THE BEST SKI HOLIDAYS IN THE AUSTRIAN ALPS
Image: The Best Ski Holidays in the Austrian Alps with Europe Holidays
Austria is well known for many reasons – as the birthplace of Mozart, Freud and ballroom dancing, as the inventors of apple strudel and Sachertorte, for its pristine alpine lakes and incredible historic architecture and, of course, for its glorious skiing.
In fact, Austria is one of the world’s premier destinations for skiing. The reasons for this are many and varied but naturally begin with Austria’s topography. After all, a considerable part of this beautiful country lies nestled within Europe’s major mountain range, the stunning Alps. But it doesn’t end there. Add to this the famed Austrian après-ski and the pervasive friendliness of the Austrian people, and it becomes clear why this is the place for your next skiing holiday.
Austria is home to the most ski resorts of any country in Europe. With so much choice, it might be hard to decide which resort is the one for you. Whether you’re a beginning skier searching for wide smooth runs, a black diamond expert chasing extreme vertical drops, a party seeker looking for amazing nightlife or a family searching for the best variety of snow sports for all ages, we’ve put together the top choices for you.
St. Anton am Arlberg – The Party Capital
Image: St. Anton am Arlberg, Austria with Europe Holidays
St. Anton am Arlberg has a pedigree that is difficult for other ski resorts to rival. It is particularly popular with expert skiers because of its vast off piste, or backcountry, terrain, but is also enjoyed by less advanced skiers for its deep consistent snow-pack and superb grooming.
St. Anton also boasts a state-of-the-art lift system. In 2016 and 2017 new additions were added, fully linking St. Anton with three other ski resorts; Zürs, Lech and Warth Schroecken. This gives the intrepid skier a truly massive ski area with a total of 88 lifts and over 305 kilometres of pistes. However, it is the off piste offered that is one of the area’s major attractions, and an excursion to Zürs off the back of the Valluga is a must for any expert.
The village of St. Anton is cosy and distinctly Austrian with one main street lined with fine old hotels, inns, shops and cafés. This charming view contrasts with the vibrant and hedonistic St. Anton après-ski and party atmosphere. St. Anton is renowned for its nightlife and has been firmly placed as the ski world’s party capital as far back as the 1960s. Check out the Mooserwirt, self-proclaimed as the ‘world’s baddest’ après bar, which boasts table dancing from 3.30pm accompanied by the consumption of vast quantities of beer and Jägermeister.
Best for: St. Anton, with its adventurous skiing and exciting party scene, is the ideal choice for a social, action-loving holidaymaker.
Innsbruck – The Cultural Gem
Image: Innsbruck Panoramic View, Austria with Europe Holidays
With its narrow cobbled streets and colourful buildings hugging the shores of the River Inn, Innsbruck is one of Austria’s most beautiful cities. Even if you go for the skiing, make sure you take some time to explore this historic city as
Innsbruck boasts a medieval altstadt (or ‘old town’), grand Habsburg palace and baroque cathedral. But with the Nordkette Mountains looming just beyond, it won’t take long before you’re drawn out of the city and onto the slopes.
Innsbruck’s Olympia Ski World includes nine ski resorts, which range in size, terrain and altitude. All have excellent lifts, runs and facilities and most are small enough to warrant a one-day visit. The grand exception is Stubai Glacier Austria’s largest glacier resort, which is well worth a visit of several days to fully explore it. Because it is glacial, Stubai offers skiing right though to the start of the summer, generally mid-June.
Innsbruck offers many options in addition to skiing making it an excellent resort for families or for those travelling with non-skiers. Take a ride on the Olympic bobsled run at Patscherkofel or take the tram, funicular and cable car journey from Innsbruck city center to the top of Nordkette at Hafelekar for the extraordinary views.
Best for: Innsbruck is perfect for groups of travelers who are looking for a side of culture and refinement to accompany their après-ski.
Zell am See-Kaprun – The Best All-Rounder
Image: Zell am See-Kaprun, Tallest Waterfalls in Europe, Austria with Europe Holidays
Source: Zell am See
Every year more than a million visitors from all around the world arrive in Zell am See. The go to dive into its crystal blue lake, stay in its brightly hued chalets and, of course, ski its snowcapped peaks.
The Zell am See ski resort, known as Schmitten, is one of the best all-rounders that Austria has to offer. It is a classic alpine mid-size resort, and its high tech snow making equipment guarantees snow cover regardless of the weather. It also boasts an expensive and modern lift system including cable cars designed by Porsche. Its 77 kilometres of pistes are well groomed, and a true intermediate skiers paradise, while the views from the top of the Schmittenhöhe are breathtaking. It has a lively après-ski scene both on the summit and in town, offering variety no matter what your inclination.
Schmitten is also linked to the wonderful, and family friendly, Kaprun ski resort where you can ski the high alpine glacier at Kitzensteinhorn. If you are travelling with non-skiers or children, visiting Kitzensteinhorn is an absolute must do as well. Take the cable car up to the top to see one of the most spectacular high alpine panoramas in the world, including stunning views of Großglockner, Austria’s highest mountain. You can also try the Ice Arena, a snow adventure arena with slippery slides, tobogganing and even an ice bar.
Best for: While Zell am See might not be the place for expert skiers to test their skills, it is the perfect spot for families, and for travellers who want their ski holiday to include a little bit of everything else as well.
Mayrhofen – A Beginner’s Paradise
Image: Mayrhofen, Austria with Europe Holidays
While there are many places to learn to ski, Austria’s Mayrhofen is surely one of the best. The main ski area on Penken Mountain has kilometres of wide looping pistes while the other side at Ahorn Mountain is famed for its leisurely descents and long sloping runs. And if you are just a beginner, you won’t be alone. At Mayrhofen ski kindergartens, ski schools, snow cannons and magic carpets abound, easing novices into the amazing world of snow sports.
However, don’t disregard this resort even if you’ve already graduated from the bunny slope. Intermediate and even expert skiers can still find a good ride at Mayrhofen. In fact, many riders and skiers are drawn to its highly rated terrain park, and the wide, open slopes above the tree line that are heaven for powder seekers. And with the Zillertal Superskipass skiers have access to an incredibly vast array of pistes – 515 kilometres served by 179 lifts.
Mayrhofen also has a wonderful après-ski and nightlife. If you want to be right in the action, stay in town. There is a lift that takes you directly to the ski fields from the centre of town giving you the option of staying in the thick of things without compromising access to powder. If you prefer to stay somewhere quieter, there is also lovely and quality ski in and ski out accommodation on Ahorn and Horberg and in the nearby villages of Finkenbert and Tux.
Best for: Mayrhofen is ideal for the beginning skier, or someone that has been away from the slopes for a while, but who still wants to be close to the action.
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