When you cross the border to Germany from Leermoos in Austria, you start at the top. The highest mountain in Germany, the granite Zugspitze looks down imposingly on the valley and the surrounding hills.
It translates as “the ghost peak” and it is moody as we approach it on the cable car from the Austrian side. There used to be a customs post here in pre-EU days.
Mountains are good for the soul. Up here you feel above the trauma and stress of the world below. And I think of the secret of skiing as a holiday. You are so busy concentrating on not breaking a leg that you can’t but leave your troubles behind. Those who ski will never do a wintersun holiday again.
Erika Mott, the Austrian manager for Topflight, the biggest Irish ski operator, is kicking snow of her boots as she meets us. When we meet again in the evening on she apologies she is spattered with mud from her mountain bike expedition down the slopes.
It is a lifestyle to be treasured. Over a glass of 2007 Polz Sauvignon Blanc from Grassnitzberg in Sutseiermark Erika tells us about her late father in law, farmer Karl Mott, drove his tractor to the ski-lift early each morning. He then skied down from the top station and was home for breakfast. He did this every day until he died, in his mid eighties, an octogenarian Benny Raich of his own Kingdom.
The resort is quiet. There is no lines of discos here, no frozen vomit on the footpaths in the morning, no raucous mating dance played out in the frost. The mountain is lined with the sort of slopes you can face with very little experience and just a smattering of Kilternan confidence full of gentle greens and blues with just a couple of reds and blacks for the more adventurous.
Toni Baeder the best ski instructor in the valley, tells me they had powder to mid March this year.
In the night time the mountains black out any sign of life beyond this valley, and the little graveyard behind the church is a blinking labyrinth of red lamps lit by grieving relatives for their loved ones.
The sun is surprisingly warm. The snow above us glistens white-knuckled on the surrounding limestone mountaintops. The melted snow in the valley has revealed its underskirt, the first crocuses of Spring. Alas for Julie Andrews fans, this is not Edelweiss country but the flowers are preparing their invasion anyway.
In the meantime myself and Siofra (14) have the mountain to ourselves for a daddy-daughter experience. Our ski hire shop is empty. No bustle, no queues. The warm spring sunshine is lighting up the valley, everyone is in good humour. We have come in quest of winter but spring is a bonus.
It is eight years since I last stayed in the Hotel Post in Lermoos, as guests of Frans and Angelica Dengg. In the meantime, all has changed. The hotel has been rebuilt and extended around the ancient core building which as served a stopover in the days of the Austrian empire. The coolest addition is an automatic door on the swimming pool that opens as you swim from the indoor to the outdoor section.
Then Hotel Post serves up a themed gourmet meal, each night, with six or seven courses. The menu can be an adventure in itself.
The small village feel belies the amount of terrain available to the skier. Lermoos itself offers 30km of pisted ski runs, but your ski Lift Pass will allow you to ski or snowboard in the other Zugspitz Arena ski resorts of Berwang and Ehrwald, with access to 30 individual pistes. With access to skiing above 2000 metres, snow cover is generally reliable.
For early birds, Lermoos is able to augment natural snow, on 12km of ski runs, with 15 Snow Cannons. Queues are not a problem. The nine Ski Lifts of Lermoos are able to uplift 12,500 skiers or snowboarders per hour.
Transfers, too, are among the easiest in the business. Innsbruck Airport is just one hours drive away, Munich is two hours drive away.
The climax of the week, as so often happens, came the last day on the mountain.
My daughter Síofra skies 20km with us, bravely tackling everything on front of her. Like your daughter’s first steps, first tooth or first date, the first black run is a special occasion in any family.
After a few falls she has had enough, and myself and the infinitely patient Tony Baeder are left to our own devices.
The views are breath-taking, the sky blue, the sunshine bright and sparkling and my excitement can barely be contained.
We go off piste, across the path of a recently fallen avalanche and atop the fresh, deep snow toward the Tyrol end of the valley.
It is here, high in the hills, that the secrets of a skiing experience are unlocked. White magic indeed.
- 1 Black Run (3km)
- 4 Red Runs (17km)
- 4 Blue Runs (10km)
- 30km of Downhill Pistes
- 100km of Cross Country Trails 9
- 9 Ski Lifts
- Max Vertical 1230m
- Highest Lift 2230m
- Lowest Piste 1000m
- Resort Altitude 1000m
Eoghan Corry travelled to Leermoos with Topflight, see your local travel agent, topflight.ie or 01 1 2401700
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