Soll, Austria Aug 02, 2008
Soll is a pleasant little ski town in Tyrol, Austria. It has a population of just 3,500 people so it really is one of the smaller and more intimate ski towns in the region. The town is small and quaint and very easy to get around on foot. This means no long walks or hikes to ski lifts. Though the town is serviced by a ski bus it is not really necessary as the walk is an easy one. Be sure to use the underpass to get across the main road though!
The town itself is very peaceful and relaxed and quite idyllic as it is quite uniform and not over developed. Most of the hotels are small, comfortable family run places. The town does have some life to it though and there are a few good and lively bars as well as a couple of really nice restaurants. Let's face it, the food in ski-hotels isn't always, or even often, top notch. You will always have at least one day of the week where you just don't want anything on the tiny menu! The restaurants are more reliable, good food is their trade. Owners of ski-hotels do their best but at the end of the day they are family run so you can't expect too much.
The town has other basic ammenities, convenience stores, souveneir shops, a small supermarket, pharmacy, church and swimming pool. Soll is nestled in a flat valley so the town is fairly open plan and easy to get around.
Soll is serviced by one gondola lift which takes skiers up to the Hohe Salve. So the station can seem a little mobbed in the mornings but it is well run and the queue moves fast. It is a good idea to have your ski equipment put into storage each evening in the ski shop directly underneath the gondola lift. Also the worst of the queues are easy enough to avoid by arriving just a little early or a little late. If you're not taking ski lessons just avoid the half hour before ski school starts.
Despite the relatively low elevation the Hohe Salve is the tallest peak in the area and the snow and skiing in the SkiWelt is quite extensive, well linked and really enjoyable. There are runs for all levels of skiers and the Black 45 run is steep enough to satisfy any advanced skier or snowboarder, especially as it is made all the more challenging by the thin cover of snow at the top. Your skis will make horrendously loud sounds as they scrape the dusting of snow off the hard ice underneath! It sure is a fun slope though. As you ski towards the beginning of it you wait to see the slope before you but you have to ski all the way to the edge before the incline is unveiled!
Unfortunately the only way down from the peak of the Hohe Salve is via two quick black runs which lead onto other runs, reds and blues. Black 45 has the incline and thin snow and the other black run has the thickest, choppiest, sometimes muckiest snow that you've ever skied on. It's killer on the legs and unfortunately you have to take much of it quite slowly for that reason. Neither run is for beginners or intermediates who tend to get nervous but a trip to the peak should be taken by everyone because the views from the viewing platform are beautiful and extend for eternity. As well as that there is a restaurant with a revolving deck! It's the only outdoor revolving restaurant that I've ever heard of and though always busy it's quite a nice and peaceful experience to eat there.
Many of the restaurants on the mountain are very good and don't leave you hungry or disappointed. In fact some of them are a little too good. You might find yourself having a lazy sunbathe or another couple of cool drinks after lunch and since the sun is always so strong it can be hard to prize yourself away and get back to the skiing. I've been to Soll three times and haven't seen a cloudy day...in fact I've scarcely seen a cloud.
The Ski Welt area is quite extensive and it is easy to get to Scheffau, Hopfgarten, Elmau and Going from the Hohe Salve. You can also ski to Itter and Brixen though the lift system on that side of the mountain doesn't seem to be quite extensive so I've almost always skied to the other side as it's quite easy to make your way back to your neck of the woods.
You can also ski right down to the village. There is a red run and a blue run and both are quite enjoyable. It's a good way to avoid any queues at the end of the day. When the snow cover is good you can ski all the way to the main road. I've even skied through the road underpass...because my skis are my own I don't put them in storage and take them back to my hotel all the time.
Unfortunately the last time I was in Soll was March 2007 and because of the hot weather and the low elevation there was no snow whatsoever in the valley and the snow on the mountain was disappearing by the day. The runs were a little choppier than usual and for the first time in 9 ski trips I encounter watery slush on some shaded runs. People say global warming isn't happening but when you must ski with just a t-shirt on and you see tonnes of snow disappear over night you can be damn sure it is happening! The weather was HOT last year and I've had some very warm marches in Italy, Austria and Andorra before, but this was hot. Due to the low elevation it probably isn't the best place to ski late in the season unless the snow has been good that year. Spring 2007 was quite bad everywhere. Soll did well I think.
Also Gerhard Berger, the formula one driver, has a house near the Hochsoll station. He has his own special, customised gondola car that is attached for when he is in the area!
It's the only place I've skied in three times so obviously I rate it quite highly among ski towns!
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