Skiing in Austria – winter sports travel guide

From snow-sure slopes to the world-famous Kaiserschmarren, Austria is one of the best places to ski. Here the team from the Austrian National Tourist Office pick out 11 reasons why you should visit Austria for skiing this winter.

1. Plenty of snow-sure pistes

Snow-guarantee is a crucial factor when choosing a winter destination. And, luckily, the Austrian Alps are blessed with it. Widely recognized as one of the world’s most reliable skiing destinations, Austria’s top resorts ensure perfectly groomed pistes throughout the classic winter season – and way beyond. Tirol alone has five glaciers, including Zillertal’s Hintertux, where you can ski 365 days a year. In Zell am See-Kaprun skiing is on from October to June thanks to the Kitzsteinhorn glacier. And if everything goes wrong, Austria’s resorts also feature top-notch snow-making facilities, with 90% of them using green energy only. In resorts such as SkiWelt Wilder Kaiser Brixental even the snowcats use a GPS-controlled slope management system to help save energy.

2. Value for money

Austria is well known for winning on the value-for-money stakes, with everything from lift passes, ski schools, eating out, and partying still affordable. Not only will your stay cost less, but savvy travelers can also find great deals in Austria’s ski resorts and save even more – an important factor in the current global economic crisis. A region especially well-known for its great value for money is – according to the Where to Ski and Snowboard Guide – Ski Juwel Alpbachtal Wildschönau.

3. Mountains are easy to reach

Non-stop flights to Innsbruck, Salzburg, München, and Klagenfurt take off from all major British airports throughout the winter. And upon arrival, it’s about one more hour to your ski resort, with public transport options widely available. Want to make your journey greener? Hop on the train at night (TUI’s new Ski Express takes skiers from Amsterdam and Utrecht directly to the Austrian Alps), cross Europe while you are sleeping and wake up in Austria’s winter wonderland.

4. Charming and authentic villages

Ski-in/ski-out from your doorstep! In many Austrian resorts, the lifts are in the heart of the village, within easy walking distance from your hotel and right where the locals go about their daily lives. The picturesque villages have grown organically over the centuries and still boast their original Old-World charm – the perfect setting for a winter fairy-tale like back in the day. Experience the authentic Austrian lifestyle, mingle with the locals in the traditional huts and restaurants after your day on the slopes and embrace everything winter in Austria has to offer.

5. Austria’s ‘Gemütlichkeit’ is legendary

The Austrian notion of Gemütlichkeit is hard to explain. Unique to the country, it embodies cosiness, comfort, and homeliness. Cozy rustic huts invite you to while away the hours, nursing mulled wine or schnapps in front of a crackling log fire, surrounded by friendly locals. The service and hospitality is guaranteed to leave you with a warm glow even in cold winter weather. Most of Austria’s hotels and guest houses are family-run, further adding to the homely atmosphere.

6. Modern and sustainable resorts

Ski Arlberg (305km of slopes), SkiWelt Wilder Kaiser-Brixental (284km) and Skicircus Saalbach Hinterglemm Leogang Fieberbrunn (270km) are the largest ski resorts in Austria – and they are widely considered to be some of the most modern in Europe, too. Austria invests millions every year to improve and upgrade its lift and gondola network. What’s more, you can whisk down the slopes with a clear conscience. SkiWelt has received multiple awards for being one of the most ecological resorts worldwide and many others are closely following, using green energy to run their lifts and hotels, hence keeping the carbon footprint to a minimum.

7. Perfect for a family winter holiday

Skiing with little ones in tow for the first time is certainly a memorable experience but also poses some challenges. However, things get a lot smoother if you book yourself into a winter resort especially catering for young guests. While Austria’s huge resorts are stunning, there’s also plenty of beautiful smaller ones perfect for families who are looking for a more intimate winter experience. st. Johann in Tirol and St. Johann in Salzburg are especially popular thanks to their extensive family-friendly offers, think kids clubs, ski schools, childcare, and tons of activities away from the slopes. Add the attractive family deals and you might have just found the perfect holiday destination that doesn’t break the bank.

8. Ski schools are top-notch

No matter if you are a complete beginner or an advanced skier, there’s always something new to learn on the slopes. Thanks to the country’s long skiing tradition, Austria has an extensive network of excellent ski schools, employing around 18,000 professional instructors. Usually, there’s at least one English-speaking pro on-site, so you don’t need to speak German to attend a course. Austria’s instructor training is considered to be the best worldwide, with newbies undergoing more training days than anywhere else. Unsurprisingly, people from all over come to Austria to master their skills – or train as instructors.

9. Kaiserschmarren: try it at a mountain hut

Skiing is a proper workout, so you certainly deserve sampling all the hearty Austrian food everyone talks about! Kaiserschmarren, a fluffy chopped-pancake dish, is a classic for sharing. Other popular dishes worth trying include Kaspressknödel (cheese dumplings), Tiroler Gröstl (bacon, onion, and potato fry-up) and Käsespätzle (cheese spaetzle). The traditional food is typically enjoyed together with Skiwasser (water with raspberry and lemon sirup) and – if you are done with skiing for the day – followed by a proper home-made schnapps.

10. You can go skiing and sightseeing in one day

Even the most dedicated skier needs a break. So why not use it for some sightseeing? In Austria, you can combine skiing and city trip, enjoying the best of both worlds. Head to Innsbruck (surrounded by 13 ski areas) and stroll its imperial streets, then have a coffee in a classic coffeehouse before taking a cable car from the center and be at 2,000m in just 20 minutes.

11. The next spa is never far away

Most of Austria’s ski hotels have their own spas – or partner up with nearby ones to offer their guests attractive deals. What better way to recharge your batteries after a day of skiing than in a heated outdoor tub or a sauna? Or, if your significant other isn’t in the mood for skiing, he or she certainly won’t mind spending a few hours relaxing at the pool while you are free to continue whisking down your favorite slopes.

Main image: Kitzbuehel Tourismus/Michael Werlberger