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December 2000

High Priority

Austria’s Fieberbrunn ski resort should top your list

The most popular ski resorts near Munich include those on Spitzing mountain, Wallberg mountain and the peaks of the Werdenfels massif, all of which, theoretically, can be reached by car in just under an hour. This is only “theoretically” so because, in actuality, before you lies the inevitable Saturday afternoon traffic jam, the unnerving search for an over-priced parking space, long lines in front of the ticket booth and, finally, the pushy masses waiting at the bottom of the ski lifts. It is not uncommon for skiers to travel up to four hours before taking that first long-awaited run. In addition, the snow conditions in these areas are not exactly desirable. Slopes are often, on account of the huge crowds, uneven and icy — a virgin flake is nowhere to be seen.
It is well worth upping the travel ante by a half an hour — departing perhaps on Friday afternoon or between 6:00 and 7:00 on Saturday morning — and heading to fabulous Fieberbrunn, via the A8, to the Kitzbühel region. At the Inntaldreieck, follow the signs to Kufstein, where you will go off the toll-free highway, taking the exit marked “Kufstein Süd,” which leads to St. Johann/Felbertauern. To your left you will see the majestic Wilder Kaiser mountain. Leave the mundane bustle of Kitzbühel behind by turning right after passing through St. Johann, and follow the signs to Fieberbrunn. You will have reached the other side of the Kitzbühel range within one and a half hours of departing from Munich.
Fieberbrunn’s center, and its ski area, are found at the end of a town road that is several kilometers long. The entrance to the Fieberbrunn ski lifts is clearly marked — once inside, you will find plenty of free parking at the base of the mountain. Fieberbrunn — known as the “snow hole” — is the place most likely to have snow, and a lot of it, in all Tirol. Winter sporting trip promoters are keenly aware of this fact — snowboard and ski fans are unloaded by the busload here, even when other areas are closed for lack of the white stuff. But, even so, whether you arrive before 9:00 or after 11:00, whether weekday or weekend, you will rarely have to wait, if at all. And, as long as you don’t take your break between noon and 14:00, when ski instructors and their classes take theirs, you are sure to find a comfortable spot in one of the many Hütten (mountain huts) or snack stands.
This part of Austria lives from tourism and it shows — in the most positive sense. The locals are genuinely kind. For those of us accustomed to the often impersonal, cold German service, this is refreshing. The feeling of being a welcome guest — everywhere you go you will be addressed per Du — is felt from the lifts to the restaurants to the supermarkets to parking lots. There is only one thing the happy Austrians can’t stand: the so-called Piefkes, a species of German that, with an arrogant, to-the-manor-born attitude, arrive at the slopes, waving a bulging wallet. The Piefke is a know-it-all, who treats his alpine hosts like rural bumpkins. Luckily, there are few members of this species in Fieberbrunn, which can be attributed to the moderate prices and the fact that those who frequent this ski area are here to enjoy winter sports, not to join the jetset on the T-bar.
Because snowboarding did not catch on in Germany as quickly as in Austria organizers at Fieberbrunn saw this as a chance to lure young boarders over the border. A few years ago, the facility erected a giant floodlit halfpipe at a time when snowboarders were being turned away on German slopes. Today, Fieberbrunn is host to several major snowboarding competitions, including the annual Lords of the Boards and a World Cup race sponsored by the International Snowboard Federation, which also hosts a freestyle halfpipe contest at the event (January 10 –14, 2001). Attention early birds — the World Cup is followed by such raucous all-night parties that slopes are virtually empty the following morning.
Popular discos for the après-ski crowd include the aptly named waterside “Riverhouse” and the “Western Saloon” at the Gasthof Alte Post in the area’s center. Here, locals and visitors alike share stories of the day’s hair-raising “free rides.”
The piste crews in Fieberbrunn, as in most other Austrian ski resorts, are the true heroes of the operation. Every night the slopes are alight with headlights of the grooming vehicles, whose drivers tirelessly shape and plow piles of snow aside, keeping them in reserve for “bad times.” Effective, thorough grooming efforts ensure that, each morning, a fluffy, white blanket covers the “hill” and that the ice-free snow remains until early spring.
December in Fieberbrunn provides a unique skiing experience. The snow is at its most powdery, the slopes are still quiet and the prices are the lowest of the season. Super specials are offered in the first three weeks of December: two nights in a pension, including breakfast and a two-day lift ticket, start at DM 153 per person. The same package for two nights in a hotel with breakfast and dinner starts at DM 199 per person. For “Powder Weeks” (December 9–23 and January 6–February 3) hotels offer seven days, six nights, breakfast, a six-day ski pass and two coupons for the swimming pool/sauna, starting at a mere DM 520 per person. Children between the ages of six and fourteen are half price, provided they stay in the same room as their parents. Children under five are free. The town is equipped with a total of 3,900 beds “for rent”— in inexpensive private homes, vacation condos, guest houses and four-star luxury hotels. Heartier outdoorsmen and women may choose to stay at a campground within walking distance of the lifts. Bus rides to and from the nearby ski areas of Hochfilzen, Waidring and St. Jakob are free of charge.
There are two ski schools in Fieberbrunn, the Red and the Blue. Treating yourself to a course is worth while — who better than local instructors can show you, and guide you safely down, trails and gates you would never have discovered on your own? Courses run about DM 220 for six days, or you can hire a private instructor for approximately DM 140 for a half-day session, with DM 20–30 added for each extra person. At the Fieberbrunn ski school — the “Blues” — 30 experienced skiing and snowboarding instructors, from every age group, await you. Registering children for classes at one of these schools ensures parents’ relaxation and kids’ fun. A six-day children’s course costs about DM 200. A cheery café can be found on the roof of the Blue school, where you can watch your children learn the basics, or, in the late afternoon, begin your après-ski festivities at the “Eisbar.” Toni Widman, director of the school, lends expertise and friendly advice to his well-stocked winter sporting goods store and ski rental outlet. Equipment prices are comparable to those in Germany. Widman also owns a condo to let, near the base of the mountain, which costs, per day, between DM 180 and DM 200 for four guests or between DM 100 and DM 120 for two. A 10% discount is offered to those who rent their skis, boots, snowboards and other necessities at his shop. Two other ski shops in the center of town also purvey top goods at competitive prices.
Installed in Fieberbrunn are more than 13 lifts, which carry the masses to 35 kilometers of slopes, half of which can be enhanced by man-made snow. Skiing at all levels of difficulty can be had here. On the Sonnenplateau you will find the “family- friendly” runs, a bunny hill, a large self-service restaurant and a snow bar, where you can rent chaise lounges. Here, if you wish, you can kick back in the sun while watching your friends make the trip up and down the mountain. Or, marvel at the old world meeting the new at Wildseegattl, a cozy mountain guest house, where the wait staff calls orders for apple strudel into the kitchen by cell phone. Rustic wood-panelled rooms at Wildseegattl cost about DM 70, including breakfast and dinner.
Beautiful ungroomed sections of Lärchfilzkogel, Reckmoos and Hochhörndl can be reached via lift — no hiking required. The Reckmoos lift is, in winter, quite cold, but lift operators will provide you with a thick quilt. This, and the best ski conditions in the area, make up for the nippy ride. Warm up in the old Teehütte (tea hut), where, on a small woodstove, traditional barley soup bubbles and the scent of fresh apple strudel wafts through the air. Guests should not forget that, in Austria, tea is seldom served without alcohol, and that Jagertee is an especially potent concoction.
For those who ride the Reckmoos lift south to the Sonnenmulde, a breathtaking panoramic view of the Hohen Tauern, Kitzsteinhorn and Grossglockner is to be had. Four-person chair lifts lead to the Hochhörndl, at an elevation of 2,020 m. Fieberbrunn’s highest peak offers a lodge with a spacious sun terrace. As in most mountain eateries, here it is self-service, and, at the midday rush hour, you will have a bit of a wait in line. It’s worth the wait. Sumptuous Käspressknödel (cheese dumplings) served in a tasty broth, grilled sausages and homemade cakes confirm that everything tastes better at high altitudes. And when the weather is bad, you can seek refuge in the lodges’s Stube, where a crackling fire and tasteful alpine décor provide a welcome change from the “yodeler kitsch” found in other mountain retreats.
Last year, Fieberbrunn installed a four-person, Plexiglass-domed chair lift at Lärchfilzalm, which climbs 340 m — an extra fast lift for skiers who prefer to take the same run time and again, until every bend and bump is memorized. The cushy speed lift can be reached via the T-bar at Doischberg (375 m), which starts 50 m to the left of the Streuböden station, or via a gondola to the Streuböden middle station, from where you must take another gondola to Lärchfilzkogel (1,655 meters). From here, it is 550 m down to Lärchfilzalm lift. Halfway down the valley, at the centerpoint of this multifaceted ski area, lies a hut that serves rich Austrian fare self-service style. This Alm has more to offer than most: simple, attractive wood-beamed rooms and a dormitory with cots and bedding. Spending the night here costs DM 60-65 per person, including breakfast and dinner. Luggage can be dropped off at the Streuböden base station, where it is passed on to Lärchfilzhochalm’s proprietor, who transports the baggage — as well as first-time skiers who will have their first lesson atop the mountain — with his SnowCat. More information can be obtained from When this issue went to press there were still vacancies on New Year’s Eve.
Even if you are not a fan of downhill skiing, Fieberbrunn has something for you. Forty kilometers of cross country trails offer visitors the chance to exercise, or simply to behold the region’s spectacular scenery. Take a walk on one of many plowed paths or travel by horse and buggy to the “Eiserne Hand” restaurant — one needn’t be a jock to rest and relax in this rejuvenating winter landscape. And if, after a swim and a sauna, you still haven’t had enough, make the starlit trek up to the Hochkogel for dinner and drinks, then return to the bottom of the hill via a 2.3-km-long floodlit toboggan run. Once there, the happy crunch of snow under your boots will evoke memories of a weekend well spent — one you will wish would never end. <<<

>>> By car: from Munich, approximately 90 minutes
>>> By TRAIN: via Rosenheim/Wörgl, approximately two hours
>>> NEAREST AIRPORTS: Salzburg (75 km), Innsbruck (100 km), Munich (175 km)
>>> FOR FURTHER INFORMATION AND RESERVATIONS: Tourismusverband Fieberbrunn, Dorfplatz 1, A-6391 Fieberbrunn Tel. +43 (0)5354 56 304;
Fax +43 (0)5354 52 606

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