Katschberg has become something of secret gem, an insider tip, among ski resorts in Austria for a number of reasons. It's not big enough, with only 16 lifts, to have joined the major league - but first-time visitors are pleasantly surprised to discover a sophisticated lift network serving extensive snowsure skiing across two peaks.
If you meander in an untidy fashion down the main street at Katschberg, you'll find yourself criss-crossing between Carinthia and Salzburgerland. The border between the two provinces runs through the centre of town.
A pleasant aspect is that the village is quite cosmopolitan. The resort is known for having a very loyal clientele who return year after year - German visitors make up the largest single group - but there are also significant numbers from Italy, Holland, Croatia, Hungary and Belgium as well as Britain making up, surprisingly, nearly 5 per cent of the total; and a fair number of Austrians too.
The ski resort sees itself as Carinthian and it is careful to point out that its proximity to the main spine of the Alps, plus its altitude of 1,640-metres, helps guarantee a long winter season of good snow coverage. And just so nothing is left to chance, a state-of-the art snowmaking system covers 100 per cent of the slopes. They're thorough in Katschberg.
Skiing & Boarding in Katschberg
Altogether, on the twin-mountains of Aineck and Tschaneck, there are 66-kilometres of well-groomed slopes. Big attractions, especially for families, are how broad and well-maintained many of the slopes are and the absence of lift queues.
Talking of lifts, Katschberg has one type you've probably never tried before - an environmentally friendly bio-lift which needs no motors to run it and uses no energy except that of a team of stout horses. This involves taking an off-piste trip, in powder if you're lucky, from the top of the Tschaneckbahn chairlift down to the Pritzhutte mountain restaurant tucked away in a little valley.
Your visit to Pritzhutte will be both delightful and remarkable with schnapps much in evidence as they take no prisoners partywise. Later, you'll find the lift back up to the Tschaneck piste is waiting outside consisting of long ropes pulled by powerful Noriker horses. You simply grab a rope and hang on. It's actually quite a social lift - you can move yourself up and down the rope as you go to chat to your fellow liftees.
Horses play a major part in the Katschberg winter scene. As a break from the slopes you can ride out from the Alpine Pferdezentrum Katschberg or have indoor and outdoor riding lessons - the horses are specially shod for the snow. And, of course, this accent on equine excellence means the sleigh rides in the village are the acme of the genre.
You will have realised by now that the resort has a special character and, somewhat unusually for Austria, Katschberg is mostly ski-in ski-out. It also has one of Austria's most beautiful and satisfying runs, the newly-created A1 'autobahn', a straight, constantly downward and perfectly snow-covered piste all the way from the Aineck peak to Lungau - 6 kilometres non-stop if you're in the mood.
The skiing is generally perfect for families of mixed ability, with a predominance of red runs. The Tschaneck side of the resort is a paradise for intermediates with all the runs eventually funnelling back to the village. Many of the slopes are broad, flattering to the style and ideal for building confidence. The black run on this side is the Tschaneckpiste to the right of the 6-person Tschaneckbahn chairlift. But there is also an easier run from here - the Konigsweise.
There are a number of easy blues very near the village to allow beginners convenient graduation including a 60ft tunnel that takes the Gamskogel piste under a road instead of over it to avoid having to remove your skis.
On the opposite side, beneath Aineck, an ultra-convenient moving walkway across a bridge in the village connects the two ski areas and the Aineckbahn chairlift takes you to the resort's highest point, at 2,220-metres. From here there is wide open skiing above the tree-line with the draglifts Aineck, Gipfel and Branntwein all coming into play to help clock up the miles. You can ski all the way down to another base area at Lungau, where the new A1 run ends, and return via the two-person Aineck chair.
The Aineck side also has a smattering of decent blacks including the racily-named Direttissima, from Aineck peak all the way back down to Katschberg, and the Kar-Steilhang on the far left of the ski area.
Wherever you are you won't be far from a mountain restaurant - there are 14 to choose from. Try the spare ribs at the Pizzeria Stamperl, Carinthian specialities at the Gamskogelhutte or Salzburgerland dishes at the Schneeflockerl. After all, this is border territory.
The resort sees families as its strong suit and accordingly pays great attention to youngsters and welcomes them to Katschi's Kids' World. Special courses are tailored to their needs and lift attendants are trained to be particularly helpful. Some short runs and areas near the village are exclusively for children with no through skiers to distract them. As the resort says, the aim 'is to introduce your children to a winter sports and the start of a lifelong love'.
For those who still need more skiing, the Konigwiese slopes are floodlit for night skiing every Monday and Thursday from 7 until 10pm with your daytime lift pass still valid (a nice change from many resorts who charge extra for night skiing). Evenings on the slopes are lively in Katschberg including floodlit toboganning. You can go on a 'fire and ice hike' on some evenings to the Gamskogelhutte on the Tschaneck slopes - then, after a meal, sled down or return in a snow-cat.
Where to stay in Katschberg
The village has seven 4-star hotels, including the excellent Falskensteiner Hotel Cristallo, nine 2 or 3-star hotels and a range of self-catering apartments.
Katschberg Apres Ski
The nightlife can be as lively as you want to make it with a disco and several good bars putting on live music during the week. The Larchenstadl has themed cuisine nights: fondue Monday, Austrian Wednesday and Italian on Fridays while the Alpina Gasthof is good for steaks. The Schlossl has live music on Wednesday evenings.
Getting to Katschberg
Katschberg is easily accessible from the A10 autobahn which links Salzburg and Villachs and then Klagenfurt, so giving good links with the airports at Salzburg and Klagenfurt. The nearest rail station is Spittal an der Drau with a postbus connection to the resort.
Katschberg Tourist Office
Katschberg Tourist Office
Tel: +43 4734 630