Feldberg Open for Winter Sports

Feldberg skiing

Feldberg is open for the 2013/4 season, albeit only one side of the resort, around Feldbergerhof. This is the less exciting part of the resort, but for a chance to try out your ski legs or to begin learning, it is perfect. The snow is pretty good, and with temperatures falling quite substantially over the next few days, the outlook for a long season in Feldberg looks promising.

The ski shops and schools are in business, but the catering facilities seem a little slower in offering service. Still, it is early days and the delight of being able to ski good snow with stunning views over the Alps and the Black Forest only a short drive from Basel is irresistible. I suspect that the Fahl area will open up at the weekends, possibly not until later in the month, before the resort is in full swing for the Christmas period.

For people who don’t ski but enjoy a seasonal walk in a winter wonderland, especially with those exceptional views, Feldberg can’t be beat. And there are even a few folk out ski-kiteboarding and out on cross-country skis.

Details on the resort are here and some footage of me skiing the resort on 4th December is on Youtube: Snow in Feldberg.

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Black Forest

The Black Forest is relatively low-lying and you cannot guarantee good snow throughout the season, but it is still relatively reliable for the peak season. It is convenient for much of northern Switzerland, including Basel, and is much cheaper than the Alpine resorts for a winter holiday.

We organised a family holiday this month to Todtnauberg, a high valley not far from Feldberg, the highest point in the Black Forest (and in the whole of Germany, outside the Alps).

Mazumdars in the Black Forest
Despite the good snow in December the temperatures had risen unseasonably high and even at 1150m, the village had patchy snow. Nonethless, the nursery area near the centre of the village and the larger, connected section across the valley were open.

In total Todtnauberg boasts 6 surface lifts, 12 red runs and 4 trails. There is an excellent high cross-country circuit. Should the snow not be too good on the lower slopes, the runs above Liftstüble can still offer good conditions and whatever the snow conditions, there are some lovely winter walks in the area. Todtnauberg is also situated at the top of what claims to be the highest waterfall in Germany, the Todtnau Waterfall, and there are a number of pleasant walking trails that take you down along the length of the falls.

The setting is spectacular and from various points around the village and the surrounding hills you can see the Alps in the distance. We stayed at the family-run Pension Enzian, conveniently located next to the Kapellenlift. It is a lovely little establishment, very simple but with good food and wonderful hosts and certainly one I would recommend. In our case the party included skiers, non-skiers, pensioners, infants and children and we felt we were all catered for well.

Driving to Todtnauberg is relatively straightforward, with the village being served by a dedicated road running off the main Todtnau to Freiburg road. There is also reasonably good public transport with a direct bus to Freiburg (which is well worth a visit if you have not been there before) and a bus to Todtnau which connects to the service to Basel (either direct, or via the train from Zell im Wiesental). I’ve known people come from Basel to ski here for the day, although most people opt for Feldberg.
Piste Map Todtnauberg
The skiing in Todtnauberg lies between 1021m amd 1388m and probably provides around 20km of ski runs and trails in total. The runs are all graded red but are generally easy enough for people more comfortable on blue runs. There are no particular gotchas for boarders other than that all of the lifts are surface lifts, and mainly t-bars at that. There is a ski school in the village.

Felderg is very close to Totdnauberg as the crow flies, but around 15km away by road. You can get to Feldberg by bus, changing in Todtnau.

I’ve posted details on Feldberg at the companion site here. It is easily the most comprehensive winter sports area in the Black Forest, and Todtnauberg is probably the second largest. There are others, though. Muggenbrun (970-1243) and Brandenberg-Fahl (850-1380) have a handful of lifts. Herrenschwand (Todtmoos), Widen, and Aitern-Multen also have more than one lift. Additionally a number of other villages have basic facilities, perhaps one lift and a couple of runs back into the village.

For Cross-country, Feldberg, Todtnauberg, Muggenbrun, Widen and Aitern-Multen have both prepared trails and Langlauf ski schools. They also have prepared winter trails, often the same ones as used by cross-country skiers but not exclusively so. Which of course, gives you also the opportunity to whistle along to that old sixties classic “A Walk in the Black Forest”. There is also plenty of scope for snowshoe walkers, especially using the extensive summer trails that are not prepared in winter.

All in all the Black Forest is a good choice for winter sports enthusiasts. It represents excellent value for money compared with Alpine resorts and, in general, better caters for tourists than the Jura. The cuisine is delicious and you really should savour a proper, freshly-made Black Forest Gateau and some of the outstanding local wines. There is also plenty to see and do, with marvellous spas dotted around – we particularly like Bad Bellingen and Badenweiler, but Titisee has the most impressive. In addition there are rustic villages steeped in history, quaint little museums, lots of waterfalls, the ubiquitous souvenir shops (for your cuckoo clock) and the wonderful old towns of Freiburg, Colmar and Basel not too far away.

If you book well in advance, you may be disappointed if you have set your heart on perfect snow conditions, but generally Feldberg, at least, is reliable from Christmas through the end of February or later. For a last minute getaway, though, you could do a lot worse.

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Feldberg in the Black Forest

Although some of the best skiing in the world is only a couple of hours away from Basel it is possible to ski and snowboard much closer. In the Jura, in Basel-land, there is a small ski area called Langenbruck, with a couple of surface lifts and some short, gentle runs. It is accessible by public transport, but is easier to reach by car. However it is low and currently closed because of the unseasonably warm winter. The nearest resort of any size still open is Feldberg in the Black Forest.

Feldberg )resort website is here) is comparable to many of the smaller Alpine resorts in scale, although with pistes between 1448 and 945m it is quite low. Despite the altitude, however, the pistes have held up better than many higher resorts this season. There are fourteen runs – 3 black, 7 red and 4 blue – comprising around 25km of piste spread over two sides of a valley. The runs on the North-facing side of the valley, off the Grafenmatt, are mostly through the trees and are largely suitable for intermediate skiers. The runs on the South-facing side of the valley, on Seebuck, only loosely connect to the runs across the road via a ski bridge, but the area is better for beginners with a wide, gentle blue run and red runs that really should be graded blue and a good funpark all accessible by an excellent six person chair lift. On Grafenmatt it is almost impossible to escape using surface lifts, of which there are nine in the resort, although there is a modern four-seater chairlift with over 400m vertical ascent providing access to some fine red and black runs, a free ride area and a 3km-long, very challenging blue run. The combined lift capacity of the resort is 24,000 people an hour, so queues are generally short even at busy periods. Around 5km of the pistes have snow cannon cover.

Needless to say, Feldberg is popular with weekend skiers and parking can be challenging unless you arrive early. Interestingly enough Feldberg is also popular with many skiers and snowboarders from Belgium, Holland and North Germany, for whom it is an easier trip than the Alps.

The run from Basel by car is just over an hour, driving north on the B317 from Lörrach up through the delightful Wiesental, and from Freiburg it is three-quarters of an hour (via Titisee). By public transport the trip is under 2 hours from Basel (via Freiburg) and around an hour from Freiburg with regular buses on routes 9007 and 7300 from the nearby railway station at Feldberg-Bärental.

Although small, low, busy and with too many surface lifts, Feldberg is actually a delightful little resort, and highly affordable. A day pass is a reasonable 27 Euros and prices for kit hire, lessons, meals and refreshments are very competitive and there is plenty of choice. There are also number of smaller resorts in the area, including a pleasant area served by a surface lift at Altglashütten, and one served by a gondola at Belchen. All of the resort runs, public transport and a range of other amenities are available free with the “Hochschwarzwald-Card”, which is itself provided gratis for guests in local hotels (depending on length of stay). The area is good for walking and there are a number of cross-country ski circuits, an outstanding all-season water park at Titisee and various other off-piste diversions throughout the “Hochschwarzwald” area.

The standard of accommodation in the hotels and guesthouses in the Black Forest is consistently high. For families the Feldberger Hof  is supremely convenient for the slopes and has superb childcare facilities.  For the more budget-conscious I recommend the excellent family-run Landhotel Sonneck in nearby Altglashütten, a delightful village with rail connections to Titisee and a bus service to Feldberg, as well as having a small ski area in the village.

A full resort report is located at the Swiss Winter Sports web site, with a version in Dutch here.

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