As Carinthia is Austria's Lakeland, it seems appropriate that the province's most central ski resort should have a gondola lift rising directly from the shores of a lake, and with splendid views of Ossiacher See in the heart of Carinthia, the gentle, wooded Gerlitzen mountainscape is Carinthia's answer to Zell am See or Lake Tahoe.
Compared to Carinthia's main ski resorts Bad Kleinkirchheim and Nassfeld, Gerlitzen is a small family friendly resort for beginners and improving skiers to hone their new-found skills. It's an entry level mountain with beginner-friendly lifts, excellent beginner areas and wide, safe runs for family friendly skiing on sunny, unintimidating and well-groomed slopes.
Gerlitzen is actually the name of the mountain on which the skiing takes place and its setting is made more dramatic by the fact that, at just under 2,000 metres, it's the highest peak in the immediate vicinity and recognised as one of the best vistas in Austria. On a clear day most of Carinthia can be seen from the mountaintop and the clearness of the air and reliability of the weather led to an observatory being built on the mountain in the 1930's which is now a leading centre for solar research.
Gerlitzen is also a gateway to the culture, history and wealth of other attractions in the vicinity including the town of Treffen, at the foot of Gerlitzen, which is one of the most important Roman sites in Carinthia with many Roman remains. But while skiing and boarding may be a relatively recent addition to the area's rich history, it is the main winter attraction now. The first cable car to the peak of the Gerlitzen was built in 1925 and tourism began to flourish here between the world wars
Substantial investment in state-of-the-art artificial snowmaking means that, despite its relatively modest altitude, Gerlitzen is usually open for skiing from the beginning of December until late April. The water for the snow cannon is provided by four reservoirs that, in the summer, are used as bathing lakes.
Gerlitzen - On The Mountain
The main gondola is from Annenheim at 520m on the banks of the Ossiacher See. The gondola goes to Kanzelhohe, in effect the mountain's middle station, a village in itself where there is a ski school office, restaurants, the solar observatory and a hotel.
From Kanzelhohe, the Gipfelbahn chairlift continues up to the peak of Gerlitzen from which radiates a network of pistes on all sides of the mountain. The peak is also accessed by a chairlift from Klosterle on the opposite side of the mountain which, at 1,000m, is another of Gerlitzen's base areas. There is a further 'base area', although actually half-way up the mountain, served by a cleared and treated road above Bodensdorf which is a lakeside village.
Investment in new lifts includes the 8-seater Carving Jet chairlift which gives access to a 200m wide slope - perfect for carving - and three new pistes, the Kanonenrohr, the Gegendtaler and the Worthersee. The Rock 'n Roll trail is left unpisted. The longest run in the resort, which has a 1,400m vertical, is the 5.4 km Klosterle slope which runs from the peak to the Klosterle base area.
Gerlitzen - Off The Mountain
A number of hotels are nestled among the runs and overlooking the lake including the four-star Sonnenhotel Zaubek right on the mountain at the top station of the Kanzelhohe gondola.
The newly-opened Feuerberg Mountain Resort, right on the slopes, has 60 rooms plus four romantic Alpine chalets. The hotel also has a wonderful spa - with the arolla pine sauna a great way to relax after a day on the slopes.
The Hotel Ossiacher See at Annenheim, a privately-run family establishment, has its own children's ski school - apparently the only one in Austria that will take children from as young as 18 months. Lessons, which obviously are as much about playing in the snow as anything else, are for two hours a day. Other ski schools in Austria won't start 'teaching' children until 3 years of age.
For those who don't want to spend every minute skiing or boarding, there are sleigh rides, tobogganing and snowshoeing. Cross country skiers have 26kms of marked trails. And in the sunniest province of Austria, with 200 sunny days a year (London has 90), outings to nearby Villach and the ultra-fashionable lakeside and casino town of Velden are easy to organise.
Gerlitzen - Getting There
Gerlitzen is easy to reach, just off the A10 or A11 autobahns, and only 25-minutes by car or taxi from Klagenfurt Airport.
For more information contact the tourist office:
Gerlitzen Tourist Office
Tel: +43 4248 2722