Three village resorts, one lift-linked ski resort: No one knows Serfaus, Fiss and Ladis better than the locals, so we asked Serfaus-native Eva Patscheider to join us for a day. She knows the resort peak to pub to pillow and shares a few secrets about her hometown with us, from the ‘world’s best Kaiserschmarren’ to the top lookout spots on the mountain and everything in between.
Black hoodie, black pants, a wine-red hat and a big grin from ear to ear: This is how Eva Patscheider welcomes us to the village resort of Serfaus. We meet her in front of the “Peep Shop”, which is run by her sister Pia. We will come to that later, first it’s time to hit the slopes—and we’re going there by underground.
We grab our skis and walk to the underground station at the heart of Serfaus. This tiny village has one of Austria’s two underground metros running beneath the main street of the drawn-out resort (Vienna has the other).
Serfaus is the only village in Austria with an underground network. Riding the train is free and it will receive a complete overhaul in 2017, doubling its hourly capacities and becoming fully accessible to people with disabilities. The two-carriage train with four strategically placed stops is useful both for reducing traffic and for transporting tired youngsters with multiple skis and poles—and/or baby strollers. After all, Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis keeps on winning awards from snow-happy families—this made-for-kids winter playground really stands out as the number one family ski holiday destination in Tirol.
We get off the train and Eva takes us to the hi-tech ski lockers. This is where we get our ski boots on and pass our shoes to the young men working there. Conversations in Spanish and English fill the air; Eva gets hugs everywhere and laughs: “I meet those guys almost every day.”
Pezid is the scene of our first descent. We hook up first thing at the main Komperdell lift terminal complex above Serfaus and continue getting uphill on Lazidbahn. Finally, another gondola ride brings us to the summit of 2,770-meter Pezid Peak, a lookout mountain par excellence. Marvelling at this pristine Alpine ambience of snowy ranges and slopes, Eva tells us that this is one of her favourite spots on the mountain, “I really like it here, it’s somewhat hidden from the rest of the resort.”
Indeed, it’s awesome up here. We catch our breath not from climbing, but from watching a continuous reel of premiere showings starring glistening white 3,004-meter Furgler Peak to the north and jagged Kaunergrat Ridge to the east. To the southwest, it’s Switzerland’s lofty Samnaun Range that captivates us. If snow conditions are safe, Eva loves to select her own line in the long and steep chutes below – one look at her fat powder skis says it all. “It just takes a few minutes booting up and you’re enveloped by wide open slopes above the tree line that are heaven for powder hounds after a fresh snowfall.” Anyway, you’re supposed to be an expert skier or rider and check out avalanche hazards before heading out into the backcountry. We stay on the immaculately groomed slopes and enjoy the amazing views of Masner, the westernmost reaches of the Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis Ski Resort from the top of Pezid Mountain. The wonderful Masner skiing zone is highly recommended by Eva for its superb skiing and stunning vistas. However, as time goes by quickly and all that skiing has worked up quite an appetite, we decide to take a break from the slopes. The whole Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis Ski Resort is sprinkled with wonderful places to turn in for a break. These vary from modernist self-serve restaurants in major lift terminals to wooden huts converted from ancient Alpine dairy barns.
Eva’s favourite on-mountain dining option is Schalber Alm, very rustic, where they serve “the world’s best Kaiserschmarren,” as she puts it. Having tasted it, we can only agree—that’s just how this icon of Austrian cuisine, a fluffy shredded pancake, is supposed to be! And although Eva is a vegan and generally chooses to avoid consuming animal products she cannot help but have her fair share of this delicious meal.
Veronika Schalber , the friendly host at Schalber Alm tells us an unbelievable story of a guest who stayed with her in Christmas 2016. On a business trip to Dubai he had heard of ‘the world’s best Kaiserschmarren’ being served on this quaint and rustic Alpine pasture hut in the mountains of Tirol. He had to see—and taste—for himself and went here to try it. And afterwards, he affirmed Veronika that it had been the best Kaiserschmarren of his life. For those who prefer their food more hearty, their charcuterie platter is an indulgent treat, too.
As a former pro freestyle skier, Eva suggests shredding one of the resort’s Snow Parks. Actually there is a rich variety of Fun Areas available, ranging from the Fun Slope for the little ones to Shred Park challenges for the expert getting ready for the X Games. We decide to hit the kickers and rails at the Fiss Snow Park before calling it a day.
In the Snow Park we meet two guys who are grooming and shaping the transition zones. With expertise in building perfectly sculpted jumps and immaculate transitions, they are the creators of the park’s smashing pipes, jumps, rails and obstacles. Today, their working day ends at 10:00pm – it’s a quiet, technical work usually done away from the eyes of resort visitors. Building, developing and maintaining the features of a highly rated terrain park like this is hard work. We wish them all the best and stop ‘shredding’ for that day. A last uphill ride on Schöngampbahn chair lift takes us atop Schönjoch, from where we cruise down the mountain towards Fiss.
In Fiss, a visit to Polychrome Lab, lying somewhat beneath the village, is highly recommended. This time, though, there is not enough time to go there. Wondering what the Polychrome Lab is all about? It’s a company that develops innovative outdoor apparel. Pushing sports science in the mountains ahead, they assess sports products in Alpine environments at the world’s highest outdoor lab for apparel, which is located atop Schönjoch Col at an elevation of 2,500 meters above sea level.
A historic and listed farmhouse building at the heart of Fiss houses the Fiss Museum where visitors can learn about local heritage and culture.
“The Peep Shop is my sister’s Pia brainchild,” says Eva. “It’s a really special place for young ones which didn’t exist here in Serfaus before. It supports the local freeskiing and snowboarding scene and is a great place to just drop by and meet likeminded.”
Five years ago, this special place where we are sitting on a black leather sofa now, sipping on espresso, was a bank. “When it closed we had exactly two weeks to remodel this place into a sports store,” explains Eva, who has helped her sister Pia to get the project going. There are no savings books around here anymore. Instead, customers can buy the latest in snowboard gear and powder skis.
In addition to offering the leading brands in the scene, the shop features its own store brand, “Peep”. Their hoodies, hats, beanies and drinking flasks are highly coveted items among youngsters on a ski vacation. Eva was a professional freestyle skier who made her tracks on the global scene. After skiing down over massive jumps that are pretty scary while doing cool tricks for years, her knees are wrecked, as she tells us. However, she doesn’t seem to care a lot about it. For the last three years she has been living and working in Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis again. Her family owns a few stores in the area.
Eva is fond of history and heritage, too. She shows us a centuries-old timber structure next to the Serfaus village fountain. “Just as a tree needs roots to keep it firmly secured in the ground, we too need to be earthed. I think it’s wonderful that an old wooden chalet like this is maintained and kept for future generations.”
In another historic building just opposite we find s’Ladele, a specialty food & delicatessen shop that offers the finest eaux de vie, noble liquors and spirits, honey, handmade chocolates and homemade jams. All offerings are carefully selected from the best products available in North, East and South Tirol. “You can go there and taste mouth-watering delicacies,” explains Eva. “It’s not your ordinary grocery store, this is the place where foodies rejoice.”
Serfaus, Fiss and Ladis have almost as many excellent accommodations as inhabitants. Thus it’s hard to recommend one specific hotel—Eva’s recommendation goes to 3 Sonnen Hotel in Serfaus, a Four Star Superior accommodation.
“This family-run four-star establishment owned by Irene and Franz Lechleitner takes meticulous attention to a new level,” says Eva, “Irene is such a warm and affectionate person, knowing her means loving her.” Eva regularly visits the spa at 3 Sonnen Hotel to get some massage therapy. “Regina, the massage therapist, is incredibly skilled and brilliant and has been such a huge support whenever I had an accident on my skis.”
Upon driving up to the sunny upland plateau where the three village resorts of Fiss, Ladis and Serfaus are located, we had recognized Laudeck Castle (also called Laudegg) that towers high above the village of Ladis.
In Ladis, Eva takes us to visit an old friend of her, Markus Neier, “a real good skier,” as she tells us. Apart from being an experienced ski instructor and ski guide, Markus rents beautiful Apartments in Ladis — another lodging recommendation by Eva. Markus gives us a warm welcome and offers us a glass of pure naturally effervescent spring water named Sauerbrunn, which springs at a source in Obladis, a few hundred meters up the mountain.
The last stop on today’s ski trip is an insider’s tip – Eva has heard about it just lately: On the village road of Ladis lies the food truck named Hüftgold, meaning somewhat like ‘love handles’. Isabel and Lisa began running their street food business in February 2016. “We started the food truck to make the food that we missed in Ladis. We just want to bring a smile to our customers’ faces as they bite into our savoury burgers.”
Loaded with lots of flavour, the vegan burger definitely brings a smile to Eva’s face. The signature hand formed non-vegan patties are made from premium local beef from the butcher at nearby Prutz. We love the delicious Roesti Burger and Lisa’s and Isabel’s hand cut ‘out of this world’ fries.
The sun has set behind the mountains by the time we finish our gourmet street food dinner. It is time to say goodbye to Eva. She gives us a last smile and a big hug and off she goes — on her way to yoga class. Yep, they do have yoga up here in Serfaus, Fiss and Ladis, too.