Leaving Solden and Austria behind, I’m now bound for Slovenia by train, and looking back on the last tiring and muddled week I’m trying to think what I’m going to say… this post may be a bit of a ramble.
Rest assured that Solden is a good resort, and can be a lot of fun with something for everyone, but it was also a “peak week” which resulted in it being obnoxiously busy at times – and like the spoilt snowboarder I am this season – having had perfect snow, good conditions, nice people, varied resorts, fun apres-ski and instructive lessons – I wasn’t really prepared for vast queues of families and packed slopes. I’m still inexperienced, so I haven’t witnessed it before, and I didn’t particularly enjoy it now. And yes, I feel like such a snob saying that!
However I’m determined not to let it affect what I have to say as in the end I had a good time, and like so many of my life experiences, I’ll chalk it up to exactly that, “experience” and learn from it – basically, don’t go snowboarding in the middle of February!
I guess I’d class Solden as more of a family resort, and an excellent place for beginners with it’s long wide easily accessible blue runs and wealth of ski schools.
Saying that, the Apres-ski was busier than most in France, there’s a good snow park, an awesome lift system, and some challenging runs and off-piste if you’re willing to look for it – everything you’d expect from a big resort.
I traveled to Solden from Switzerland by train, and made a bit of a mess of it which added a few hours to my trip but thankfully I was lucky with connection times and that leveled it out a bit – the Geneva-Zurich-Innsbruck-Otztal-Solden journey took me approximately nine hours in total.
On the Zurich to Innsbruck leg, I had a few beers with a cool Canadian guy called Christian working at a university in Switzerland. He was heading for St Anton, which is very conveniently placed on the main train line, and invited me along. I would have seriously considered it if I wasn’t going there in a few weeks time – if you read this Christian, I lost your contact details so get in touch.
Getting from Innsbruck to Solden is relatively easy, although a few people I met seemed to be complaining about it.
Innsbruck to Otztal by train, and then Otztal to Solden by the No 4194 bus. Both run regularly every hour, and until late. I did have to wait in a bar for nearly an hour for the bus, but I didn’t worry too much about that! After being in Switzerland I was so happy just to be paying €3 for beer again!
If you’re going to Solden, plan for a 2-3 hour transfer from Innsbruck.
The layout of Solden is like so many resorts, with a main shopping street and river running down the middle flanked on either side by steep climbing mountains. Its not the nicest looking place, but can be quite picturesque at times, commercial at others.
The thing I noticed most was the difference between the French/Swiss alps, and their Austrian cousins, the Austrian mountains look steeper and a little more rugged.
I’d heard a lot about Austria, and it’s wild Apres-ski scene, and choosing resorts to go to was difficult. Mayrhofen and St Anton were certainties, but I’d also heard of Ischgl, Lech and Solden. Ischgl has the “craziest” Apres-ski in Europe with people going specially for it, this has been confirmed to me this week by so many people!
I couldn’t get any accommodation in Ischgl, but I found a very cheap deal in a small promising looking chalet in Solden, so that sealed it – £250 for the week, a third of what I paid in Switzerland.
I don’t know if the rest of Austria will be the same, but I only met two British people the whole week, it was a vast change from France, with the place being swamped with people from Belgium, Holland and Germany – it was a school half term in Belgium, and a carnival week in Holland and Germany – it amused me one day speaking to a German woman in the gondola (a rare occasion when there was only two of us in one), and she was saying how annoying it was “having all deez rude Dutch peoples here”… I only just managed to keep a straight face and nod.
All these European holidays meant the resort was full of families, with the ski schools filled to capacity, and on my first day I had to queue for an hour at the main gondola to get up the hill, only to be met by a twenty minute wait for the chairlifts. It was manic.
With poor weather and visibility that first day, not to mention the lack of space, I’ll admit I underwhelmed and wasn’t too hopeful for the week. I found that although the Apres-ski was always busy and people were dancing on the tables come 5pm, I struggled to meet people for some reason that first couple of days, and it was nearer the end of the week before I managed to sort myself out and get back into the way of things.
People had their own families and little groups, and nobody seemed to be too interested in speaking or including some random solo British guy, but I tried regardless – it was the same at the chalet, unfortunately.
The main Apres-ski bars are Mogul, and Fire & Ice. You can’t miss them amongst the wealth of other bars, and Fire & Ice is the nightclub of choice for partygoers – look out for Captain Morgan!
I guess after being around and staying with people for the last month, suddenly going solo again was a lonely shock to the system – and it was time to call on a friend, the same friend you use to buy music, read the news, book holidays, and keep an eye on friends – the internet!
In France I met a girl who told me about, and used, a website called CouchSurfing.org, which is a way of meeting up and/or staying with people while traveling. I registered, and found a few people in Solden, so I messaged them… Guna, from Latvia, emailed back saying that her and a friend were working in Solden and I could join them up the hill as they learnt to snowboard, and later they’d be going for some Apres-ski as it was their day off. Perfect.
It was now day three, and after a good and successful morning in the park (seriously people, I landed those jumps! Well the small one’s at least), I met up with Guna and her friend Ieva, who were both talkative and fun from the start, and we had an excellent day snowboarding. Ieva was still trying to master her turns and it was fun trying to help out.
It confirmed what I’d learnt in the previous weeks – I prefer company on the slopes, and Guna and Ieva would be good company anywhere.
Don’t get me wrong, I like to go for a blast on my own and explore or practice, but generally, it’s nice to have friends to chat with, who laugh as you fall over, and visa-versa.
Later Guna and Ieva invited me along for a night out with more of their friends, and after a few quiet drinks we ended up in Fire & Ice dancing and drinking the night away. It was a good night.
They mentioned that in Latvia they celebrate the longest day with a mid-summers eve fire festive party, and if I’m nearby come the summer I’ll be stopping along to check it out.
It was good in one sense to have time to snowboard on my own as it gave me a lot of time to practice, which involved falling over a lot, getting back up and trying something else and falling over again.
The other downside to snowboarding on your own is it’s tiring, more so than with a group, because you don’t tend to stop, so your legs start to give out sooner and then you start crashing more.
There’s a route called the “Big 3 Rallye” in Solden, it’s a must if you go, and is basically a route around all three of the top glacier points which guide you across the resort from one side to the other – with the days ticking by I decided to give it a go despite the weather. It was my second last day, and it was a bust. I had a terrible day on my board, and the weather was hellish, but I did it easily in under four hours which was good for future reference.
On my last day the weather was excellent, I could have snowboarded in a t-shirt, and I’d made plans to meet Guna and Ieva again in the afternoon so I got on the go early, and went for the “Big 3” again. It was worth it. It was the best day I had in Solden and some of the sights were pretty incredible.
It was disappointing in one sense that I didn’t have some of my friends there who’d been up for tackling some of the off-piste with me, as it looked spectacular! Too spectacular and dangerous to try on my own at least.
That final friday afternoon, at the main area near the Giggijoch lift, a band plays and I met Guna and Ieva for a few drinks on the slope. Everyone was thinking the same thing, it was a good way to finish off the week on the slopes, and it was good to leave Solden on a positive note.
Solden – http://www.soelden.com/
Trains and Buses – http://www.sbb.ch/en/home.html
Pension Andreas – http://www.andreas.at/pension-andreas/index.php?site=haus&language=en
Accommodation done through Booking.com – http://www.booking.com/
Couch Surfing – http://www.couchsurfing.org/
SOLDEN PISTE MAP