Jan 2022 – Gonna go ahead and put this out there: don’t visit this area on a weekend in the peak period of winter. Also, if you do make this mistake, don’t show up at a mountain restaurant after 1200 (you WILL be waiting for a while).
If you’re curious about the upper reaches of Garmisch, head here to read about the Zugspitze.
SO…the very first time I stepped foot in ole Garmisch-Partenkirchen was in the summer of 2008 while I was still in college (thanks Mom and Dad for the gift of the plane ticket!). I remember doing the normal touristy thing and taking the Zugspitzebahn to the summit and looking out over the upper ski area thinking, “Wow it’d be awesome to snowboard here, one day.” About 10 years later, I found myself there for the first time in Winter. Gazing up at the hillside where the clearly groomed ski slopes were visible, I told myself that I’d give the Garmisch-Classic area a try, one day.
Welp, by this post’s title, you can probably guess that’s what indeed occurred. I feel like, at this point, I know every single nook and cranny of this little resort village in the Bavarian Alps due to many years of having visited (remember, Garmisch and Americans is like peanut butter and jelly……or spätzle and appenzeller cheese…).
Since the target audience of this post is more-than-likely a little familiar with the actual town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, I won’t spend a lot of time talking about the town itself. I’m not blowing up my family’s favorite place to eat, either. Forget it, guys 🤐. I’m not gonna fight for reservations at our favorite spot!
As these are times dealing with COVID…and Germany is Germany’ing the hell out of everybody, we did the safe thing and booked our family’s two-day pass (272 Euros) a few days ahead of time. Since we had a good, albeit terrain-challenging, time during our last Zugspitze visit with Skischule Zugspitz-Grainau, we decided to book our little ones’ lessons with them again: a two-day morning lesson (212 Euros) for the girl and the boy.
Tip: nearly no ski school price includes a lift ticket. ALWAYS KNOW that you have to buy lift tickets separately. Make sure you allow enough time to do this and make sure you stick their lift ticket (if they need one depending on age) into their jacket sleeve or pocket before leaving them with the ski school.
Our first morning, we were a little freaked out looking at the initial lift line at the Hausberg Talstation. We had to do the usual song-and-dance of initially showing vax proof to an indifferent and likely hungover employee who would rather be doing anything else at 0817 in the morning.
Tip: unless you are taking a shuttle directly to a drop-off point, GET TO A PARKING LOT EARLIER THAN 0900. You can choose from the Hausberg lift or Kreuzeck lift lots if you’re taking your own car. I know the prospect of waking children (and you) up at 0700 on a weekend is painful…but it’s almost what you have to do to ensure you don’t park 3 kilometers away from the main lift.
The ski school’s meeting area (below) wasn’t super obvious but it wasn’t hard to find, either. After meeting up with the instructors, they gave us the game plan for the kids and offered the opportunity to pick them up either at the top of the Hausberg lift or down at the bottom. Since, at this point, they’re able to actually ski with us, we elected to pick them up at the top and ski or gondola with them back down.
Once we said our goodbyes and “don’t get in trouble or you’re dead” suggestions, we got in the big line (above) and waited.
And we stood there, some more.
Luckily for our kids, there is a ski school lane at the Hausberg lift and they get to skip to the front of the line…presumably to make their parents happier for spending what they spend 😀. We (Dad and Mom) did not have that option and after waiting for…a while…we were situated at the upper base…where we got in another line…
And waited some more.
It was really difficult just standing around that long getting no use out of the lift tickets that we had purchased. After about 40 minutes of waiting in lines, both at the bottom and upper area, we were finally able to take a first run down.
To describe the Pistes at Garmisch-Classic is interesting. Nearly the entire time you’re flanked by beautiful pine trees coated in snow, and there are some glorious “side country” spots to enjoy if the snowfall is fresh. There aren’t too many skinny snowcat-trails to be forced into and there were only a few trails still not open when we went. I wasn’t able to judge the area near trails #15 and #16 as far as kids go.
There is a pretty good kids’ or beginners’ learning area near the top of the Hausberg lift. It’s equipped with a covered magic carpet and not far from that area is a T-bar (or maybe button/teller lift). If you need to use it, you don’t have to be enrolled in ski school to use the carpet 👍. There’s a reasonable funslope to use but it doesn’t quite stand up to the one at Ehrwald Alm, if you ask me.
I experienced a new thing during this visit: my son completely telling his instructor to go to hell and that he was done. You’ll see in my next post that this short instance in Garmisch was just the beginning to a much worse experience that our son gave us. During the latter part of his first morning, his instructor called us and asked, “Can you come get him? He’s done.”
Damn you, child!!!!!! If you’ve never thought this about your kid, you’re a weird parent.
We promptly got back to the Kinderland where he was being a bit of a gripe. We had a discussion, and basically ended up bribing him if he would finish his lesson like a big boy (I’m not proud of the toy bribe).
Both kids’ instructors were really really patient and did a fantastic job in taking care of them. They were very happy to have them and our little girl was even doing some 180s on her skis for the first time (Skischule Zugspitze-Grainau for the win!). Sadly, Jake wasn’t around, but Toni and his lady counterpart did a respectable job having the ridiculous lines to deal with in addition to an ornery boy on their hands.
A drawback to Skischule Zugspitze-Grainau that I noticed was a lack of a warm-up facility if the weather gets really miserable. There were two other ski schools that definitely had somewhat of a lodge at the upper base that would be useful to have on hand in case of unforeseen circumstances. Those ski schools are: Skischule Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Skischule Gapa.
I’ll say that, compared to other mountains of the same size, the Garmisch-Classic doesn’t have as many options on the slopes for a quick drink or bite; the bottom of the slopes are a guarantee for a good spot and are far less busy during peak piste times…venture down to the mountain base for your Mittagspause, if you can. You could be waiting a while in the weather, otherwise.
I blame the lack of on slope options on the crowds as well as the wonderful forestry on the mountain that Bayern wants to stay…kind of restricting the building space. Naturally COVID receives some of the blame.
So…I’ll let the photo above with the insane lift line do the talking…but just consider that lift line photo if you ever think to yourself, “Hey you know what? I’ll just take myself a fun old-fashioned family weekend down to Garmisch and it’s gonna be GREAT!”…just know that the lift lines you’ll be facing will suck much of the fun out of your Griswold family weekend.
To paraphrase everything…I actually enjoyed the slopes at the GC a lot. A huge snowfall had occurred the day before so the on-and-off Piste options were in wonderful shape. The scenery as you ski or board is beautiful and the opportunity to literally ski and snowboard into the village of Garmisch is really cool.
Just…the crowds. I guess, glass being half-full, the crowds indicate the popularity and success of the slope area. Just take it from me…go on a weekday. Oh! And book Skischule Zugspitze-Grainau if you need it. I think they hire some of the most patient young people I’ve seen in our 4 years in the Alps 👌. The moodiness of our boy was only a small taste compared to what we got the next weekend in Chiemgau Alps…
The fabled Garmisch-Classic is great…just don’t go on a weekend.
As always, if you think I may have missed something or you think of some info that you’d like to know, drop me a line, below!|
Bis zum näschtes mal!-the snowboard dad in europe