in traditional dress shucking enormous piles of snow from drives and roofs couldn’t be more charming (and exciting).
The food surpasses my excited expectations; Käsknöpfle, Kaiserschmarrn and Grüner Veltliner that I hadn’t yet earned.
On to the juice. It’s snowed 3 metres here since 2018.
Even if it stops now, it will be the best of seasons.
The mother of all bases to see out the rest of winter.
And it isn’t even likely that it’ll stop falling any day soon.
If you’re yet to choose on your ski holiday destination, you’d be mad not to come out here.
A winter walk around the village showed up “the sharpest steeple in Austria” – now there’s a claim. I wonder if anyone’s tried to ski the roof…
On this first day visiting, there’s not much else I feel like reporting apart from MEGA amounts of the white stuff. I can’t see anything else.
Well, apart from the brand new, ultra kühl Hotel Sepp.
A young local guy built it this year and has created something really special. It has the feel of a lodge in Jackson Hole in America, or ‘mountain modern’ let’s call it.
All the wood is reclaimed, there’s an outside heated pool that overlooks the slopes and peaks, and a huge sauna-cum-camper van on the roof.
Let me get up and report on the snow.
MONDAY 14TH JANUARY
Avalanche warning is 4 today, like most of the country, as it has been for most of this year.
30cm of snow fell overnight, light stuff for this zone.
One set back. The trees are so heavy with snow there’s fear of them falling onto the lift cables.
It was the same yesterday, and so the swanky new Maria Alm lift is closed. This happens. But we can try… Along comes a bus and on we barge to swoop around to the next access.
Across the ski area lifts are closed, so what should have been quiet slopes we share with other skiers and boarders.
Still, the powder on piste is incredible. By the end of the day there is 20cm sitting on top. Heavenly skiing following a long lunch at Sepp’s brothers place, the Tom Alm Hutte.
The altitude isn’t high in this region. It has its own weather system, coming from the west, and gets high amounts of snow down low. Those who suffer from the altitude should think about visiting here.
The helis attempting to shock off the snow from the trees aren’t working with this snow. Next thing to do is to chop the trees down (and am assured the wood will be used for fire wood and building).
TUESDAY 15TH JANUARY
The snow has been falling non stop since 2018 here in SalzburgerLand.
Welsh ski guide, Pedro, in Alpendorf – Sankt Johann said he hasn’t seen sunlight since the start of the year and that’s it’s been pure powder. I’ve been skiing in the Ski Amade ski area since Sunday and it’s pretty much the news.
There was some snow relief on Saturday for arrival but hard it’s been coming down since.
It’s impossible to see without goggles, even down in the valley on a walk.
Big ol’ flakes are falling down in resort and it’s a white world out there.
Up top the flakes are small and coming down thick n’ fast; 50cm of powder fell around us on to ski on top of on the pistes on Monday.
Avalanche risk has cranked up to 5 – top level – but the powder on piste is more than enough for pseudo off piste riding – you just don’t need to work to get to it!
But it is to change: Later today, Tuesday, high pressure will return.
Thicker clouds are expected during the morning where a few last snow flakes may fall.
But the past 72 hours have brought a metre of snow.
Snow depths at summits in Ski Amade are over 4 metres. It’s not even a high ski area, the average skiing is around 1,200m, but it’s location makes for very good quality (and quantities) of snow.
I know it’s simple science and geography but it always surprises me how much weather can change in just a few kilometres in the mountains.
Monday saw Maria Alm and much of Hochkonig closed due to serious snow and winds from the incoming storm.
The beauty of a Ski Amade pass is that you can ski in 5 regions, from Salzburgerland to Styria, on just one pass. Currently there are 2 linked areas, these 2 links currently linked by a little bus (but in the next few years by a new lift – then it really will be the big Austrian ski area!).
Hochkonig torture, Monday morning:
Powder, powder everywhere and not a slope to ski.
So into a taxi, through Saalfelden through the long tunnel (and long way round) through Zell am See and up to Sankt Johann area and Alpendorf where there were the most lifts open and where there was not even a puff of wind thanks to the Hochkonig mountain catching hold of all the storm clouds.
There were, however, snow clouds.
Down it came ALL day giving us a white world but very deep, light, trustable powder (for near to no visibility). Great for technique – might as well skied with eyes closed and feeling the way.
I love this about Europe. There’s often a different village and ski area with good access that can offer good conditions if your chosen place cannot.
And it was the best powder day of the season. All on-piste, knee deep powder for a leg work out and my slice of this Austrian 2019 dream.
WEDNESDAY 16TH JANUARY
Just as I head home from a white out weekend in Austria in the Salzburg area, the sun comes out.
It’s been low-vis but dreamy powder underfoot as I skied the pistes of Ski Amade with 50cm of fresh pow on top. But open lifts were harder to find.
For the first time since 1st January 2019, the sun has now come out.
It’s gorgeous blue skies, an amalgamation of all the snow that’s come down this year (3 metres) and the first time you’ll see the insane views:
It looks a lot like heaven must.