News from the snow
Obertauern first made a name for itself as a winter sports centre more than 50 years ago when fans of the then new sport of skiing realised how reliable the snow was up on the road over the Tauern Pass. The rest, as they say, is history. Sometimes said to be 'the only purpose built resort in Austria' - although you wouldn't think so if you weren't told. Perhaps most others are based on an original settlement of some sort or another. Whatever the truth of the matter, since 1942 hotels and other resort buildings have grown up along the rather desolate and treeless Tauern Pass road in a slightly strung out fashion. On the plus side, it means that doorstep skiing is also offered by the majority of accommodations. The ski lifts have also sprung up on all sides of the snowy bowl above the Pass, with nine beginning at resort level and giving a wide choice of access points in to the big ski area. This is an ideal intermediate skier's resort with a huge amount of its terrain just perfect for this standard. The village is popular with Germans and there's also a strong British package tour operator presence. The excellent snow record can, ironically, lead to floods of skiers when snow is limited elsewhere. A sports centre was constructed recently housing tennis and squash courts, bowling alley, fitness room, solarium and restaurant - scotching earlier criticisms that there was little to do besides skiing. The ski scenes in the Beatles film Help were filmed here in 1965.
An ideal intermediate skier's resort with huge amount of this level terrain. Doorstep skiing but comparatively small vertical for a top resort. Popular with Germans, although a strong British tour operator presence. Excellent snow record which, ironically, can lead to floods of skiers when snow is limited elsewhere. The Ski scenes in the Beatles film Help were filmed here 1965. A sports centre was constructed recently housing tennis and squash courts, bowling alley, fitness room, solarium and restaurant. Apres ski is generally hotel based with the resort stretched out along the central road.
The resort is part of the Top Tauern Ski Check pass scheme which includes more than 30 ski resort areas in the Tauern, some of them lift-linked to one another, although not to Obertauern. Some of the better known resorts in the scheme, which opens up over 700km (440 miles) of trails and nearly 300 lifts, are Altnmarkt, Schladming and the Dachstein glacier lifts.
Although Obertauern's terrain is best suited to the all-round intermediate, this is a very good choice for beginners with the wonderful wide nursery slope by the village virtually guaranteed snow through the season. The added bonus then is Obertauern's almost unique and rather ingenious scheme of colour coding circuits around the ski area.
For near beginners this means the 'green circuit' (anti-clockwise, incidentally) which takes in 5 lifts including the Zehnerkarspitz cable car and trails specially selected for their gentle gradients. The Gamskar lift, reached by a chair ride, is a particular favourite for first-times. Oh and the resort has a reputation for seemless grooming of its piste, thanks to a dedicated fleet of 16 trail grooming machines, which means you're less likely to get your skis stuck in a rut as you'e trying to master that first snowplough /pizza pie turn.
Intermediates are spoilt the most by Obertauern's snowy expanse, with two thirds of the terrain graded at that level. The 'Pink Circuit' (clockwise!) takes in a vast amount of blue and red graded trails and its 30km (19miles) can be skied by three different routes, making a total of 90km (57 miles) going around it alone.
Although not famous for its expert level skiing, nonetheless 20% of terrain is graded black and Obertauern's powder bowl skiing is very highly regarded. The five black pistes include testing mogul fields (check out Garnsleiten II). Guides will take you on the many off-piste routes, including the ski excursion down to the nearby town of Untertauern. There is also a self-timed slalom course. Cross country skiers have 7km (5 miles) of trails.
Incidentally, if you want current information on conditions, check out the pictures at 8.30AM every morning on ORF FS 2 channel. Or, if you're really dedicated and handy with your German, there's an hour long 'info session' run by the lift company every Wednesday evening from 4.30 to 5.30pm in the Spakasse Bank building.
Dining in hotels is popular on half board because the hotels use a lot of imagination to provide creative dining experiences, as well as good food.
If you prefer Italian, then the Taverne complex includes a pizzeria whilst for the best food the Enzian Hotel's restaurant also has an especially good reputation, and is famed for its choice of exclusive wines.
The Lérzeralm keeps the crowds all night being home to one of the five late-night spots and discothèques which give night owls more choice than the norm after midnight in the Alps.
The liveliest spot in town is reportedly the Gasthof Taverne where a raucous evening is normally had by all.