The Diamond of the Alps

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Mark Browne explored a diamond of a ski resort – through a unique crystal lens!

The quest for snow surety has driven the development of once remote hamlets high in the Alps. This has certainly been the case with Gurgl in Ötztal, western Austria. Known as the “Diamond of the Alps”.

The neighbouring villages of Obergurgl and Hochgurgl which together make up the Gurgl ski area, have been expanded substantially in recent years to cater for the demand for premium level resorts and take advantage of the surrounding snowy slopes. These range in altitude from 1,800 metres to over 3,000 metres and this lofty altitude ensures that the resort is among the first to open each season – typically in mid November – and also that it can continue to operate all the way until mid-April.

Where to Stay

Hotel development has primarily been at the premium level in Gurgl so that there are now over 25 four to five star hotels in the resort, many of which have the fantastic added bonus of being ski-in ski-out venues. A perfect example of this is the impressive Crystal VAYA Unique Hotel.

The VAYA Group has grown in recent years to become the largest Austrian Alpine hotel group, owning and operating almost 30 properties. Accordingly, they certainly know the Austrian market and how to accentuate its premium qualities, all of which are evident in this particular hotel.

The hotel is located at 2,000 metres in the village of Obergurgl. The primary feeder ski lift from Obergurgl, the Festkoglbahn, is directly adjacent to the hotel’s ski depot, which itself is accessible from the base of both blue and red pistes for pure ski in-ski out convenience.

The hotel offers a selection of room styles and sizes but all have been finished in first quality Alpine style and most have balconies enjoying commanding views across the surrounding slopes. Its large spa area extends to over 2,000 metres and boasts internal and external pools as well as a range of sauna and steam rooms. It also offers ESPA signature treatments onsite. The perfect antidote after an energetic day on the slopes! The hotel’s restaurant offers similarly high quality options with a range of authentic local culinary delicacies being served nightly.

More About Gurgl

The local ski area includes 112 km of slopes, massive investment in infrastructure in recent years means these are now 25 lifts, ensuring great access and no waiting time in queues. Night skiing is also available weekly. A variety of terrain is available suitable for all levels of skiing ability, including beginners. However the presence of more challenging pistes and gradients enabled the resort to host the premiere of the AUDI FIS Ski World Cup men’s slalom at the start of this season. It has also become a popular training area for competition level skiers from across Europe. The fun doesn’t stop there – visitors also have the option of purchasing the Ötztal Super Skipass which also enables access to the other resorts in the Ötztal region (six in total, including Solden), with a combined ski area of over 330 km with 90 mountain lifts, it’s among the largest areas in Europe!

The development occurring in recent years in this area has been done with an eye to quality and style. Many of the new buildings have been constructed with traditional alpine design elements, often combined with a contemporary twist such as extensive use of glass to enable guests to savour the views.

While the resort does have some slopeside bars for typically lively Austrian après-ski indulgence after a hard day on the slopes, it is significantly less boisterous than the nearby resort of Solden, making it a preferred choice of families and couples. It attracts a mixed international clientele primarily from across the EU and the UK.  

Other Attractions

The views of the surrounding terrain are outstanding and take in the sweeping valley as well as over 20 peaks above 3,000 metres in the surrounding mountains. Non-skiing visitors are catered to with pedestrian lift passes allowing them to access these vistas, as well as the various mountain restaurants, viewing points and bars.

A key non winter-sports attraction located in Hochgurgl is the Motorcycle Experience World. This impressive museum features over 400 motorbikes reflecting their full history and development, all housed in an imposing structure boasting a fine slopeside restaurant. 

Neighbouring Solden also hosts the inspiring 007 Elements interactive exhibition reflecting the ski related segments featured in James Bond movies. Perfect options if a diversion from sporting activity is needed! Complimentary access is given with some ski pass options.

In summary, with snow assured, great slopes and quality accommodation, Gurgl is definitely a new horizon worth exploring!

Mark Browne was a guest of the Vaya Group.