Austrian ski resorts tend to be a big draw for German skiers heading down from the Munich area, given normal conditions. But these days, skiers might be wanting (and having) to stay a little closer to home. And Germany anyway has a good selection of ski resorts which are close to Munich.
What is even better is that all of them can be reached on the excellent public transport system in Bavaria…
Garmisch-Partenkirchen is the biggest and best-known of the German ski resorts and is under 90 minutes drive from the centre of Munich in good conditions. Most of the stretch south of the city is motorway until just after the town of Murnau.
Those choosing to take the train can reckon on about the same journey time from the Hauptbahnhof in Munich. There is also a frequent Flixbus coach service from the Munich bus station to the Garmisch-Partenkirchen train station.
Those arriving by train or bus may wish to take the narrow-gauge train behind the main railway station which links most of the ski areas. The ‘Garmisch Classic’ ski area is directly to the south of the main town and the three lifts which link into the area are all accessible from the stops on the train line.
But the ultimate destination of the train is the Zugspitze area under Germany’s highest mountains, reached once the train has switched over to its cog railway function and travelled up a tunnel inside the rock.
Regular ski buses to the different areas also leave from the train station in Garmish-Partenkirchen.
Garmisch Classic Ski Area
The Garmisch Classic ski area actually consists of three different sections. The closest to the town and to the railway station is the Hausberg. The area at the top of the popular gondola lift hosts one of the main beginner areas. But it is also the starting point for several interesting long runs back down to the valley floor.
Over to the right of the Garmisch Classic area, the Kreuzeck gondola and the Alpspitzbahn cable car serve the Kreuzeck and Osterfelder areas. the famous Garmisch Kandahar World Cup run finishes between the two bottom stations and the Kreuzeck gondola passes over the bottom part of the course. The Osterfelder area has the highest lifts and generally the best snow of the ski areas directly accessible from the town itself.
Garmisch Classic Ski Video
Zugspitze Ski Area
The other main ski area above Garmisch-Partenkirchen is at the foot of the Zugspitze, Germany’s highest mountain. As previously mentioned, skiers and snowboarders can take the cog railway (celebrating its 90th birthday) up inside the mountain with the top station actually arriving in the middle of the ski runs.
Or they can swap to the massive new Zugspitzbahn cable car from the Eibsee lake near the village of Grainau, which takes visitors up above the skiing for fabulous views over four countries on a good day. A subsequent short cable car ride then accesses the slopes near the top of the cog railway.
For a glacier ski area, the Zugspitze actually has a decent mix of skiing and better skiers will be interested in the longer reds off the Wetterwandeck and Brunntal lifts.
Zugspitze Ski Video
More ski information: zugspitze.de
Travel around 20 minutes further by train or car and visitors reach Mittenwald, a charming Alpine town right on the border with Austria. Mittenwald is a major tourist destination in southern Bavaria in both summer and winter. It also offers two different options when it comes to the skiing.
Mittenwald Ski Area
Mittenwald’s ski area is above the town to the west on the Kranzberg mountain. It can be reached by ski bus to the old and slow single Kranzberg chairlift just outside the town or via the Luttensee area at the base of the main slopes.
The Kranzberg is a small unchallenging ski area with about 500 metres of vertical which is great for families and those who are just starting out with the sport. It also offers stunning views of the Karwendel mountain ranges just across the valley.
Germany’s second-highest cable car rises on the Karwendel side of Mittenwald to an altitude of 2244 metres. There is however no ski area at the top of the Karwendelbahn and many visitors use it for the lovely winter panorama of the surrounding peaks and the valley below.
However, expert skiers will find one of Germany’s most renowned off-piste trails from the top if they walk through a tunnel from the top station. The Dammkar ski route used to have tens of thousands of visitors from Munich back in the Thirties.
Now that the cable car is there, skiers have an easier route onto Germany’s longest descent (seven kilometres). Skiing the Dammkar is only allowed when the avalanche all-clear is given by the authorities. But it is still an unprepared run which can have deep powder snow, moguls or breakable crust. Plus, in less ideal conditions, a snow-free walk in the ski boots towards the end of it.
The village famous for its Passion Play also offers family-friendly skiing in the winter months. It is easily accessible by rail from Munich – passengers should take the service south towards Garmisch-Partenkirchen and change at Murnau onto the branch line into the Ammer valley.
The skiing at Oberammergau is quite similar to that at Mittenwald. In other words, a small family-friendly ski area with easy runs complemented by a cable car on the other side of the village rising to a much tougher off-piste area.
The easier skiing is on the Kolben, on the other side of the river from the main village. Here a chairlift and a number of draglifts access a few generally very easy and flattering slopes.
The Laber, on the other hand, is a ridge towering over Oberammergau. The cable car up here again offers pedestrians the chance to take in the view of the countryside.
But there is also a ski route marked black (‘expert’) from that ridge which is one of the steepest and toughest runs in Germany. It is not marked, controlled or prepared at all and is only monitored for general avalanche danger.
The route to the bottom descends what are often untouched powder fields until the trees thicken and the spaces available narrows. Skiers can find themselves skiing deep snow, trees and heavy crust at various points along the same run and need to be confident in their own abilities as there is no way of baling out from the route.
Lenggries is a town in southern Bavaria in the wide-open valley of the Isar as it makes its way north towards Munich. Once again it has a regular rail service from Munich with the Bayerische Oberlandbahn (BOB).
Although the town and skiing are little-known outside Germany, it has produced some of the country’s top competitive skiers and would compare with some of the smaller Austrian ski resorts.
The skiing can be accessed on the western side of the Isar valley from car parks at the bottom of the Brauneck (nearest to Lenggries) and at Wegscheid.
The main skiing area is over on the Wegscheid side although most visitors will access the slopes from the Brauneck cable car. From here, skiers can traverse across to the lifts and intermediate runs under the Latschenkopf or try some of the black runs which descend from the Brauneck.
There are beginner lifts at the bottom of both sides of the ski area.
More ski information: www.brauneck-bergbahn.de
The resort town of Schliersee is situated on the shores one of southern Bavaria’s beautiful mountain lakes. It can also be reached by the German rail system from Munich once again on the Bayerische Oberlandbahn (BOB).
The ski area is a fair journey on ski bus or by car up in the mountains from the Schliersee at the smaller lake and hamlet of Spitzingsee.
The Spitzingsee ski area links over the mountain ridges to the small area above the Tegernsee at Rottach-Egern. It is a pleasant decently-sized area for a day out skiing and with plenty of mountain huts tucked away on the ski runs for refreshments.
The lifts at the smaller Taubenstein area on the other side of Spitzingsee now closed in the winter months and the area is dedicated to ski touring.
More ski information: www.alpenbahnen-spitzingsee.de