Austrian Alps Skiing Resorts and Destinations
Gasthof Melkalm is great spot to stop off for some strudel when skiing in Kitzbühel | © Image Professionals GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo
World Cup racers, families and party animals descend on Austria’s ski resorts every winter, drawn to the vast ski areas, cosy cabins, perfectly groomed pistes and wild nightlife.
Downhill skiing was pioneered in Austria nearly 100 years ago. It is said that the parallel turn was invented in Seefeld. It’s no surprise then that World Cup downhill skiing events take place here every year. It’s also hosted the Winter Olympics twice.
Austria is also renowned for its wild après-ski bars, complete with schnapps, oompah music and dancing in ski boots. Even if partying isn’t your jam, you won’t be able to resist Austria’s charming cobbled villages with their snow-capped roofs and views across the expansive valleys.
St Anton am Arlberg
Probably Austria’s most famous resort, St Anton is classically pretty with a chocolate-box village, steep peaks and snow-laden trees. Advanced skiers will be most at home here, as there are seemingly endless red and black runs. Legendary haunt MooserWirt deserves a visit for proper après-ski, but St Anton is not all boozy bars. Nearby village St Christoph is home to a cool underground art and classical music venue.
© mauritius images GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo
Its high altitude means Ischgl is a very snow-sure ski destination, and it has a great array of intermediate runs. While there is buzzing nightlife here, Ischgl tends to attract a slightly older crowd than youthful St Anton, with plenty of luxury accommodation and spas to soak your limbs in. Don’t miss the Top of the Mountain concert at the start and end of every season. It draws in big names, and has featured Elton John, Bob Dylan and Mariah Carey in previous years.
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Glacial pistes, wild nightlife and the FIS World Cup runs make Sölden one of the most popular Austrian ski resorts. Sip cold Riesling in Ice Q, the famous glass structure from the James Bond movie Spectre (2015), perched 3,000m (9,842ft) above sea level – a highly Instagrammable lunch stop. Sölden is also renowned for its early season snow. The season can stretch from September to May, thanks to its glacier, offering more on-snow time than most Alps resorts.
Slalom enthusiasts shiver when they hear the name Kitzbühel, home to the infamous Streif, the most dangerous downhill slope in the world. Racing aside, Kitzbühel is also family-friendly, with a truly vast ski area to explore if you are a beginner or an intermediate skier. Indulge in true Austrian après-ski with a cold Stiegl at Pavillon
, where dancing on the tables is encouraged.
Saalbach is huge. Its 270km (167mi) of runs make it one of the biggest resorts in Europe. There is something for everyone – beginner hills, wide pistes, tree runs, backcountry, snow parks and pumping après bars. Spend one day traversing the Skicircus, a 65-km (40-mi) loop connected by super-speedy modern lifts. Note that the towns are quite spread out, so you will need to get a bus or walk to the lifts.
© Marek Slusarczyk / Alamy Stock Photo
Looking for party vibes? Mayrhofen is a must-visit. Snow-capped, rustic chalets and oompah music drifting out from every bar epitomises this famous resort in the Zillertal Valley. Advanced skiers are challenged to take on Harakiri, Austria’s steepest piste, while party animals should head to Scotland Yard, an old police station that’s now a club. It’s also home to the famous Snowbombing festival, held every April, with world-class DJs, and the Altitude comedy festival.
These recommendations were updated on September 8, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.