Alpbach is a delightful family-friendly ski resort just a 50-minute drive from Innsbruck airport. A popular tourist destination in summer as well as in winter and the winner of the “Most Beautiful Village in Austria” contest, Alpbach is lift-linked to Wildschonau, forming the Ski Juwel ski area.
A favourite destination of well-informed British skiers long before the advent of mass market ski tourism, Alpbach is an exquisite village set in a pine forested landscape with mountains in the background, that just needs a dusting of snow to be picture perfect. A pretty church with a splendid interior marks the centre of the village and surrounding it are attractive, traditiona,l dark-brown wooden chalets. A planning bylaw introduced in 1953 imposes strict rules on what can be built in the village and ensures nothing can ruin its alpine charm.
The main Alpbachtal skiing is on the Wiedersberger Horn which at 2025m has the highest slopes. But there is also a small ski area 7km away at Reith -im-Alpbachtal offering some of the best night skiing in Europe, and some more skiing around the gondolas going up Schatzsberg which provide the vital lift and piste connection to the neighbouring Wildschonau valley. The combined Alpbachtal-Wildschonau “Ski Juwel” ski area now has 109km of piste (although there is also an alternative figure of 145km of ‘active skiing’ whatever that means.) In layman’s terms, there are 45 lifts accessing about 70 runs which is enough for a week’s holiday for most families who come here, provided snow conditions are good. The ski area is not high but the most important pistes are reinforced with artificial snow-making. This still requires cold night time temperatures though, so be careful about booking ski holidays here in April unless you know it’s been a good season.
The ski lifts are actually a short bus ride away from the centre of the village, either at the super convenient slopeside suburb of Inneralpbach or at a base station half way to Reith called Liftstuberl. Most of the skiing consists of well-groomed, wide, gentle, treelined, blue and red runs – perfect for novices and intermediates who want a holiday first and foremost rather than a stern test of their skiing abilities. There are plenty of mountain huts to stop in for lunch or drinks.
Alpbach is also a resort noted for teaching beginners, particularly children, with excellent nursery slopes close to the village and up the mountain, and good ski schools. Advanced skiers and boarders are not totally ignored. There are not many challenging black runs, but Alpbach has 16km of ski routes and some further off-piste terrain and deep snow freeriding that can be explored with a guide and which remain untracked for longer than in busier ski resorts.
While Alpbach is quiet in comparison to bigger and better known ski resorts, it has a few lively bars for those determined to burn the candle at both ends. Most guests however come here wanting to relax and enjoy the village ambience and the views, and maybe do a lttle bit of cross-country skiing, tobogganing, snowshoeing and winter-walking as well as skiing and boarding. The hotels are mostly small, family-run establishments, and there is not a huge choice of self-catering apartments, so booking Alpbach accommodation early is advised.
Getting there is easy; Alpbach is just a short 50-minute drive from Innsbruck and less than a two hour drive from Salzburg, Munich and Bolzano airports.
Alpbach Pros & Cons
+ Pretty village in a pretty setting
+ Big enough ski area for most
+ Friendly, family-oriented resort
+ Good beginners’ slopes & tuition
– Slopes are a bus ride away from village
– Few tough pistes for better skiers
– A lot of bus connections between areas
– Too low to be snowsure