Sölden is one of the two Ötz valley resorts blessed with a great snow record and a season longer than is usual in Austria.
While Obergurgl is higher, smaller and likes to think of itself as a little bit exclusive, Sölden embraces a brasher more lively and, dare one say, more up-to-date reputation.
That's not to say that the town is solely good for partying - just that it has become popular for a younger generation of skiers and boarders and the après ski has grown to fulfil the needs of that market.
Sölden also 'starts' the winter season in Europe by hosting the first World Cup ski race of the season in October, held on the glacier slopes in front of thousands of fans.
Outside that race period it also acts as a training centre for national ski teams and ski instructor courses, as well as hosting thousands who can't wait for the 'proper' ski season to start elsewhere. Currently it is the European base for the US Ski Team.
It is also one of the more popular areas in Austria for snowboarders, attracted by the wide open slopes, almost all of which are above the treeline, and the strong snow record.
The town itself sprawls along the main road up the Ötz valley, with the town centre just five minutes' walk from the base station of the lifts. A lot of the accommodation is hotel or guesthouse based but there are also apartment houses available in the centre.
There is not a tremendous choice for those looking to stay nearby outside Sölden. Längenfeld is the nearest town further down the valley but the daily journey on the ski bus or by car would not be particularly appealing. Further up the road in between Sölden and Obergurgl is the hamlet of Zwieselstein, which is very small and without much in the way of atmosphere. (See the Hotels and Travel tabs above for details about booking your own accommodation and making your own way to the resort).
Location: Sölden is situated high up in the Ötz valley in between the Inn valley and the Italian border.
Access: The resort is not too far away from the Inn valley motorway, but public transport is limited to buses and the road can be tricky in bad weather.
Sölden Ski Positives
- long long season due to integration of glacier skiing into main resort
- extensive single resort ski area
- excellent altitude and generally good snow conditions
- boisterous 'party'-style après-ski
Sölden Ski Negatives
- can get very crowded, especially on certain runs, during busy periods
- not good for beginners and timid intermediate skiers
- slopes not wonderful in bad weather
- boisterous 'party'-style après-ski
Sölden Ski Information
Sölden's ski area can be split into three sections.
Looking up from the village, to the left is the area below the Gaislachkogl. The top lift offers a run with a drop from more than 3000m down to resort level at just under 1400m.
This side has a nice mix of open intermediate runs and connects over to the other non-glacier side, the Giggijoch area above Hochsölden.
This part of the ski area hosts both the easiest and toughest runs. The run from the Hainbachjoch to the village offers the opportunity to take a black from top to bottom, while the neighbouring area above the Giggijoch has a network of confidence-building wide blue runs.
This side is also the one which connects into the glacier part of the ski area. The connecting runs and lifts are nothing wildly interesting but have enabled the authorities to make both the Rettenbach and Tiefenbach glaciers accessible for winter use. The glaciers, which are linked by a road tunnel and a connecting high-altitude tunnel for skiers, offer shorter intermediate runs with top stations at well over 3000m
The glacier ski area has 10 lifts and covers around 35km of terrain, while the non-glacier terrain covers 150km with 35 lifts.
Ski Pass Prices 2017/2018
A day pass for the Sölden ski area will cost 53 Euros and a six-day pass will cost 285 Euros. There are reductions for the pre-Christmas period, part of January and from the end of March, as well as a special glacier-only early autumn rate.
Ski Slope Verdict
- Sölden is not a wonderfully good resort for beginner skiers or families. Slopes can be crowded with skiers and snowboarders - probably the best idea would be to head up to the Giggijoch area for easier slopes.
- Sölden on the other hand is excellent for intermediate skiers. The link to the glacier has not only enabled more snow-sure skiing but it has substantially increased the terrain and the length of season.
- Sölden is not a bad option for advanced skiers. There are some black runs - admittedly not tremendously tough - and some good long runs from the highest lifts all the way down to the village. Powder skiing is good with fresh snow in the wide-open bowls above the village.
How To Get To Sölden
Distance to Innsbruck Airport (AT): 80km
Distance to Allgäu Airport (DE): 190km
Distance to Bodensee Airport (DE): 210km
Distance to Salzburg Airport (AT): 260km
Distance to Zurich Airport (CH): 280km
Distance to Munich Airport (DE): 290km
Nearest railway station to Sölden: Ötztal Bahnhof - 37km
The distances above give a good idea of why the ski resorts of Sölden and Obergurgl received such a boost from the expansion of winter charter flights into Innsbruck Airport.
Innsbruck is the most convenient airport by a long way - from the other options, the three larger airports (Salzburg, Munich and Zürich) are probably the best bet both for the choice of flights and better public transport and road access.
There is no train service up the Ötz valley - the nearest railway station is down in the Inn valley at the entrance. Public transport up the valley is by means of a fairly regular bus service.
Car hire is available from all airports - links to rental car availability in the different countries are listed below and open in a new window:
Whichever way drivers are coming from they will need to get onto the Inn valley motorway. From the west that means through the Arlberg Tunnel and past Imst and from the south and east past Innsbruck and Telfs. Those arriving from the north have a variety of choices: it is possible to take the Inn valley motorway from the east via Kufstein as above or to head over the Seefeld plateau (via Garmisch) or over the Fern Pass (via Reutte).
One of the Ötz valley features are the different 'levels' where the valley opens out and then narrows again to climb to the next level. This means that the main road can be steep, winding and narrow in places and care should be taken that the car has the correct winter equipment.
Town Altitude: 1380m
The ski season for the main ski area opens for winter 2017/2018 on 16 November and runs through to 22 April. The glaciers open in September and run through to 01 May.
Sölden Tourist Office: www.soelden.com
Sölden Weather Forecast: www.weatheraustria.net
Regional Tourist Office: www.oetztal.com
Sölden Ski School: www.skischule-soelden.com
Austrian Railways (includes public bus services): www.oebb.at