Austria Ski Holidays Guide

Austria Ski Holidays Guide

Austria in the winter is picture book pretty. Austrian ski resorts are little villages with beautiful mountain scenery, wooded slopes and friendly locals. An Austrian ski holiday means great après-ski, cosy resorts and fine off-piste skiing.

Contents of this guide:

The Alberg Ski Region

St. Anton, Lech, Zürs and Ischgl make up Austria’s highest ski area and the snow is among the most reliable in Europe. St. Anton is renowned for its off-piste possibilities and attracts confident skiers with a taste for powder. For a ski holiday in Austria with a bewildering array of après-ski, St. Anton is the place to go. However, dedicated children’s slopes and patient ski instructors make it a worthwhile family ski holiday and there is accommodation away from the party scene.

With plenty of four and five-star hotels ski holidays in Austria’s Lech resort are luxurious and classy. The runs favour intermediates and there is a good amount of off-piste. Beginners can enrol in the ski-school and snowboarders have a park and a half-pipe. Lifts are efficient and queues are kept to a minimum due to a limit of 14,000 skiers on the mountain at any one time. The snow at Lech is generally reliable, but there are snow cannons just in case. Both Lech and neighbouring Zürs are exclusive resorts and attract the same, chic crowd every year.

Innsbruck

The capital of the Tyrol, Innsbruck is a winter sport expert. Austrian ski holidays don’t come more diverse than this. There are over 300 miles of runs in twenty-five surrounding villages, all connected by a free bus. The terrain is varied and suits all levels of downhill and cross-country skiers. An all-in-one lift pass covers six major resorts in the area including the Stubai Glacier and the Olympic villages of Igls and Axamer Lizum. All are family friendly with a wide range of slopes. A ski holiday in Austria couldn’t be more convenient thanks to Innsbruck’s proximity to the airport and super-efficient shuttle services.

This vibrant city is well worth exploring with historic treasures and outstanding natural beauty. Ice skating rinks and horse-drawn sleigh rides could lure skiers away from the pistes.

The Zillertal Super-Ski Area

The Zillertal Valley is nestled in the heart of the Tyrol region. This mountain range is spectacular with panoramic views of the surrounding mountain summits. One pass allows skiers access to six Austrian ski resorts including Mayrhofen and Finkenberg.

Finkenberg is an all round resort with pistes for all levels rising to 2500 metres. There are free shuttles to nearby glaciers with long, sweeping runs down into the valleys. There are great pubs and après-ski bars to warm up after a hard day’s skiing.

Mayrhofen has thirty lifts, cross-country trails and huge scope for intermediate skiers with long trails connecting up with Finkenberg. There are four ski schools with English speaking instructors and room for beginners on the easier runs. Snowboarders who fancy an Austrian ski holiday have not been forgotten with wide cruising terrain and the Gerent Ridge.

The Gastein Valley Ski Area

Bad Gastein is a spa town and one of the best known in Austria. At a mere 55 miles from Salzburg, it is part of the Gastein ski area, which has four domains and 155 miles of pistes. Catering to intermediates and the advanced, Bad Gastein has wonderful off-piste and great powder. There are a number of easy slopes, however, and an excellent ski school. When not on the pistes, skiers can indulge in the rejuvenating powers of the thermal baths and hot springs. For a cultural ski holiday in Austria, this is a great resort with theatres and concert halls and Salzburg just a stone’s throw away.

Glacier Skiing in Austria

Austria has a plethora of glaciers, making for a thrilling ski holiday in Austria.

Kitzsteinhorn Glacier is a snow sure Austrian ski holiday near Salzburg and an exhilarating adventure. At over 3000 metres in altitude, the pistes are extremely varied. There are twenty modern cable cars and lifts to take skiers to the top of the mountains from autumn to spring.

Hintertux is an all year round Austrian ski holiday. There are 9 lifts covering 12 miles of pistes for all levels of skiers. Snowboarders are well catered for with a fun snowpark. Non skiers will delight in the hiking trails and glacier tours.

The Stubai Valley is home to the Stubai Glacier and has over 60 miles of pistes on beautiful snow. There is a panoramic view from 3150 metres and 24 modern lifts to take skiers to the very top.

Snowboarding in Austria

Sölden has the excellent Swatch snowpark. Aside from the immaculately kept jumps and rails, there is a sound system and deckchairs to chill out between rides. For free ride experts there are lovely long and steep downhill routes.

Innsbruck proudly caters to snowboarders. Axamer Lizum is a thirty minute journey from Innsbruck and has fun free riding terrain with gullies and rollers just off the Olympic Funicular. Its halfpipe is considered one of the best in the Innsbruck region and the snowpark is great for beginners.

For experienced boarders, Ischgl is the place to go. It’s a snowboarder’s dream with excellent freestyle facilities, halfpipes and snowboard parks. Early risers get the best of the snow on an action packed Austrian ski holiday.

When to Go Skiing in Austria

The least crowded times to take a ski holiday in Austria are early December, mid-January and late March. Ski holidays at Christmas and New Year are popular with Austrian holidaymakers and the school holidays fall in February. January is a cold month, but the slopes are quiet and the snow conditions tend to be at their best. For a late Austrian ski holiday, the high altitude glaciers offer good snow and quiet slopes. There are a small number of Austrian ski resorts such as Kitzsteinhorn that keep some pistes open all year round.

How to Get to Austrian Ski Resorts

Innsbruck is the easiest resort to reach with the airport lying close to the city and an excellent network of buses taking skiers to the nearby resorts. A weekend Austrian ski holiday is possible in Innsbruck.

Salzburg, Zurich and Munich are the closest airports for resorts near Salzburg and in the Tyrol. The East Tyrol, Carinthia and Styria are best served by Venice and Graz. Most resorts can be reached by train and then a bus service. The Ski Bus networks are well run and tend to be included in the lift pass. It is worth checking with the various hotels and chalets to see if they offer their own transfer.

Driving in Austria in winter requires good tyres and snow chains. Main roads are cleared regularly and it is only the mountain roads that have packed snow and more challenging driving conditions.

Car hire can be organised in advance and cars picked up from the airport. However, the public transport is so good and Austrian ski resorts so close together that hiring a car may not be necessary.

Eurostar doesn’t travel directly to Austria, but a quick change in Paris or Brussels sees skiers on their way to Salzburg, Klagenfurt or Graz via an overnight train through Germany.

Accommodation in Austria

Catered chalets are popular in Austria and airport transfers and flights are usually included in the price of the holiday. The biggest Austrian ski resorts have the most catered chalets and a catered ski holiday in Austria mostly runs from Saturday to Saturday.

For skiers who want to try the non mainstream resorts there is a range of hotels and self-catered chalets. It is advisable to book well in advance to get accommodation near the slopes. An alternative option is to book a hotel in a nearby village and transfer by bus to the slopes. Hotel food is excellent and it is worth going half-board to get the most out of the traditional cuisine. Smaller resorts have family run hotels at reasonable prices and most include a sauna. A sauna is considered an integral part of skiing in Austria and it is a lovely way to wind down after a day in the mountains.

Austrian ski resorts are generally a little lower than their neighbours but with investments in snow making facilities, that should no longer be a problem. The high altitude glaciers and resorts are very popular and the snow is excellent. Families are well-catered for and there is plenty of nightlife for the younger crowd. Beauty and efficiency sit side by side and make for an Austrian ski holiday to remember.