When you go travelling or on holiday, do you ever go back to the same place more than once? Do you prefer to holiday in a different place each time so you can scratch off more places from your world map, or do you know what you like and keep returning to the same resort, same city, same hotel even?
We do a bit of both. For example we have returned to the same resort for our winter ski break on more than one occasion – we find that going back a second time allows us to explore the mountains further without any of the initial “where are we going, what are we doing” stuff. We’ve also had the pleasure of holidaying in Orlando four (yes FOUR) times – who doesn’t like acting like a child in the theme parks or hitting the outlets and malls?! I really should blog about Orlando, I’ve never shared any of my Disney or Cheesecake Factory thoughts on here.
Obergurgl, though, was different.
The view from Hohe Mut Bahn II in winter and summer.
Up high in the Ötztal Alps in Tyrol, Obergurgl is Austria’s highest parish. The village, which only has around 400 residents, sits at 1,930m (6,330 feet) above sea level, so is at altitude before you even start getting up on the mountain peaks. It apparently became famous in 1931, when the Swiss explorer Auguste Piccard was forced to land on the nearby Großer Gurgler Ferner glacier during his historic balloon flight, during which he became the first man to fly into the stratosphere. But for me it became legendary when we arrived back in January for a week long ski holiday – our first time in the Alps, and it was love at first sight.
We’d picked Obergurgl based on a few important factors. First, an Alpine village with the promise of decent snow and some great runs for our intermediate skiing skills – plenty of blues. Second, we wanted a resort that didn’t boast long lift queues where could stay in a hotel so close to the piste there was practically no walking in stupid ski boots. And finally, we wanted a short transfer; having skied in Arinsal, Andorra with its four hour coach transfer from the airport, we liked that Innsbruck was just an hour or so away. We were definitely not disappointed – Obergurgl (and Hochgurgl, just a gondola ride away).
Same place, a world apart. The difference six months makes in the Austrian Alps.
Not only a great place to ski, Obergurgl and its peaks was also a great place to explore on foot. We made time to get up onto Hohe Mut in our hiking boots to have a wander around at 2,670m (8,760 feet). LincsGeek took that now-a-bit-famous (well famous as in very well used) photograph of me in amongst the mountains and it instantly became my new favourite image. The views were absolutely breath taking, forever etched in our memories. I mean, we’ve seen mountains before, but there was something about the Alps that were so majestic, completely stunning, and all the other similar adjectives that you might use as hyperbole sometimes but are terribly fitting in this case. We had been higher the day before, over in Hochgurgl to the Top Mountain Star, which is at 3,080m (10,104 feet); but being confined to an area behind a fence ruined it a little (only a little, the views were really something). There was definitely something about being on Hohe Mut that felt free, like I wasn’t just stood looking at the mountains but rather was in amongst them, enjoying their splendour without any restrictions.
There was still some flowing water in winter, but in summer it was incredibly fast flowing and I was not brave enough to put my toes in!
We also made time for a hike, well it was either that or just sit around as on one of the days the lifts were closed due to very high winds and the associated avalanche risk, so the resort basically told us “no skiing today”. We did around six miles or so in the deep snow, it was really hard work, but very worth the effort as the views were once again amazing. We headed on a trail that promised a waterfall at the end – well a frozen one anyway – but didn’t get that far as the path was officially closed due to avalanche risk and after going along it anyway for a bit decided it was getting a bit too treacherous for our lack of crampons and poles.
Not quite the same path, but you get the idea.
We decided during that week of winter fun that we really needed a repeat visit, but in the summer when we could explore the area and see what it was like without all the snow. Obergurgl became the destination for our Europe motorcycle road trip, we felt a connection to the village and having an idea of the turn-around-and-go-home point would give our tour some direction. En-route we booked a couple of nights in a guest house and made the point of arriving in time to ride the Timmelsjoch Pass which starts just a mile up the road.
Our main task for our day off the bikes in Obergurgl was to get up onto Hohe Mut and get right in amongst the mountains once again. No hiking boots this time (just can’t fit them in our motorcycle panniers!) but no snow at the top so we were ok in shoes. We took the Hohe Mut Bahn I and II right up to the top, spotting the routes of those blue runs we enjoyed so much back in January all the way up. The mountains look and feel so different without the snow and ice. There was still snow on the top but not where we were stood, and this time we were joined by lots of other people making the most of the hiking trails, as well as herd of noisy goats. We hiked along the top to a research out post, and were treated to great views all the way along. It wasn’t the clearest of days but even in the slightly gloomy cloud the scenery was just amazing. It’s a very long way from Lincolnshire – 2,600 metres higher than the hill I walk up a few times a month.
Oh Hohe Mut.
Once back down in Obergurgl and having eaten the biggest slice of cake in the world for lunch, we headed off to see if we could find that waterfall we’d missed out on earlier on in the year. Several miles of winding mountain trails later we reached it – not quite as spectacular as we had been lead to believe, but still worth the hike (I thought so anyway!).
It was a privilege to retrace our steps, take photos from the same spots, and experience such a marked difference in scenery from one season to another. Obergurgl is truly a beautiful place, in both winter and summer, and I can see why people choose to go there year after year. This wasn’t a case of repeating a holiday but rather going to the same place and having a totally different experience.
You just can’t beat these views.
I definitely recommend Obergurgl as a winter ski holiday and summer hiking trip destination. Go there!