Zugspitze Ski Area - (c) Bayerische Zugspitzbahn Bergbahn AG/Farys
Lying in Bavaria, Southern Germany, at an altitude of just over 700m, and dominated by Germany's highest mountain, the 2961m Zugspitze which straddles the border with Austria, Garmisch-Partenkirchen is by some distance Germany's premier ski resort, and is one of the classic destinations in the whole of the Alps.
Whilst most of Germany's other ski resorts tend to be used solely by German skiers, Garmisch-Partenkirchen has enough on offer to appeal to international skiers, particularly advanced skiers who want to experience some of Garmisch-Partenkirchen's excellent section of tricky blacks and reds, including the famous World Cup downhill Kandahar course. Garmisch-Partenkirchen has a high profile around the snow sports world thanks to it's annual appearance on the ski race calendar, it's history as an Olympic and world championship host, and of course as the traditional new year's day venue for the annual 4 Hills Ski Jumping Tournament. Garmisch-Partenkirchen also has a great reputation for hiking, mountain biking and other outdoor activities. It's proximity to Munich (90 minutes by train), snow-sure upper slopes on the glacier, and undoubtedly some of the best scenery in the Alps, are other big selling points of the resort.
One of the common mistakes regarding Garmisch-Partenkirchen is that it's often referred to just as "Garmisch". The resort actually takes it's name from two towns - Garmisch and Partenkirchen, both of which date back over 1000 years ago. Partenkirchen started out life as a Roman town over 2000 years ago whilst Garmisch first appeared as a neighbouring area some 800 years later. The two towns remained as separate entities until just before the 1936 Winter Olympics, when Adolf Hitler ordered them to unite as one town, to be known as Garmisch-Partenkirchen. It's remained that way ever since, although residents from the east of town continue to be annoyed by those who refer to it simply as "Garmisch".
The resort has remained an important snow sports venue ever since, cementing it's place as Germany's premier winter centre and hosting 2 world championships, countless World Cup races and Four Hills Ski jumping competitions. Garmisch Partenkirchen was part of Munich's bid to host the 2018 Olympics but lost out to Pyeonchang as the IOC looked to spread the games further afield.
Scenery around Garmisch-Partenkirchen is incredible, actually quite reminiscent of the Dolomites, with steep jagged peaks providing some fantastic scenery. With the town being quite low-lying at around 700m, and Germany's highest mountain, the Zugspitze, rising up to nearly 3000m, it should be no real surprise that this is one of Europe's most beautiful areas. Down in the valley at resort level the mountains above look incredible, with wooded lower slopes and the sharp-rising jagged peaks of the Zugspitze and the Wetterstein appearing above. From the top of these areas above the village the panoramas and vistas are similarly impressive.
Because Garmisch-Partenkirchen is historically two different towns, both have a slightly different feel and look, which makes Garmisch-Partenkirchen a bit more interesting than many other Alpine towns of a similar size. Partenkirchen is generally more traditional looking with cobbled streets and frescos (murals painted onto wall) whilst Garmisch tends to be more modern. Garmisch is the western area, Partenkirchen is the eastern area. As you'd expect of a mountain resort in Bavaria, Garmisch Partenkirchen looks great in both the winter snow and the summer sun.
Garmisch-Partenkirchen is about 90km (55 miles) south-west of Munich, which is the main hub for travelling into Bavaria. It takes about 75 minutes if you travel by car, although a decent option is to get the train, which takes a bit longer - about an hour and a half, but means you can sit back and admire the lovely Bavarian scenery. The train station is located between the two town centres of Garmisch and Partenkirchen, so is handily placed for accommodation in either of the two areas.
Information on the German ski area Zugspitze Ski Area, including links to the surrounding resorts, webcams, slope information and lift details.
There are two main parts to the Garmisch Classic area - Hausberg-Kreuzeck on the lower section and Alpspitz below the Zugspitze Glacier area. Hausberg-Kreuzeck has lots of tree-lined routes whilst the Alpspitz and the Zugspitze Glacier areas higher up, hardly have any. The snow conditions can often be poor lower down, suffering from the low altitude of Garmisch-Partenkirchen at resort level. The runs back down to the gondola stations are pretty testing, so it's definitely not a wise move for beginners or nervy intermediates to be skiing these, especially the final sections of the Kandahar World Cup run.
The Zugspitze area is pretty typical of glacier ski area with plenty of drag lifts to access a network of pretty gentle blues. Below the blue runs are some steeper reds that lead down to the Alpspitz area.
The Zugspitze ski area is home to Germany's highest and largest glacier - the Schneeferner. Back in the 1950's five ski lifts were built on the ice sheet, and the conditions were actually good enough for summer skiing. However, recent years has seen a dramatic retreat in the glacier, and unfortunately summer skiing is no longer available on the Schneeferner.
Whilst summer skiing is no longer an option on the Schneeferner glacier on the Zugspitzplatt, this glacier area and the ski lifts on it do provide the opportunity for some early and late season skiing, with the slopes normally open from late November to early April.
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