Austria is one of the most popular winter holiday destinations in Europe. The country of Sissi, Schnitzel and ski pistes is now more sought after than ever. In the winter season of 2013/2014, travellers booked approximately 64.4 million overnight stays in Austria. Not surprising at all, with the country’s vast variety of large, as well as smaller ski paradises.
Between the valleys there are over 420 closely strung together skiing regions in the North-, West- and Eastern Alps. Therefore, larger skiing networks are able to emerge in many places in the area, which will guarantee an extensive skiing experience. These skiing areas aren’t only renowned and admired for their versatility but also for the quality of their pistes, the overall price-performance ratio, as well as hospitality.
Tyrol: Glacier Country
With its population of roughly 720,000, Tyrol is Austria’s third largest state and home to the majority of its skiing regions. With over 100 skiing areas, it’s an absolute frontrunner in versatile winter sports offers. The region can be roughly sub-divided into Northern-, Eastern and Southern Tyrol. In the course of founding of the Austrian republic, Southern Tyrol was acquired by their neighbour Italy, after World War I. The natives in the tourist centres of these border areas however, are all bilingual and the holiday vibe remains nonetheless “alpine”.
North- and Eastern Tyrol on the other hand, embody the focal point for the annual winter holiday season in Austria. Thanks to its exposed position within the Alpine mountains, Tyrol is embraced by five glacier regions, namely the Hintertuxer, Stubai, Pitztal, and the Kaunertal Glacier, as well as the glacial region of Sölden. Here you’ll find the best of snow conditions all the way into spring (in the Hintertux region even all year round), as well as thorough après ski parties. The most famous party-stronghold in Tyrol is Ischgl, where the crowd at Trofana Alm und Co. really likes to raise the roof have a good time. Another great place to jump and jib is Mayrhofen-Hippbach in the Zillertal. Here, the areas are divided by theme, with the action-mountain Penken, and the leisure mountain Ahorn.
The SkiWelt Wilder Kaiser-Brixental marks Austria’s largest interconnected skiing area in Tyrol. Thanks to an expansion of the pistes in the winter of 2014/2015, the mark of 280 km of pistes was crossed. The highest peak in Tyrol is the Großglockner in the Eastern Alps, an impressive giant that towers over the Hohen Tauern with 3,798 m. At its foot, one can find various off-piste and family friendly skiing areas, such as the resorts Kals-Matrei, as well as Heiligenblut, which generally attracts the free-riders and touring skiers. Apart from that, many skiing areas in Southern Tyrol are insiders’ tips and anything but overrun. The Silian, Alta Pusteria or the Defereggen Valley are great areas for families with kids, providing wide pistes and nearly empty lifts. At the world-renowned Streif, Kitzbühel is also host to one of the most important world-cup races. Furthermore, the Gamsstadt village has become the glistening high society’s Mecca, hence generating an interesting mix of VIPs and party folk.
Salzurg is the fourth largest state in Austria with a population of approximately 530,000 and is divided into five districts, called Gaue. One of them should be a household name to most skiers: the Pinzgau. Here you’ll find another wide array of some of the Alp’s top notch locations. The Skicircus Saalbach-Hinterglemm is well known for its world-cup races, extraordinary events, such as the snow-mobile race, as well as constant partying. Another hotspot for frequent partying can be found in Obertauern im Pongau, which furthermore, along with the Tauernrunde, offers a handsome amount of sportive offers.
The Pinzgau however, also has a relaxing side to it. The Hochkönig, for instance, provides a much more family-friendly setting. Cosy cottage-evenings, instead of loud après ski parties is the name of game here. The purely sports-minded skiers can among other locations, also find happiness at the Kitzsteinhorn. Nearly all year long, it is possible to go skiing here, while superbly maintained pistes at Zell am See/Kaprun and the Schmittenhöhe, await the winter sports enthusiasts. With Flachau, Filzmoos and Zauchensee, Salzburg’s sporting community now introduces families and beginners to much smaller skiing areas. Flachauwinkl-Kleinarl on the other hand, offers a virtual freeride Eldorado. Many of the skiing regions belong to the skiing area union Ski amadé, accessible with one single lift pass. The Salzburg Superski Card is even more comprehensive. The enormous network of skiing areas reaches beyond the city limits of Salzburg and offers access to 22 skiing regions with a total of 2,550 km of pistes.
The great delights of Styria
On the Styrian side side of the Ski amadé, lies the world cup region Schladming-Dachstein. At 2,995 m the Dachstein is the Northen Alp’s second highest peak, while its Dachstein Glacier remains a highly requested region for all levels of difficulty. The well sought after skiing villages such as, Ramsau am Dachstein, Rohrmoss or Schladming, are located not too far from the Dachstein peak. Schladming is still a household name to most winter sports enthusiasts, due to its hosting of the 2013 FIS Alpine Ski world cup where our “Trexpert”, Felix Neureuther won the silver medal in slalom-skiing. In the nearby 4-mountain interconnected ski area, encompassing Hauser Kaibling, Planai, Hochwurzen and Reiteralm, skiers have access to over 120 km of piste.
The smaller skiing regions offer a particularly quaint and alpine charm that especially attracts families. The placid Tauplitz for instance, a true and yet manageable beauty of a skiing mountain also containing the Styrian “Salzkammergut”, provides 42 km of descent. The Tauplitzeralm truly embodies the essence of the skiing sport, since people have been skiing here for over 100 years. At present, the site merges skiing traditions with modern infrastructure into a perfect sports and fun area, with hotel and piste conveniently located side by side. The Murau am Kreischberg might be equally small and tranquil, however has a more sports oriented appeal to it. The ski area with 65 km of pistes especially attracts young and thrill-seeking individuals, with its Airypark that – according to the resorts’ own statements- is home to Europe’s largest half-pipe. Kreischberg became more well-known after hosting the snowboarding world cup in 2003. In 2015 the combination of a freestyle and snowboarding world cup took place here for the very first time.
Austria’s most southern state offers sun-pampered pistes and over 200 lakes, making great getaway destinations. The pistes at the Mölltal Glacier, Carinthia’s only glacier area, or even Heiligenblut at the Großglockner High Alpine Road, are deemed extremely snow reliable. Carinthia’s largest skiing area is the Nassfeld, with 110 km of descent. With superlatives such as the Millennium-Express, connecting the Gailtal with the Nassfeld-Pressegger Lake, or the Alps’ longest illuminated piste, the Nassfeld is in the top 10 of Austria’s best skiing regions. The Katschberg for instance, affectionately nicknamed “Katschi” by its locals, is another frontrunner at 70 km, while offering all levels of difficulty. With several kids’ playgrounds, as well as even slope-sections, the children’s well-being is catered toward in particular. Carinthia however, has lots more to offer. For instance at the Millstätter See in the Bad Kleinkirchheim region, the Lavanttal or in Lieser-/Maltatal.
Best Travel Tips for Vorarlberg
Between Kleinwalsertal in the North and the Montafon in the South, the federal state Vorarlberg distinguishes itself by its world renowned pistes and stunning mountain panorama. Traditional villages, racy ski areas and a long history of the skiing sport, create this state’s charming atmosphere. The largest skiing area is the Silvretta-Montafon with 264 km of pistes. With its difficult black pistes and multiple snow parks it is highly recommend for our advanced skiers and free riders. The interconnected ski area or “Skischaukel”, Lech-Zürs-Warth-Schröcken, is one of the highlights around the Arlberg which has gained world renowned status since its “Der Weiße Ring” ski race. Vorarlberg is also home to world’s snowiest village: Damüls averages about 9.3 m of fresh snow in the winter seasons. The “Schneereich”, or kingdom of snow, also offers 100 km of pistes, besides its masses of snow. The Brandnertal offers particularly family-friendly skiing regions on 55 km of piste, as well as the Kleinwalsertal in the Allgauer Alps, with 128 km of pistes. Furthermore, these are great spots for ski tourers.
Now that we can let this abundance of information sink in, we conclude that: Austria, in nearly all of its federal states, offers a sheer infinite amount of ski areas with great pistes. Here we focused on a just a few specific examples and yet one thing’s for sure: There’s something for everyone!
Source: Statistik Austria