Söll is part of the largest ski area in Austria, yet feels remarkably unassuming. It has a wonderful laid-back atmosphere, yet dynamic après-ski and superb skiing facilities. Read on to find out why skiing in Söll should be next on your travel list.
I’m sitting on the runway in Munich airport, looking out at the snow covered ground, thinking back over the last few days skiing in Söll. I check my watch, as the pilot announces a short delay, while we get the all clear that the plane has been fully de-iced. I should still land in plenty of time to collect my kids from school. This was a sudden jolt back to reality – a far cry from paragliding off the top of a mountain which I did 24 hours previously…
I absolutely love skiing, I find it exhilarating. The sense of achievement when I ski from the top of a mountain is so rewarding. Skiing is the only time when I completely switch off. Standing at the top of Hohe Solve, the highest mountain in the Ski Welt region, all I could think about was skiing down that mountain. The fact that it is the highest skiable mountain throughout the region probably added to my apathy for anything else! For those two hours and throughout my time skiing, I didn’t check notifications on my phone, I didn’t think about work emails, I just freed my mind and skied. Four days of skiing in Söll without hearing the word ‘Brexit’ – that in itself is telling!
I was fortunate to be invited by the Söll Tourist Board and Aer Lingus to see the superb facilities available for Irish skiers in Söll. I travelled with a group of five guys from RTE 2FM’s Eoghan McDermott show, who were broadcasting live from Soll for two days.
Why choose Söll?
We flew into Munich airport, which is only a ninety minute transfer to Söll – this is relatively short, compared to other ski destinations. Aer Lingus fly twice daily from Dublin and also weekly from Cork. They also have weekly flights to Salzburg so it is easily accessible for Irish travellers. This is one of the reasons why it is one of the most popular ski resorts for Irish holidaymakers and why 2FM choose Söll for their outside broadcast.
One of the other reasons for Söll’s popularity is the skiing facilities – they are superb. Söll is located in the Ski Welt region, Austria’s largest skiing area. It connects nine different villages, with 280 km of piste and 90 different lifts. Your lift pass enables you to ski into these resorts including Westendorf, Elmau and Scheffau. Don’t worry if you are not an advanced skier, there are plenty of easy ‘Blue’ runs. The ski slopes are colour coded, Blue being easy, Red, intermediate and Black, advanced. There is also an excellent ski-school available, so whether you are a beginner or advanced skier, there are lessons available for everyone.
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There are some beautiful runs through the woods too. I skied down an easy blue run and loved it. Another popular run, the ‘Witches Wood’ is more suited to advanced skiers. You can also race your friends on the timed Red Viper ski trial. This is automatically recorded so you can download it and watch yourself excel on the slopes, or in my case, falling over! Söll even has a piste with ski moguls (or jumps). Suffice to say there are plenty of options for advanced skiers here.
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Söll is also home to the largest night-time skiing piste in Austria, so if you fancy spending the afternoon in the spa, you can always pop back to the slopes in the evening time. Another option at night-time is tobogganing. We tried this the first night and loved it. There are two different toboggan runs in Söll, needless to say we tried them both! There are long ski runs and each one takes about a half hour to complete. This is something that a whole family or group of friends can enjoy together.
There is more to Söll than skiing.
There are also plenty of other activities available if you fancy a day off the slopes. Snowshoeing is becoming more and more popular and if you happen to get clear skies, like I did, paragliding is another super choice. I tried this before in Cape Town and loved it, but paragliding off Hohe Solve mountain was even better. It is 1800 meters above sea level, 1000 meters higher than Signal Hill in Cape Town and the views were spectacular. Wolfgang, my instructor from Fly2, made me feel right at ease, even when we were jumping off a slope with skiers all around us! The scenery was breathtaking, the combination of white snowy mountain peaks and clear blue skies is something I will never forget.
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It is also possible to book a husky ride. The owners bring the huskies to Söll from the nearby village of Seefeld. We were allowed to pet the huskies and I immediately fell for ‘Blue eyes’. The ride itself is quite short so really more suited to children, or adults who really love husky dogs! At a reasonable price of €30 per person though, you need to book in advance if you want to try it.
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Söll has great facilities for families. The kids-club / kindergarten teaches kids from age two how to ski in a secured snow park. With fun snow bunnies to hold on to, they will be skiing better than you in no time! Check out the family ski weeks where children under 15 can get a free lift pass. See more here.
For experienced skiers who may not wish to book ski school, Söll offers free ski-guides on selected dates. These will take you on a tour of the mountain and advise you which lifts and slopes will best suit your ability. Once you are able to ski on a red slope you will be eligible, but these need to be booked in advance. See more here.
Söll is great value for money
Skiing in Söll is relatively inexpensive compared to other ski resorts. Lift passes cost from €211 for six days compared to €294 in France. Drinks are much cheaper than France too – this is true for most parts of Austria. A pint of Stiegel beer costs about €4 in Söll, the equivalent in Val d’Isere is about €8. Stiegel also happens to taste great by the way! Make sure you try the hazelnut Schnapps too – it also goes very well with Baileys 😉
Dining out is not that expensive either. Many people choose hotels with evening meals included, but if you happen to be staying in one of the many B&Bs or apartments available, there are some great options for dining out. Sölls pretty village, complete with an 8th century Tyrolean church, is a pleasure to walk around, with a wide selection of dining options to choose from.
Söll is renowned for fine dining
There are 77 different restaurants in Soll. We ate in BellaVita in the centre of town and it was superb. The coconut and pumpkin soup was delicious. The steaks, burgers and the Thai chicken curry were all good too.
Another favourite of mine in the centre of Söll is the Feldwebel. Try the local dish of Gröstl, a combination of meat and potatoes with an egg on top, served with homemade coleslaw. It’s hearty and full of flavour, just what you want after a day on the slopes. I had the goats cheese and bacon starter and that was very tasty too. They also make a great wiener schnitzel – sure it would be rude not to….
You can also choose to dine on the mountain, and with night-skiing available from Thursday – Sunday, it is a great opportunity to ski to dinner. Many choose to have lunch on the mountain as it can be a great meeting point if you happen to be at different ski schools from your friends or family. Make sure you try Alpengasthoff Hochsöll. This is your picture postcard restaurant on the ski slopes. Depending on how hungry you are, try the chicken salad or the mixed grill.
Söll has superb après-ski
Söll has a reputation for having great après-ski, and after spending four nights there, I can wholeheartedly agree! There is live music from about 4pm every day in many of the bars. Expect to hear plenty of U2 classics as well as ‘I’m gonna be’ from the Proclaimers. There are plenty of feel-good songs you are guaranteed to sing-a-long to! You can choose to let loose and stay out all night, or do what many people do and enjoy a few hours of après-ski before dinner and then have an early night. This is ideal if you are travelling with kids, or want to take your skiing seriously. You can still enjoy the après-ski without the late night.
Of course if you are a night owl, there is plenty to keep you entertained in Söll. Whisky Mühle was my favourite hangout. The atmosphere was electric with three live bands playing in different parts of the venue. The Moonlight bar is a great choice in the afternoon too as it is located at the bottom of the ski slopes and has a DJ from 3pm.
I naively assumed that the après-ski was the main reason that skiing in Söll was so popular with Irish travellers – apologies for the stereotype! While this is in fact true, (the great après ski, not the stereotype), there is so much more to Söll than Irish bars and Patricks Day parades. Although they actually turn one of the ski-slopes green for St Patricks Day!
Söll is unassuming and has the ability to appeal to everyone. I love it’s carefree, laid-back atmosphere. You won’t find five-star hotels and art galleries, but instead a charming traditional village with a great heart. In fact I enjoyed Söll so much I am going back for New Year with my family. I can’t think of a better way to slide into 2020 than on the ski slopes of Söll.
How to get there:
Aer Lingus flies twice daily from Dublin to Munich and weekly from Dublin Salzburg. There is also a weekly Saturday service from Cork to Munich. Fares start from €39.99 one-way to Munich including taxes and charges and from €55.99 to Salzburg. Visit aerlingus.com and check out Four Seasons Travel for airport transfers.
Where to stay:
We stayed in the AlpenPanorama hotel which is located about eight minutes walk from the town centre and twenty minutes walk to the gondola station. A free ski-bus takes you from the hotel to the gondola station and back. There are many other hotel and apartment options on the Ski Welt website as well as information on skiing in Söll and the Ski Welt region.