I was looking for four things when booking the lads snowboarding trip: lots of varied slopes, plenty of off-piste, good accommodation and fun apres. I found all four during this review of Montafon snowboarding holiday in Schruns, Austria.
Located in Vorarlberg, the westernmost region of Austria, Montafon isn’t exactly a household name in the UK. But there are 11 different villages in Montafon and 295 km of pistes to explore. It is very popular with Austrian, Dutch, Swiss and German visitors – see the apres section to find out why this is a good thing!
The slopes are not all lift linked, but are all connected together by free and reliable buses. The largest ski area in Silvretta Montafon, has 140 km of piste, half of which is over 2000m. It can be accessed from Schruns, St Gallenkirch, Gortipohl, Gaschurn and Silbertal.
There are also three medium sized ski areas, Gargellen, Golm and Brandnertal that are all big enough to entertain most skiers and snowboarders for a few days to a week. There are also a few small – one or two lift – ski areas that come under the Montafon ski pass.
Snowboarding holiday in Schruns: Getting there
During this review of Montafon snowboarding holiday we stayed at the Four Star Superior Löwen Hotel in Schruns. To get there we flew to Zurich and caught the train to Bludenz, then swapped on to a train to Schruns. In total the train journey took about two and a half hours – compared to British trains it was clean, spacious and stress free.
On arriving in Schruns it was about a five minute walk to the hotel. When checking in we found out they run free transfers to the train station – so bear that in mind if you have lots of bags, kids with you or if the weather is bad.
The Löwen Hotel is immediately impressive with a stunning reception and bar area. As we arrived around 1pm we were keen to hit the slopes for a few hours. So we dumped our bags, quickly put our snowboarding gear on and headed to the Hochjoch bahn which is about a four minute walk away.
Review of Montafon snowboarding holiday
For me the most important part of any snowboarding holiday is the snowboarding. The accommodation, apres, and other activities all add to the experience, but good slopes, off-piste opportunities and plenty of variety are what make a trip. Fortunately, Montafon ticks all those boxes in spectacular fashion.
Getting up the mountain
It has to be said the journey up the Hochjoch bahn didn’t fill us with huge confidence. It was very busy, with five to fifthteen minutes of queueing each time we got it (we were there over the weekend during school holidays). However, despite a change at midstation it is a quick journey up to the ski area and you only have to catch it once each day.
The area we arrived in was also very busy, as was the run down to the Panorama Bahn. There was also often a small queue at the Panorama Gondola, but it moves quickly and then whisks you up to 2375m. The initial run from the top is narrow and busy, but this quickly opens up into a range of pistes and a lack of crowds.
Apart from this bottle neck to get up the mountain, we never queued more than a minute or two and there was always plenty of room on the slopes. And what excellent slopes they are. Well maintained, wide and with plenty of off-piste options between the runs, including a few marked off-piste routes.
Schruns side of Silvretta Montafon
We spent the first afternoon and the second day exploring the Schruns side of the Silvretta Montafon ski area. You can reach the other side by taking the Grasjoch Bahn cable car down into St Gallenkirch. You go up rather than down from here to access the excellent Snowpark Montafon via Freda Bahn.
There are some excellent long runs. From 2430m at the top of Hochalpila, you can reach all the way back into Schruns at 690m. The 1740m decent is long and varied, near the top there is a lot of between piste freeride, whilst towards the bottom you are on tree lined runs.
The final section, into Schruns is fast and a lot of fun. Never too busy, it was perfect for carving near the top and as it narrows lower down it becomes a fast riding challenge. It is one of the most fun home runs I have experienced in quite a while.
During this review of Montafon snowboarding holiday in Schruns, Austria I also really liked the run from the top of Sennigrat at 2300m. The black piste is probably the steepest run on this side of Silvretta Montafon and is wide and mostly empty. It links up with the same excellent red run all the way back to Schruns at 690m.
Freestyle snowboarding holiday in Schruns
On both days we did a few runs through the park which has an excellent range of varied features. There is a traditional line through the park with all the usual rails, boxes and kickers. Plus there’s a Freeride Cross course which is far more creative.
Both were a lot of fun with features suited to all levels. Just be aware that some parts of the freeride course are only suited to more advanced snowboarders, but you can’t tell until you hit them. So do a dry run through the course first.
You could easily spend a day lapping the park. It would probably take at least four runs to hit all the features as once you choose a route it means missing features. All in all it is one of the more imaginative freestyle areas I have been to and was a huge plus during this review of Montafon snowboarding holiday in Schruns, Austria.
Freeride snowboarding holiday in Schruns
From the top of the park there is also a freeride itinerary off to the side where we found some nice powder despite it being four or five days since the last fresh snow. There were still some patches of untouched snow, plus the tracks through it hadn’t yet refrozen making for some nice conditions.
We also tried the freeride itinerary just down from the top of the Panorama Bahn. This was mostly tracked out, and facing the sun it had thawed and then refrozen making for some difficult off-piste conditions. In good snow this would be an awesome run with some steep sections plus plenty of interesting terrain to try tricks.
In the area below Hochalpila heading towards the ski tunnel there was still powder to play in. Furthermore, there is a great off-piste route from the top of Sennigrat towards the tunnel.
Heading the other direction from the top of Sennigrat there is a long freeride route that brings you out part way down the run into Schruns. It looks like it would be very long and a lot of fun, but unfortunately it was closed during this review of Montafon snowboarding holiday in Schruns, Austria.
Review of Gargellen freeride snowboarding
On the third day of our Montafon snowboarding holiday we took the bus to Gargellen where we met with an off-piste guide for the day from Bergfuehrer Montafon. The bus from Schruns to Gargellen took about 30 minutes and was free of charge.
Since the warm first couple of days the temperature had dropped significantly and was in the minus twenties. So we were kitted out in our cold weather gear with balaclavas and extra layers. I had been in Finland earlier in the season where it had dropped to minus thirty five, but for some reason this felt colder.
After sorting out avalanche safety gear and transceiver we headed up the main gondola. After a short run we took the Gargellner Kopfe up to 2300m. From here it is possible to ski tour or splitboard up some of the nearby peaks up to 2700m. Our guide told us there are amazing backcountry options bringing you back into the resort.
As we were not kitted out for splitboarding, we headed off to the far right (left hand side of the piste map) to freeride. The snow here was not the best, in many places it had refrozen after thawing and it was fairly tracked out. We did find some stashes of powder and although it was nice being away from the piste on the whole it was hard work in difficult snow. But in fresh snow…
Having boarded 1000m down to Gargellen we hopped back on the gondola. It was at this point I realised my water bottle had leaked and both my backpack and outside of my jacket were iced up! At the top, this time we headed to the Kristall Bahn up to 2300m to check out the other side of the ski area. Again from here you can tour or splitboard to amazing backcountry.
We took the blue piste and popped off the side into surprisingly nice powder. Again it was about five days since the last snow, but it was not completely tracked out. I think this is because our guide was not taking us an obvious route. He lead us to north facing slopes via blind summits, traverses and some chutes. You wouldn’t go there unless you knew the way.
The result was plenty of relatively untouched powder and the best freeride runs during this review of Montafon snowboarding holiday in Schruns. It wasn’t the lightest powder, getting heavier lower down, but it was not too tracked out and plenty of fun.
It was so good we lapped the area five times. Each time we took slightly different routes to find the best snow that was still available. It was technically difficult riding, particularly when you hit crusty or icy patches that had been in the sun. But the powder stashes we found were excellent and a show why you should get a guide!
St Gallenkirch side of Montafon
On our final day of this review of Montafon snowboarding holiday in Schruns we headed over to the St Gallenkirch side of the ski area. It had warmed up but was still very cold at around minus 18, and for the most part the pistes were hard and in good condition with the oidd icy spot.
If anything the St Gallenkirch side of the Silvretta Montafon is bigger than Schruns and there is more obvious off-piste between the runs. However, with fresh snow, followed my warm sunny days and then the current cold weather it was rutted and frozen making it pretty much unrideable.
But the pistes were a lot of fun. There are lots of very wide red and blue pistes that are great for carving. As it was midweek, and the school holidays had ended, the slopes were quieter – of course the cold weather may have affected it too.
To me it felt like there were more runs over this side of Silvretta Montafon that were suited to beginners and intermediates. There are a couple of blacks, but most of the reds are relatively easy. With more runs to choose from it is a great area if you like to cruise around exploring the mountains. However, with the park and more freeride routes the Schruns side has more variety.
It’s worth noting that it takes a fair old chunk of time to get from the St Gallenkirch ski area back to Schruns. There are buses – but that’s no fun – but if you snowboard quickly you still need to allow over an hour to get from the far side back to Schruns. If you are slow then it would take much longer.
Review of apres ski in Schruns
Being a lads trip it was important to find some apres fun. With most of the crew being the wrong side of 40 we are no longer looking for nightclubs and all night partying. We prefer beers straight off the slopes still in our ski gear, followed by a nice meal and then a reasonably early night. Fortunately, Schruns delivers exactly that.
At the bottom of the run into Schruns you’ll find Urmonti Apres Ski bar. On the run into Schruns you can hear the beats luring you in, and as you come around the final corner you can see a packed bar bouncing in time to the Austrian Oompah style apres.
I don’t think there is a more fun type of music on the planet than Austrian Oompah. Despite not understanding most of what is being sung the music is just infectious. It combines party songs, some of which we knew, Austrian anthems and a DJ/MC egging the crowd on. It was so good we visited three times during this review of Montafon snowboarding holiday in Schruns!
The music, litre steins and trays of shots led to everyone having fun and a really social crowd. We chatted to Dutch, German, Swiss and Austrian people, plus a few other nations. We only met one group of Brits and they lived nearby. It was a fun, sociable crowd and more enjoyable than more famous apres elsewhere.
The beauty of Urmonti is that it’s mental from around three until six. After that it slowly calms down and by around 7:30 it has shut for the night. You then head back to your hotel singing ‘Johnny Depp, Depp, Depp’ (it’s actually ‘Johnny Dapp’ by an Austrian Musician called Lorenz Büffel), in time for a quick shower before dinner.
The rest of the apres in Schruns is pretty tame. The few bars were all fairly quiet between seven and eleven, but then almost everyone is eating dinner. If you want a late night out you can go to the Blue Moon, but be warned it’s a lap dancing place. With little going on we were in bed before midnight every night and almost hangover free the next day.
Review of Löwen Hotel in Schruns
A review of Montafon snowboarding holiday in Schruns would not be complete without taking about the very impressive four star superior Löwen Hotel. The hotel is stunning, rooms amazing, food delicious and the spa is one of the best I have ever been to.
From the welcome at reception to the service at dinner they make you feel special. The staff were happy to show us around and all seemed very happy to be working there. The main bar is stunning and has a very upmarket feel, as does the dining area and the rest of the communal spaces. Even the boot room is nice rather than just a place to put your gear.
The bedroom was luxurious whilst still being functional with a sofa and table for relaxing. We had twin beds which were very comfortable – much nicer than my bed at home. The Bathroom is high end and not just gorgeous but again very functional, with a powerful shower, good extractor fan and plenty of space.
The 3000m² spa area is out of this world. There is a large pool with a whirlpool and jets. A large outdoor jacuzzi which was amazing when the air temperature was minus 25! There is a large sauna area with steam bath, stone bath, parlour sauna and brine steam plus different types of showers. There is even a lady-spa and a relaxation area with water beds.
Although the spa was exceptionally good, the highlight at the Löwen Hotel during this review of Montafon snowboarding holiday in Schruns was the food. It was stunningly presented, absolutely delicious and some of the best I have eaten anywhere. The vegetarian in our group was also very impressed.
Each evening there were around seven courses, with meat, fish and veggie options. There was a great mix of Austrian and international dishes and the presentation was incredible. On the whole it was hearty food you need on a ski holiday, but it appeared delicate and artistic. If you don’t stay here then at least visit for a meal.
The breakfast was also very good. There was plenty of hot and cold options with cereal, fruit, juices, cakes and pasties etc. The Omelette station was my favourite, just choose what you want and they make it for you. Overall there was plenty to fill you up for the day ahead.
Review of Montafon snowboarding holiday: Conclusion
This snowboarding holiday in Schruns ticked all the boxes in terms of both time on the slopes and off the mountain. The pistes are long, varied and well maintained, plus there is plenty of off-piste to explore and ample backcountry.
The Löwen Hotel is stunning with incredible food and an amazing spa. And to top it all off the apres ski is perfect for those who like to go hard straight off the slopes but be in bed early enough to avoid a significant hangover.
To conclude this review of Montafon snowboarding holiday in Schruns, Austria I will use the words of my friend Barney ‘we should come back to Schruns next year’. After years of group trips to France all my friends are now sold on Austria and we will be returning this coming season.