Monday 24 December 2007

Skiing on the Zugspitze at Garmisch

I went skiing earlier this week on the Zugspitze ski field in the Bavarian Alps. It was a beautiful sunny day, no clouds, unlimited visibility, warm, no queues and good snow. Despite no fresh powder, the small amount of powder was nice, and it was nice not to be skiing on ice!

In terms of finding out details about how to ski at Garmisch I found details to be lacking a bit on various websites, so here is my attempt to explain some of it from my experience.

The Zupspitze is the highest mountain in Germany and the snow (according to the guy in the snow rental shop) is the best up there, as opposed to the numerous other ski areas around. I hired skis, boots and poles from a place on the corner of Alpspitzstra├če and Sankt-Martin-Stra├če called Thomas Ski Schule or something like that. I don't know if it's the cheapest but the the gear was good enough (€28). I was also wanting to hire goggles but they unfortunately don't hire them so I bought some instead (my other ones are a bit old anyway). They also didn't hire helmets for adults, but this wasn't a biggie for this field (imho) unless you're wanting to hit the terain park.

In order to get to the ski field I took the Zupspitzbahn (cost ~€38 including access to all lifts on mountain) which is a cogwheel train that goes up to the ski field (the Zugspitzplatz area), from it's station next door to the main train station. There is essentially nothing at this station expect for a ticket office and the train (of course). I took the first train (8.15am) and about an hour later arrived at the ski field which was practically empty. I actually took a taxi to the station it left from because I didn't want to walk with skis, boots, poles etc 1km to the station (cost ~€9). I got there early and found no queue at all. It was very easy to buy a ticket and the guy in the counter spoke great English (like most people in Germany). I then put my skis on the side of the train and went inside to the nicely heated interior with my poles and boots. At this point I hadn't put my ski boots on, but many others had. The trip was very scenic with snow everywhere.

Once off the train, I went to the outside area and put on my ski boots and put my other shoes in my day pack. I think there was an area with lockers but my bag was so light I ended up skiing with it on. The ski area starts from this area (I recommend heading left and down for intermedia and above skiiers/boarders, to the right is essentially the beginners area although it can be a good place to start for others too) and there are a couple of restaurants here with reasonably high prices; it would be worth taking a little bit of stuff up with you. A super small tube of sunblock also set me back €9.20 so it would be worth taking that with you too if it looks like it will be a sunny day. In terms of the runs, they're well marked, and fairly self explanatory in terms of how to get back to this main area (although it might take a t-bar and a chairlift to do so). Incidentally there was only the one charlist and every else was a t-bar.

The vast majority of people on the field were skiiers, not snowboarders which was something different. The field is nice and wide and a great place to practice turns, but not much in the way of things to jump off or walls to back up (that I saw anyway). I did lots and lots of runs. It is actually quite a fast field, whereby there were a number of times when you need to go at a decent speed in order to make it up the next hill, but this didn't pose a problem at all for me.

In terms of getting back down I decided to take the cable car down from the summit to the Eibsee. Whilst I had heard this was faster, in my case it definitely wasn't. The other option is to simply go back on the Zugspitzbahn (which I would recommend). I changed back to my walkign shoes at this point, but many didn't. In terms of the way I went, there is a cable car up to the summit from the main Zupspitzeplatz area which left about every 15mins (and I'd just missed one). Once finally on (standing room only) this only took a few minutes to get to the summit, where there was about a 10min wait for another cablecar down to the Eibsee (NB: you need your ticket, from the journey up the mountain, here to get through the turnstiles). This was also standing room only and took 5-10mins and went down a long way rather quickly (quite exciting). At the bottom there was a short walk (~2min) along a path covered in snow (which was just ok in my shoes) up to the train station where there was a 35min wait until the Zugspitzbahn arrived, which I then boarded (NB: you need your ticket, from the journey up the mountain, here to get through the turnstiles) and eventually (~30mins later) arrived back where I started at the Zugspitzbahn main station.

So that was my day. Great fun and good snow!


  1. Sounds as though you had a thoroughly enjoyable skiing session. Just as well you knew what you were doing.

  2. Skiing on the Zugspitze is an impressive experience. Even the journey to Germany's highest mountainin will provide unique memories of the trip - whether it is the train travelling through the tunnels bored into the heart of the mountains before emerging on the ski area, or the view down from the Eibsee cable car down to the deep blue of the mountain lake below.

    Of course, on days when the snow is perfect and the sun is shining, it's easy to forget how long the train journey is and how uncomfortable the seats can be, or the queues for the cable car in busy periods when the snow is poor at a lower elevation.

  3. My family and I love the snow and every winter holiday, we make sure we go to Jindabyne to have a grand vacation. It is also the bonding time for me and the kids. We snowboard hire at the foot of the mountain so that we won't be having a hard time carrying skis and snowboards from our apartment to the mountain and back.