Autumn merges seamlessly with winter. At Rettenbach Glacier, where the stars of the Alpine ski racing scene will celebrate the World Cup Season Opening on 17 and 18 October, holidaymakers who are not so fast are allowed to wedel down the glacier slopes afterwards. Or at the same time as the top athletes on Sölden's second glacier which lies just behind it - Tiefenbach Glacier. Definitely in the eternal snow that is never too hard and never too slushy, but rather soft as butter - ideal for all skill levels. Yes, it's different this time. But it's still Ötztal. With all its great challenges, its people, its memorable experiences.
Holidays from the perspective of a regular guest in times of Covid-19
Yes, it's different. But it's still Ötztal.
Autumn in Ötztal. Getting away from everyday life on the mountain, fresh air. No noise in the heart and mind. Far from the crowds. Mindfulness everywhere. Where nobody has a problem keeping the necessary distance and the risk of Covid-19 germs is much lower than in the big city. But then Germany's Federal Foreign Office declared the whole of Tirol to be a risk area. Despite all the precautionary measures that are being taken in Austria's third largest province to put a stop to the pandemic. An example: Ötztal. I didn't hesitate long when the call of the mountains reached me in the north German lowlands. Breathing in crystal clear mountain air, following familiar paths, conquering new peaks - at least what flatlanders understand by a peak.
White peaks, colorful forests
Cinema at its best
Snapshot. Cinema at its most. Steam rises into the clear September sky from the three outdoor bowls of the Aqua Dome. The mountain tops of the Ötztal Alps seem close enough to touch. I ask the pool attendant about health regulations. "In the past, 1500 guests were allowed to stay at the Aqua Dome at the same time, now there are only 750 who also have to register online,” he explains. "The number of people in the pools and bowls is also limited, my colleagues and I pay close attention to it." In any case, temperatures of all guests are taken in the hotel and in the thermal baths without any exception.
Change of location: On the Acherkogel mountain gondola I float from Oetz up to Hochoetz. Although this year it closes already on 11 October. But just in time for the winter season, on 05 December, it will go into operation again to transport snow fans to the Hochoetz family ski area with its 13 mountains lifts and 39 slope kilometers in eight minutes. Topped by the free offer to use also the superb slopes of Kühtai with the same lift ticket. In summer after a short ascent, in winter directly connected by chairlift, fresh apple strudel awaits me at cozy Bielefelder Hütte.
Even up here, at an altitude of 2112 meters, where all of Oetz and the Inntal Valley are at my feet, face masks are required. "Overnight guests have to register in advance," explains hut tenant Werner Schöpf. “Even some local Tiroleans come up and say that they didn't know how nice it is to go hiking up here. Many people want to test our ski area soon."
The fact that the evening closing time is at 10.00 pm in the whole valley is no problem at all. Instead of going to the bar and après-ski, vacationers take the chance to chat with the neighbors at the next table, enjoy talking about the catch of four trout with the Swiss fly fisherman at four-star-plus Posthotel Kassl in Oetz, diving into the huge wellness parlor or having a drink at the 120 year old Art Nouveau hotel bar.
"The saunas can now only be used upon reservation, one household per sauna," explains Philipp Haid, one of the two junior bosses. "Additionally, the entire staff is tested once a week at a mobile test station. Upon request, the guests too."
"People enjoy activities in nature," confirm Christiane and Myriam Riml from the sports shop of the same name in Sölden. "However," the two sisters state, "guests take a closer look at the prices." Therefore, no price increase for ski equipment is planned for the coming winter. Because even if the travel warning in Germany is extended to the next few months, winter sports enthusiasts from Austria and other countries will appreciate the relaxed and uncrowded conditions on the slopes and cross-country ski trails.
The photo motifs are truly unbeatable: sheep, cows and Haflinger horses come into the camera's focus in the Mountaineering Village of Vent without any disruptive factors, and if you are lucky, even a huge marmot that has been storing fat for winter. The Trail of Senses in Hochoetz promises contemplative moments. A project by secondary school students from Oetz. Although the sayings on the 19 stations were put up years ago, their meaning seems to have its real justification today. Proverbs like: "Start to marvel, thank and pray again!"
One can also marvel at the surprising parallel universe that opens up in Sölden's Silent Part. The serviced Alpine pasture huts, mountain meadows - on the torrent and in the untouched forests. As a contrast program and with a view of the valley's lively opposite part. Despite or perhaps because of the pandemic, you experience the different moods of the mountains and lakes that change their face every day. Celebrating life with others or alone. Concentrate on yourself from time to time, without any distraction. Let the magic of Ötztal work on you - in a sustainable way. Even if it cannot charm away the problems of everyday life and the worries about Corona that are waiting for us at home.
I preserved the motivation to keep it rolling - in my running shoes and hopefully soon in my mountain and ski boots again. I also took a booking confirmation for my next ski holiday with me. Come what may come!