Austria’s Alps were the birthplace of alpine
skiing, and downhill skiing continues as a deep passion and proud heritage.
Austrian ski areas encompass hundreds of miles of terrain, connecting valleys
and beautiful villages to soaring panoramic peaks via modern trams and gondolas.
Best of all are the traditional chalets perched on the mountainside serving
local fare and libation, topped perhaps by the après ski that is legendary in
each ski community. With all this amazing skiing going on, why have Americans
stopped going to the Alps?
10 reasons to put Austria on your ski bucket list:
The Alps Scenery
Skiing in Austria’s Alps is astounding. Towering 10,000-foot peaks covered in
snow stretch as far as you can see, as far as Germany, Switzerland and Italy,
with Austria as the heart of it all. The Zillertal, Tyrol, Voralberg and
Salzburg regions are laden with ski mountains – many of which are
interconnected. You can ski from Kitzbühel to SkiWelt in a 100-kilometer ski
safari in a day. See our Austria Ski Photos
Proximity of Austrian Skiing
Austria is home to many of the top ski resorts in the world, Kitzbühel,
Innsbruck, Mayrhofen- Zillertal, Solden, SkiWelt, St Anton, Lech-Zurs, the list
goes on and on. There are over 400 ski areas in a country about the size of
Maine, over 80 just in the Tyrol. You can easily tour several ski resorts in one
visit, since one is often 20 minutes from the next if not interconnected.
Amazing Lifts in Austria
Austria is a playground for lift designers, home of Doppelmayr. No expense
appears spared and no peak is unreachable – the engineering is jaw-dropping. We
rode in the ultimate $50 million gondola at Mayrhofen in Zillertal, with spectacular floor to
ceiling windows, Wi-Fi and heated seats for 24 , which swiftly and scenically
delivered us up 3,700 vertical feet in 8-minutes (no time to check my Facebook
on the free Wi-Fi as I was drooling at the view). Kitzbühel’ s new
eight-passenger bubble-covered chair is a racy lap of luxury between long
gorgeous runs, black leather designer seats have embroidered red stitching and
heat - of course..
Lunches in the Alps are awesome, Austria is no exception
The skiing in Austria seems endless, hundreds of miles of prepared pistes
(translation: groomed trails) plus limitless off-piste bowls and snowy valleys,
but you are never very far from a charming mountainside chalet.
Austria’s largest interconnect skiing with 90 lifts and nine villages near
Kitzbühel, has 77 huts (yes – 77!) serving authentic Tyrolean recipes. The most
famous Rubezahl Alm dates back to 1778 as evidenced in the low wooden doors.
Look for the flag flying at centuries old high alpine farm houses indicating
they are open for lunch, or a schnapps, served by the very farm families who
graze their cows here in summer. Feast on traditional dishes of Weiner
Schnitzel, Goulash soup and dumplings, outside on a scenic wooden sun terrace or
inside by a cozy fire. Don’t be surprised if the proprietor shares a shot of
homespun schnapps with you at the end of the meal - claiming it’s a “necessary
digestive” to aid your skiing. Who’s going to argue that generations’ old
Affordable Lift Tickets in Austria
Lit tickets are often under $50, $43/ day at Ski Juwel in the Tyrol buys you 47
lifts, 90 miles of groomed ski trails. Regional passes include multiple ski
resorts, the Zillertal Superskipass, Snowcard Tyrol, and the Olympic SkiWorld
Pass of Innsbruck. Austrian tickets systems are electronic RD cards, also valid
on the efficient bus systems if you ski off-piste and find yourself in a nearby
town you can hop a bus.
Glacier Skiing Is Cool
Austria has gorgeous glacier skiing, in fact
Hintertux Glacier is open for skiing
365. This fascinating glacier at 10,662-feet is training ground for 57
national ski teams in the off-season. You can actually walk inside the Hintertux
Glacier to explore ice caves, frozen waterfalls and stalactites, and take a boat
ride on the underground glacial lake 100-feet below the ski slopes.
Stubaier Glacier outside of Innsbruck
offers real big mountain skiing, a long 4,790-vertical feet down from the
10,531-foot summit. To say Austria’s glacier skiing is cool, well – there I said
Sleep in a Chalet Under a Duvet
Postcard perfect chalets with wood carved snow-laden roofs await you at the base
of vast terrain, with beds covered in the fluffiest of down duvets. Every place
we stayed had a ski room with boot dryers, a convivial bar for après ski drinks
by a fire, and half board which includes a hearty buffet breakfast and
multi-course dinner with your room rate. Austrians are very proud hoteliers,
typically family members are present and working, and pictures of their
generations line the hallways (next to Jesus). See
our favorite Top Austrian ski hotels.
Austria Ski Heritage and History
The ski villages of Austria are beyond quaint.
Kitzbühel is a medieval mountain town,
so charming from the church bells and cobblestone streets (not so easy in ski
boots), to the artwork depicting the first skiing in 1893 – when Franz Reisch
descended the Kitzbüheler Horn. Innsbruck has 15th century palaces just steps
from modern ski lifts to Nordkette – the steep ski area overlooking this
beautiful City of the Alps. Innsbruck
has nine ski areas in a 40 minute radius where Olympic ski events were held in
1976 and ‘64.
Après Ski in Austria
Skiing doesn’t start and stop at first tracks and last chair in Austria.
Après ski starts at lunch with schnapps
and gluehwein, and pours well into the evening. You can leave your ski boots on,
even dance on the tables. The guy dressed as a Polar Bear at Mayrhofen’s Ice Bar
wanted to dance with me, and I felt like the outcast.
Several Austrians asked me why Americans have stopped going to the Alps for
skiing. With our US dollar strong with the EU, and all this amazing skiing, I
struggled to offer a satisfactory answer, and instead toasted their hospitality
with another schnapps.