MANY JERSEY SKIERS ONLY CONTEMPLATE SKIING IN FEBRUARY… I KEEP HARING QUESTIONS ALONG THE LINES OF “WILL THERE BE ENOUGH SNOW IN MARCH?”
IN FACT, THE SKI SEASON IN MOST RESORTS STARTS JUST BEFORE CHRISTMAS AND CARRIES ON UNTIL EARLY APRIL, BUT IF YOU WANT TO EXTEND THE SEASON AT BOTH ENDS THEN THE ANSWER IS TO GO TO A GLACIER!
I went on an All Mountain Ski Course in Kaprun in early November, where the season starts in October and carries on through till June. Kaprun is the village at the base of the Kitzsteinhorn Glacier in Salzburgerland, Austria, which soars to a height of 3,029m. The village falls in the area of Zell Am Zee, and sits on the wide valley floor on the opposite side of the valley to Lake Zeller and the town of Zell Am Zee, in the Hohe Tauern National Park. The park was established in 1981 and is the largest natural park in the Alps. The water of the Zeller Lake is especially pure and is classed as drinking water. Just a little further along the valley is Kaprun, which is guarded by a 12th Century castle on a hill before the village.
British Airways flights leave Jersey on Saturday mornings at 07.35 to Gatwick with the connecting flight to Salzburg leaving at 09.40 and arriving in Salzburg at 12.35 local time, from there it’s an easy 80 minute drive along good roads from Salzburg airport. With these BA flights your luggage is routed through from Jersey to your final destination and you stay “airside” in Gatwick, which entails a much shorter security queue before accessing the departure lounge and duty free shops.
Flights to Salzburg run throughout the year, which extends the ski season greatly and also offers mountain walkers unlimited possibilities of mountain trails. At the very top of the Kitzsteinhorn, Gipfelwelt 3000 is Salzburg’s highest panoramic platform, which provides breathtaking views of the valley, lake Zell and the sheer endlessness of the summit chain of central and limestone alps, including Austria’s highest mountain the Grossglockner; which at 3,798m, also counts amongst the highest peaks in the Alps.
For the skier this season’s big news is a new challenge -the “Black Mamba”, a groomed slope up to 63% steep! The black piste 14 is 1,000m long, covers 290m in altitude and , according to the official website, is “venomous like a mamba – perfect for all experts who love it steep!” The run starts at the valley station of Kristallbahn at 2,265m and ends at Langwiedboden. In contrast, autumn 2015 will see the commissioning of the new Gletscherjet 3 and 4 which will enable quicker and more direct access to the glacier and restructured, wider pistes to make the area more attractive for families and beginners, so broadening the appeal of the whole area and making it more amenable to skiers of all skill levels.
In early November there was already 150cm of snow on the Glacier and 60cm depth at the Alpincenter, which is a spacious modern building which acts as the hub for the Glacier until the snow covers the lower slopes right down to the village’s own slopes at the Maiskogel. The Alpincenter houses a restaurant/cafeteria, well appointed conveniences a ski hire shop and ski school offices, this was the snow-front when I was there. From the Alpincentre there is a chairlift to take you up to the glacier slopes and then there are “T “bars to take you up to the top and the terrain park, or a cable car will do the journey in one lift.
Kaprun has a great selection of hotels, guesthouses and Fruhstuck Pensions, (B&B) which are regulated by the tourism department, there is a small casino, shops restaurants and even some designer outlets, but generally prices are cheaper than in France. On the edge of the village is the Tauern Spa wellness complex, and the Maisiflitzer, an all-year tobogganing track with tight corners, long straights and five swirly roundabouts. You can choose your own pace but those who love a bit of speed can race down into the valley at up to 40kph!
Talking of speed, I’m not going to tell you what speed I got up to on the Black Mamba… or even whether I tried it… Ssshhh! See you on the slopes!