World-class skiing and legendary après-ski go hand-in-hand in Austria, a country bursting at the seams with pretty alpine villages. This ski nation embraces the winter each and every year, and while you might be able to find taller mountains in Switzerland and larger ski areas in France, nowhere has such rich skiing culture as Austria!
Due to COVID-19, safety measures were put in place by Austria which impacted the 20/21 ski season. Border closures with quarantine requirements for most foreign nationals meant that ski resorts were open to locals only. Other restrictions included the closure of most hotels and mandatory mask-wearing on ski lifts, shops and other public spaces. Such restrictions are not anticipated to continue into the 21/22 winter season.
If you only ever ski at one resort in Austria, make it St Anton. Being part of the Ski Arlberg area, St Anton has access to over 125 mi of interconnected routes! Take on the Run of Fame circuit's staggering combined vertical drop of 59,055 ft or explore some fantastic off-piste trails off the 9,222 ft summit of Mount Valluga. Once the lifts close for the day the après-ski really blows up - MooserWirt is rumored to sell the most beer in all of Austria! Ticking St Anton off your skiing bucket list is a rite of passage, but don’t come here until you’re ready because it’s no place for beginners!
Tucked away in the far western corner of Austria is Ischgl, where 90% of the ski terrain is above 6,500 ft so the snow stays good for longer than at other nearby resorts like St Anton. Groomer cruisers will love the 148 mi of corduroy trails, and powder hounds can explore the freeride playground from the 9,225 ft summit of Piz Val Gronda! You can easily ski in two different countries on the same day, with half of the ski terrain spilling over the border into Switzerland. Après-ski is an institution here so expect the bars to fill up early, with Trofana Alm a top spot for traditional Austrian oompah folk music!
Gondolas and hooded chair lifts rule here, to a degree that few other European ski resorts can match. The enormous 168 mi ski area is one ski resort with four villages, thanks to ski lifts connecting Saalbach, Hinterglemm, Leogang, and Fieberbrunn. The trails are interconnected to make skiing a circuit around the entire ski area possible! Intermediate skiers and snowboarders will get the most out of the expertly groomed pistes winding down each side of the Glemm Valley. Hinterglemm is also home to night-skiing and a feature-packed flood-lit snow park. When it comes to where you should stay, Saalbach is a prettier town than Hinterglemm, with plenty of bars and restaurants to keep you entertained after dark.
A world-class ski resort, Sölden manages to score high marks for almost every aspect of a ski vacation. It’s high altitude at 11,000 ft means it has an awesome snow record and a 6,500 ft vertical drop! There’s roughly 90 mi of groomed piste on offer for all abilities as well as two huge glaciers, the Rettenbach and Tiefenbach. If you're looking for a charming chocolate-box mountain village this isn’t it but you can expect stunning mountain scenery- it’s that good they even filmed parts of the James Bond movie ‘Spectre’ here! Stay in Sölden for top notch après-ski, otherwise, stay up in Hochsölden at 6,856 ft, where you’ll find a quieter atmosphere.
Gastein is a true all-rounder ski area incorporating four stand-alone ski resorts, one being Bad Gastein. Bad Gastein has fantastic terrain for intermediate skiers, and is famous for its thermal spas! The larger Gastein ski area serves up a little something for everyone, from cruising groomers, great off-piste terrain and some epic powder riding. It’s also one of five regions that make up Ski Amadé and your Gastein lift ticket gives you access to all the Ski Amadé resorts! Ski-in/ski-out accommodation is lacking at Bad Gastein, but if you book early and snag a room at Chalet Wetzlgut you’ll have direct access to the Felsentherme, a huge thermal spring complex perfect for soothing weary muscles after a hard day’s skiing.
As much as Kitzbuhel lives up to the Austrian après-ski culture, it’s also a great family friendly option. The “Bärenland” obstacle course is the perfect area for beginners to hone their skills. Not to mention, there are 47 blue runs and free access to all beginner lifts in the valley! There are less red and black runs here but Kitzbuhel still offers trails for everyone including freeride terrain. And when you’re worn out from exploring the 120 mi of groomed slopes, you can take a break on one of the 60 mountain huts in the ski area. Highlight events held at the resort include the annual Snow Polo World Cup and Hahnenkamm ski races.
If you’re a daredevil looking for a serious challenge, look no further than the Harakiri Run at Mayrhofen. With a gradient of up to 78% and often icy conditions, it's for expert skiers only. Not to worry if you’re more into the cruisey groomers, as the marvelous Penkenbahn gondola connects to the Zillertal Arena ski area with over 310 mi of piste skiing. The enormous 24-seat cabins provide access to kid-friendly fun slopes, terrain parks for all abilities, and epic freeride routes. The bars on the mountain and the clubs in the town will more than satisfy the most ardent après-ski partygoers. And when it comes to getting your head down for the night, accommodation options are plentiful.
Nestled between the shoreline of Lake Zell and the summit of Maurerkogel, Zell am See is a unique ski destination bursting with character. The town dates back to the 8th century and strolling around its car-free cobbled street centre is a delight. But what about the skiing? The majority of pistes here are rated beginner to intermediate which make for wonderfully relaxed groomer cruising. A short bus ride to nearby Kaprun also provides the opportunity to ski the Kitzsteinhorn glacier at over 9,840 ft! Book a room at one of the elegant lakeside hotels if you don’t mind driving to the lifts, or there’s ski-in/ski-out lodging too if you want to ski first tracks!
Innsbruck is a city hemmed in by the Austrian Alps, with snow-capped peaks soaring over the urban centre. Many skiers pass through the Tyrolean capital on their way to other resorts without paying it much thought, but this two-time Winter Olympics host city should not be overlooked! The Nordkette ski area offers challenging trails just 20 minutes from the centre via the Hungerburgbahn funicular railway, while the Ski + City Pass opens up access to 13 ski resorts and more than 191 mi of piste skiing across the Stubai Valley. Also included is public transport within the region and entry to popular attractions like the Alpine Zoo and Swarovski Crystal Worlds.
Perched on a high mountain pass between St Anton and Zürs, the little hamlet of St Christoph is often blanketed in snow thanks to the resort’s 5,905 ft base elevation. From here you have doorstep access to the truly expansive Ski Arlberg, the biggest interconnected ski area in Austria. With 88 modern lifts connecting 7 stand-alone resorts, the sheer amount and variety of skiing on offer is staggering. Refined hotels and luxurious chalets cluster around the beginner-friendly runs that end in St Christoph, so if you’re still learning this is a great place to hone your skills. And at Arlberg Hospiz you’ll find a concert hall, art gallery, and 600-year-old wine cellar for a truly sophisticated après-ski experience!