I love to visit new and less well known ski areas. Not only can you escape the crowds but you often find a hidden gem. Read this review of Damuls-Mellau snowboarding holiday in Bregenzerwald, Austria to find out why you should plan a visit.
We flew from Heathrow to Zurich with Swiss Air. They don’t charge any extra for ski bags, so often work out cheaper than low cost airlines. We could alternatively have flown to Friedrichshafen or Menningen which are both a bit closer to Damuls.
From Zurich we hired a car and drove to Austria. We made the mistake of following SatNav up a closed road and had to backtrack. Normally it would take just over two hours.
Buy a Vignette, the Austrian motorway toll sticker, to avoid a fine. It’s not expensive and can be purchased from petrol stations near the border.
Damuls and Mellau are two ski villages in Vorarlberg, the westernmost state in Austria. In 2009 they were linked together to form the Damuls-Mellau ski area. There are 109 kilometres of slopes from 714 to 2,051 metres.
It’s part of the wider Bregenzerwald region in which 32,000 people live spread across 23 villages. There are 15 ski areas and 247 kilometres of groomed slopes in the region available under the 3TalerPass.
Whilst in Bregenzerwald we were also due to visit Warth-Schröcken which links up with Lech in the mighty Alberg. We also planned to ski Diedamskopf which has a great snowpark.
But due to heavy snow the roads were dangerous. So we stayed in Damuls where conditions were epic!
Having taken a very early flight we arrived in Damuls just after one. At the base station conditions were warm and sunny, worryingly the snow seemed to be melting.
After meeting our guide we took the UGA chair from Damuls base station. There was a big queue, but then it was just after lunch on a sunny saturday in February.
Keen to get going it felt like we queued for a long time. But in reality we were through in less than ten minutes. We used this lift many other times and never queued for more than a minute.
From the top we started heading towards Mellau. Conditions were varied, with soft and spring like snow in the sun towards the bottom and harder but in good condition higher up.
The snow gods had been smiling on Austria with lots of snow so the pistes were in very good condition. However, we’d arrived during one of the busiest days of the winter, so where snow had softened it had become cut up and bumpy on popular slopes.
We took a long route to Mellau taking in the Hohe Wacht, Gipfelbahn, Wildgunten and Suttis chairs. The blacks to the side of Suttis and the long red number 35 into Mellau were a lot of fun during this review of Damuls-Mellau snowboarding holiday in Bregenzerwald.
Next we headed back to Damuls via the impressive new Mellaubahn, Ross Stelle, Gipfelbahn and Elsenkopf lifts. It was after three pm on a busy day, but the pistes away from the easy slopes were still in excellent condition.
The Elsenkopf brings you back to near the UGA. From here we took the number 1 piste to the Hohes Licht chair. At the top there are some very nice views.
We took the number four itinerary run to the Ragaz chair. It’s usually an off-piste area, but we took the pisted run around the edge. I was gazing longingly at the ample off-piste full of interesting but not too challenging terrain.
At 2051 m Ragazer Blanken is the highest point in Damuls-Mellau with spectacular views towards Lake Constance. We took another pisted itinerary route – number eight – down to the bottom of the Sunnegg lift. It’s a lovely run that would be epic in fresh snow.
Below the Sunnegg is a 36.5 degree black slope – the steepest in the area. Instead of taking it on we explored this side of Damuls taking in the Furka and Oberdamuls chairs.
By now the lifts were closing so we did one run back to the Damuls car park. On the way you pass a ‘ski-through’ church which is an interesting quirk.
Back at the car we drove up to the higher carpark from which we were due to be collected by the hotel. Soon enough a snowmobile with trailer pulled up! We chucked our snowboard bags and other luggage in the back and hopped on.
In all my years of snowboarding holidays this was by far the most exciting way I have reached a hotel. The snowmobile journey was pretty fast and a lot of fun. The only downside was it didn’t last long.
Hotel Bergfrieden had only opened that season, so we were among the first guests. The welcome was very warm and the staff were always very friendly. It is family owned and run along with the Restaurant Almstüble next door. So we got to know the staff.
Newly built with modern decor and a mountain feel the Hotel Bergfrieden is light, airy and very comfortable. It is a three star hotel, but everything is finished to a very high standard.
The rooms are big, beds very comfy and there is plenty of storage. There are big windows and a door leading out to a private balcony with great views. The bathroom is pretty big with a very powerful shower that is great after a day on the slopes.
Breakfast was held within the hotel. There was not as much choice as I have enjoyed in bigger Austrian hotels, but there was plenty to fill you up. There were a couple of hot options including eggs plus cereals, fruit, breads, pastries, meat and cheese.
During this review of Damuls-Mellau snowboarding holiday in Bregenzerwald, Austria we had dinner in Restaurant Almstüble next door. As a meat eater I was well fed with schnitzel and other Austrian classics.
The starters and soups were tasty, and puddings were very good. There wasn’t a huge amount of choice but I enjoyed every meal.
Unfortunately my vegetarian buddy was not so well looked after. One night his only ‘option’ was Austrian pancakes – a sweet dessert – as his main course. Weirdly that night I had a pasta side dish with a tomato sauce that was vegetarian. He was disappointed with the food, but didn’t go hungry.
Hotel Bergfrieden is a very nice hotel. It is not luxurious but then it is a three star so it’s not meant to be. The location on the slopes is excellent. Although it made apres a little tricky – more of that later.
On the second day, a sunday, we woke to blue skies. We started the day with a few runs to warm up before hitting the park. It is a very large, varied and creative park with some really interesting features.
The line of four kickers just below the top of the UGA chairlift were fun. They fall between a blue and a red, so you have to commit otherwise you won’t make it to the landing. I enjoyed them but prefer smaller kickers to try tricks.
In total there are over 60 freestyle features across four different snowpark areas, including beginner, kids and pro lines. For a jibster the park would be a dream with many boxes, rails and creative features.
The majority of the features are for serious freestylers – not for me I prefer kickers. However I hit a few boxes and some of the easier features. I had a lot of fun and can confirm the Damuls Snowpark is very good.
After lunch we started to make our way over to the Mellau area, but the wind was picking up, visibility was poor and bad weather was coming in. We did a few more runs on the Damuls slopes but when the high lifts close due to wind we decided to test out the apres.
Well known for it’s pop up bars, even the smallest Austrian resort can have fun apres. We headed to the pop up bar just upslope of the Hotel Gasthof Walisgaden, near the top of the Walisgaden lift.
The day before it had been banging, unfortunately it was nowhere near as busy. I guess being a Sunday and the weather poor people had gone home.
We persevered for a few beers as the ‘crowd’ thinned. But as the only remaining customers the bar shut soon after the slopes closed. The barmaid recommended we try the Scharfes Eck at the base of the UGA lift.
This left us with a difficult decision, do we head down for more beers where it might be lively, knowing we will have to walk up to our hotel? Or do we snowboard back to our hotel and have some quiet beers?
Of course we chose to go out. We even enjoyed a few cm of pow on the way down! The bar was not exactly banging, but it was busy enough to have an atmosphere. We stayed for a few more drinks, leaving once it got quiet at about 8 pm.
The walk back to our hotel was long and exhausting. It had been snowing heavily since we stopped riding and there was 10-20 cm of snow already. So we set out along the road to the car park then had to slog up the hill to our hotel.
A bit drunk we took what we thought was a shortcut. Predictably it ended up being much harder. Eventually we arrived for dinner just before they finished serving for the night. After the meal we ended up doing shots with the owners…
The third day of this review of Damuls-Mellau snowboarding holiday in Bregenzerwald dawned with cloudy skies and cloudy heads. It was still snowing heavily and visibility was terrible.
We were due to head to Warth-Schrocken for a day of guided off-piste. But roads were closed, avalanche risk was high and conditions poor. So we took a rain – or should I say snow? – check.
A quick look outside and there was a lot of fresh snow. Easily knee deep and probably more. But most of the lifts were closed and visibility was about as bad as it gets.
Excited by the fresh snow we wolfed down breakfast and hit the slopes as soon as we could. Apart from a few short lifts only the Sunnegg lift was open.
We headed up the Sunnegg and were among the first to come back down the 36.5 degree itinerary run. It was a pretty serious start to the day, but a lot of fun so we did it again, and again.
After three runs it was getting busier and the snow cut up. The Hasenbuher had just opened so we took it up into the clouds. We were first to come down the number 5 run. Although pisted the night before, it had around 40 cm of fresh snow.
As visibility was poor we each took more than one spectacular spill as we lapped the route a couple of times. We then explored the unpisted areas off the side and between the number 4 and 5 itinerary runs.
Here the powder was even deeper, completely untracked and the terrain was varied. We had fun on windlips, little cliff drops, gullies and playing through the trees.
For avalanche safety, we stuck to slopes under 30 degrees and didn’t stray far from the marked pistes. Being a monday with terrible visibility we had the mountains to ourselves – it was an amazing day. The snow fell all day and our tracks from the morning had been covered by the afternoon.
Snow continued falling most of the night. It was knee deep again where the pistes had been bashed. Overall around 70 cm of snow had fallen.
Our car was snowed in and roads were closed. So we cancelled our day trip to Diedamskopf. Fortunately it meant we had a good four hours of slope time in Damuls with epic powder under clear(ish) skies.
We started by doing the same run from the Hasenbuher. It was great to do it in good visibility which meant we could go fast and see more features to hit. We did this a few times before noticing that the Ragaz had opened – we were among the first at the top.
Taking the easy ‘low hanging fruit’ first we laid fresh tracks off the side of the piste number 16 back down to the lift. It was good, but there was not as much snow on this aspect.
Next we took the number 8 itinerary run. A narrow route had been pisted but the rest was untouched. The powder was thigh deep in places, but icy and windblown in others. The slopes were all shallower than 30 degrees so we let rip.
As the pisted section of the itinerary run was below us we could enjoy the varied terrain. Again there were some funky windlips, plenty of little cliff drops, gullies and trees to play in.
In the bottom section the trees grew tighter together which was a lot of fun. We followed some trails that are probably summer MTB routes or hiking paths. Either way they were fast, narrow and challenging. A lot of fun.
It brought us back to the bottom of the Hasenbuher chair. From the top we could head off-piste to Ragaz and back to the top to repeat the run. It was my favourite run of this review of Damuls-Mellau snowboarding holiday in Bregenzerwald. And probably my best of the winter.
The snow was so deep it was a snowboarders dream. The terrain was interesting and exciting but not dangerous. Perfect. We must have done it five or six times before we had to call it a day to depart Damuls.
Getting home was the reverse of the way out. So a fun snowmobile ride. We then dug the car out and had a two hour 15 drive – we didn’t follow sat nav!
The Damuls-Mellau ski area feels much larger than it’s advertised 109 km of piste. This is probably because the itinerary runs open up vast amounts of off-piste terrain, which is mostly avalanche safe and a lot of fun.
We didn’t meet any other Brits the whole time we were there. However in the bars we met a few Austrians, Germans and Dutch. Personally I think this is a good thing, as it is always nice to meet people from other countries when away.
One thing to note is that most bars and restaurants do not accept card payments. There is only one ATM in the area and its not easy to find so bring cash.
The hotel was very nice and the staff/owners are super friendly. I enjoyed the food, but I wouldn’t recommend it if you are veggie. The vegetarian food wasn’t terrible but choices were limited, and a little strange.
To conclude this review of Damuls-Mellau snowboarding holiday in Bregenzerwald, Austria I would highly recommend it. Outside the weekend it was very quiet and the pistes are well maintained and varied. Plus in fresh snow there is so much fun terrain to explore.
I hope you found this review of Damuls-Mellau snowboarding holiday in Bregenzerwald useful. If you want to plan a visit go to: www.bregenzerwald.at/damuels-mellau