On Top of the World
The heart of the action
My base for the next four days is the small and quiet village of Götzens, about a 15 minute drive south from the centre of Innsbruck and even closer to the airport, which, if you’re not a fan of mammoth transfer times between airports and ski resorts, is a very good thing indeed. If, on the other hand, you want a resort where you can fall out of your hotel and straight onto the piste (or, if you’re all about the après, into a bar), you might want to consider looking beyond Götzens.
Instead, where the village works best is as a hub, with brilliant access not only to Innsbruck but to a network of nine resorts (known collectively as Olympia Ski world) including Kiihtai, Axamer Lizum, Schlick 2000 and Stubaier Gletscher, all reachable by frequent buses that fork out into the neighbouring valleys.
For my first day on the slopes it makes sense to head to the highest resort base in the whole country – Kühtai – though instead of hopping onto a bus I’m catching a lift with a guide, Toby. Originally from Bavaria in Germany, he came to Innsbruck for university, got into skiing in a big way and never left. We – me, my wife, Toby, a friend of his from back home in Munich, and all our gear – pile into his car and set off for Kühtai. “The weather’s looking better than yesterday,” Toby explains as we tear through wiggling mountain passes, up and up. “We were on the Nordkette and it wasn’t exactly perfect” I know, I tell him.
We’re there in less than an hour, most of it spent talking about Brexit (Them: “Could it really happen?” Us: “It could but it probably won’t” Ha!), and there are light flurries of snow and mostly blue skies – it’s basically perfect. The resort itself is compact and right in the heart of the action, with most of the pistes fanning out into the valley on either side. (Incidentally, Kühtai is the filming location for ‘celebrity’ reality TV show The Jump, and Toby points out the cordoned off, innocuous-looking area where the magic apparently happens.)
The resort’s 45km of pistes (there’s plenty of backcountry too) tend towards the redder and blacker end of the spectrum, with a handful of blues at the lower levels, though in conditions this forgiving and with pistes this quiet, there’s nothing too challenging for a semi-decent skier. The pistes are mostly fast and open, and Toby takes us around them at lightning speed, peeling us off occasionally here and there to make fresh tracks on the oceans of powder that have settled off-piste; they start off floaty and finish off just about the right side of mogully, as skiers and boarders (not to mention the baking sun) etch away at all the pristine snow. We ski until the lifts start to shut – legs turned to jelly and toes starting to ache with cold – and gladly collapse into Toby’s car in a heap of damp skis, boots and helmets.