Ski area Balderschwang
Balderschwang: fast-paced descents and magnificent landscapes
The small mountain village of Balderschwang is located in a high valley at an altitude of 1,044 metres. Based on past records, visitors can be pretty sure of finding good snow from December through to March. Of course, that’s no surprise, given that the region’s annual precipitation figures are higher than anywhere else in the country. Although Balderschwang has fewer than 400 permanent inhabitants, it nevertheless attracts over 30,000 visitors every year, especially in winter, thanks to the wide range of activities on offer. Balderschwang is one of the Hörnerdörfer, a grouping of five villages that also includes Obermaiselstein, Ofterschwang, Bolsterlang and Fischen. You can reach it on either of two main roads. The first of these, a stunning drive over the Riedberg Pass, is sometimes closed for one or more days after snow. Don’t forget to pack snow chains. The alternative route offers a more relaxed drive via Immendorf and Oberstaufen towards Hittisau. There are lifts and hiking trails up to all the peaks, where you will be rewarded with breathtaking views of the Allgäu Alps. Balderschwang welcomes visitors, especially couples and families, all year round. It’s the ideal place to recharge your batteries, whether you are out skiing or tobogganing in magnificent surroundings or enjoying a well-earned rest at one of the resort’s many hotels and mountain cabins.
On the slopes – the fun starts up at 1,500 metres
Balderschwang boasts around 40 kilometres of slopes for winter sports fans, including 6 kilometres of black and 11 kilometres of red runs for intermediate and advanced skiers. For beginners, there are more than 18 kilometres of blue runs, which remain almost always ice-free. The resort also has 4 kilometres of mixed descents with variable levels of difficulty.
All the ski slopes start at the mountain station on the 1,500 metre Gelbhansekopf. Check the signs to find the right level of difficulty, and off you go! You can head right down into the valley or make for one of the cabins dotted around the mountainsides. Altogether there are thirteen lifts, including two tow lifts, seven training lifts and a mixture of two-, four- and six-seater chairlifts. You rarely have to wait very long even when the slopes are busy, so you can enjoy the descent and then look forward to getting back up again.
Freeriders and snowboarders can practise in specially cordoned-off areas. If you want to improve your skills, there is a snowboarding school on the Riedberger Horn. This is also the starting point for over 20 kilometres of groomed cross-country trails. Deep snow runs are also possible higher up on the Riedberger Horn. In the evenings, both the Gschwend 1 slope and the adjacent toboggan run are floodlit between 7 pm and 10 pm.
Après-ski: time to relax!
If whizzing up and down the mountainside is not your thing or you’re simply ready to put your feet up after a busy day on the slopes, you can sit back and relax in a deckchair at one of the resort’s many cabins or hotels. It can get pretty crowded, especially at Alphotel Boden (formerly the Bodenseehütte). If there is a late-night party anywhere in Balderschwang, you’ll find it here. The hotel is linked to the village by a hiking trail and has its own access road. Some of the mountain cabins are also run as hotels. Try the Burgl Hütte (on one of the hiking trails, but you’ll need to be quite fit), the Höflealp, the Schelpenalp and the Gschwendstüble.
Many of the resort’s hotels have a terrace with views of the Allgäu Alps – the perfect spot for a cup of tea or coffee on a sunny day. Free wifi is now available at all restaurants and hotels. If you’re looking for something a little different, try the Bio-Berghotel, where the focus is on wellness and organic cuisine.
Eating out – hearty regional dishes
If you have been out in the fresh air all day on the slopes, you’ll be ready for a hearty dinner, and here in the Allgäu you won’t be disappointed. As well as the traditional Kässpatzen (cheese noodles), all the local restaurant menus are dominated by meat dishes, often accompanied by one of the regional cheeses. You’ll also find hearty broths and sauces with local herbs. By contrast, the Bio-Berghotel serves up organic and vegetarian dishes based on local produce. Naturally, the mountainside cabins offer regular favourites such as the famous and often pretty spicy currywurst served up with fries. If you eat well, you should drink well, too! Alongside the usual soft drinks, you will find locally produced beers wherever you go. Go easy on the Bockbier, though. It’s strong stuff, so best to order a small glass to start off with.
What to do away from the slopes
There is so much to do in and around Balderschwang, even if you’re not into skiing or tobogganing. One of the area’s top attractions is the impressive Breitachklamm (Breitach Gorge) in Tiefenbach with its frozen waterfalls and a 2.5 km walking trail. The path is also suitable for families with children. After Obermaiselstein, take the road to Oberstdorf and look out for the signs. Oberstdorf boasts not only the renowned ski jump but also a training centre for elite figure skaters. If you are lucky, you might see some familiar faces!
In winter, there’s always a skiing race somewhere – in Ofterschwang, for example, which is best known for the Ski World Cup, and in Grasgehren, just a few kilometres from Balderschwang, which hosts frequent racing events. If you’re looking for a swimming or wellness venue, there are thermal baths and indoor pools in Oberstdorf, Sonthofen, Oberstaufen and Immenstadt. For keen walkers, there is an extensive network of footpaths all around Balderschwang. And finally, how about a romantic carriage ride through the snow-covered landscape?
The Hörnerdörfer “Allgäu Walser Card” is ideal for visitors, especially those with families, who want to get out and explore. Remember to ask about it when you book your trip.
Balderschwang even has its own Christian radio station “Horeb” in the town centre. The studio is open to visitors and has a chapel, a place of calm and reflection amid the spectacular landscapes of the Allgäu.
While there are occasional dance evenings in the hotels and mountain cabins around Balderschwang, the most popular venue for late-night parties is Oberstaufen, which is just under 30 minutes away – a little longer if the road is busy.
The Austrian border runs just the other side of Balderschwang, so why not make a day trip of it? But remember you’ll need to pay a toll on the motorways and S-roads. Check with the staff at your accommodation. Some hotels can even provide vignettes (road tax stickers for use in Austria).
Thanks to its location, Balderschwang has the deepest snow in the Allgäu Alps. You might well find 20 centimetres of fresh snow here while it’s still raining in Oberstdorf. If it rains on top of the snow and then snows again, however, the avalanche warning level may increase. In such cases, warning signs are displayed in prominent locations. Föhn conditions are not uncommon in the winter period. At such times, it can become extremely mild with strong winds as warm air is sucked in across the Alps from the south. Skiers should avoid wooded slopes, as the downwinds are powerful enough to knock trees over. Equally, hikers should avoid any trails that pass through the nearby forests.