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By: Brooke Bailey

Hailing from the winterless north my snow experience was very limited.

Other than the odd trip to Mt Ruapehu as a kid, I had barely even seen snow. So when a friend who is a very experienced snowboarder asked me to join her snowboarding in Austria and Germany, I jumped at the chance.

We wanted to experience some of the local ski culture of Europe so decided to avoid the main resorts. Our first stop was a German ski-resort called 'Garmisch-Partenkirchen' that's home to Germany’s highest peak, 'Zugspitze'. We flew into Munich and then caught a train heading south to Garmisch.

Garmisch-Partenkirchen

It's bit of a mouthful to say but I was told an interesting story about the town: they were originally separate towns; Garmisch in the West and Partenkirchen in the East. That was until Germany’s bid for the 1936 winter Olympics and Hitler forced the two towns to merge. It's still very controversial locally.

We stayed in Garmisch where a Glacier express alpine train takes passengers up to 'Zugspitze'. It's a very scenic but painstaking way to get up the mountain so I suggest for those with limited time that you opt for the ski express coach that takes you to the foot of the mountains, and then it's just a matter of catching the Gondola to the summit. All the coaches are set up with ski racks, standing room only and they stop outside the main resorts.

Once at the foot of the mountain, you catch the Gondola to the slopes. This was like nothing I'd ever experienced... and here I thought the Gondola at Queenstown was high!!! After ascending the mountain, our gondola then proceeded to slowly creep its way through the middle of the mountain through a gap just big enough for the Gondola, with what looked like a 1000 m drop below us. Miraculously at this point, thankful to have survived, we shuffled out of the gondola only to learn that we still needed to catch another death-defying gondola to the Glacier slopes. By this point, the alpine train was looking like the sensible option! Finally arriving safely at the slopes, I was in awe of the view from the highest point in Germany. It was definitly worth the gondola trip and I hadn’t even put my snowboard on yet!! 

As this mountain was used as the venue for the 1936 Winter Olympics, and the 1978 and 2011 world ski championships, the slopes were not really for amateurs and I felt way out of my depth. I pretty much pottered around for most of the day on the baby slopes and enjoyed the amazing views. My friend however decided to give them a go and said that they were some of the best she had ever been on!

Pitztal

Our next stop on our winter adventure was the Austrian town of Pitztal. It's a little bit of a journey to get there but if you want to get off the beaten track, then this where you need to be with heaps of locals and amazing scenery in both winter and summer.

We took a train from Innsbruck to Imst, then a local bus from Imst to high up into the Tyrol Mountains where you'll find Pitztal.

We arrived too late to head up the mountain on our first day so decided to check out the Spa facilities at our resort, which is great for sore muscles. The next morning we were up early to get onto the mountain, which was just a short walk from our hotel. We were actually unsure how to get up to the ski area as there are no gondolas. We followed the signs and ended up on an underground train that operates in a tunnel inside the mountain. Once at the top of the underground train, we jumped into yet another death-defying gondola - this one slightly more comfortable than our previous Gondola experience. Once on the Glacier though, the scenery was again stunning and the snow amazing. I quickly found the amateur area, which was a lot more welcoming than that of Garmisch.

It was an exhausting trip but so worth it. :)

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