The St. Johann ski area is all located on the north side of the famous Kitzbüheler Horn, opposite the imposing Wilder Kaiser range. The area is characterised by a number of wide meandering runs down through the trees back to either St. Johann itself or nearby Oberndorf.
There are three main areas on the mountain: the Eichenhof lifts section – which can be relatively quiet although involves some long t-bars; the area around the Harschbichl and Hochfeld lifts on the middle of the mountain, which tends to be quite busy with ski schools; and the Penzing-Bauernalm area towards Oberndorf, which features some steeper slopes.
With a peak of 1,604m, conditions in St. Johann can suffer when the weather is warm, although artificial snow-making facilities cover much of the resort, and its northerly orientation means this isn’t as much of a problem as it could be.
The area is very well suited to beginners, with three gentle nursery areas for novices and children, and 8 of 19 runs easy blues. In general, runs from the mid-station down are marked blue and provide a network of easily accessible pistes where learners can build their confidence before attempting some of the more testing terrain higher up the mountain.
Above the mid-station, the concentration of red runs offer an enjoyable couple of days skiing for intermediates, with some wide easy cruisers (4a) as well as more challenging slopes towards the Penzing area (5a/6a).
There is, however, very little advanced skiing - the run down from the Bauernalm cable car (7a) is the only black piste. Skiers with some experience will quickly cover the slopes St. Johann has to offer and will need to go further afield to find new ground to explore.
Luckily, St. Johann is well placed within the Schneewinkel area which offers 176km prepared pistes, and is also not far from the KitzSki (170km) and SkiWelt (279km) areas, although a car is needed to get to these areas easily.
Within the Schneewinkel area the two resorts most worth a visit are Fieberbrunn and Steinplatte; both can be reached easily by car or by the ski bus which connects the Schneewinkel villages. The other villages have very small ski areas so are probably not worth the effort.
Fieberbrunn has 43km of prepared pistes, but is best known for the superb off-piste on offer, as showcased by the Swatch Freeride World Tour. Steinplatte, meanwhile, is a relatively compact ski area (35km prepared pistes), with some good intermediate skiing on a dense network of wide blues and reds at the top of the mountain.
Access to the mountain is channelled through the Harschbichl cable car - a stone's throw from many of the resort's hotels and a ten minute walk from the main square. The lift is the focal point of the ski area - so can become busy during peak holiday periods - and provides direct access to the highest point on the piste map, 16 minutes and 943 vertical metres from the lift base station.
The Bauernalm is the resort's other cable car, reconnecting advanced skiers to the heart of the ski area after a run down the long Saureggabfahrt black run. There are a total of four chairlifts in the St Johann ski area, the most significant of which are the Penzing and Jodlalm lifts which carry intermediate skiers around the central network of red runs. The other two chairlifts operate lower down the mountain and are mostly intended to serve the resort's nighttime tobogganing and floodlight skiing.
The left of the ski area is dominated by the Eichenhof t-bars. The continuing presence of these long and inconvenient lifts hinders the resort and deters skiers from enjoying the pistes on offer in the Eichenhof region. There is a recognition of this and the resort is gradually making progress in securing investment and gaining the permissions needed to replace these t-bars with a new and more efficient alternative.
There are three free practice lifts for beginners spread across the ski area, and there is free access to night skiing on Wednesday and Fridays via the Hochfeld lifts.
Due to the size of the ski area lift passes solely for St Johann are only offered for between half a day and two days. A day pass costs €39.50 in peak season or €19.50 for children (during the 13/14 season).
Visitors staying for more than two days have a choice between three major lift passes. The cheapest option is the Schneewinkel lift pass, which is priced at €206 for six days and offers access to 170km of pistes across a number of nearby ski areas including St Johann, Oberndorf, Steinplatte and Fieberbrunn. This is a popular option among families looking to explore the many discreet areas within reach - by car or bus - of St Johann, and freeriders planning a visit to Fieberbrunn.
The two other, more extensive, alternatives are the All Star Card, giving access to 1,000km of skiing locally, and the 2,500km Salzburg Super Ski Card, both priced at €241 for 6 days in the 13/14 ski season.
With nearly half its runs suitable for beginners, St. Johann is well-suited to families and others learning to ski. Children and complete novices can start to learn the ropes on one of a number of nursery slopes near to the village.
The main areas for beginners within St. Johann itself are either at the bottom of the Eichenhof lifts, or at the bottom of the Hochfeld lifts, both of which have free t-bars to access the nursery slopes. There is a also a nursery slope and some short, gentle blue runs served by t-bars at the bottom of the Bauernalm cable car, near Oberndorf. There are ski schools based near all three areas.
Most of the runs down from the mid-station are relatively easy blue runs, providing a good range of pistes that beginners can progress on to. The blues under the Harschbichl cable car can get rather busy with ski schools, and particularly later in the day it may be better to stick to the quieter Eichenhof area.
While the Talabfahrt-Oberndorf (6b) is a fun, interesting blue through the trees, it can only be accessed via the Penzingabfahrt red run (6a), and so is limited to those feeling confident enough to tackle slightly steeper slopes.
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Nearly half of St Johann's 22 pistes are classified as suitable for intermediates, including a concentration of red runs above the Harschbichl mid-station and long intermediate cruisers beneath the Penzing and Jodlalm chairlifts.
Most of the skiing in St Johann is relatively gentle, with a number of forgiving and wide red runs across the ski area. The Lacknerabfahrt and Eichenhofabfahrt runs are prime examples of this - and the latter is often relatively scarce with skiers deterred by the prospect of a long t-bar back up the mountain.
Skiers wishing to test themselves on the resort's steeper terrain should head to the upper Harschbichl and Penzing sections of the ski area. Although none of St Johann's reds could be deemed difficult, these sections contain some steeper and more testing skiing, most notably in the form of the Penzingabfahrt run accessible from either the Harschbichl or Penzing lifts.
Once you have exhausted the offering in the St Johann ski area, your next stop is likely to be dictated by your choice of lift pass. Skiers with the Schneewinkel pass typically head towards Oberndorf or Waidring Steinplatte where extra intermediate mileage can be found, while those who opt for the slightly more expensive Salzburg Super Ski Card or All Star Card might find it harder to resist the larger ski areas on offer such as the KitzSki or the SkiWelt.
A quick glance at the St Johann piste map is all that is needed to realise that this is a resort best suited to beginners and intermediates. The 5km-long Saureggabfahrt run is the only black run in the resort, offering some steep skiing on the run down from Penzing to the Bauernalmbahn base station, while the short Mühlalmabfahrt ski route only briefly interrupts the resort's more customary wide intermediate pistes.
Experts visiting St Johann therefore need to look beyond the immediate ski area, either guided by the extensive lift pass access within the region or in the direction of Fieberbrunn. For visitors staying longer than 2 days, the Schneewinkel ski pass, Salzburg Super Ski Card and All Star Card all give access to vast amounts of skiing, but it is Fieberbrunn which captures the imagination of most capable & adventurous skiers visiting St Johann.
Part of the Schneewinkel ski area, Fieberbrunn is dominated by ski touring options and is regarded by freeriders as one of the best kept secrets in the region. It boasts some of the best freeriding terrain in the Tirol and it's location in a snow pocket means it receives 50 per cent more snow than Kitzbühel in an average season.
There isn’t a huge amount to pique the interest of freestylers in St. Johann itself. Park facilities are limited to a half pipe near the Eichenhof lifts and a ‘Funslope’ which, while good for beginners or intermediates wanting to give some tricks a try, offers little for more advanced boarders and skiers.
Boarders need to watch out for the long, and often icy, t-bars in the Eichenhof area – while challenging for intermediate and advanced boarders, beginners should really avoid these lifts. Progressing beginner and intermediate boarders will enjoy the wide and interesting pistes in the St. Johann area, although more experienced visitors are likely to have covered all the area has to offer within a couple of days so buying one of the lift passes with access to a broader area makes sense.
While the off-piste opportunities within St. Johann itself are limited, boarders and freeriders should visit Fieberbrunn, part of the Schneewinkel ski area and only around 15 minutes from St. Johann by car. Locals favour this area when there has been a good dump of snow, and it even hosts the Swatch Freeride World Tour which takes in some of the best freeriding mountains in the world. With a range of levels catered for, from gentle slopes near the pistes, to very challenging terrain only accessible by ski touring, Fieberbrunn is well worth a visit.
It is quite telling that St Johann has more mountain restaurants than pistes. Although this might give you a sense of the limitations of the ski area, it is also indicative of the importance of good mountain dining in this Tirolean resort. There are some special mountain restaurants in St Johann, including the oldest in the Kitzbühelerhorn - the Angereralm.
With over 200 years of history, the Angereralm is steeped in Tirolean tradition and has taken on an added sense of character since being taken over by Annemarie Foidl - the president of the Austrian sommelier association - in 1989. This cosy hut now not only offers excellent Tirolean cuisine - and overnight accommodation for those wishing to indulge - but is home to the highest located wine cellar in the Kitzbüheler Alps, with 6,000 wines from 400 vineyards across the world.
With a range of wining & dining packages, most notably including the Weinwirte am Kitzbühelerhorn package which will also see you take in the Stangalm and Penzinghof restaurants as part of a skiing and wine tasting tour, the Angereralm should feature prominently on the to-do list of anyone visiting St Johann.
There are plenty of other good options to stop for lunch in St Johann, however, and on a sunny day many skiers prefer the sun terraces at the Harschbichl or Baβgeigeralm huts. All of the restaurants have a family friendly feel - none more so than the Grander Schupf whose slide down to the toilets is a favourite among the kids!
For skiers looking for a livelier place to end the day, the après-ski bar Webern can become lively later in the afternoon before skiers and local guides head down to the Gasthof Schöne Aussicht sun terrace or more likely to Max Pub at the bottom of the piste.
Although a fairly quiet resort, St Johann is one of the largest villages in the North Tirol, with around 9,000 inhabitants and strong tourism and restaurant trades. There are a number of hotels, most of which are 3-star, and guests have a choice of either staying in the centre of town or closer to the ski lifts at the bottom of the St Johann ski area – though with only ten minutes distance between the two your location is unlikely to present any problems.
The town’s sense of history is immediately apparent from its main landmarks, including an 18th century twin towered church, the Huber Brau brewery and numerous frescoed buildings. The town centre connects to the ski area via the Speckbacherstrasse – the long main street which is lined by countless shops and restaurants.
The nightlife in St Johann is relatively quiet, with most guests choosing to spend the evening in a restaurant or hotel bar. The exception to this is Max’s Pub – a lively bar by the bottom of the Harschbichl gondola.
The many restaurants in St. Johann cater for a wide range of tastes, with a number of traditional Austrian offerings as well as a couple of good Italian restaurants and a smattering of other cuisines. There are also a number of cosy cafes which are perfect for an afternoon coffee and cake. In terms of nightlife, St. Johann is very limited although that’s not to say that fun cannot be found. Max Pub at the bottom of the main pistes is very lively and is the centre of the action come the end of the day. With a few other bars in town it is possible to have an enjoyable night out, although St. Johann is geared more towards families and those looking for a more relaxing holiday.
Bunny’s Pub (+43 5352 63249) is one of the livelier après ski bars in town, and often has live music. Also a good place to watch sports if you can’t live without it – Sky Sports is available.
Max Pub (+43 5352 62428) at the bottom of the Harschbichl cable car is where most skiers head for après ski at the end of the day. It gets packed from around 17:00, with a DJ playing loud music that usually gets guests dancing on tables! It features karaoke every Wednesday for those brave enough to have a go on the microphone.
Medusa Lounge (+43 5352 65065) is the only real nightclub in St. Johann, although is just outside the town centre. It is open until 04:00 and features a range of live music and DJs.
Rogi’s Bar (+43 5352 65922) is open from 15:00 every day and is well-known for its burgers. It also features Sky sports and free wi-fi.
Cafe Konditorei Rainer (+43 5352 62235) is a large traditional cafe, dating from 1919 in a convenient location in the centre of St. Johann. Food can be hit and miss, although the 1920s decor is rather charming.
Chez Paul (+43 5352 64419) is a relaxed bistro cafe at the far end of the pedestrian area in the centre of St. Johann, serving food and drinks all through the day.
Egger’s (+43 5352 62380) just off the main square is a cosy cafe bar offering a range of snacks, pasta, salads and drinks. Perfect for an afternoon pit-stop for coffee and cake before hitting the shops.
Gastof zum Dampfl (+43 5352 61659) on the main square is recommended by locals and offers an excellent take on traditional Austrian fare, although can get expensive. It is worth booking a table as it is often busy, particularly during the high season.
Huber Braustuberl (+43 5352 622215) is a local landmark – at the top of the brewery tower, it offers excellent views across St. Johann. A cosy bar offering a wide range of beers brewed onsite, also serves a variety of traditional Austrian dishes.
Lange Mauer (+43 5352 62174) is a Chinese restaurant located in the Gastehaus Theresia, offering reasonably priced lunch and dinner time buffets.
La Rustica (+43 5352 62843) is a family run restaurant/ pizzeria serving a range of traditional Italian dishes, generally recommended.
Stanglwirt (+43 5358 2000), while not technically in St. Johann, is not far away and is one of the most famous hotels in Austria. It is well worth a visit for lunch or dinner, not just for the excellent food but also to have a peek at the hotel itself or to see the famous Lipizzaner (a breed of white horses) stud farm on site. Stanglwirt has a number of restaurants - its trademark ‘Cow barn’ even features a view of cows in their barn through the windows!
Villa Masianco (+43 5352 64630) has an extensive Italian-based menu including pizzas, pasta, and salads as well as more traditional meat and fish dishes. A popular restaurant, it is worth booking a table.
Wirthaus Cafe Jagglback (+43 5352 62482) is a favourite with locals and visitors alike. A small but modern bar serving a range of good Tyrolean and international dishes and drinks.
St. Johann is a well-known hub for cross-country skiing, and the International Tiroler Koasalauf, hosted in St. Johann is one of the most famous cross-country competitions in Austria. With free use of over 250km of prepared pistes, the area has something to offer every ability. The wide, gentle terrain between the imposing Wilder Kaiser and the Kitzbuheler Horn is perfect for those new to cross-country skiing. More testing terrain, for example around the Hinterkaiser and Kaiserbachtal areas, offers a challenge to more advanced cross-country skiers. The Koasastadion, with its cross-country skiing centre, provides a base for skiers and offers ski rental, changing rooms and showers, and a cafe. It also has a floodlit run for cross-country skiing at night. Most of the ski schools in St. Johann offer tuition in cross-country skiing, catering for a range of abilities.
The whole area around St. Johann is popular for ski-touring, and while the inevitable debate around the safety of walking on pistes continues, the village has allowed ski-tourers to use the Hochfeldabfahrt piste (1d)as a route up the mountain including on Wednesday evenings. Most tourers set off from the village as the sun is setting and arrive at the Angereralm mountain restaurant in time for a fantastic dinner, before skiing back down before the piste-bashers arrive. Some of the ski schools in St. Johann also offer guided ski touring, including evening tours.
Tobogganing is a must for all families visiting St. Johann – flying down the prepared toboggan run from the Hochfeld chairlifts is a great way to spend an afternoon and is also open on Wednesday evenings for floodlit tobogganing. The mountain huts nearby are open late, providing a cosy place to warm up and have a drink or dinner. Toboggans can be hired from Ballweber Sport 2000.
The region around St. Johann is popular with paragliders, but for those who are not experienced enough to throw themselves off a mountain alone, Mountain High offers tandem flights with an experienced instructor, including for children (weighing over 20kg). Paragliding offers stunning views of St. Johann and the surrounding area, and you can either serenely glide down over the mountains or for the more adventurous Mountain High pilots will perform acrobatic moves more akin to a rollercoaster.
The ‘Hornpark’, located next to the Harschbichl cable car mid-station, is a treetops adventure park with a range of courses to test your head for heights. The ‘Flying Fox’ course incorporates a series of zip lines covering 500m in total, and the special children’s course (for ages 3 and over) means everyone can have a go. Some courses are closed in the winter, for more information contact:
One of the more unusual activites on offer in St. Johann is the Segway tour offered by Mountain High. The tours operate on a network of trails across the mountain, providing a novel way to explore the beautiful mountain scenery around St. Johann. Tours run every Sunday, Wednesday and Friday and are offered to adults and children 12 or over. For more information contact:
The Panorama Badewelt, a leisure and activity centre, has an ice rink which is open to the public most afternoons (14:00-16:00) and evenings (19:30-21:30) in the winter. Check the website for more details as the rink hosts ice-hockey training on some evenings:
The wide range of facilities on offer at the Panorama Badewelt sports centre include a 25m indoor pool and separate children’s pool, a huge outdoor pool complex with water slide, a sauna and steam complex (with massages available), as well as indoor tennis and ice skating. In the summer visitors can use the beach volleyball and badminton courts, table tennis facilities, and a large children’s adventure playground. For more information see contact details above.
St. Johann is a reasonably-sized town and has a good range of shops on offer, not limited to the usual souvenir shops aimed at tourists. However, serious shoppers may also want to make the short drive to Kitzbuhel to experience the charming boutiques there.