Skiing in The Tirol
The Tirol is Austria’s best known ski region and home to some of Austria’s most high-profile ski resorts, including St Anton-am-Arlberg, often described as the ski capital of Austria, and Kitzbühel, famous for its legendary World Cup Hahnenkamm downhill.
The Tirol (sometimes spelled Tyrol) is home to many of the best ski resorts in Austria and has always been regarded as safe, friendly and fun with its celebrated gemütlichkeit (or welcome), lively après ski and plenty of good quality accommodation. It’s an ideal destination for skiers and boarders of all ability levels and traditionally, many British and other nationals learn to ski in the Tirol – particularly in Alpbach, Mayrhofen, Obergurgl, Soll and Wildschönau,
Alpbach has won prizes as the one of the prettiest villages in Austria. The quintessentially traditional Austrian village, complete with onion-domed church, narrow streets and little traffic, is a delightful ski holiday destination. The skiing in Alpbach may be on the mellow side, but for those searching for excitement, there are serious challenges too. Alpbach’s slopes are under-rated, both in variety and genuine steepness. For many years the British Army held their ski championships here. With the exception of a nursery slope in the middle of the village, the main ski area is a 5-minute free bus ride away and reached by a two-stage gondola to the Hornsboden at 1850m. From there a network of lifts rise to 2025m on Wiedersbergerhorn, which is now connected by a new gondola to the Schatzberg above Auffach in Wildschonau, increasing the size of the lift-connected ski area at Albach from 44km to 85km. Part of the new Alpbachtal – Wildschonau “Ski Juwel” region with 130km of ski slopes covered by a single lift pass, Alpbach is approximately 60km east of Innsbruck and has plenty of novice terrain. While the ski area is best for beginners and intermediates, experts will find plenty of easily accessible off-piste. Alpbach is 62km east and south from Innsbruck airport. Alpbach ski resort report >
Ischgl is the party capital of Austria. There are party towns and there’s Ischgl, undoubtedly the most lively ski resort in the Tirol. Burning the candle at both ends is almost unavoidable, and for the German tourists who dominate the resort, de rigueur. Ischgl celebrates the beginning and end of each ski season with huge concerts featuring internationally renowned singers and bands. Yet the skiing’s challenging and extensive enough to require plenty of energy and skill, so partying every night can prove to be a mixed blessing on the slopes the next day. There’s skiing from 1400m to 2870m (42 lifts serve 210km of slopes), and the resort shares a mountain and a lift pass with Samnaun, an isolated duty-free resort across the border in Switzerland. There’s good skiing and boarding for all abilities including some easy off-piste skiing between the marked runs. Nearby resorts include See, Kappl and Galtur. Ischgl is 100km to the west of Innsbruck airport. Ischgl ski resort report >
Kitzbühel is celebrated for its World Cup Hahnenkamm races, but it has much more to offer including a wonderfully picturesque medieval walled town centre. The Kitzbühel-Kirchberg region has 54 lifts serving 170 km of pistes and while the general skiing public happily wander onto the Hanhenkamm, they are unlikely to want to venture down the actual Streif run. Like St Anton, Kitzbühel has an impressive variety of linked ski areas, much improved since the construction of the big 3-S cable car linking the Hahnenkamm-Pengelstein area with the Jochberg – Resterhöhe ski region, enabling skiers and snowboarders to return from Pass Thurn to Kitzbühel on snow rather than by ski bus. There’s also the stand-alone (but easy-to-get-to) Kitzbüheler Horn, with some exhilarating motorway skiing. Kitzbühel has long had to endure criticism that the resort is lower than most other resorts in the Alps and therefore vulnerable to low snow yields. Strangely, in this respect, the resort punches above its weight and seems to attract good snow even though some slopes are as low as 800m. Kitzbühel also stresses that many slopes are pastures with few rocks, and so need less significantly less snow cover to create good ski conditions. Kitzbűhel is just 95km from Innsbruck airport. Kitzbuhel ski resort report >
Mayrhofen, near the end of the Ziller Valley, with slopes from 630-2500m, is a big, wide open ski area which stretches out on both sides of the valley, and enjoys the bonus of having one of Europe’s best summer-skiing resorts, Hintertux (with slopes reaching 3250m), within fairly easy reach. The combined (but not linked) area is called Glacier World Zillertal 3000. Mayrhofen, with a main street that’s predominantly pedestrianised, is a mix of Tyrolean-style chalets, and four-star hotels. The main skiing is high above the tree-line on the Penken, which rises way above the town and is reached by a large gondola in the centre of town. There are links with the villages of Finkenberg and Lanersbach and the gentler slopes across the valley on the Ahorn. There are some 146km of prepared pistes on the Penken, Horberg, Rastkogel, Eggalm and Ahorn served by 41 lifts, with a further 86km and 20 more lifts at Hintertux (12 miles away). Austria’s “steepest groomed run”, the Harakiri, is one of the attractions. Mayrhofen is 74km east and south of Innsbruck airport. Mayrhofen ski resort report >
Obergurgl in the Otztal has some of the highest skiing in Austria. Obergurgl, at 1930m, is west and south of Innsbruck and is reached by going as far as you can up the Ötz valley, a 20-minute drive past Sölden. Obergurgl’s sister resort Hochgurgl, even higher, at 2150m is largely made up of luxury ski-in ski-out hotels. Obergurgl and Hochgurgl are linked by the 3.6km Top Express gondola – a journey of some nine minutes. Obergurgl’s slopes – 110k served by 22 lifts – can be sub-divided into the main runs on the Festkogl, reached by gondola or quad chair, and the smaller Gaisberg area, topped by the infamous Hohe Mut. Not long ago, the region invested 25 million euros on three new 8-person gondolas. A new run down from the Hohe Mut gives skiers and boarders an easier alternative than the old ungroomed and often mogulled ski route. Obergurgl is to the west and south of Innsbruck and 97km from Innsbruck airport. Obergurgl ski resort report >
St Anton is arguably Austria’s premier ski resort and the Arlberg (including St Anton, St Christoph, Stuben, Sonnenkopf, Lech and Zűrs) is among the greatest ski areas in the world with 260km of pistes skiing (from 1308-2811m) served by 85 lifts. With a really diverse cocktail of different ski areas all covered by the same Arlberg ski pass, St Anton is the liveliest ski resort in the Arlberg. There really is something for everyone, but without question, St Anton – with formidable mogul fields and masses of excellent off-piste – is best suited to strong intermediates and advanced skiers and boarders. This goes for the nightlife too. Ski hard, play hard is the resort’s leitmotif. Raw beginners in both disciplines might be advised to make their debuts elsewhere. Nearby Lech and Zürs, across the Tirolean border in the Vorarlberg, also form part of the Arlberg and are covered by the same Arlberg lift pass. St Anton is 96km west from Innsbruck airport. St Anton ski resort report >
Seefeld, north-west of Innsbruck, is one of the most picturesque of Austria’s mountain towns. There are 32 lifts including 23 T-bars serving just 27km of slopes on two mountains. Apart from this small network of excellent beginner and intermediate slopes (there are more challenging runs too), Seefeld is famous for cross country skiing, and was the location for the cross-country skiing events in both the 1964 and 1976 Winter Olympics, as well as hosting the 1985 Nordic World Ski Championships. It’s often described as the cross-country ski capital of Austria, with some 240km of cross-country ski tracks. Seefeld has virtually no through traffic and is just 22km from the Innsbruck airport. Seefeld ski resort report >
Sölden, where the European World Cup circuit kicks off every year, has excellent glacier skiing, a big vertical drop (1870m) and wonderful views across the Ötztal Alps. With 85 bars, pubs, restaurants and discos, the après ski starts early and gets “pretty damn wild”. There’s 141km of pistes skiing for all levels served by 34 lifts, but skiers in search of long, fast runs will enjoy it most. An 8-person gondola on the Rettenbach glacier takes you to 3247m on the Schwarze Schneide (“Black Blade”) enabling skiers and boarders to try the “The Big 3 Rally” – more than 10,000 vertical metres in around four hours of hard skiing. You can ski from one glacier to another through a tunnel 170 metres long – then take the route through Rettenbachtal to the base of the Gaislachkogl gondola, up again, and down to the bottom to conclude the tour – about 50km. Sőlden is situated to the west and south of Innsbruck and 83km from Innsbruck airport. Solden ski resort report >
SkiWelt Wilder Kaiser-Brixental in the Tirol, Austria is 284km of slopes (from 620-1890m) including the biggest night skiing area in Austria, 90 ski lifts, over 70 mountain restaurants and bars and more than 1,40 snow-making machines covering 85% of slopes. Skiing from resort to resort is one of life’s great pleasures in the mountains, and there’s plenty of scope for it in the SkiWelt. The Brixental valley links four celebrated Wilder Kaiser resorts of Sőll, Scheffau, Ellmau and Going with Itter, Hopfgarten, Kelschau, Westendorf and Brixen im Thale. From Hohe Salve (1829 m), you can look out across more than 70 peaks of 3,000 metres or more. A single lift pass covers the entire Ski Welt Wilder Kaiser region or you can buy a ‘Kitzbüheler Alpen AllStarCard’ lift pass which enables guests to ski the pistes in SkiWelt, the lift connected Kitzbühel-Kirchberg region and more with just one lift ticket. Sőll is 78km east of Innsbruck airport. SkiWelt ski resort report >
Neustift in the Stubai valley is an unusually pretty village jwith its own small ski area – but its big selling point is providing access to the extensive Stubai Glacier in the Stubai Valley, between Innsbruck and the Brenner Pass to Italy. The glacier, with slopes between 2300 and 3200m, has some 24 lifts serving 110km of runs. It’s ideal territory for intermediates and above, popular with snowboarders, and handy for national ski teams in need of slopes for race training in summer and autumn. Neustift in Stubaital is 28km south and west from Innsbruck airport. The glacier ski area at the far end of the valley is 20km south west from Neustift. Stubaital ski resort report >
Wildschönau is a mellow cul-de-sac valley with three ski areas – 65km of skiing served by 25 lifts – spread along six kilometres sharing a common lift pass, and a free ski bus goes to and fro between them. Niederau is the Wildschőnau’s biggest and best-known ski resort village, with après-ski bars, hotels, restaurants, discos and late-night clubs. An 8-person gondola takes skiers to the local ski area (21km) where there is a choice of red cruising runs all the way back down, or a chance to cut across to Lanerköpfl, where a black run snakes steeply down. Beginners have a choice of nursery lifts in the village or the top of the gondola. Auffach is a small village, but has Wildschonau’s biggest and highest ski area (41km), now connected to the Wiedersberger Horn ski area (45km) above Alpbach and part of the new Alpbachtal – Wildschonau “Ski Juwel” region (130km) Between Niederau and Auffach is Oberau, a picturesque little village with a 6km ski area aimed mainly at beginners. Wildschőnau is 72km east from Innsbruck airport.
Getting to the Tirol
Innsbruck airport is the main gateway to the Tirol and its central location provides short, convenient transfers to ski resorts throughout the region. If flying from the UK, Easy Jet operate daily flights from London Gatwick to Innsbruck and twice weekly from Bristol and Liverpool. British Airways fly five times a week from Gatwick to Innsbruck and new for winter 2012-13, Monarch will fly to Innsbruck three times a week from Manchester. Transfers from Innsbruck airport to resorts like St. Anton, Ischgl, Obergurgl, Mayrhofen, Alpbach, Wildschönau, Kitzbühel take approximately one hour. While resorts like Seefeld, Kühtai or Neustift can be reached within 30 minutes.
Munich airport (Germany) is served by British Airways from London, Manchester and Edinburgh, Lufthansa from London, Birmingham and Manchester, EasyJet fly from Stansted and Edinburgh and Aer Lingus from Cork and Dublin. New for winter 2012-13 Monarch will fly to Munich from Leeds-Bradford, Luton and Birmingham. Transfer time from Munich to Tirol is approximately 1 hour 30 minutes,
Salzburg airport is served by EasyJet from Bristol, Liverpool, Luton, London Gatwick, Jet2 fly from Edinburgh and Manchester, Flybe from Exeter and Southampton, British Airways from Gatwick and Ryanair from Stansted. Salzburg is convenient for resorts such as Kitzbühel, Söll, Kirchberg, Westendorf, St. Johann and Ellmau in the eastern part of Tirol; transfer time approximately 1 hour.
Airport Transfers to Tirol Ski Resorts
Four Seasons Travel in Innsbruck provides a reliable airport transfer shuttle service to ski resorts in the Tirol from Innsbruck, Munich, Salzburg, Memmingen, Bolzano and Zurich airports. The range of transfer services includes shared airport shuttle, private transfers in minivans seating up to 8 persons and 19-50 seat coaches for groups and a first class limousine service. Four Seasons customer support includes 24-hour telephone response 365 days per year as well as easy and secure booking online.