A Perfect Holiday in Grainau: Winter Tours in Garmisch-Classic Ski Area

 // by Polina Peskovsky
A Perfect Holiday in Grainau: Winter Tours in Garmisch-Classic Ski Area
Thursday, 21 October 2021

The lockdown back in 2020/21 has led to a new boom in skimo mountaineering. Ski lifts and cablecars were closed, so many skiers switched to ski mountaineering and discovered this trendy winter sport. The Garmisch Classic ski area in Garmisch-Partenkirchen is a perfect entry point for those who want to try ski tours in a safe and uncomplicated way. Even if the ski area is a bit crowded.

On Tour Along The Slope

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Naturally, ski mountaineering in an established ski area has its advantages. Firstly, ski resorts are very secure, which is extremely important for beginners. Slopes are isolated from dangerous areas, minor dangerous objects are marked with a sign. These signs are there beyond the operating hours as well. Avalanche danger is usually low in ski areas, as during and after a snowfall dangerous snow accumulations are removed with various methods. Thus, snow hikers normally need no avalanche equipment, and their backpacks are somewhat lighter.  

Downhill skiing is generally safer within the ski area as well. Ski slopes are regularly maintained, there are no rocks or fallen trees on the way, which can otherwise be hidden in the snow in the wild. Sometimes, especially in the first winter weeks, the snow cover is still missing on the heights - at this time snow cannons are used to produce snow in the ski area and the snow cover is much better here. You can even put on your skis directly at the parking lot!

Other advantages for snow hikers along the slopes in the ski area include first aid, should something happen, multiple points to stop for a refreshment, or even going down with a cablecar. However, as a snow hiker you are obliged to stay on the edge of the slope, as you share it with numerous alpine skiers and snowboarders speeding from above.


German Alpine Club (DAV) Rules for Snow Hikers in Ski Areas

If you're new to ski mountaineering, check the following tips from the German Alpine Club to make your tour safe. Otherwise, be sure to follow our safety tips for beginners (link in German).

10 DAV Rules

  • Both ascent and descent in the ski area are at your own risk and responsibility - this applies to snow hikers as well.
  • To ascend, always select a position on the side of the slope. Do not walk side by side. Always pay attention to the skiing traffic!
  • Be careful on hilltops, in narrow passages, steep slopes or when the slope is icy. If you have to cross the slope, keep a distance from each other. Do not cross in the areas where you cannot see the ski traffic.
  • Always follow warnings, including slope closures and local regulations (see link below).
  • During maintenance slopes are normally closed for safety reasons. Entering a closed slope, especially when winches are used in steep runs, may be lethal!
  • Freshly prepared ski slopes may only be used on the side. In the dark, switch on your headlight and wear reflective clothing.
  • Pay attention to alpine dangers, especially the avalanche danger. Do not enter the areas where avalanche blasting is expected. Only open slopes are avalanche safe.
  • There should be enough snow on the slopes for your hike. Avoid damage to alpine plants and to the forest floor.
  • Show consideration for wild animals. Animals are severely disturbed at dusk and in the dark. Never take dogs on snow hikes with you.
  • Observe regulations at parking lots, pay parking fees, organize your arrival in an environmentally friendly way. (By the way, from the Hotel am Badersee you can take the Zugspitzbahn to the Hausberg. The fare is included in the local tax.)

10 DAV Tipps for Snow Hikers in Ski Areas - Full Version (in German)

Local regulations in Garmisch-Classic Ski Area (in German)


Ski Tour to Mount Osterfelderkopf (2057 m)

The Osterfelderkopf is a small peak under the Alpspitze summit that is widely known due to the Alpspitzbahn cablecar station located on it and the nearby Alpspixx platform viewpoint. Today I'm hiking to the Osterfelderkopf with two friends of mine. Our intention is to start before the ski area opens, in order to reach at least the Hausberg before the rush begins.

7:10 am: The recommended parking lot for snow hikers is next to the Olympia-Eissport-Zentrum in Garmisch, some 400 m walk from the Hausberg cablecar. It is still dark at this time of the day in January. However, we are not the first hikers on the way: a few weak lights from headlamps can be seen on the slope before us. Sporty locals sometimes make this tour before work. The ascent route first follows the regular slope, however, after some 40 minutes we follow the path to the right into the forest. The morning light is getting brighter, although the skies are still cloudy. We hope the weather forecast is right and the sun would come out.

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The ascent to the Hausberg is steep, here you have to climb 650 vertical meters of altitude at once. However, except for a few steep icy spots, the ascent track is relatively even and thus doable. The route is easily recognizable and the junctions are signposted. The last stretch is almost flat and in addition it offers a beautiful view of Mount Alpspitze. Here we reward ourselves with a short break and get a warm drink from our thermos flasks.

9:30 am: Around 9 o'clock we pass the Hausberg area and shortly reach the Trögltunnel for skiers. Entering the 90 meter long tunnel is forbidden for hikers. You should use the underpass to the right of the tunnel. The Kandahar run is currently closed due to the preparations for the Ski World Cup, there is a € 1,000 fine for trespassers. The Kandahar Express chairlift is running at full capacity: professional athletes are training here this week. We take the lower ski trail and shortly arrive at the Hexenkessel.  

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10:00 am: The Kreuzalm (1600 m) is already open. From here we continue to Kreuzeck and reach an important junction on our route: first a slight turn to the left (in the direction of Hochalm), and immediately after that we take the right turn to Längenfelder. The reason is that the slope between Kreuzeck and Hochalm is relatively narrow, so it is not desirable for hikers to block the edge of the slope. In addition, this detour avoids the loss of altitude that normally occurs if you take the normal route to Hochalm. So we take the road along the Längenfelderbahn skilift. Here one enjoys a magnificent panoramic view of Mount Alpspitze, the Bernadeinkopf and other peaks. The idyllic snow-covered mountains fascinate us all at once. This is one of those views here in Garmisch that make you feel living in paradise on a daily basis. The next section of our tour takes us over a snow-covered alpine meadow below the Alpspitze, where cows graze idyllically in summer. Just behind the Hochalm (1705 m) the Längenfelder road joins the ski slope again.  

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11:00 am: At the foot of the Bernadeinkopf, the slope makes a right turn and we reach 'the Breakthrough', a narrow passage between the two huge rocks. This is the startpoint of an extremely impressive tour for experienced mountaineers in the Garmisch Classic area: to the Bernadeinkopf via the "Schöngänge" (see below). Mount Alpspitze dominates the left side of the slope. Fortunately, the avalanche danger is at low level today. On snow hikes one must always be aware of the snow-covered rocks above your ascent track.

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11:30 am: After the 'Breakthrough', the Alpspitzbahn cablecar station is in sight. The last section is extremely steep and we sweat as usual. The air is icy, but the effort keeps me warm. I briefly consider how much energy I have burnt on this slope - perhaps I can reward myself for all the effort later. After a few more curves I reach the upper trail, which attracts dozens of tourists and climbers in summer. We arrive at the Osterfelderkopf (2057 m) to discover that we were not the first hikers at all. A few others have reached the summit before us and are now enjoying a warm drink from their thermos flasks. The ascent is now over, and we suddenly notice the icy temperature, a cold wind is whistling around our ears. The Alpspitze restaurant at the Osterfelderkopf has no free tables - no wonder at lunchtime. Thus, it makes no sense to stay here longer, so we put on warm clothes, take a sip from our thermos flasks, quickly take off the skins and go down straightaway.

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12:40 pm: To get back to the Hausberg parking lot, we pass the Kreuzeck as usual, then before the Hausberg we keep to the right and reach the Kochelberg run via the Adamswiesen. It was a nice tour once again, and we reached our cars safely.


More Tours in Garmisch Classic Ski Area

Ski mountaineering in the Garmisch-Classic ski area are at least as much fun as alpine skiing. The ski area is a great option for beginners. Advanced skiers and mountaineers can take advantage of a few more tours, that would make a great day and, most importantly, allow you to gain enough vertical meters.

The ski tour to the Osterfelderkopf with its 1400 vertical meters runs, so to say, over the 'main route' - over the Hausberg, Kreuzeck and Hochalm. Here are a few more suggestions on how to arrange your winter day in the Garmisch-Classic ski area, and a few points to consider.

!!! Avalanche Danger !!! The Garmisch-Classic ski area is fairly flat at the top, so the avalanche danger in the ridge area is relatively low. The avalanche-safe ascent is along the Hausberg and further on the 'main route' to Hochalm. Snow hikers in the Garmisch Classic must stay on the designated winter trails and observe the local regulations (e.g. closed or restricted areas). On winter tours, everyone must decide for themselves on the spot, even if the tour is generally considered avalanche-safe. Outside of the 'main route' and above Hochalm, it is essential to wear avalanche equipment.

Ascents from the Valley

  • You can shorten the 'main route' or plan small detours. For beginners the described hike with 1400 vertical meters will be a bit too strenuous. Upon reaching the Hausberg (650 vertical meters), many hikers go back to the valley. However, you can make a small effort and go a bit further - e.g. to the Kreuzwankl skilift station. From the Hausberg, turn left and go past the Trögllift, or go straight on in the direction of the Kandahar and then turn left - here it is not that steep. From Kreuzwankl you get a great view of Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

If you have made it to the Hausberg, you can easily make it to Kreuzeck - the further stretch is no longer that steep (+ approx. 250 vertical meters). After reaching the Kandahar junction, take the pedestrian tunnel and walk along the Hexenkessel ski lift, then hike up to the Kreuzalm Chalet along the Hexenkessel run. At the Kreuzalm you can reward yourself with a coffee with a magnificent view of the Alpspitze. At lunchtime the restaurant offers excellent Bavarian food.

A somewhat longer tour to Mount Kreuzjoch (with a total of approx. 1000 vertical meters) runs along the upper section of the Kandahar run. After reaching the Trögltunnel exit, you have to turn left to the top station of the Kreuzwankl skilift, from there you can continue up to Mount Kreuzjoch. The ascent track runs along the edge of the Kandahar run, so you have to watch out for the ski traffic and walk very carefully. An unforgettable view of the Alpspitze awaits you at the top. The tour is only possible when the Kandahar run is open.

  • A night at the chalet on Hausberg or Kreuzeck. The special atmosphere of a cozy evening at an alpine chalet is known to everyone who has ever dared a moonlight tour in the Alps. In the Garmisch Classic ski area two chalets usually open their doors in the late hours during the winter season: the Drehmöser-9 Chalet at the Hausberg and the Kreuzalm Chalet at Kreuzeck - on Tuesday and Thursday respectively.
  • Please mind that ascent from the Kreuzeckbahn cablecar base station is not possible. Ascent on the Olympia slope and the Kandahar run is prohibited.

Winter Tours with Ropeway Support

The most beautiful winter tours in the Garmisch Classic ski area are below Mount Alpspitze. There, behind the Bernadein chain, you would discover quiet routes for any level of experience in a wonderful winter landscape.

In this case tours start at the Alpspitzbahn cablecar. Snow hikers can benefit from the the Bernadein ski pass - an offer from the Bayerische Zugspitzbahn that only includes 1 uphill ride with the Alpspitzbahn and 1 ride with the Bernadein ski lift. This ski pass option is generally not listed on the Zugspitzbahn website, you have to ask for it at the ticket office. Once you arrive at the top, you have the following options:

  • Ski tour to Stuiben (easy to medium). Perfect for beginners as your very first ski tour (but for the descent you need to be well on your skis!). To reach the starting point, start from the Osterfelderkopf (Alpspitzbahn upper station) in the direction of Hochalm until you reach the Bernadein slope. The skimo route starts 100 m before the Bernadein ski lift valley station, look out for the sign "Stuiben-Bockhütte-Reintal" on the right side of the slope. The path is well signposted, but can be quite busy. From here you have to ascend about 200 vertical meters to the Stuibenhütte chalet, which is only open in winter as a support point for snow hikers. If the tour is too short for you, you can extend it in a number of ways, for example with a detour to Mount Stuibenkopf and Mount Mauerschartenkopf. Read our report on this tour here in the Badersee Blog.
  • The 'Schöngänge' Tour (difficult). This is an alternative ascent to the Bernadein for experienced mountaineers. Over a steep trail, which is partially secured (in winter, however, the steel rope may be useless, if the rocks are completely covered with ice and snow) you climb directly to Mount Bernadeinkopf (2143 m). You have to carry your skis. In winter the tour is not feasible without crampons and an ice axe. Here you should pay special attention to the avalanche situation. From the Bernadeinkopf you can ski down to the other side to Lake Stuibensee and possibly reach the Stuibenhütte Chalet, or take other routes.
  • Ski tour to Mount Alpspitze (difficult). The startpoint is the same: the tour starts at the bottom of the Bernadein skilift. Depending on the route, it is a difficult (S5) or very difficult ski tour (S6), so it is only suitable for very experienced winter mountaineers. Click here for more infos.
  • Ski tour to Grieskarscharte Saddle (difficult). The Grieskarscharte is located below the Alpspitze and is less known. From the saddle you have a direct view into the Reintal Valley. Just like the tour above, this route is only suitable for very skilled and experienced winter hikers. Click here for more infos.

Tips & Infos

  • Alps "for Dummies": Our safety tips for beginners (coming soon in English)
  • Equipment rental: If you need equipment, WN Alpin is the specialized store for ski mountaineers in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
  • Parking fee: Parking fees apply on most parking lots in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
  • Operating hours: If you choose a winter tour that includes a ride with the ski lift, remember that ski lifts close around 4 pm.
  • More winter tours in Zugspitze Area: In our Leisure Guide we have collected all outdoor recreation opportunities for you.


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