With over 400 ski resorts, more than 7000km of ski slopes, some of the most picturesque scenery and world-renowned ski resorts in almost every valley, it is no wonder that so many skiers visit Austria each winter. Large numbers also flock to the country’s impressive glaciers for summer and autumn turns – with Hintertux even remaining open year-round.
There are two main choices (plus a few extra options) when booking your trip to Austria. Head to the west of Innsbruck to the famous high-altitude resorts of the Tirol and Arlberg to likes of Ischgl, Lech, Sölden, St Anton and Obergurgl, or go east to the resorts of the eastern Tirol and Salzburg region to ski or board at resorts such as Kitzbühel, Mayrhofen, Saalbach and Zell am See. Generally speaking, snow reliability is better in the higher resorts and deep valleys to the west of Innsbruck, but there are some great snowsure destinations further east too, especially after years of heavy investment in state of the art snowmaking facilities.
Wherever you head, each resort will offer up something different, but a common theme is plentiful terrain and seriously impressive lift systems – Austrian resorts definitely have the highest proportion of slick, fast lifts anywhere in Europe.
Recent years have seen several major link-ups, making many of the smaller resort villages more attractive than ever for visitors. For example Saalbach joined with neighbouring Fieberbrunn and is soon expected to link to Zell am See, St Anton linked to Lech and Zürs, Wagrain joined with nearby Flachau and most recently Kaprun linked up to the high glacier slopes of the Kitzsteinhorn. Small ski areas remain, but generally you’re likely to get fantastic variety and a lot of terrain when you buy your lift pass.
Accommodation options are varied, but favour traditional, family-run hotels and guesthouses – some of which may in fact be extremely luxurious, serving up fantastic local food and being home to their own wellness spas. Add in great cuisine – Tiroler gröstl, kaiserschmarrn, schnitzel and apfelstrudel are our favourites – and some of the world’s liveliest après ski, led by the legendary bars in St Anton, and the Austrian ski formula is complete.
Getting here is easy, with numerous cheap flights on offer to Innsbruck and Salzburg, but also to Zürich for access to the resorts in the Arlberg. Travel within the country and between resorts is very easy too, with many linked by trains, or just a short drive from each other – making this a fantastic country for a multi-resort trip.
Any downsides are generally overridden by the positives outlined above, but there are a couple of small issues that we have encountered in the past. Many resorts are unfortunately a victim of their own success and can get very busy – despite the fast lifts – at weekends and during holidays, which can also lead to icy and rutted pistes at times. Snow reliability can also be a problem at the lower resorts, but snowmaking has definitely helped. And finally, the lively après scene at some resorts might not suit everyone and families should consider family-friendly resorts such as Obergurgl, Schladming or Söll instead.