Germany’s favourite holiday region re-invents itself as a wintersports wonderland when the first snows of winter start to fall.
The Black Forest features in the childhood memories of hundreds of thousands of Germans as the place where they first strapped those long slidey things to their feet. There are at least a dozen mini ski resorts scattered through the mountains, ranging from Vogelskopf (one lift and a couple of pistes), to the slopes of Feldberg with 50km of downhill. Most have a mixture of cross-country routes and pisted slopes, and they’re all within an hour’s drive of key airports like Freiburg, Basel (Switzerland), and Strasbourg (France). Each has a different, hand-crafted flavour, unlike the mass skiing destinations up in the Alps.
Those Alpine ski destinations have significant drawbacks which don’t necessarily feature in the brochures. By committing yourself to a holiday up amongst Europe’s highest peaks, you are usually incarcerating yourself in a purpose-built (ie ugly) community where skiing is practically the only occupation on offer, and where the price of everything is suitably inflated. What happens if you don’t like it? You get tired of it? Or one of you gets injured? Too bad. You’re stuck in your mountain fastness for a week, and you’ll just have to grin and bear it, and watch others having fun while your cash drains away.
Feldberg is the main downhill resort
Not so in the Black Forest. Here the ski resorts are good value (the ADAC found that prices can be up to 50 percent cheaper than in the Alps) easy to drive to, and uncrowded. The region’s lower altitude (highest point just 1,493 metres, compared to Alpine resorts which start at 2,000 metres plus) will ensure that the temperature is warmer, although that can mean a shortage of snow. It is a destination for shorter stays and last-minute decisions, and for people who want to mix skiing with other activities.
The Feldberg mountain hosts the main resort, with 28 lifts and a World Cup run. A lift pass here is €28 a day (expect to pay at least €10 more in the Alps), and at the weekends it can get busy with groups of students and young adults, doing skiing on the cheap. There’s bunkhouse style accommodation for the groups, but for the most part skiers stay in typically handsome Black Forest farmhouse and guest house accommodation, where prices are unlikely to be more than €30 per person, B&B.
Within easy reach are the airport towns, Basel, Freiburg and Strasbourg, each with good stuff to see. Then there’s Donaueschingen, the pretty Black Forest village at the start of the Danube. Stuttgart, home to Mercedes Benz and Porsche. The Hohenzollern castles at Hechingen and Sigmaringen, and the cuckoo clock industry around Furtwangen. There’s plenty to do.
If you prefer your skiing to be more demanding, but still German, see our page on Germany’s Alpine resorts. And there are other ski destinations further north at Sauerland, in the Harz Mountains and over in the Ore Mountains and in Thuringia.