5 Tirolean Glaciers – the “natural high” experience

Last updated on 17. October 2018

Natural snow slopes, pompous panoramas and veritable vistas, an extra-long ski season and so much more sunshine than down in the valley – there are many arguments in favour of skiing on the 5 Tirolean glaciers. For some, however, it is simply the altitude that gives them a natural high. To escape everyday life and savour the slopes and views, high above it all. Up here in Tirol, at over 3,000 metres above sea level, there is a genuine snow guarantee from October to June, in fact all year round at the Hintertux Glacier, and of course a whole host of truly “high-class” events and entertainment – ranging from the James Bond installation, to a new igloo village and cool parties.

When stubborn autumn fog conditions prevail down in the valley, the first days of skiing on the glaciers are simply divine. Thanks to frequently occurring weather inversions, the sun shines often here at over 3,000 metres. If the weather does happen to be bad, it means at least there will be some fresh snow at these altitudes, because only 20 percent of total precipitation on the glacier actually falls on it in the form of rain. Similarly stable fair weather conditions also prevail in spring. The glacier skiing season often goes on to the beginning of June – and it lasts the whole year anyway at the Hintertux glacier.

The 5 Tyrolean Glaciers await with 300 kilometres of slopes, 75 cableways and lifts, and 100 kilometres of back-country terrain. There are also numerous happenings such as World Cup events, material tests, concerts and culinary fairs, as well as a snow park on every glacier for those who prefer snowboarding or freeskiing.

The flexible “White5” ski pass is perfect for all those who want to enjoy the feeling of “being above it all” to the fullest. The pass is valid on all five glaciers for ten days in total (between the 1st October 2018 and 15th May 2019). The all-glacier-encompassing “White5” costs Euro 410,-. Bed and breakfast, holiday apartment or upmarket hotel – the so-called glacier hotels cater for literally every requirement. All participating enterprises in the glacier regions can be found on www.gletscherhotels.at. By the way, overnight stays at most glacier hotels can be booked directly online and in conjunction with the ski pass.

Kauntertal Glacier © Daniel Zangerl, Kaunertaler Gletscher
Funslope Hintertux © Hintertuxer Gletscher

Kaunertal (1,273 to 3,108 metres): Come to relax & enjoy nature.

The Kaunertal Glacier is considered to be the birthplace of snowboarding in Europe. Boarders have been pilgrimaging to the legendary KTO, Kaunertal Opening, every year in October for the past 33 years. The KTO takes place from the 12th to 14th October in 2018. This year, however, the park itself is completely different as it has been moved to a new site. As one would expect, the new location will of course feature a cool park setup, but now with a spectacular Nature Run and new Jib Line.

The Kaunertal Glacier is also known for its spectacular scenery. The impressive glacier road leads through mountain landscapes surrounded by 3,000 m high peaks, right up to the edge of the glacier and the Weißsee Glacier Restaurant at 2,750m. The approach to the glacier alone allows you to escape briefly from civilisation and transports you to a ski arena that is still regarded as an insider tip. Up here, the wide slopes are mostly empty and there are almost no waiting times at the lifts. The highest point in the glacier ski area is the mountain station of the Karlesjochbahn cable car at 3,108 metres, from where Italian terra firma is only a few steps away. You can ski down 1,000 meters in elevation difference from here in one fell swoop to the Ochsenalmbahn valley station at 2,150 metres, and even pass through a 160-metre-long tunnel.

Freeriders love the well-developed “check your line“ concept, which marks the many routes and variants away from the groomed slopes. The Freeride Testival from 30th to 31st March 2019 at Kaunertal Glacier caters precisely for off-piste skiers.

By the way: the entire Kaunertal valley has already received several awards for its disabled-friendly accessibility. Even in winter, wheelchair users can enjoy the glacier slopes on special mono-ski sleds and benefit from disabled-friendly access to the viewing platform and all restaurants.

Ski operations started in September and end on the Kauntertal Glacier on 12th May 2019.

Kaunertal Glacier © Daniel Zangerl, Kaunertaler Gletscher

Pitztal (1,640 to 3,440 metres): Tirol’s highest glacier

It is the highest café in Austria and also marks the highest point to which you can take a cable car in Austria – Café 3.440, named quite simply after its altitude. You can also enjoy breakfast up here for the first time as from winter 2018/19: every Saturday the Glacier Express and the Wildspitzbahn cable cars whisk you up to the top from 8.30 hrs for coffee, rolls and dreamy vistas. The cakes and strudels come, by the way, from Austria’s highest confectionery, which is only 600 metres lower, at the mountain station of the Glacier Express lift, at 2,840 metres.

In December 2018, the glacier village on Pitztal Glacier will open- the highest igloo village in the world. Up to 50 guests can spend the night in around 15 igloos at 2,850 metres. High-alpine adventures are offered during the day such as ice climbing, or a snowshoe hike with abseiling into a glacial crevasse, while the stars and illuminated ice sculptures glow at night.

The Pitztal ski pass is another new feature for the coming winter. It allows you to ski at the ski areas of the Pitztal Glacier, Rifflsee, Hochzeiger cable cars, Imster lifts, Fendels and Kaunertal Glacier – 6 ski areas, 76 pistes, 121 kilometres of slopes. The new “Glacier Park Card Ski & Snow Winter” is valid between three and 14 days and children ski free when accompanied by a parent. Those looking for even more choice can head on to the Dynafit Ski Tour Park at the Pitztal glacier. Tirol’s first ski touring park is located within the secured ski area and offers touring opportunities with designated ascent tracks in three levels of difficulty. Thanks to the altitude, even beginners can safely learn touring here in autumn and well into spring – with or without a guide. It is the perfect training ground for ambitious sport lovers. Those more experienced in touring can climb numerous peaks from the Pitztal Valley, including the Wildspitze, North Tirol’s highest mountain at 3,774 metres.

Ski operations commence as early as 15th September 2018 on the Pitztal Glacier. Celebrations will be held on 20th and 21st October 2018 with the “Glacier Ski & Show” – as always with ski testing opportunities, music and a party atmosphere until the evening. You can get into a Christmas mood on 7th December at the “Mayerin” Advent concert, which starts at 16 hrs and goes on until sunset at Café 3.440. Aperitifs, finger food and live music from SAX’N’MORE will be served in Austria’s highest café on 27th December 2018, 16th January and 1st February 2019 – all rounded off by impressive sunsets. The tenth “Pitztal Wild Face” is planned from 14th to 16th March and the popular “Firn, Wine and Delight” will also take place for the tenth time on the 5th and 6th April. The last days of the season on the glacier are celebrated on 1st May with the Pitztal Glacier Party, with music, party and the Vertical Ski Touring Competition.

Ski operations on the Pitztal started in September and end on 5th May 2019.

Wildspitzbahn, Pitztal Glacier © Daniel Zangerl, Pitztaler Gletscherbahn

Sölden (1.350 to 3.340 metres): Alpine Hotspot

Gaislachkogel has long been symbolic of James Bond. Up here, at 3,048 metres, key scenes for the 2015 Bond film “Spectre” were shot in the ice Q restaurant. Since then, Sölden has developed into a veritable Mecca for spy film fans. The Gaislachkogelbahn has James Bond gondolas and a cinematic James Bond installation in the form of 007 ELEMENTS has been open since summer. The new Bond Adventure World transports visitors to the cinematic world of 007 and to an underground realm, as the new building for the installation was built into the mountain by architect Johann Obermoser, who is also responsible for designing the mountain terminal and ice Q.

Skiers can look forward to Sölden’s two glaciers, the Rettenbach and Tiefenbachferner, but there is of course so much more to experience. There are three three-thousand metre high peaks in the glacier ski area, all of which can all be skied in one day – on the BIG3 rally. Or you can tackle the challenges of the Adrenaline Cup: ten disciplines ranging from giant slalom to moguls and winter hiking. Everything is measured electronically and evaluated. Anyone can take part at any time and free of charge.

The “Ötztaler Superskipass” is also new. Passes of three days or more are valid in all six ski areas of Ötztal: Sölden, Obergurgl-Hochgurgl, Vent, Gries, Niederthai and Hochötz-Kühtai. The perfect ski pass for all those staying for more than two days and interested in exploring the many other kilometres of slopes away from the glacier.

Glacier skiing starts in Sölden at the end of September. From 26th to 28th October, ski racers will compete for the first podium positions of the season at the Audi FIS Ski World Cup. The winter ski area is then expected to open on 15th November 2018. Sölden is host to an exciting programme of events throughout the winter season. April highlights include the two-day Electric Mountain Festival, the legendary glacier spectacle, Hannibal, and the second edition of The AUDI Nines.

Ski operations in the winter ski area started in early October and continue until 28th April and on Sölden Glacier until 5th May 2019.

Sölden IceQ © Ötztal Tourism
007 elements © Ötztal Tourism

Stubai (1,000 to 3,210 metres): The Kingdom of Snow

Stubai Glacier is the largest glacier ski area in Austria. With 64 kilometres of slopes and 26 lifts – even the youngest ski bunnies have plenty of room to manoeuvre. The BIG Family Ski Camp with children’s restaurant and kindergarten, BIG Family Slalom and Boardercross, BIG Family Fun Slope and the new BIG Family Slopestyle make the Stubai Glacier one of the most family-friendly ski resorts in Tirol. And it is great value for money for the little ones too: Children under 10 years ski free of charge, when accompanied by a paying parent.

Snowboarders and freeskiers flock to the Stubaier Glacier because of the Stubai Zoo Snowpark. It is one of the largest parks in the world in autumn and spring with its Jib, Medium and Proline. The FIS Freeski World Cup Stubai takes place here from 22nd to 24th November 2018, this winter’s first FIS Slopestyle contest.

Freeriders are also well catered for in Stubai. The Powder Department offers 13 GPS-tracked freeride runs, checkpoints and an LVS training facility. Food loving skiers can also look forward to sampling the delights of the world’s highest Gault-Millau-rated restaurant, the Schaufelspitz, as well as events such as the Dine & Beer gourmet night on 23rd February 2019.

It is with good reason that the Stubai Glacier is called the “Kingdom of Snow”. The state-of-the-art and super comfortable 3S–Eisgratbahn cable car whisks passengers from the valley station to Eisgrat mountain station in only twelve minutes, during which its panorama gondolas offer fabulous views of the mountains. The TOP OF TYROL summit platform at 3,210 metres also offers magnificent panoramic views. The 200-metre-long ice grotto leads deep into the glacier ice at almost 3,000 metres above sea level, near the Eisgrat mountain station.

The season’s events traditionally begin at the Stubai Glacier with the “Weißen Wiesen“ on 13th to 14th October 2018. The series of openings continues in the Snowpark with the ”Stubai Premiere“ from 19th to 21st October 2018. Fancy trying out some new gear? You can do just that at the SportScheck Glacier Testival, from 8th to 11th November 2018.

Ski operations started in early October. The Stubai Glacier ski season is expected to go on until early June 2019.

Stubai Glacier © Andre Schoenherr

Hintertux Glacier (1,500 to 3,250 metres): Austria’s only year-round skiing area

Skiing all year round. In Austria, that is only possible at the Hintertux Glacier, where the slopes are open 365 days of the year. Not all slopes are open in summer, but from autumn onwards, skiers can take advantage of 60 kilometres of glacier slopes. Kidsslope Hintertux at the Sommerbergalm winter ski area is especially popular with younger skiers: through the snow tunnel into the steep curve and then over the wave path. And what kids like, is fun for adults too. Funslope Hintertux at Sommerberg at 2,100 metres is equipped with an obstacle course and smaller jumps, as well as a “speed boost”, which accelerates you through the snow snail. For some, Funslope Hintertux is the first stepping-stone towards Betterpark Hintertux, the glacier snowpark. Skiers who don’t want to just ski on the glacier should take advantage of the Zillertaler Superskipass (from 2 days), which is valid for a total of 530 km of slopes in the Zillertal Valley.

Another special feature at the Hintertux Glacier is the natural glacier crevasse, Nature’s Ice Palace. This is where the icy Tux Giant lives, where icicles sparkle and a treasure trove of information on the formation of glaciers By the way: at Nature’s Ice Palace, you can also try a spot of stand up paddling or go for a jaunt in a rubber dinghy.

Even though you can ski on the Hintertux Glacier all year round, the start of the winter season is also celebrated here with the Oktoberfest on 28th and 29th September 2018, followed by the Hotzone.tv Park Opening at Betterpark Hintertux from 4th to 7th October. The “Cologne Week” takes place in March and the “Höhner“ will be performing at the Hintertux Glacier Open Air on 12th April 2019. The second Cologne party week is planned for Easter. The Välley Rälley snowboard event takes place from 28th to 29th April 2019. The season is then brought to a close with the Flower Pow(d)er Weeks (20.4. to 5.5.2019), with yoga brunch, avalanche training, early bird skiing, Pistenbully test arena and much more.

Natureispalast Hintertux © Hintertuxer Gletscher

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