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Why you should head to Obertauern, Austria’s snowiest ski resort

Simon Calder’s Travel

During winter 2022/23, the news was full of horror stories about a lack of snow in winter sports destinations. In fact, it was mostly lower resorts in the north-west Alps affected, with most ski areas in the rest of the Alps (and Dolomites and Pyrenees) open as normal, despite the mild weather.

One resort had a particular reason to be cheerful. Obertauern, situated in the Radstädter Tauern mountain range in Salzburgerland, was one of the few ski areas in Austria that last Christmas had a plentiful helping of snow, not just on the pistes, but off them too. It’s not surprising, as it has also been named the snowiest non-glacier resort in Austria, with such an abundance that it opened on 24 November and will close on 1 May.

If I’d been anxious about snow, my arrival at the ski-in, ski-out village in mid-December immediately reassured me. Looking out the hotel’s lower windows, all I could see was layer upon layer of snow piled up like neatly folded blankets against the glass.

On the first lift up, the windblown layers of snow beneath me looked like a profusion of contour lines on a map. And on the subject of contour lines, it is because this 1,700m-high village, with its pistes discreetly landscaped into the pine-flecked mountainside, is the first obstacle for storms arriving from both north and south that it scarcely ever misses a snowfall.

Obertauern is situated in the Radstädter Tauern mountain range in Salzburgerland

(Obertauern tourism)

That’s tough news for the drivers of piste grooming machines. Clicking on my skis, I concluded they had gone on strike, as the snow was piled high in soft moguls.

Not a bit of it, I was told. Fresh snow is less dense than the artificial stuff, so a large fall gets cut up quickly by skiers and snowboarders, and takes longer to be compacted into the corduroy carpets that we often see.

So, given all that snow, is Obertauern also Europe’s snowiest resort? We don’t know – the Austrians are the only country who have kept more than a century of snow depth data. Over a coffee, I asked Mario Siedler, head of the local tourist board, why.

Read more on off-piste skiing in Val Thorens

For more than a hundred years, villagers kept records to work out when it would be safe avalanche-wise to venture back into the valley and to work out how to make their food last until then, he told me.

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