Nowhere else are there so many different types of slopes, events and family…
Tips for a Day in Sölden
Sölden holds a special place in the hearts of party people worldwide, but a day with in-the-know local Rudi Wyhlidal shows it has much more to offer than just pitchers and parties. Rudi, originally from Lower Austria, came to Sölden 18 years ago to work here as a snowboard instructor – and has not looked back since. Today he works as a photographer, is married to a local girl and has kindly agreed to take a little time out to show us “his” Sölden.
Rudi Wyhlidal, our local guide in Sölden.
08:30 // A ski resort rich in contrasts
Our day with Rudi starts over a cup of cappuccino at s’Rimele Café, a fave hangout for locals. Despite his roots being further east in the province of Lower Austria near Vienna, Rudi very much considers himself one of them and is proud to call Sölden his home. Just around the corner from where we are sitting is the base of the new Giggijochbahn gondola, an eye-catching contemporary building full of steel and concrete located next to an old log cabin. Sölden, it seems, is a harmony of contrasts. Forget the classic early-morning rush – this state-of-the-art cable car has an innovative queuing system to avoid build-ups at busy periods. Resembling an underground station, the cabins move through in a straight line, enabling skiers and snowboarders – including us – to hop on quickly and maximise use of the gondola's transport capacity. “It's such an improvement on the old cable car,” says Rudi.
The Giggijochbahn gondola above Sölden offers easy access to the high mountains.
The Giggijoch mountain is a good place to start the ski day.
After our first run of the day down the Fun Slope, Rudi is keen to show us the views from the top of the Roßkirpl chairlift looking into the Pollestal Valley. “I sometimes ride my mountain bike there in summer," he tells me as we gaze down. "And if you want to go up even higher you can take the Schwarzkogllift chairlift. The views there are fabulous."
This amazing viewpoint is located next to the top terminal of Roßkirpl Chair Lift.
10:30 // Three mountains above 3,000 metres
Rudi tells us that the Tiefenbachkogel and Schwarze Schneid mountains on the glacier also offer great vistas. They are two of the "Big 3" – three peaks in Sölden above 3,000 metres which can all be reached by cable car. Later that day we will visit the third of them, the 3,058-metre-high Gaislachkogel with its 270-degree views taking in the Venter Tal Valley, the nearby resorts Obergurgl-Hochgurgl, the Timmelsjoch ridge and even over the border into Italy as well as, of course, down to the village of Sölden far below.
Spectacular: The view down on the ski run from the top of Gaislachkogel Peak.
Metal steps at the top station of Gaislachkogl Gondola enable non-alpinists to conquer a three-thousand meter peak for a perspective usually reserved for expert mountaineers.
11:30 // Where style reigns supreme: Sölden Snow Park
As a diehard snowboarder and former park designer, it’s only natural that the Sölden Snow Park on the Giggijoch mountain is one of Rudi’s favourite spots in the resort. “It might not be the most massive of terrain parks, but it offers something for everyone from novices to experts.” Snow Park Sölden and the Media Obstacle have made this spot at the end of the Ötztal Valley famous amongst snowboarders and freestyle skiers the world over. “At the end of each winter season we would build a giant obstacle and invite top skiers, boarders, filmmakers and photographers. That was so much fun.”
Snow heroes leap, carve and stomp landings in some of the most beautiful terrain parks in Tirol, the Sölden Snow Park.
"While Giggijoch mountain is for beginners, families and freestylers, the adjacent Gaislachkogel mountain offers challenging terrain for advanced and expert skiers and snowboarders," Rudi tells us, adding that there is also some excellent off-piste terrain for freeriding.” Thanks to its high altitude, the glacier ski area covering two glaciers called the Rettenbachferner and Tiefenbachferner is the perfect spot for early-season skiing in October and November. It offers acres of wide-open terrain fo cruising, similar to the runs on the Giggijoch mountain. There is, however, one notable exception – the steep race piste which hosts the traditional opening race of the FIS Alpine Skiing World Cup each October.
Breathtaking: The View of Rettenbach Glacier from the top of Gaislachkogel.
12:30 // Time for a little lunch on the mountain
A morning full of skiing has left us pretty hungry, so we decide it's time for lunch. Rudi takes us to Gampe Thaya, a traditional hut next to the slopes. “This place is great – perfect for a hearty lunch. They make a lot of their own produce here. It's just really good handmade food instead of the mass-produced stuff you get elsewhere." After a feast of Spätzle (a kind of pasta with lots of cheese), dumplings and Kaiserschmarrn (thick pancakes cut up into pieces and served with icing sugar and cranberry jam), we can only agree.
The Gampe Thaya hut is several hundred years old and offers a charming setting for lunch next to the ski slopes.
When it comes to on-mountain eateries, Rudi has a few more tips for me. A visit to the Bratkartoffelhütte and the Hühnersteign in Rettenbachtal Valley is always worth its while, he says. And among the larger, more commercial places he recommends the Restaurant Giggijoch. "The food there is really good." Last but not least, visitors with a taste for high-end dining and the requisite budget to match should take the Gaislachkogelbahn cable car up to the ice Q. This exclusive eatery is an architectural highlight in its own right and was used as a shooting location for the James Bond blockbuster Spectre. The floor-to-ceiling windows offer majestic views of the peaks.
15:00 // Shopping at Sporthütte Fiegl
Back down in the village we pay a visit to Sporthütte Fiegl. Rudi tells me it is his favourite sports store: "There are lots of places in Sölden selling gear and clothing for outdoor activities, but I tend to come here. They're really friendly and know what they are talking about."
16:00 // Burgers, craft beer and live music
Sölden is just as famous for its nightlife as it is for its ski slopes. There are loads of bars and clubs, but Rudi suggests we head over to a place called Bierhimmel known for its good beer and live music. Just a stone's throw away is the aptly named Live, a small venue in the heart of the village with live music every week. And as the evening progresses, we make our way to Katapult, Sölden’s classic nighttime music and dancing spot. Fans of dance music will not want to miss the Electric Mountain Festival hosting some of the world's best DJs at the end of the ski season. “I am more into rock than dance music,” says Rudi. We decide to grab something to eat at the JaTi Burger Restaurant, Rudi’s favourite place to load up on carbs after a long day of snowboarding. The place’s home-away-from-home vibe is just one small part of the reason that he likes it a lot. This is where we meet Rudi’s wife Anja and Jussi, their son. The restaurant serves wonderful craft beer along with superb burgers with intriguing names such as Black Beauty and sweet potato fries. The décor is inspired by an antique shop with upcycling touches.
19:00 // Good places to stay the night
Looking for a place that feels more like a friend’s vacation home and won’t break the bank? Sölden offers a wide selection of accommodation for every budget. For B&Bs, Rudi recommends the recently renovated Sun Alpin. Those with a taste for luxury should check in at the Hotel Central, the Die Berge Lifestyle Hotel, the Hotel Bergland or the Hotel Vaya. When Rudi first came to Sölden 18 years ago, he stayed at a place located on the very spot where today the Vaya Hotel stands. Chic, modern and stylish, it has got rave reviews since opening.
The five-star Hotel Vaya in Sölden offers luxurious accommodation for discerning travellers.
As the evening draws to a close, it's time to reflect on what has been a really enjoyable day. Sölden is a world-class ski resort that combines innovative ski-lift technology with fine dining on-mountain restaurants, quaint and rustic alpine lodges and a legendary terrain park. The village itself has lots of sports stores, restaurants and bars and clubs to dance the night away. One thing's for sure – I'll be back!