Many Europeans book their winter sports holiday right after their summer vacation but for skeptics like me who like to confirm snow fall and weather conditions before putting in money, I find the idea of skiing in the spring season appealing and feasible.
Besides being relatively cheaper, spring skiing gives you the time to decide if it is a good season for winter sports (forecasting based on the past winter months’ snowfall). The slopes are relatively less crowded and more often than not, swathed in sunlight. As a beginner skier, nothing can be more intimidating than reckless skiers zipping past at the speed of lightning and poor slope visibility - both of which occur commonly at the beginning of the ski season (Dec to Jan).
The spring season therefore is a better bet for anfänger skifahrer (beginner skiers) and families with children.
After several touch-and-go experiences with skiing - indoor skiing, day tripping, weekend skiing, and few hours of private ski lessons - this spring our family found a great alpine ski destination for beginners: Mayerhofen (Mayrhofen), in Austria also called the the Zillertal Alps.
Reasons why I recommend this ski resort for beginners and families:
From adrenalin junkies to apprehensive beginners, Mayerhofen offers a multitude of ski slopes to suit different levels of skiing proficiency. There are plenty of blue (for beginners) slopes carved between red (for intermediate skiers) and black (for expert skiers) slopes to keep the experienced and seasoned skiers from intimidating those getting started or acclimatized on the blue slopes. The Ahorn and Penken mountains are intertwined and together offer gentle slopes alongside, white-knuckle steeps, moguls, powder and terrain park. Members of the family could be on different slopes but never really far from one another.
Should the snow conditions be disappointing or different from what you expected at the time of booking, it is possible to take refuge in the Hintertux glacier which is about 40 kilometers away from Mayerhofen. Glacier skiing is round the year. Hintertux offers a few pistes (slopes) for beginners too, although not as many as Mayerhofen does. In an era where global warming ushers erratic weather conditions that can ruin a pre-paid holiday/ski pass, it might be wise to book in a place that offers a Plan B for skiing. The magnificent glacier, which would be a preferred choice for advanced skiers, would serve well for beginners and families too! And if you are bored of the few blue slopes in Hintertux, you can enjoy panoramic views at approximately 2600 meters above sea level or marvel at the natural Ice Palace at the highest point on the glacier. The ice stalactites, crystals, frozen waterfalls and glacial lakes in this ice cave will enthrall you.
With longer, sunnier evenings come a motley of spring events - mostly comedy and musical. Every week in spring is combined with an event. Although Mayerhofen has a lively après ski, the spring events definitely make the after ski hours more fun and memorable. This year’s Snowbombing music festival brought well known DJs and bands to town, who in turn staged a party in every square inch of this alpine village, from the Metzgerei (Butcher’s shop) to the Pistes - complete with fireworks! On a different but funny and adventurous note, the annual Schlittentag (Sled day) is held in early April. This annual event gives you the possibility to demonstrate your ability to build a sled from anything you fancy and run it successfully down a slope in a race against time. I suppose it would make a great spectator sport. I heard tales of bathtubs to bean bags being fitted with skis to win this good humored event.
Other Winter/Mountain Sports:
Mayerhofen, like other ski resorts in the alps offers many snow and mountain activities for sports enthusiasts - snowboarding, toboggan runs, ice skating, winter walking trails, snow shoeing, ice climbing, paragliding and hang gliding, horse riding and sleigh rides. Most of these are available throughout the winter season but spring offers better visibility to witness these activities and enjoy them vicariously.
If for some reason you want to take a break from skiing or decide that it is not your cup of tea, the great thing about being based in Mayerhofen is that you are only 45 minutes away from Innsbruck. With the Alps in the background, the city offers everything from lovely views to art and architecture to gourmet food to swanky cafes to clubbing to shopping! In less than an hour you can discard your skis, flee the mountains and be in terra firma for a city holiday.
In addition to all of the above, the experience of watching expert skiers hurtle down the Hara-kiri piste (the steepest slope in Austria) is in itself entertaining and breathtaking.
In the forthcoming ski season (winter 2015) Mayerhofen plans to introduce a state-of-the-art ski gondolas that are stated to transport more people in less time. It make sense to plan in advance and reserve your spot to ski these scenic slopes in glorious spring sunshine :-)
Travel tip shared by Uma