What constitutes the ideal ski trip? Is it the number of runs available? Is it a crackerjack lift system that helps you avoid the crowds? Maybe it’s an abundance of off-piste skiing or perhaps lots of open space for cross country fun. For some, a great ski vacation also has to include plenty of things to do at the end of the day, off the slopes, or lots of activities for friends and family members that don’t ski.
If some or all of those parameters are included in your idea of the perfect ski holiday, consider Austria for your next snow-based vacation. Austria boasts several regions where the skiing is top notch and where things like the après ski scene are important, too. In the Austrian Alps, there are a number of resort areas that fit the bill for great vacation spots, from the slopes near beautiful Innsbruck to much more remote areas where the abundant beauty will take your breath away – with a little help from the awesome skiing.
Austria’s Arlberg region has long been considered the birthplace of modern alpine skiing. The local tourist board calls it “The Cradle of Skiing”, and it’s a place that has always attracted the rich and famous of Europe, including plenty of royalty. The area is dotted with charming Tyrolean villages that are about as picturesque as they come, and you’ll find that while skiing here is quite a serious pursuit, so is having fun after a long day on the slopes.
St. Anton easily has the best accommodations, whether you’re in search of a self-catering vacation rental, a bed and breakfast, or a 5-star hotel. It’s also home to many of the best restaurants in the region. The smaller villages of Lech and Zurs are lovely too and are definitely for the serious skier. Zurs, for example, offers some of the best off-piste skiing in the country, a thrill for the true powder fanatic.
Located in the Vorarlberg region of Austria, the Montafon Valley is made up of ten villages and extends from the Silvretta Mountain Range to the beautiful city of Bludenz on the Ill River. It’s a popular skiing spot for locals and visitors alike and is said to have been one of Ernest Hemingway’s favorite places as well.
The two main villages are Schruns and Tschagguns, charming spots where you can enjoy lots of good restaurants, bars, and clubs, many reminiscent of Hemingway’s era. This part of Montafon is also home to the largest ski area in the Vorarlberg (Silvretta Montafon) and the longest valley run in the country.
Families vacationing here will also want to check out Golm, a great resort where the children are well-tended and can enjoy a bevy of activities just for them. Older visitors should be sure to take advantage of the resort’s night activities, including a spine-tingling ride on the Flying Fox zipline, following by a comforting meal of cheese spaetzle. Incredible!
Innsbruck and the Stubai Glacier
Idyllic Innsbruck has hosted the Olympics multiple times and has produced many an Olympic champion as well. Situated at the foot of the Alps, it’s urban chic and winter sports mecca all rolled into one. There are even museums and plenty of cultural events to enjoy when you’re not on the slopes. It’s also considered one of the most family-friendly snow spots in Europe.
Just a 45-minute drive from Innsbruck is the Stubai Glacier resort, an area that guarantees snow until June! This is the Tyrol region’s largest ski area, offering 26 cable cars and lifts and providing ski fanatics with about 100 km of runs, with almost half of them suitable for novice skiers. There’s also plenty of cross country space as well and a fantastic snowboarding park, too.
Another popular Tyrolean ski resort area, Kitzbühel is absolutely idyllic, with traditional houses and buildings everywhere and a true Austrian spirit that’s contagious. Once a 16th century center for the silver industry (and, hence, a very wealthy town), Kitzbühel offers 51 cable cars and lifts that carry guests to more than 170 kilometers of groomed pistes. There are also plenty of off-piste opportunities in an area the resort describes as three times larger than Manhattan.
Eleven onsite ski schools boast more than 500 instructors total, so it’s a great place to learn to ski or to hone your current skills. Winter hiking opportunities are also available as is Nordic walking, ice skating, ice hockey, curling, and plenty of non-snow-related activities as well, like tennis, climbing, and swimming.