No nation has won more Alpine skiing Olympic medals than Austria. In fact, at 144, Austria, with its population of fewer than nine million, has won more than three times as many as the United States, a nation that boasts a population approaching 320 million. It’s fair to say Austria knows a thing or two about skiing.
Despite a relatively small territory, Austria is one of the countries with the most slopes, making skiing one of the national sports. And, it’s not just about quantity, the Alpine country is a favourite with skiers the world over for its tip-top snow conditions, friendly resorts, best-in-class infrastructures and competitive prices for lift passes, ski schools and accommodation.
Feel tempted? Here are five of our favourite Austrian resorts…
Ski Juwel Alpbachtal Wildschönau
Alpbach and Wildschönau, in the Austrian Tirol, are picture postcard, traditional villages with snow-laden wooden chalets that have joined forces to create the Ski Juwel (Ski Jewel). The area has excellent childcare facilities, ski lessons for beginners and wide range of runs, 109 km of pistes and 46 lifts.
Approximately 85 per cent of the slopes are covered with snow cannons, so the conditions remain consistent throughout the season. There are many other activities on offer for non-skiers such as sledging, snowshoeing and ice-skating. In the Easter holidays (1-17 April 2017) children aged 15 and under can ski for free.
It’s a short 45-minute transfer from Innsbruck Airport. Click here for more information.
With many of its resorts above 1,400m, Vorarlberg boasts some of the best snow conditions in Europe. Tucked at the western tip of Austria, bordering Switzerland, Germany and the Lichtenstein, the area offers over over 1,000 kilometres of slopes and more than 300 ski lifts.
Vorarlberg is praised for its breathtaking mountain scenery, artisanship and craftsmanship, architecture and gastronomy. Plus, it allows access to a variety of ski areas, including Lech Zürs am Arlberg, Brandnertal and Bregenzerwald. Each area has its own specificities, meaning that whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned skier, you’ll find slopes that fit your needs. And, with the opening of the new Flexenbahn ski lift that connects all the resorts on the Arlberg, the area is now Austria’s biggest ski area.
From the UK, Memmimgen and Zurich are the nearest airports. Click here for more information.
Zell am See-Kaprun
As far as locations go, Zell am See and Kaprun are relatively unique ski resorts. Both sit near Lake Zell, meaning that, on top of the usual range of mountain and winter-sport activities, you can also enjoy walks around this picture-perfect mountain lake.
The Gondola and chair lifts are from Zell am See’s town centre and, with 16 ski schools, the resort is perfect for beginners and intermediate skiers. The main appeal of Zell am See-Kaprun, however, is the Kitzsteinhorn Glacier. With lifts and slopes rising above 3,000m, you can ski from late September to mid-July.
The resort is one hour’s drive from Salzburg airport. Click here for more information.
With a tradition for winter sports going back over a 100 years, Kitzbühel is the elder statesman of ski resorts. Offering more than 190 ski days per year and revered for its 179 kilometres of high-quality slopes and opportunities for off-piste skiing, the Tirolean resort is also home to the annual Hahnenkamm ski race, a World Cup event that dates back to 1931.
Kitzbühel itself is a charming walled medieval town, with a sophisticated atmosphere. Winter walking is also popular here, with free guided hikes are available Monday to Friday. If you want to take a day off from the slopes, you can also discover some of the 500 kilometres of cross-country skiing routes around Kitzbühel.
It’s about one hour from Innsbruck and one and a half hours from Munich airport. Click here for more information.
Skicircus Saalbach Hinterglemm Leogang Fieberbrunn
Last winter’s opening of a gondola linking Saalbach, Hinterglemm, Leogang and Fieberbrunn, propulsed Skicircus and its 270 kilometres of slopes into the top ten of the world’s largest ski areas. With more skiing opportunities than ever before, including some off-piste tracks, the area now caters for all levels, from beginners to advanced.
Spread across four villages, Skicircus also benefits from a wide range of accommodation options and up to 60 restaurants and eateries. More importantly, if you’re looking to save a bit of cash, the area is reasonably priced and wallet friendly.
You can drive to Saalbach from Salzburg aiport in under one and a half hours. Click here for more information.
Click here for a complete guide to skiing in Austria