News from the snow
The beautifully named Wildschönau region in the Hochtal area of the Tirol has four centres, three of them with small ski areas consisting largely of parallel ski lifts, the majority above Auffach and Niederau on either side of Oberau (the largest village). Mühltal has a couple of short drags up above it at Thierbach, the fourth village in thearea. Each village is about 3km (2 miles) apart, with Oberau in the centre of the triangle. The Wildschönau attracts many international tour operators and has offered winter sports holidays since 1947 at Niederau. The area is famous for its picturesque resorts and beautiful mountain scenery, with much of the skiing on trails cut through forested slopes within the Kitzbüheler Alps. Visitors can indeed take advantage of the Kitzbüheler Alpen pass offering around 1000km (440 miles) of trails on one ticket. However, the resorts are best known as beginner and family destinations, having successfully carved out a niche for themselves as archetypal Tyrolean villages offering good value and high standards of tuition. All of the villages contain typical Tyrolean chalet style buildings, some of them centuries old. The church of St. Margaretha in Oberau is one of the Tyrol's most impressive historic buildings. Constructed in the 18th century the austere exterior hides the splendour inside where there are beautiful ceiling frescos from the Baroque era produced by the painter Jos. Adam Mölk from Munich as well as stations of the cross. Altogether there are about 4200 people living in the area, around half in Oberau, which has the majority of the facilities, and a third in Niederau, marginally regarded as the liveliest village and with a few more guest beds than Oberau. The whole region is currently participating in a ten year plan to ensure that the region continues to successfully merge tradition and nature with the needs of modern living and tourism in the new millennium.
Wildschonau is made up of four villages, three with separatre ski areas which are marketed together. Oberau is a tiny village close to the dense lift network of larger neighbours Auffach and Niederau, to which it is not lift-linked, A free local bus service links all three villages which also participate in the huge Kitzbüheler Alpen pass offering around 1000km of trails on one ticket.
Niederau's skiing is the main attraction for advanced skiers with the three black runs all here, including an excellent mogul run beneath the new Markbachjoch gondola with a vertical drop of nearly 700 metres. Ski touring is another opportunity with a ski school guide. Auffach's two stage gondola accesses more than half a dozen reds and the most snowsure skiing in the area, including some above-treeline terrain where powder can build up that's pretty well absent elsewhere.
Cross country skiers will find 50km (31 miles) of trails along the valley floor.
The most atmospheric dining experience must be a meal in the 800 year old wine cellar of the Kellerwirt which refitted an à la carte restaurant and cosy bar in there recently. The Kellerwirt, formerly owned by the local monks of Seeon, also has an old Wirtsstub'n restaurant where local specialities and traditional Austrian cuisine is served.
All of the villages organize music evenings several times weekly and the ski school in Niederau throws a snow party every week. Lively evening toboggan parties with glühwein and moonlit sleigh rides to fondue parties are the order of the day.
The local brew is a version of schnaps made from turnips!