A German Skiing Wonderland - OZY | A Modern Media Company

A German Skiing Wonderland

A German Skiing Wonderland

By Tracy Moran


Because this place is home to the famed Kandahar.

By Tracy Moran

From Munich, Garmisch-Partenkirchen — home to Germany’s highest peak, the Zugspitze — is only a 60-minute drive. The famed southern German resort lies at just 2,300 feet, making it the ideal ski destination for my family, with blue runs for beginners like me, reds for my fearless girls and black diamonds for my snowboarding husband. But we don’t just go for the 36 miles of trails and 11 ski schools, one of which taught my daughters and me how to ski; we also go to take in the beautiful Alpine views and fine regional cuisine.

Before Nazis hid stolen gold and precious gems in their hillsides, Hitler forced the two neighboring towns of Garmisch and Partenkirchen to officially join to host the 1936 Winter Games.

And we’re not the only ones. Nearly 1.4 million annual visitors descend on this winter wonderland, which offers stays between $100 and $300 a night. There’s the legendary Kandahar, which attracts World Cup skiing competitions, and basin-style skiing at the Zugspitze. But the town itself also draws visitors, with high-end shopping, fine Bavarian bakeries and dining hot spots featuring local cuisine. Be sure to try Zum Wildschutz, where diners should be wary of children ordering the Räuber Teller — an empty “robber’s plate” (it’s free) that encourages them to pick food off mom and dad’s dishes. After dinner, wander over to Marienplatz for a stroll past quaint frescoed buildings. 

Nazis once hid stolen gold and precious gems in hillsides around the region, and Hitler himself forced the two towns, Garmisch and Partenkirchen, to officially join in order to host the 1936 Winter Games — notably the first Olympics to feature Alpine skiing. The Olympic ski stadium where he addressed the throngs still stands and sits near the stunning Partnach Gorge — both of which are popular tourist draws. But the forced merger remains a touchy subject for locals. Last winter, my taxi driver got frustrated when I gave an address and insisted it was Garmisch when he knew it was Partenkirchen, whose residents justifiably balk when people refer to the entire area as Garmisch.

Dr. Torsten Kuehn, a Berlin native now living outside Stuttgart, has been coming with his family for the last few years. As he notes, “There is something for everyone.” But that draw is a double-edged sword, with holidays attracting swarms of tourists, which can triple the drive time to get here. The Fasching holiday — Germany’s answer to Carnival — can be particularly crazy, thanks to a ski-school tradition of children and instructors wearing costumes over their gear. Kuehn also warns that there are fewer off-piste opportunities here, while some of the lifts are outdated.

And the relatively low altitude means Easter skiing is a crapshoot: Sometimes there’s snow, sometimes blades of grass. But either way, lurking beneath the topsoil is a history as rich and varied as the hamlet itself.  

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