With a quick transfer to Innsbruck, near-empty slopes and quality hotels that won’t break the bank, the tiny resort of See has huge appeal
Any ski resort can be a stonker when the snow is knee-deep and the sky blue. But my measure of a good resort? One that still gets me excited when conditions are far from perfect. Because, let’s face it, how often do we actually luck out when we head to the Alps?
With barely enough snow to keep the pistes open and moody skies overhead, See and its 41km of piste, in the Tyrol’s Paznaun Valley, had its work cut out on my visit. The waiter in our hotel told us we shouldn’t even bother with it. “Just take the bus to Ischgl, there’s actual skiing there”. So, yes, hopes were not high when my husband and I hopped off the Medrigjoch gondola and clicked into our bindings, ready for a day of icy piste skiing with almost zero visibility.
A new gondola opens up swathes of freeride terrain|Bergbahnen See
Fast forward seven hours, and I’d easily had one of my top five days of the season thanks to some high speed runs down the hard-packed (but not icy – huzzah!) front side of the resort, some challenging ski itineraries (marked but not maintained routes) and the valley run down to the resort, which might be my favourite ever thanks to its trees, waterfalls and conveniently placed après-hut. And this was despite being surrounded by green meadow for the final 200m or so… Imagine how ace it would be on a powder day!
I got my wish all of two days later, when, after a day and night of solid snow, we were treated to bright blue skies and freshies in every direction. Expecting a fight for virgin snow, we rushed to get the first lift only to discover zero queues. And it stayed more or less the same all day, with just us and perhaps 10 others eating our way through easy-access stash after easy-access stash. No powder stress here. Clearly word hadn’t quite got out about See’s swanky new Versing gondola. Running since 2014/15, it has opened up a wide bowl filled with dedicated ski routes and powder runs, transforming See from a family-focused, local’s hill into a bit of a freeride mecca, minus the hordes of powder-hungry pilgrims.
Okay, these quiet, small resorts do always come with a few sacrifices. In See’s case, the lack of après action and relatively low altitude (1056m) are downers, and not everyone will be content with 41km, though the off-piste does make up for it. The resort itself is far from the idyllic Tyrolean farm village, with just a string of hotels built along a valley road and evenings are certainly more about chilling in the wellness centre than knocking back Jägerbombs.
A bar with a view |Bergbahnen See
Then again, if you want a quick weekend hit, See really does tick a lot of boxes, being only an hour’s drive from Innsbruck airport or 15 minute taxi ride from Landeck-Zams train station. And you could happily spend a week here if you had a car: it’s an excellent base for exploring some nearby hits. There’s Ischgl with its mega Silvretta Arena and beyond that high, snowy Galtür. Head back onto the motorway and you’re in St Anton in 25 minutes, meaning you have access to the Arlberg’s unique, powder-magnet of a microclimate. And, even closer, is the brilliant Kappl, home to some of the best big mountain terrain this side of, well, St Anton.
Competitive pricing adds to the appeal. We stayed at the four-star Hotel Lenz, which is right next to valley gondola station (you can pretty much ski into the boot room), and includes tasty halfboard food and spa access for just €81 per person a night — a steal compared to better-known resorts in the Tyrol. FL