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An eco-friendly keep at ‘the quietest ski village in Austria’ | Journey



On a steeply pitched street in Grosses Walsertal valley, it was snowing – closely – as if the heavens had shattered. I used to be two hours west of Innsbruck, deep within the Alps in midwinter, however the view was free from the rows of snow-laden lodges, après-ski bars and resort chalets that I used to be used to seeing on earlier ski journeys.

I’d come to the hamlet of Fontanella, midway between Sonntag and Faschina in Vorarlberg – a spot few skiers would be capable to pinpoint on a map – to expertise a brand new kind of vacation at Cabinski, a cluster of inexpensive, sustainable huts, which opened final December. Every of the ten cabins comes with two double bunks, an ensuite and kitchen, and minimalist but good Scandi vibes. Which may sound acquainted sufficient, however the twist is that this lodging is momentary – nearly pop-up – and capable of vanish as rapidly because it appeared. It’s a counter world to the everyday chalet keep.

The view from the cabin.

Earlier than leaving for Austria, I’d spoken to Cabinski’s German co-founder Tim Suske, who defined how his “leave-no-trace” cabins had been constructed to work in concord with the panorama, not in opposition to it. “We noticed a necessity for some modifications in Alpine tourism,” he advised me. “Our goal is to not flip the Alps into one large theme park. It’s not about greater, quicker, additional. Our development means all cabins may be winched out some other place if wanted – we’re capable of rewild the land fully afterwards.” The Fontanella cabins are prone to keep in place for just a few years and there are extra in Montafon an hour south – with others within the pipeline.

My delivery container-style condominium was complemented by a Sonos system with a ready-made playlist of moody scene-setters (Sigur Rós, Maribou State, Arlo Parks) and snow-to-sky window views over a wave of swish mountains. Exterior, two distinctive ranges met: the inexperienced flysch belt of the Walserkamm collided with the rocky chutes and crags of the limestone Alps.

Cabinksi Walstertal within the snow. {Photograph}: Julia Nimke

Then, I noticed the personal wooden sauna (half of the cabins right here have them), a brief barefoot stroll within the snow past the sliding door, with wi-fi timer to ignite the burner whereas I used to be snowboarding. The sturdy impression was of farsightedness and knowhow, but in addition one thing neighbourly and cosy. Subsequent door, in an outdated housebarn owned by the farmer leasing the land to Suske and his companion Christopher Eichhorn, two honesty fridges of butter, milk, eggs, cheese and different native specialities sat between tufty hay bales and cow bells. Breakfast and dinner, paid for through a QR code, was sorted.

The personal wooden sauna. {Photograph}: Julia Nimke

In Austria, the nation of huge ticket resorts equivalent to St Anton, Ischgl and Kitzbühel, it’s at all times a pleasure to seek out someplace new in winter and, dare I say it, someplace extra genuine. Grosses Walsertal is such a spot. It’s the place centuries of immigration have converged, with the Walsers – initially from Valais in southern Switzerland – first settling, then clearing land and erecting farms round 1300. Many of those long-established homesteads nonetheless exist and, right this moment, the huddling barns and net of huts aren’t a ghostly presence like in lots of Alpine valleys. The ski areas are fundamental and low-tech, Sonntag has one gondola and one chairlift and Faschina two chairlifts, one T-bar tow.

The following morning started with a blizzard – all white mild, gray sky, lithograph mountains – but in addition with the information that I used to be the primary individual on the chairlift at Faschina. It was already nicely after 9am. “You’ll have the place to your self right this moment,” mentioned the girl on the ticket workplace, stunned to listen to a international accent. “It gained’t be what you’re used to, however that’s why we like it.” A number of hours of the loneliest ski and loveliest runs adopted – simply me and the mountains .


Reverence for the native ecosystem is constructed into the Walsers’ DNA as I realized at Biosphärenpark Haus, an archive in Sonntag of the valley’s Unesco credentials. These, as I later discovered, put the miniature valley on an equal footing with the Galápagos and huge Serengeti. All are biosphere reserves, recognised for balancing the connection between folks and nature. Grosses Walsertal is simply on a distinct scale.

The museum’s challenge assistant Monika Bischof, defined that the Walsers had been one of many unique advocates of an eco-friendly lifestyle. Their strategy to sustainability balanced each cultural and pure belongings. “We talk about issues and clear up them collectively,” she mentioned, as we explored the displays, together with an award-winning working cheese dairy. “There’s a sluggish tempo of life. And we’re not trying to change.” It helps, I believe, that the inhabitants – solely 17 folks a sq. km – is tiny. On the slopes, it appears like even much less.

Sonnenhof Sonnenalm restaurant and ski hut in Damuls. {Photograph}: Westend61 GmbH/Alamy

For the extra bold skier, there may be way more terrain additional up the valley that reveals itself in levels. Catching the bus outdoors my cabin the subsequent morning, I crossed into Damüls within the neighbouring area of Bregenzerwald, a journey of solely 10 minutes, however one which drifted from empty slopes and the quiet most important avenue of Faschina into the wintry Austria guests could be acquainted with. I noticed a blur of whirling lifts, piste-top eating places and goggled helmets.


Mild streaked throughout Damüls and, with the climate bettering, I rode the quad and six-person chairs for the day, at all times with a watch on Damülser Mittagsspitze, a Matterhorn-type mountain with much less fanfare however maybe all the higher for it. It glinted black and white above the tree line, a large dorsal fin on a relaxed sea.

Snowboarding in Faschina. {Photograph}: Alex Kaiser/Alpenregion Bludenz Tourismus

Starvation took me to Elsenalpstube, a terraced mountain refuge that smelled teasingly of Germknödel, a poppy seed-topped jammy dumpling, and a thinly veiled excuse to pig-out at lunchtime. The self-service restaurant was busy and I queued alongside Bavarians and Vorarlbergers, most of whom additionally ordered foaming pints of wheat beer. Alcohol and cake for lunch appeared a given, with no trace of embarrassment. One more reason to like the place.


Later, snowboarding performed for the day, I dropped my rental package again in Faschina and looped again to my cabin for a sauna and bathe. Dinner was beer and no-frills pizza at Dorfstübli in Fontanella, an unashamedly old style locals’ place by the church and the place I used to be the one customer. Like the remainder of the Grosses Walsertal, it felt unreal. There was no open-armed welcome, no après-ski, no alternative. You might search a thousand different wood-clad bars all through the Alps in winter and never discover one other prefer it. My general sense was this was the quietest ski village in Austria, which suited me wonderful.

The journey was supplied by Alpenregion Bludenz and Go to Austria. A keep at Cabinksi Walsertal prices from €184 per cabin per night time, for as much as a household of 4, or three adults.

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