Austria Ski Holidays
Austria

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Still coming in very slightly under the radar for many UK skiers compared to one or two more commonly known European ski destinations, Austria is an absolutely incredible place to spend a week in the mountains. Massive investment in the ski lifts, snow cannoning and resort infrastructures combined with unbridled après ski, Tyrolean charm and stunningly beautiful ski towns have been bringing more and more people to this amazing part of the Alps.

UK tour operators and chalet companies are now starting to tap into the market with a huge expansion in the quantity, and quality, of chalets available; Austria’s ski resorts are going from strength to strength. Although it perhaps doesn’t have as many resorts to choose from as France, the fact is Austria offers resorts boasting slopes that are perfect for beginners’ right up to expert skiers and boarders. Taking children to the slopes is not a worry in the slightest, Austria’s gentle, wide and sheltered learner slopes are perfect to learn on and the ski schools are superb.

You’ll also find some of the very finest snow parks you could want here, and wide open powder fields and back country skiing offering some of the very best lift-served off piste in Europe. For superb early and late season snow coverage Austria has a wide range of high altitude resorts offering glacier skiing, so good coverage is ensured throughout the season.

Late season dumps are common and you can be riding fresh powder on the last few days of the ski season in April. Austria’s outstanding lift system deserves a mention too as resorts such as Ischgl and Solden have seen lift system investment on a massive scale. Gone are the slow chair and drag lifts still prevalent in Italy and some parts of France; in their place are sleek, rapid chairs and gondolas boasting the latest word in lift system technology.

While Austria has many peaceful, quiet resorts perfect for families with children, it really comes into its own at the closing of the lifts and the start of the après ski. Old fashioned oompah bands with beautiful old accordions ply their trade round the bars in the afternoons, and are then superseded as the revelry continues by lively Europarty dance beats, large steins of beer and table top dancing into the night.

There really is no other country with such a strongly identifiable après ski scene as Austria so if nightlife is important to you then Austria needs to be on your to-ski list! Beginner Skiers If you are taking children or beginners to the mountains, you need to be sure of easy ski access and gentle learner slopes.

Obergurgl has a reputation for being largely queue-free, with swift lifts taking skiers up quickly and efficiently. It’s also a largely traffic-free resort so it’s safe for families. Snow sure and peaceful with an absolutely superb beginners’ area, it’s a great resort to choose for those just learning to ski. Solden shares many of these attributes and is also a great beginners’ resort with the nursery slopes just walking distance from the town centre.

These are complemented by a further range of beginner slopes higher up the mountain, offering a good range of broad, gentle green and blue pistes. Do bear in mind that it is a great deal livelier than Obergurgl though so whilst great for teenagers and adults taking their first steps onto the slopes it probably isn’t the best choice for those with small children.

Advanced Skiers

For anybody of intermediate standard or above, the priorities are very different. Advanced skiers and boarders need big ski areas, well groomed parks, long runs, glaciers and of course good off piste potential for when the conditions are right. Ischgl is hard to beat for advanced skiers – it boasts a very large ski area, wonderfully modern, well placed and rapid ski lifts, a decent snow park and some absolutely outstanding off piste, especially over to the right hand side as you look at the piste map where it’s all a bit more open. Another resort with superb off piste potential is St Anton; sitting on pretty much any of the resort’s chairlifts gives you 360 degree views of powder hits between the pistes.

If you want to head a little further afield then you can also head over towards Lech and Zurs to uncover an absolute wealth of quieter off piste runs. The resort sits in the Arlberg area of ski resorts and offers advanced skiers around 260 kilometres of fantastic ski terrain. Nightlife In Austria, skiing and boozing go hand in hand. Whether it’s a traditional brass band playing while you enjoy a nice gluhwein after a long day on the slopes or a full on après party with all the latest Austro hits at full volume, Austria’s nightlife never fails to leave an impression!

Highlights for après ski include the Mooserwirt bar in St Anton and the Trofana Alm in Ischgl. The Mooserwirt sits piste side, just above the resort on the brow of the slope. Get in there early for one of the liveliest and most atmospheric après ski parties in the world! The Trofana Alm sits near Ischgl town center and is cut from the same cloth, although not being piste-side it doesn’t get quite so packed. Both of these bars are typical of the raucous nature of the Austrian après ski scene.

For evening party-goers, the resorts of Solden, Kitzbuhel and Mayrhofen offer a wide range of lively bars and nightclubs allowing revellers to party into the wee small hours. Good luck getting on the slopes the next day though!

Families

Obergurgle may not be the prettiest resort in Austria but the excellent range of plus points for families with children makes it a superb resort choice. There’s a wonderful range of learner slopes at the Wiensenlift beginners’ lift, which is within easy reach of the town, and improving intermediates can enjoy the gentle blue runs of the Gaisberg where they can progress in comfort.

The resort’s town centre is traffic-free which makes it relatively safe for children and the queues for the ski lifts always seem to be minimal as well so there’s rarely any waiting around. The kindergarten ski area and the ski school meeting points are both well located close to the centre, which means there’s less hassle in the mornings getting the kids ready. Finally, Obergurgl sits only 90 minutes from Innsbruck which means you’re not going to be spending more time than necessary sat on the transfer coach.

Snowboarders.

Whether it’s for the off piste, the snow parks, the kms of piste or the superb lift system, Austria for snowboarders is absolutely amazing – it’s hard to go wrong! Ischgl offers brand new, rapid lifts which seem perfectly placed to get around this amazing ski area quickly and easily – not a drag lift in sight!

There are a good few long, cruisy pistes and one or two pockets of sensational off piste to look out for; the snow park is pretty decent and any flat sections in the ski area are kept to a real minimum. Solden is also well worth a visit for boarders, another resort with a superb lift system.

No fewer than two glaciers dominate the ski area offering a wealth of off piste potential, and because of the superb altitude the snow is usually in excellent condition with fresh powder right up until the last weeks in April. The snow park is good, though not really that challenging for freestylers of intermediate level and above.

Obergurgl’s lack of drag lifts and the gentle gradient of its pistes make it a great choice for intermediate riders, and the Penken snow park in Mayrhofen deserves special mention, it’s one of the biggest snowparks in Europe!

An entire slope has been given over to the park, with 5 different lines for different levels of rider: the funline, the public line, the proline, the halfpipe and the kids park. Beginners can get their first taste of airtime in the mini jumps in the kids park, while intermediates test their mettle on the range of rainbow boxes and wall rides along the park.

Pro riders visit regularly to get massive air off the park’s perfectly groomed big jumps, and the shaping team return daily to make sure it’s always in the best possible condition.

Getting There

With a good number of airports and train stations offering links to the ski resorts, getting to Austria for a ski holiday is easy. The airports of Innsbruck and Friedrichshafen are the two most commonly used, but Salzburg, Zurich and even Ljubljana and Memmingen also work well for accessing ski resorts in Austria.

By rail, you can also travel to a wide range of Austrian resorts but of course heavy snow fall can sometimes makes things tricky. St Anton boasts its own mainline railway station right in the resort centre and is well connected to Innsbruck and other local travel hubs.

Kitzbuhel has 2 train stations in the resort and is well connected to both Innsbruck and Salzburg, and the resort of Mayrhofen is linked to the rail network via the Zillertalbahn that runs down the valley.

Ski resorts in Austria


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