Nov 2021 – This was a very strange trip from booking it to heading home. If you read my last post, you’ll know that our first real trip this season was supposed to be in Austria…however, since 40% of the Austrian population thought the COVID vaccine wasn’t worth the trouble, their entire skiing industry shut down completely until (tentatively) 12 Dec. I’d say at this point our December trip into Austria is also in jeopardy…
Having said that, thankfully, the Zugspitze opened on 19 November as Germany’s only early-season skiing/snowboarding destination. We were thankfully refunded all costs from Austria and used the refunds to pay for yet another standard American trip down to Garmisch-Partenkirchen for two days of slope time at nearly 3,000 meters. We wanted to get down there before Germany shuts every lift operation down, again, like they did last year.
If you’d like to have a look at what an experience at the Garmisch-Classic might be like, give it a click!
I did a quick Google online in desperate search for ski schools that provided instruction at the Zugspitze instead of the Garmisch-Classic ski area (which at the time, wasn’t yet open). I stumbled across Skischule Zugspitze-Grainau. Since group lessons for kids aren’t given up there due to lack of proper children’s facilities like a magic carpet, play area, etc…we booked a private instructor for 2 morning hours each day we were there. The total cost was around 250 Euros.
A quick note on the cost: your price is by the hour regardless of how many family members accompany the instructor. What this means is that whether you have one kid or four…or if both parents and kids want the instruction, the cost doesn’t change: you have your own private instructor, which I think is great for development. Two separate group sessions for two different kids would probably cost the same or more: now you’re armed with the right information for an informed choice!
The Skischule Zugspitze-Grainau was responsive, coordinated a meeting time and point, and even went out of their way to update us on the mountain’s COVID rules that had just changed so we wouldn’t miss anything. Having said that, if you go to the Zugspitze this winter, CHECK THE COVID RULES. When we went, we had to be both vax’d as well as tested. You can utilize the Garmisch Testzentrum’s Walk-up service (next to Pavilion Restaurant) if you need to.
We got out of the house and got to the Eibsee Parkplatz, early…which I highly recommend doing especially on weekends. The entrances to both the Zugspitze Seilbahn and Zahnradbahn are manned by personnel screening both testing results and vax status. Refer to the slideshow at the end of this post for what this looks like… Just an FYI: to park down there for the entire day is only 12 Euros so, unless you’re taking the bus down there, it’s not terribly expensive.
I’ll make this very clear for all of you: the Zugspitze ski area has major challenges in terms of kids who are beginners. If your kids have never been on skis, it may be the better idea to wait for the Garmisch-Classic to open.
Our girl remembered enough from her previous seasons that she’s not a beginner…but our boy may as well have had to remember absolutely everything, again. This presented a challenge to our Instructor who had to deal with both an intermediate skier as well as a beginner.
There is also no real place for a child to warmup and play. There’s two restaurants at the Zugspitze Platte and that’s basically the only place to go. There’s Wifi up top so bring something to help keep your kids occupied if the conditions get too bad. Please also keep in mind that, unless most of the mountain is open, only normal chair lifts will be open. So, if your kids need to use a J/T-bar or button lift, you’d better check the lift map, first for what’s open.
We met up with Jake, the kids’ instructor. We were initially communicating in German but we both quickly realized that we were both from the U.S. so we went the easy route and spoke in our native tongue (TIP: REQUEST JAKE IF YOUR KIDS CAN’T SPEAK GERMAN). He gave us a quick run-down of his plan for the kids and he made us feel at ease that they’d be well taken care of. This was how our meetup went during both mornings we had booked him.
Needless to say, the moment the kids were with Jake we were out of there and down the slopes. I’ve made mention to it before, but the conditions on the Zugspitze have more-often-than-not been pretty bad. Visibility can get pretty lousy and it can change quickly. If you decide to take the trip, consult the actual Zugspitze’s weather report here.
At the time of this writing, there were only 5 slopes and 2 lifts open at the Zugspitze Platte. This led to a few lines at the lifts and, at times, crowded slopes…but to be totally honest, we were just happy to be up there enjoying slope time since Germany is likely to kill it all, soon.
So, I want to spend a paragraph or two on Skischule Zugspitze-Grainau and Jake, the kids’ instructor. Before we met up, our boy stepped into his skis so I could see what he could remember…which turned out to be nearly nothing because of last year’s skiing gap. Thanks to our instructor, he basically went from nothing to the video below within 4 hours:
If Jake was able to do this in a not-so-kid-friendly place, I can’t imagine how much better the kids could have improved if their lessons had been at the Garmisch Classic ski area which is so much better suited for them. He even took the MONUMENTAL task of physically guiding my boy down the Zugspitze’s main piste while also guiding our daughter down so she could spend some time on a run. Multi-task much??? The guy had immense patience with a very challenging situation, both conditions-wise and skills-wise with our kids. If you go to either the Zugspitze or the Classic areas and need an instructor, English or German speaking, request him by name if you can.
The Zugspitze is great when the conditions are right, but oftentimes the weather presents challenges. This makes it ever more difficult for children who are looking to improve their skills; however, the Zugspitze is the only place in Germany that opened in November, giving you the chance to shred the snow before December. Take it for what it is!
For early and late season sessions, the Zugspitze is worth a visit…but these days, always keep the ‘Rona in mind. Take care when it comes to planning your trip when it comes to weather and open slopes/lifts. And as always, if you need to ask me anything, drop a comment at the bottom of the page!
Bis zum näschtes mal!-THE SNOWBOARD DAD IN EUROPE