Seibelseckle in the Ortenau district: One of the first snowboarders skied down the slope in Seebach on Wednesday
Photo: Philipp von Ditfurth / dpa
The heavy snowfall makes it possible: skiers and snowboarders can dig their boards out of the cellar and get fit for the season. And they don't even have to travel south for that at the moment. This is because some German ski resorts are starting their operations these days – earlier than usual and at the same time as many ski resorts in the Alps.
In Baden-Württemberg, for example, the first lifts started on Wednesday, at Söllereck near Oberstdorf they are scheduled to start on Thursday, and on Friday and weekends the Feldberg in the Black Forest, the Zugspitze and areas in the Rhön, Harz and Sauerland, among others, will follow. Braunlage, for example, is not yet expecting too many visitors. The start of the season is so early this year that many people are probably still busy going to Christmas markets, says Fabian Brockschmidt from the Wurmberg ski resort in Braunlage: "When have we ever had snow in November in the Harz Mountains?"
Around 500 ski resorts are operated in Germany – here is a selection:
On the Wurmberg in the Harz Mountains, the T-bar lift in the Hexenritt area is scheduled to go into operation at the weekend, says Brockschmidt. In addition, the toboggan run is to open there. According to Mayor Wolfgang Langer, lifts are also to run further down in the valley of Braunlage. To ensure that the white splendour does not melt away again immediately, unlike last year, snow cannons are to be used in the coming week to produce a surface layer.
The ski resorts on the Matthias-Schmidt-Berg and the Sonnenberg in Sankt Andreasberg are also starting the new season. The snow conditions are still rather average, the operators on the Matthias-Schmidt-Berg announced on their website.
In Hohegeiß and Torfhaus, the toboggan lifts are also to open on weekends.
Cross-country skiers have been able to hit the trail since the middle of the week. The first cross-country ski trails have been prepared and others are in preparation, the administration of the Harz National Park announced.
The start of the season in the Sauerland will be heralded on Friday by some lifts in Winterberg. The ski lift carousel wants to put at least four connected lifts into operation at the start of the season. As soon as even more artificial snow is produced, additional runs will open in Winterberg, according to the lift association. In total, the largest ski area in the Sauerland has slopes with a route length of 27.5 kilometres.
In the ski village of Neuastenberg, in the Bödefeld-Hunau ski area in Schmallenberg and in the Schlossberg/Küstelberg ski area in Medebach, the first lifts for skiers and tobogganers are scheduled to run on Saturday. However, most operators of ski and toboggan lifts are waiting for the first highlight of the season towards Christmas.
For cross-country skiers, more than a hundred kilometers of trails have already been groomed in the past few days, the Wintersport-Arena Sauerland announced. In Bad Berleburg-Girkhausen in the Wittgensteiner Land, for example, more than 30 kilometres of cross-country ski trails have been prepared, and in Winterberg 50 kilometres.
At the Wasserkuppe (950 meters) in the Rhön, the winter sports season begins this Saturday. With a view of Hesse's highest mountain, the operating company announced: "There are perfect slope conditions." On Saturday, the lifts will run from 9:30 a.m. to 22 p.m. and on Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 18 p.m. – both with floodlights in the evening. Tobogganists can use the "Wie-Li" lift. According to the operating company, the lifts will also run on weekdays after this weekend, depending on the current weather.
In Dietzhölztal-Ewersbach in the Lahn-Dill district in central Hesse, lift operations started on Thursday.
The ski resort in Willingen in northern Hesse, which borders the Hochsauerland district in North Rhine-Westphalia, is currently planning to start operations on the second weekend of Advent. Preparations are in full swing there. "We are currently in the final phase," said ski resort spokesman Jörg Wilke on Tuesday, the last tests of the snowmaking system are underway. Cross-country skiers will find their first groomed trails.
In other ski resorts, on the other hand, it is currently still a matter of producing as much artificial snow as possible in the frosty temperatures in order to be prepared for the first highlight of the season towards Christmas.
The opening of the first ski lift of the season is planned for Friday at the Lotto Thüringen Snowpark Oberhof, said Stefan Ebert from the Thuringian Forest Regional Association. "We have a lot of snow for this time of year and are hoping for a good season."
The official season openings in the other major centres in the Silbersattel ski arena in Steinach and the Schmiedefeld winter world are planned for 15 and 16 December.
Currently, at least 45 of a total of 212 cross-country ski trails have already been prepared, according to Ebert. The athletes can currently test their endurance on a total of at least 267 kilometres. One reason why some cross-country trails are not yet prepared is the ongoing timber harvest, he said. "We are still very early in the season, and the bark beetle has led to a lot of wood that still has to be fetched from the Thuringian Forest." The work would have to be awaited. In the upcoming season, 1400 cross-country ski trails, 20 lifts and almost 50 toboggan slopes as well as 500 kilometres of winter hiking trails will be available in the Thuringian Forest.
In Altenberg in the Eastern Ore Mountains, the lifts were started at ten o'clock on Friday. In the past few days, the slopes were covered with artificial snow in addition to the natural snow, so that the slopes could be well prepared, as the operator informed.
In Augustusburg, skiers were able to warm up for the new season on the upper slope on Thursday.
For cross-country skiers, the popular ridge trail in the Ore Mountains and the Vogtland opens at the weekend.
Spectacular ski tours in the Austrian Alps:The Great Walser Valley is so beautifulBy Stefan Herbke
Tips for Germany, Austria and Switzerland:These are the most beautiful winter campsites in the AlpsBy Michael Hennemann
Holidays in the climate crisis: "Nobody wants to hike in a dead forest"
Future of tourism: Around half of Europe's ski resorts are threatened by a lack of snow
Saxony's largest alpine ski resort on the Fichtelberg is scheduled to open in the middle of next week. From 6 December, skiers will be able to use the main slope, grove, race track and slope 2, said the managing director of the lift company LGO, Constantin Gläß, on Thursday. With a short interruption, the slopes have also been covered with artificial snow since Saturday and the slopes have been made ready for take-off, confirmed the head of the Fichtelberg suspension railway, René Lötzsch. Only the slopes on the Himmelsleiter would need a little longer maintenance, but should then also be open to skiers on the second weekend of Advent.
For the second Sunday of Advent, skiing fun will also be in full swing on the neighbouring Keilberg in the Czech Republic. On the homepage, December 8 is mentioned as the start date.
In Eibenstock, the start of ski operations is planned for the middle or end of next week, the operator announced.
In the Zittau Mountains, the snow cover is not yet sufficient for lift operation, and the ground has not yet received frost, explained Tilo Knöbel from the Alpine Ski Club Lausche on request.
For cross-country skiers, most of the trails on the Fichtelberg are already open, as are the majority of the ski and winter hiking trails. Saturday is also the official start of the season for the ridge trail in the Ore Mountains and Vogtland. For this purpose, the cross-country ski trails and feeder roads will be groomed from Friday, as the responsible working group informed. The ridge trail leads for about 36 kilometres from Schöneck to Johanngeorgenstadt. In addition, there are connecting trails in the region.
Just in time for the start of the season, seven of the 1493 lifts and lifts in the area around the 17-metre-high Feldberg will go into operation on Friday. "The snow conditions are wonderful," said Julian Probst, Managing Director of the Feldbergbahnen, in Todtnau. The snow depth on the Feldberg was therefore a good 60 centimetres on Thursday. According to its own advertising, the ski area is the largest in Germany north of the Alps. "We recommend buying tickets online," Probst said. The previous season had been mixed in the area, as there was a lack of snow at times.
In the middle of the week, lifts in the Black Forest areas of Unterstmatt near Bühl, Seibelseckle and Ruhestein had already given the go-ahead for this year's ski season after abundant snowfall.
According to the tourism association, a lift in the Swabian Alb was initially open in Münsingen. By the weekend, there should be more, said a spokesman. The Holzelfingen winter sports arena will start its two lifts at noon on Friday - but warns that it could get warmer again from next week.
On Germany's highest mountain, the Zugspitze, it starts on Friday with three lifts, in the two previous years there was only one. According to the Bavarian Zugspitzbahn, the snow depth on the slopes is up to 1.50 meters, off-piste even up to 1.80 meters, more than in previous years at this time. In the past few weeks, snow groomers have been used to spread snow from the previous year, which has been pushed together in hollows, on the slopes.
Mother Hulda meant well, it is also said from Oberstdorf: "The abundant snowfalls of the last few days as well as the expected winter precipitation and the great commitment of the employees make it possible to start the season early on the Söllereck."
In the Upper Bavarian Alps Plus, at the Spitzingsee area and on the Sudelfeld, the first lifts are scheduled to run at the weekend.
In the Garmisch Classic ski area, the start of the season is planned for mid-December. Other areas will follow – until Christmas Day, skiers will be able to make their turns everywhere.
Ski pass prices: Nice, but expensive
Once again, skiing is becoming more expensive. Depending on the ski resort, it is likely to be between just under four and ten percent. The increased prices, especially for energy and staff, are also having an impact on the lifts, according to the operators.
At the Zugspitze and in the Garmisch Classic area, the day ticket costs 62 euros, five euros more than last winter. The ski pass in the border ski region of Oberstdorf and Kleinwalsertal is similarly expensive at 62.90 euros (2022/2023: 57.50 euros). In Austria, with its often more extensive areas, prices are sometimes over 70 euros. At 49.50 euros, the Alpen-Plus ski resorts of Sudelfeld and Brauneck remain just below the 50 euro mark. At the Jenner in Berchtesgaden, the day pass costs 42 euros, as well as at the Großer Arber (pre-season: 39 euros).
In the Sauerland, the prices for day tickets are between 25 and 48 euros, according to the Wintersport-Arena Sauerland - that's one to three euros more than last year. In the smaller ski resorts, you can often use the lifts much cheaper than in the large ones, said a spokeswoman. On the Wurmberg in Lower Saxony, winter sports enthusiasts do not have to adjust to price increases, the prices are the same as last year. Prices are also expected to remain relatively stable in Thuringia. However, an increase of ten percent is to be expected in Oberhof and Heubach, for example.
It is important that skiing remains affordable for families, according to the Association of German Cable Cars and T-bar Lifts. With special offers and discounts, "we want to ensure that families can still afford to ski and share unforgettable experiences in the mountains," said Antonia Asenstorfer, Managing Director of the Alpen Plus ski resorts and VDS board member, on Thursday.