Ski, sled and party in Sölden
Europe offers a ridiculous amount of places for the ultimate skiing vacation. Switzerland is of course at the top of that list, but when you don’t want to spend an absolute fortune for a few days of fun, consider heading to Sölden, Austria. This small mountain town is geared entirely toward outdoor activities, especially skiing/snowboarding. Almost every storefront is filled with ski gear and the local bars and restaurants advertise themselves as après ski establishments. Several hotels in the area are ski in/out and everything is within walking distance. While there are certainly ski schools for the kids, you might want to find a babysitter and do an adult only trip to Sölden.
Where to stay: Pension Klaus hotel is directly on the ski slope and offers the perfect ski in/out location. With cozy rooms and a decent breakfast, you can’t ask for much more out of your hotel during a vacation geared toward getting on the slopes as quickly as possible. The room balconies offer amazing views of the surrounding mountains and are the perfect place to enjoy your morning coffee. The hotel is within a two-minute walk to the free center shuttle, which is constantly running up and down the mountain from 8:30 a.m. - midnight. Everything in the town is within walking distance of the shuttle.
Ski passes: Ski passes are sold at various locations, but if you are staying at Pension Klaus hotel, Philipp is the closest place to get your pass and within a two-minute walk. During peak season (Dec. 22 - Jan. 11 and Jan. 26 - April 28) ski passes are 54.50 euros for one day or 158.50 for three days, including all ski resorts in the Ötztal. Passes are available for up to 14 days.
Sledding: Switch from skis to sleds for even more winter fun. Sleds are available to rent for 8 euros at the sports shops next to the base station of Gaislachkogl mountain gondola. There is a toboggan run open daily from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. for free with valid ski passes or 12 euros without a ski pass. The run is almost a mile long! If you want to speed down the mountain on a sled at night, you can do that too on Wednesdays from 6 - 9 p.m. The bus (line 50) to the sled hill leaves every 20 minutes. Bus tickets for night sledding are 12 euros for ski pass holders or 15 euros without a ski pass.
Food on the hill: When you work up an appetite but don’t want to leave the mountain, visit alpine hut Gampe Thaya. You’ll have a panoramic view of the surrounding mountains and the option to try some traditional Tyrolean food. Try the käsespätzle or hauswurst for a hearty lunch. The next day try Stabele Alm, where the schnitzel, cordon bleu and radlers (beer and lemonade) are on point!
Après ski: Philipp is a great place to grab an after ski drink. Another great location is the umbrella bar, called Schirmbar. From cold drinks to hot mulled wine and a DJ, this place is ideal for hanging out after a long day of skiing.
Dinner: For some quality Italian food, head to Restaurant and Pizzeria Gusto. For a great deal on a lot of food, go to Vaya Bar & Grill. Their menu includes an American beef flank steak that feeds four people (seriously) for 89 euros and includes four sides and two sauces. Your group is sure to leave feeling delightfully full after chowing down on some fantastic steak. For a quick bite to eat, find Jati- Burger Bar & Craft Beer. This restaurant was once a shoemakers store and is now serving up local beef burgers. The menu is limited, but great if you just want a quality burger.
Shopping: You’ll find winter weather gear galore here, but minimal tourist-type knick-knacks. The town is very small, so you’ll have plenty of time to walk up and down the main road looking at the brightly colored ski jackets in the windows; however, if you’re after a homemade gift to bring home with you, this is not the place to buy it.
The best views: For an incredibly epic view of the surrounding mountains and the town itself, head up to the Ice Q restaurant and James Bond “Specter” (2015) movie filming location, located 10,000 feet above sea level and surrounded by over 250 towering mountains. Here you’ll find a gourmet restaurant and a tapas lounge with a panoramic terrace offering some of the best views imaginable. For the real James Bond fans- head into the 007 Elements portion of the glass building to completely immerse yourself in the 007 world. Tickets to 007 Elements are 22 euros for adults and can be purchased online or on site. Keep in mind that it takes two gondola rides to get to the location by using the Gaislachkoglbahn. You will need either a valid ski pass to access the gondolas or you will need a ticket to get on them. A combined Gaislachkoglbahn and 007 Elements ticket is 54 euros.
Park the car at the hotel and don’t worry about moving it again after you get to Sölden. Don’t forget to cool off with a beer on the mountain or heat things up at one of the nightclubs because Sölden is a great place for the ultimate winter getaway!