Soelden ski resort in Austria is impressive in so many ways but particularly when it comes to fast, new lifts and a rip-roaring nightlife.
- The already impressive lift system that just keeps getting better.
- High-altitude, glacier skiing makes for reliable conditions.
- One can re-enact scenes from Bond’s Spectre movie, which was filmed here.
- The lively village atmosphere.
- The chance to relax at the world-class spa facilities at the Aqua Dome.
- As much as you try to look past the busy main street, it’s hard for it not to detract from what could be a quaint Austrian village.
- The spread-out nature of the village means that for some hotels it’s a long walk to the lifts. However, the free shuttle bus is easy.
- The lack of trees means visibility can be poor in bad conditions.
- The village can be noisy late at night with party-goers making merry till all hours.
Until recently Soelden has been a bit of a low-profile Austrian ski resort. Better known were its close neighbours St Anton and Lech as well as historic Kitzbuhel. Things started to change when Soelden became the host of the first race on the Ski World Cup circuit each season. However, Soelden’s big moment in the spotlight happened when it was featured in the latest James Bond movie, Spectre. It was hard not to notice the striking Ice Q building and the stunning mountains. Car-chase scenes on snowy mountain roads and space-age gondolas also captured people’s attention.
But while some people might visit Soelden to fulfill their Bond dreams, Scout feels there are better reasons to visit. Its 434ha ski area and 146km of ski pistes are great for all standards, with guaranteed skiing from October through to May thanks to the glaciers and high altitude. Added to the ski experience is a seriously impressive network of new lifts. Along with the Gaislachkoglbahn that whizzes skiers and Bond villains up 3000m in 12 minutes, the latest addition (for the 16/17 winter) is the new Giggijoch Gondola connecting the village to the mountain, which can move 4500 people an hour.
Skiing (or Bond chasing) might be the main priority for some, but Soelden’s happening après scene is the reason many come back year after year. And this isn’t the type of après that ends at dinner… several large nightclubs, complete with go-go dancers and celebrity DJs, stay open until the wee hours of the morning. The result is a throbbing, thriving village packed with young (and not-so-young) party-goers.
The village of Soelden is large and spread out along the base of the Otztal valley. A river splits it in two – the quiet side and the busy side. The quiet side has hotels and not much else. The busy side is where all the action is, including the restaurants, bars, clubs and shops as well as the two big gondolas that take skiers up to the main resort area. The busy side also features the main road, a thoroughfare for traffic heading up the valley that (along with flashing neon signs for the nightclubs) sadly takes away a lot of the charm that Soelden could have. There’s talk of burying it, or building a bypass, but until that happens (and we’re not holding our breath) Soelden will always feel a little hectic. There’s a small hamlet up a road called Hochsoelden, consisting only of a few ski-in ski-out hotels – a much better option if peace and quiet is what you’re after.
Most of the skiing at Soelden is done in one of four main areas high above the village, generally from around 2000m to the highest lifted point at 3250m/10,660ft. It is the only ski resort in Austria with three mountains higher than 3000m accessible by ski lifts.
Depending on where you are staying, skiers ride one of the two new gondolas up to the ski area in the mornings with one at each end of the village. Like many resorts in Europe, you generally stay up in the resort area once you’re up there, and only venture back down to the village at the end of the day (which is possible on a variety of different ski runs).
The left side or Gaislachkogl area features the impressive three-cable gondola (which featured in Spectre) that feeds skiers to the resort’s two glacier areas, Tiefenbach and Rettenbach. Like many glacial skiing areas, the runs tend to be quite mellow and there are several T-bar or surface lifts. The Gaislachkogl area features some long reds – long enough to get the quads burning. The right side of the ski area, Giggijoch, can be accessed from the village or by a gondola that connects the two areas at the top of the resort. There’s some more advanced skiing in this area as well as plenty of blues and long, fun reds. Advanced skiers can also access some good off-piste, though taking a guide is always recommended if you’re going to venture from marked runs. Soelden isn’t brilliant for beginners, but there are still a few areas where they can have fun. The bunny slopes are in a little area above the village, accessed by a funny-looking elevated train. Once they’ve progressed beyond these (the runs are short) the best area is up at Giggijoch, though it can get crowded. Although the ski-in ski-out aspect of Hochsoelden might appeal to families, be warned that the runs to it are well beyond the abilities of a beginner skier.
Soelden ski area has a ton of features to add to the fun, including terrain-parks with some serious jumps, “fun-slopes” (like a skier-cross), ski racing, and ice driving on the glacier. There are also 30 mountain huts that can feature anything from authentic chalet-style stops serving Tyrolean delicacies and accordion players serenading tables, to large self-service restaurants. Of course, you can also eat in the now-famous Ice Q building (in Spectre it was the futuristic hospital and home of Bond’s enemy) where there is a gastronomic restaurant, along with a wine and tapas lounge. It’s also open one night a week for dinner.
A one-day ticket is €50-51 for adults or €25-38 for children (depending on their age). An extra €14 (or €9 for children) will get you a day at Obergurgl but it must be bought at the start of your stay.
Soelden wouldn’t be our first choice for families wanting an Austrian family ski holiday. Not that it’s a particularly bad choice – there are all the facilities you will need – but the resort and village is better suited to other groups of skiers, and we feel that families would enjoy other areas more, such as Obergurgl up the valley. For families that want to ski Soelden we would recommend staying in Obergurgl and catching the bus (free with a lift pass) to Soelden for a day or two skiing.
Soelden has a huge variety of accommodation with styles and budgets to suit every skier, from 2-star pensions to 5-star luxury and everything in between. Choose your accommodation carefully if proximity to lifts is important – you will want to be at either end of the main street to be within close walking distance. Those hotels on the “quiet” side of the river are a little further from the lifts and some hotels will require a shuttle. There is also a free and efficient bus system if your hotel isn’t within walking distance. Most of the hotels operate on a half-board basis though a few offer B&B rates. And yes, for the true Bond tragic or Daniel Craig groupie, you can stay in the hotel he stayed at … it is the Bergland Hotel.Search Hotels and Deals Get your
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Soelden has a host of other fun things to do apart from skiing, including the usual activities of cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice-skating, ice-curling and paragliding. Soelden has an indoor arena with a variety of pools, spas, saunas, a fitness center and indoor tennis. However, any spa and wellness fanatic should take the 15-minute bus ride to the Aqua Dome in the village of Langenfeld, which features a series of heated outdoor and indoor pools, spas, steam rooms and saunas. Soelden has a good selection of shops if retail is your preferred type of therapy.
Of course, the après scene is the main “other activity” for most visitors to Soelden. The parties kick off on the slopes (don’t miss Bubi’s Schihutte where jugs of beer are consumed to the sound of Austrian songs and accordions), continue at the base of the main lifts and progress well after dinner at one of the many nightclubs (some of which have entertainment more attune to Vegas). Some stay open as late as 5am-6am.
Soelden is close to several airports, with Innsbruck being the closest just over one hour away. Munich and Zurich airports have more direct international connections and are both just over a three-hour drive.
There are plenty of shuttle services from Innsbruck and some from Munich however Zurich will require a private shuttle. Alternatively, you can catch the train to the Otztal Bahnhof at the entrance to the valley and catch a bus or taxi from there for the 30-minute ride up the pretty valley to Soelden.
Depending on where you are staying, you may be frequently on the bus, or never at all. There is a well-organized local bus service connecting the different parts of the village, and further on to Obergurgl as well as down to the rest of the valley. It’s free with a ski pass.
Soelden has a long season with “snow guaranteed” from October until May. It’s even possible to ski in autumn with several lifts and ski runs open on the two glaciers! Despite its reliable snow conditions, Soelden also has an extensive snow-making program with nearly 70 per cent of the runs covered. Generally, it’s always possible to ski all the way to the village, even in bad snow years.
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