Bavaria’s Back ! – InTheSnow

Germany isn t a nation most Brits think of when planning a ski holiday, and German ski resorts haven t been in the brochures of the big operators since the 1990s, but in fact this is a nation of skiers (over 12 million of them compared to our million or so) and ski areas some 500 of them. This winter, German skiing is back in the brochures, offered by the UK s biggest operator, Crystal. If you re looking for the ideal retreat to a traditional Bavarian village that also offers all the perks of a modern resort, Ruhpolding is the resort for you! Nestled in the foothills of Germany s Chiemgau Alps, the quaint village with a rich sporting heritage is new to Crystal s programme this winter. Ruhpolding, with a population of just 6,700, is a typical small Alpine town with a mid-sized local ski area, but it has a few particular claims to fame.

For one thing, Pope Benedict (who was the first pope to resign) celebrated his first mass here; for another it s one of the world s leading centres for the exciting winter sport of biathlon combining cross-country skiing with rifle target shooting.

Bavaria's Back ! - InTheSnow

Anyone staying in Ruhpolding is entitled to the Ruhpolding eXtra Discount Holidays © Holiday Card, which provides numerous benefits and discounts including such things as a three-hour session at the Vita Alpina recreation pool and use of some lifts free or at a discount. Crystal s hotel options include the Alpenhotel Wittelsbach, a blissful hotel with a reputation for excellent service. Options here include an educational tea-tasting session with tea guru Marcus, the hotel manager.

The Skiing

Ruhpolding has a couple of small ski areas in the village (Westernberg and Unternburg), both with snowmaking cover, as well as the larger Winklmoosalm-Steinplatte area, an international-standard centre making up a total of 50km of runs for the resort and located a short bus ride out of the village.
The combined area offers 16 ski runs for all abilities and a fun park served by five ski lifts and a cable car. There are eight ski huts in which to relax and enjoy a bite on the slopes and three ski schools ready to offer any lessons required.

Bavaria's Back ! - InTheSnow
German skiing is much more affordable today, with the pound riding high against the euro compared to the era of the Deutschmark last century, when Germany was considered expensive; now German skiing is among the best value in Western Europe. For even cheaper skiing, for novice skiers, both Westernberg and Unternburg can actually be skied free for two hours each day with the eXtra Card, allowing a novice skier a good start in their downhill progress before hitting the big slopes of the larger Winklmoosalm-Steinplatte area.

Bavaria's Back ! - InTheSnow
However, for the Nordic-obsessed skiers, Ruhpolding is hard to beat.

Producing Olympic champions in biathlon, the area is rich in Nordic snowsports heritage. There are over 150km of trails starting within the village itself, and if you are feeling more adventurous, they stretch deep into the surrounding valleys. Boasting incredible scenery, one option is to experience the Three Lakes nature reserve, which is arguably the most beautiful area for cross-country skiing in the Alps.

Big For Biathlon

For those who want to experience Ruhpolding in its element, a visit during the Biathlon World Cup each January is highly recommended. Hosted in the resort s Chiemgau Arena (chiemgau-arena.de), it is one of the biggest events of the Biathlon World Cup tour with 70,000 spectators pouring into the stadium and surrounding the tracks for the event, so it is not far off the FA Cup Final in Wembley for scale and not to be missed.

Bavaria's Back ! - InTheSnow
It s less well known that the British Army has strong connections to the event, hosting their national championships in Ruhpolding. Also the actual British Biathlon Union (BBU) host the British champs there, starting this year on 18 January and running until 5 February. The crowds are a little smaller, but it s still worth a look.

Bavaria's Back ! - InTheSnow
Tours of the Chiemgau Arena are available with your eXtra Card. Fans of the sport (you can rapidly become one by following the tour on Eurosport) may be lucky enough to meet biathlon legends and Olympic champions Fritz Fischer and Ricco Gross, and you can even try your hand on the range using the same rifles as the biathletes themselves.

Besides Skiing

While in Ruhpolding, it would be unwise, however, to miss the opportunity of visiting the Hofbr uhaus Brewery, founded in 1612, one of three located in Traunstein, a village just 15km away. Here you can immerse yourself in the incredible history of German beer on a tour of the brewery, which recently underwent a ‘ 5.5 million ( 2.24m) renovation and produces 10 million litres of beer every day. An informative video (translated into English) and a taster session of the many different beers they have brewed through the centuries (locally baked bread included) gives you an excellent start to your visit, all for a mere ‘ 8pp ( 6pp).

Bavaria's Back ! - InTheSnow
And afterwards you can visit the brewery s own restaurant with the Hofbr uhaus beer and delightful Bavarian cuisine. In 2016, there is a celebration marking the 500-year anniversary of the purity law imposed upon beer made in Germany to ensure that they only serve beer with three ingredients: water, hops and malt. Fat biking, riding a bike with huge tyres, is another option available. Fat bikes can tackle most surfaces including snow with all the ease of riding a mountain bike. Guided tours are offered by Fahrrad E-Bikes, giving you the fastest and easiest opportunity to explore the village and nearby scenery and is an activity available to all levels of cyclist.

There are many more to choose from in Ruhpolding, including horseback riding, flying school, shooting, winter hikes, tobogganing, snowshoeing and even guided torch-lit tours of the town s rare and beautifully kept mountain graveyard one of the more unusual apr s-ski activities you re likely to come across, but a wonderfully atmospheric if surreal experience.

Bavaria's Back ! - InTheSnow
So is this the winter to add Germany to the list of countries you have skied?

Well, if you re looking for much more than the normal ski holiday a rich history, heritage and all at a much better price than when skiing in the Bavarian Alps was last in the brochures, the answer is Ja!

Ruhpolding Info

Bavaria's Back ! - InTheSnow
Ruhpolding: ruhpolding.de1
Crystal Ski Holidays2 (020 8939 0726) offer stays at the Alpenhotel Wittelsbach from 540pp for a week s half board including Gatwick flights to nearby Salzburg and transfers (other major UK airports departures available).
For overnight stays in Gatwick, the Bloc hotel3 (020 3051 0101) in the South Terminal has rooms from 59 per night including free wi-fi.

References

  1. ^ ruhpolding.de (ruhpolding.de)
  2. ^ Crystal Ski Holidays (crystalski.co.uk)
  3. ^ Bloc hotel (blochotels.com)

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