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April 2005

No Snow Zone

The best skiing resorts for non-skiers

It’s the dying days of winter. Spring is just around the corner, but the Alps still hold the promise of one good ski weekend before the season’s end. The hitch is, your partner doesn’t like, or doesn’t want, to barrel down immaculately groomed slopes at breakneck speeds. Where can you go together that has enough options to keep you both amused?

Garmisch-Partenkirchen is an old Munich favorite. Lying 100 km southwest of the city, at the base of the Zugspitze, the town hosted the 1936 Winter Olympics and is still one of the most famous ski resorts in Germany. Its close proximity to Munich and 60 km of marked ski runs make it ideal for a weekend trip. Even better, there are more than enough activities to keep your other half busy for a few hours, if not days.
Among the activities on offer, for example, are hiking and mountaineering, ice skating, curling and paragliding. There are also horse-drawn sleigh rides, indoor swimming and tennis, sauna, sports and fitness centers. In all, there are more than 14 wellness hotels within the immediate area, while in the ancient village itself, there are fine jewelry and handicraft shops, fashionable boutiques and a wide range of après-ski options for both of you when you meet up again.
One highly recommended sight is the Partnachklamm (Partnach Gorge). A 30-minute walk from the Olympic Ski Stadium, the gorge funnels the Partnach River through 80-m-high limestone walls. During the winter months, incredible natural ice sculptures form on the walls of the gorge. Overhanging the river, these huge ice sheets amaze visitors walking through the series of galleries and tunnels. Partnachklamm is rightly considered one of Bavaria’s most beautiful locations.
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Hugging the Austrian border below the Watzmann Mountain is the region known as the Berchtesgadener Land. The immediate region surrounding the ancient alpine village of Berchtesgaden itself offers 40 km of ski runs. Shopping is excellent and facilities include natural curling and ice-skating rinks, fitness centers and indoor swimming pools. There is also ballooning, sleigh riding and a number of wellness centers, including those at the Hotels Alpenhof, Intercontinental and Hochkalter. In general, the region offers some of Germany’s most captivating alpine scenery. The numerous bars, cafés and nightclubs ensure a variety of nocturnal entertainment.
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Lech & Kitzbühel
Fancy something special? Listed in 1,000 Places to See before You Die by Patricia Schultz, the Arlberg region in Austria, which includes Lech, is a bit of a hike, but is worth visiting as it is one of the premier skiing areas in the world. Fashionable and glamorous, it attracts such clientele as the Dutch and Jordanian royal families, as well as Princess Caroline of Monaco and other members of the Grimaldi dynasty. As a town, Lech has managed to maintain the air of an unspoilt village. Besides 110 km-plus of ski runs, indoor attractions include ice skating, swimming and squash. There are also winter paths, horse-drawn sleigh rides and snow-shoe tours—and the chance to spot a celebrity or minor royal. The best place for celebrity-spotting is the five-star Gasthof Post ( But don’t be disappointed if you can’t get a room (€ 540 per night). Legend has it that even the Shah of Iran was turned away because it would have meant displacing a regular.
Meanwhile, the historic town center of Kitzbühel in the Tyrol region, with its cobblestone streets and medieval buildings, has one of the most dynamic après-skis scenes going, including a number of sophisticated clubs and a casino. Located 88 km southwest of Salzburg, Kitzbühel, like Lech, attracts the good and the great, not to mention the rich, though it is probably more brazen about the fact. Indeed, there’s plenty of exclusive shopping to keep non-skiing partners entertained, not to mention a wide variety of other activities, including sledging, snow-shoe hiking and winter walking.
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If the relationship won’t stand the strain of a weekend on the snow, but it may not buckle under a few hours, then Lenggries is a good option. Located just 60 km south of Munich, Lenggries has more than 100 km of runs, although snow cover can vary because of the resort’s relatively low altitude. Your partner, meanwhile, could check out Alpamare—a huge indoor swimming complex with a wave pool and water slides. The wellness area features a Finnish sauna, aroma steam therapy and a tanning area. There is also the delicious luxury of being able to swim in hot-spring outdoor pools while snowflakes dance around you.
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