Skiing in Carinthia
Carinthia is a land of lakes, mountains and sun and the alpine terrain in this southern part of Austria has a gentler feel than the more jagged peaks of the Tirol to the north. In these parts they like to call it the ‘sunny side of the Alps’ and it’s true – they do have more sun than most other areas in the Alps.
In winter Carinthia is snow covered and most of the lakes are frozen, and as in most other parts of Austria, skiing is the main activity. But Carinthia has a more rounded view of wintersports. Cross-country skiing is very popular as is winter walking on cleared paths and snowshoeing. Other diverse activities such as ice golf, curling and skating are also enjoyed.
The mood is markedly more relaxed with a Mediterranean feel – Carinthia borders Italy and Slovenia. Legend has it they once ran out of virgins to satisfy the appetite of a dragon in Klagenfurt because there wasn’t a word for ‘no’ in the local vocabulary.
Carinthia’s future, like its weather, is looking bright and sunny. Fun and excitement are abundant throughout the winter on the slopes of Carinthia’s ski resorts, the two biggest of which are Bad Kleinkirchheim and Nassfeld; both are moving rapidly up the rankings of Austria’s ski areas. Among the others are Heiligenblut nestling under Austria’s highest mountain, the Grossglockner, Katschberg and the delightful Gerlitzen, which provides fabulous slopes for beginners’ and families.
There are more than 600-kilometres of cross-country trails and more than 100 lakes. Carinthia is home to the longest gondola lift in Austria, the four-mile three-stage Millennium Express at Nassfeld, and offers guaranteed snow on the slopes of the Molltal glacier. Prices seem a little cheaper in hotels, bars, restaurants, shops and ski schools than in many other parts of Austria and the Top Ski Carinthia ski pass covers all lifts in 30 ski areas throughout Carinthia and East Tirol.
Bad-Kleinkirchheim in many ways epitomises the Carinthia skiing experience. There are over 100 km of pistes, 24 lifts and a slope that’s steep enough to be included in the World Cup circuit (as you might expect from the area that produced the legendary downhill racer Franz Klammer), but the resort is just as proud of its sunshine record as it is of its snowfall. And if the prospect of skiing all those pistes sounds a bit strenuous, the resort is keen to stress that there are saunas actually on the slopes and special loungers with warming covers to relax on whatever the weather, plus plenty of places to stop for a drink or something to eat. And you don’t have to ski to enjoy the mountains, because there are also 60kms of hiking trails, and two long toboggan courses to try. Bad Kleinkirchheim Ski Resort Guide>>>
Gerlitzen is actually the name of the mountain on which the skiing takes place, and from where the runs lead down in almost all directions to Kloesterle, Birkenhof,Kanzelhoehe and Annenheim. Almost as important as the mountain, however is the lake – the beautiful Ossiacher See – and many visitors stay in the hotels along its shore and commute to the slopes by bus or car. In total there are 15 lifts and 27 ski slopes (over 40km in total), plus two cross country ski circuits. It’s a relatively small area but has a good reputation for beginners’ and families. Whilst the summit of the Gerlitzen is not very high (1911m) by alpine standards, the ski area has invested heavily in artificial snow making, so usually snow cover is not a problem, at least on the North-facing pistes. Gerlitzen Ski Resort Guide >>>
Heiligenblut, or Heiligenblut am Grossglockner to give it its full name, is the ski resort nestling under Austria’s highest and most iconic mountain, the Grossglockner which is the alternative name for the ski area. It’s a much bigger ski area than the official figure of 55 km of pistes suggests due to its large free ride space (over 15 km²) and very impressive 1500m vertical – lifts ascend from the 1301m base station up to 2989m, making its highest slopes very snow sure. There are also three cross country ski circuits (two in the valley and one at 2000m). The area is famous both for its views of the Grossglockner and its plentiful mountain restaurants – allegedly there is one for every kilometre of piste. Heiligenblut Ski Resort Guide >>>
Mölltaler Gletscher (Flattach)
The Mölltaler Gletscher is Carinthia’s only glacier ski area, with lifts going up to 3122m providing snowsure skiing not only through the winter but in Spring, Summer and Autumn as well. There are just over 17km of pistes plus a 7km freeride route and a 2.5kn cross country circuit. The nearest accommodation is in Flattach.
Katschberg is the name of the ski resort on Carinthia’s border with Salzburgerland. and Aineck the name of the 2200m mountain on which most of the skiing takes place, although it also extends to the slopes of Tschaneck (2030m). The other base station is St Margarethen im Lungau on the other side of Aineck. There is also accommodation at St Michael im Lungau and Rennweg with bus connections to the lifts. The ski area has 70kms and is mostly aimed at the family market, although there are offpiste and touring opportunities. Katschberg itself is relatively high for a resort at 1641m, and this gives the area a deserved reputation for good snow cover. It is also very easy to reach by car or bus as it’s close to the A10 autobahn.
Naasfeld is the most southern ski area in Austria, and claims to be its sunniest. Situated close to the border, it offers the opportunity to ski into Italy. It’s also the biggest area in Carinthia with one of the longest gondola ski lifts in Europe – the 4-mile, 3-stage Millennium Express. The principle resorts in the ski area are SonnenalpeSonnleitn and Tropolach whilst the small town of Hermagor is just down the valley and connected by busses. Although it’s a sunny area, in a normal season Naasfeld receives more than enough snow from the Adriatic weather systems – and in an abnormal one, it has plenty of artificial snowmaking as a back-up. In total Naasfeld offers 110 km of pistes descending from a maximum height of 2,200m, plus 300 km of cross-country trails, 150km of hiking trails and 7 square kilometres of natural ice skating on Lake Weissensee and Lake Pressegger See. Nassfeld Ski Resort Guide >>>
Getting to Carinthia
Klagenfurt airport in Carinthia itself is very small but is occasionally used by low cost airlines. Salzburg and Klagenfurt are the main gateways. Other more distant options include Innsbruck and Ljubljana; and, depending where you are flying from, Lienz and Graz airports may be closer, though very few airlines offer flights.