Après-ski and the Austrian Tirol belong together like snow and winter. Every resort has its own unique après-ski scene and whatever your preference, you can find it, from dancing in your ski boots to sipping champagne cocktails beside a roaring log fire. For the epitome of Austrian après-ski try the Mooserwirt in St Anton, which is almost as legendary as the skiing itself. Mayrhofen is home to one of the hippest spots, the White Lounge, part of the Igloo Village, whilst Ischgl is a contender for the après-ski capital of Europe: the resort has mega-venues such as the ‘Trofana Arena’ – five bars on various levels, live shows and top DJ’s – and ‘Pacha’, the greatest club in the Alps, in the Designhotel Madlein.
B BOBSLEIGH RIDE
From late December through to March, you can take a ride on the Olympic bobsleigh run in Igls, where Olympic sports heroes and heroines have competed for their chance at glory. Your chance to ride on a genuine, Olympic-style bobsleigh starts from only €30 per person in the guest bobsleigh, which holds five people, behind a professional pilot. The adrenalin rush couldn’t be greater as you experience this thrilling winter sport on ice, sliding 800m and taking in 10 curves. If you want to ride the full track from start to finish and achieve speeds of up to 115 km/hr, making 14 curves and a difference in altitude of 125m, then opt for the taxi bobsleigh. The bobsleigh seats two passengers in addition to two professional pilots and costs €95 per person.
C CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING
If you don’t fancy alpine skiing then why not give cross-country a go? There can be few better places to learn than on the immaculately groomed trails along the Leutasch Valley. The area, including neighbouring Seefeld, has hosted the Nordic events of the Winter Olympics twice and with over 250km of trails, offers some of the finest and most extensive terrain in Europe. Stay in the tiny hamlet of Kirchplatzl in the heart of the Leutasch Valley, just over half an hour from Innsbruck. The fourstar Hotel Xander offers a relaxing haven to unwind in after an active day, with an indoor swimming pool, saunas, steam bath, whirlpool and spa. Sample package: Headwater (www.headwater.com; 01606 720199) has 7 nights on half board at the 4* Sporthotel Xander, including flights and resort transfers from £1,267 per person, including cross-country programme and equipment.
D DAS KRONTHALER
A new design and lifestyle spa hotel in the ski resort of Achenkirch will open this year. The 4* Das Kronthaler has an enviable ski-in/ski-out location, surrounded by the natural beauty of the Rofan mountains and close to the shores of Lake Achensee. The modern and contemporary design, combining wood and glass, blends effortlessly with the traditional Tirolean roots. Achenkirch is the perfect destination for a winter wonderland holiday, with skiing on more than 27km of slopes and prepared winter paths for walking, hiking or snowshoeing. Sample package: 5 nights on half board at the 4* Das Kronthaler starts from £899 per person. EasyJet (www.easyJet.com) flies daily to Innsbruck airport, just one hour away from Achenkirch.
Nestling in the heart of the Tirol, the attractive village of Ellmau is located between the rugged Wild Emperor ‘Wilder Kaiser’ mountains and the more gentle Kitzbüheler Alps. Ellmau is part of Austria’s largest linked ski area the ‘Ski Welt’ (See ‘S’), offering access to nearly 280km of pistes and interlinking the resorts circling the main Hohe Salve mountain, including Scheffau, Söll, Hopfgarten, Brixen and Westendorf. The resort prides itself on Austria’s longest mountain railway, which climbs the Hartkaiser mountain in just 4 minutes, whilst the skiing in Ellmau itself boasts some wonderful blue and red runs, many of which lead back on north-facing and snow-sure slopes to the resort centre. Come evening the fun doesn’t stop, with curling or skating on the ice rink, bowling, tobogganing or the chance to enjoy some Tirolean après-ski. Sample package: Thomson (0871 971 0578; www.thomsonski.co.uk) has 7 nights at the 4* Hotel Hochffilzer on half board from £582 per person, including flights and transfers.
F FISS - SERFAUS - LADIs
Chances are the tri-resort areas of Serfaus, Fiss and Ladis are not the first Austrian ski resorts to come to mind. In fact, even the most well-travelled skier or boarder may not have even heard of them. So what’s the secret? Quiet, convenient and just over one hour from Innsbruck airport, these three beautiful villages offer extensive snow-sure skiing on 185km of beautifully-groomed pistes, more than half of which lie above 2,000 metres. Of the three villages, Serfaus dominates the area in terms of ski terrain and the size and appeal of the village. The skiing in the ski area is on a par with Ischgl and Mayrhofen, offering a great variety of terrain with wide open pistes and sunny bowls for intermediates whilst advanced skiers can enjoy the challenging blacks from ‘Pezid’ as well as some demanding off -piste. What makes the resort stand out from the crowd is the high standard of accommodation with 4* and 5* hotels making up the majority of accommodation options. The resorts pride themselves on their child-friendly credentials with most hotels offering free kindergarten, a babysitting service and early evening meals.
G GLACIER SKI RESORTS
The Tirol region is home to five glacier ski areas, the Kaunertal, Pitztal, SöldenÖtztal, Stubai and Hintertux, providing guaranteed snow and highly varied ski runs with superb views, from September through to May. Hintertux even offers skiing all year round. Austria’s largest glacier ski area is the Stubai Glacier, located at the end of Tirol’s Stubai Valley and under 45 minutes from Innsbruck. Home to many ski resorts, including Neustift and Fulpmes, there are 140km of piste providing a great area for all levels of skier and boarder.
Located a short distance from Innsbruck along the Oetz Valley and with an excellent snow record from November through to May, the resorts of Hochgurgl-Obergurgl offer perfect conditions. Obergurgl’s appeal as a true skier’s resort is largely due to its flattering slopes, comfortable intermediate skiing and excellent snow record. The relaxed resort has inspired a fierce loyalty among its British visitors, who return year after year. An ultra-modern lift system makes queues virtually unheard of and a gondola link to the resort of Hochgurgl offers further skiing possibilities. The traffic-free village is steeped in rural tradition and is a well-kept Austrian secret for those who love the real Austria and a cosy alpine atmosphere. A visit to the spectacular TOP Mountain Star Restaurant, at 3,080m is a must – this is the place to feel ‘on top of the world’ with unrivalled views of the Oetztal Alps and as far as the Dolomites to the South. The resort has one of the highest number of top quality hotels of any small ski resort anywhere; many are still family-run with the added benefit of doorstep skiing. Top place to stay would be the 4* Hotel Crystal in Obergurgl, with contemporary design, luxurious suites, amazing spa and mouthwatering cusine. Prices start from €114 per person per night (www.thecrystal.at) www.obergurgl.com; www.oetztal.com
City skiing has never been so easy, especially in Tirol’s capital city, Innsbruck. Not only can you be on the slopes within an hour of landing at the airport but the ski lift takes you straight up the mountain directly from the city centre. What’s more, the Tirolean capital is surrounded by a total of 9 ski areas and 285km of piste, making up the Olympia SkiWorld Innsbruck. From the Olympic slopes of the Axamer Lizum to glacier skiing on the Stubai, all the ski areas are easily accessible using the free bus service and covered under one lift pass – the Innsbruck Glacier Ski Pass. Of course, it’s not all about the skiing: you can spend a day exploring Innsbruck’s glorious past. Stroll through the medieval lanes in the Old Town, marvel at the Golden Roof and visit traditional treasures such as the Habsburg palaces – the Hofburg and Hofkirche.
Swarowski Crystal jewellery is part of a range of products which also includes glass sculptures and home decor. The path of success began in 1895 when Daniel Swarowski moved to Wattens, just outside Innsbruck, with his newly-invented machine for cutting and polishing crystal jewellery stones. The revamp of a store rarely creates a buzz quite like the newly-designed and renovated Swarowski store, located just a few steps away from the Golden Roof in Innsbruck. Following an investment of €8.5 million, Swarowski Innsbruck re-opened in August 2011. It doesn’t just offer the opportunity for visitors to shop, it provides an insight into the fascination of crystal through creative design, art and exhibitions. The company is still family-owned and the impressive Mirrored Wall in the foyer exhibits some of the legendary pieces of history.
Kitzbühel’s long skiing tradition began over a hundred years ago, when Franz Reisch took his first tentative steps into skiing in the winter of 1892/93 and in so doing laid the foundations for what Kitzbühel has now become – a mecca of skiing. The resort is one of the most cosmopolitan in the Alps with a wonderful, cobbled old town, great hotels, award-winning restaurants and cosy cafés. There is some great intermediate terrain and Kitzbühel is one of the big names of the ski world thanks to the annual Hahnenkamm downhill race and Snow arena polo world cup in January. New for 2011-12, Kempinski will open its first hotel in Austria, the Kempinski Hotel Das Tirol in nearby Jochberg. Visit www.kempinski.com/tirol
L LOW COST AIRLINES
Innsbruck airport is the main gateway and its central location provides short, convenient transfers to the resorts across the Tirol region. easyJet fly daily from London Gatwick to Innsbruck and weekly from Bristol and Liverpool, with prices starting from £56 return. British Airways fly five times a week from Gatwick direct to Innsbruck. The transfer times to resorts like St Anton, Ischgl, Obergurgl, Mayrhofen, Alpbach, Wildschönau and Kitzbühel take approximately one hour. Other resorts, such as Seefeld, Kühtai or Neustift can be reached within 30 minutes. Affordable airport transfers from Innsbruck can be booked with Four Seasons.
Set in the mountainous heart of the Ziller Valley, Mayrhofen is one of Austria’s leading resorts and long been a British favourite. The resort is perfect for confident intermediates and the Zillertal Superski Pass covers a number of ski areas, totalling 625km, all on one lift pass – perfect for clocking up the miles. Mayrhofen is a bustling resort where there is always something going on, the après-ski is lively and with one of the most popular venues at the top-station of the cable car, the partying starts before you’ve even left the slopes! Mayrhofen is home to two legendary winter festivals. The annual Snowbombing festival, famed for its adrenalinfuelled snowboarding and crazy partying, takes over the resort in April. Previously an annual fix in Meribel, the Altitude Comedy Festival is coming to Mayrhofen from 26-31 March 2012 and bringing with it top comedians such as Jimmy Carr, Frankie Boyle and Al Murray. Sample Package: Crystal (0871 231 2256; www.crystalski.co.uk) has 7 nights at the 4* Spa Hotel Strass on half-board from £635 per person, including flights and transfers.
The Wildschönau is one of the Tirol’s most picturesque valleys and is made up of three ski areas, Niederau, Oberau and Auffach. The resorts score big on winter fun, and a ordable prices, and are a real hit with families, beginners and intermediates. Niederau is the biggest village and the first you come to. Oberau is small and picturesque with a handful of lifts, while Auffach, further up the valley, has the biggest ski area and in 2012-13 will be linked with Alpbachtal by a new lift. Aside from 70km of groomed slopes, there are more than 50km of cross-country tracks, 40km of winter walking paths, a snowboard park and the Race ’n’ Boarder Arena to enjoy. Sample Package: Directski.com (www.directski.com) has 7 nights half-board accommodation at the 3* Hotel Schneeberger from £365 per person, including flights from Gatwick and transfers.
O OLYMPIAREGION SEEFELD
Offering some of the most picturesque skiing in Austria, the attractive village of Seefeld boasts an enviable position in the heart of the Tirol, just half an hour from Innsbruck. There are no nasty surprises, making the resort superb beginner and early intermediate territory; there can be few better places to learn to ski than on its gentle slopes. Then enjoy exhilarating blue and red runs on the Gschwandkopf before moving on to the more challenging Rosshütte and Härmlerkopf. Seefeld is also Austria’s leading cross-country resort, with 250km of marked trails. Non-skiers can enjoy panoramic walks on prepared paths, horse-drawn sleigh rides, curling or skating. Sample package: First Choice Ski (0871 664 0130, www.firstchoice-ski.co.uk) has 7 nights half-board at the 3* Hotel Tyrol from £482 per person, including flights from Gatwick and transfers.
The Paznaun Valley in the heart of the Silvretta Mountains is home to the four villages of Galtuer, Ischgl, Kappl and See – with Ischgl the jewel in the crown. Boasting an impressive 238km of groomed pistes and an energetic après-ski and nightlife scene, Ischgl’s skiing extends across the border into Switzerland, with the aptly named Duty Free Run taking you down to the tax-free enclave of Samnaun. Some 44 skilifts transport you around the ski area and the resort was a national leader in installing high-speed detachable chairlifts with magic carpet loading and weather bubbles. The ski base at Idalp is at 2,320m and the highest lift goes up to Palinkopf at 2,864m. Ischgl’s height and position ensures a fivemonth- long ski season, which is bookended by big-name outdoor concerts. Recent stars include Elton John, Lionel Richie, Kylie Minogue, Katy Perry and The Killers. The 2011-12 season opener on Saturday 26 November features Swedish pop duo Roxette. Sample package: Ski Total (01252 618333, www.skitotal.com) has 7 nights chalet board accommodation at the 4* Chalet Hotel Abendrot from £759 per person, including flights from Gatwick and transfers.
If jumps, boxes, obstacles, rails, tabletops and kickers are your thing, head for the STANTON snowpark in the Rendl area of St Anton, venue for one of the stops on the Qparks Tour – an international freestyle tour for boarders and skiers. The circuit takes place in selected snowparks in Austria, Switzerland and Italy, and STANTON will be one of the tour highlights when the circus comes to town for two days of competition on 17 and 18 March 2012
R RAIL JOURNEY
If you think flying is the only option for your ski trip to Austria, think again, because with improved services and connections, Austria is closer than you think. Tirolean resorts such as St Anton, Hopfgarten, Alpbach and Soll can be reached with either daytime or overnight journeys and getting there by train is becoming increasingly popular with skiers who want a more relaxing, scenic journey, a lower carbon footprint, an alternative to the hassle of airports and, by going overnight, extra time on the ski slopes.
S SKI WELT
The vast Ski Welt region is Austria’s largest linked ski area, with Söll being one of the principal resorts. It is close to the Hohe Salve peak, which is the highest point in the Ski Welt region. Söll is one of the liveliest of the nine Ski Welt villages and has long been a favourite with British skiers and snowboarders and is especially popular with families. It is a traditional Tirolean village, full of charm, with stone and timber chalet-style buildings clustered around the onion-domed church. And it’s excellent for beginners with nursery slopes close to the centre and good lifts accessing seemingly endless intermediate skiing. There are 93 lifts in Ski Welt, offering more than 280km of groomed runs, plus exciting off-piste skiing. Sample Package: Neilson (0844 879 8155; www.neilson.co.uk) offer 7 nights half-board at the 3* Hotel Landhaus Moedlinger in Söll from £545 pp on HB, including flights and transfers.
St Anton needs little introduction as one of Europe’s top resorts. Opening on 2 December 2011 is TheMOOSER, a mountain design hotel with ski-in/ski-out convenience and surrounded by breathtaking scenery. This stylish and contemporary hotel is sure to top St Anton’s list as the place to stay this season. There are 8 double rooms, 7 suites and 2 junior suites. Sample package: Kaluma (01730 260263; www.kalumatravel.co.uk) is the only UK tour operator to offer packages to the hotel with prices starting from £1,540 per person per week on B&B, based on two people sharing a double room. Price includes BA flights to Innsbruck, private return transfers for two direct to the hotel and the Kaluma Concierge Service. Prices based on January departures.
U UNEXPLORED WILDERNESS
Traverse the Tirolean mountains on touring skis. Touring takes you away from the marked pistes into the unexplored peaks and valleys of the region. Starting at the Stubai glacier, travel through the Otztal valley to the Pitztal, taking in the summit and some exhilarating descents as you move on to Ischgl and finish in St Anton. Short climbs with occasional lift use results in the most unbelieveable descents. A qualified mountain guide shows you the way. Sample Package: The Ski Club of Great Britain (020 8410 2022, www.skiclub.co.uk/freshtracks) has 7 nights from 3-10 March 2012 from £995 per person, including half board in a selection of mountain huts/small hotels and mountain guide.
V VILLAGE CHARM
One of the endearing attractions of Tirolean ski resorts is that most began as rural mountain villages and are built around these communities, rather than being purposebuilt resorts. Highly regarded as one of Austria’s most picturesque villages, the charming village of Alpbach is a true winter wonderland and a top choice for families, beginners and intermediates. A wide range of non-ski activities are on offer too, from snowshoeing to sleigh rides and tobogganing. Sample package: Inghams (020 8780 4447, www.inghams.co.uk) offer 7 nights at the 4* Natur and Spa Resort Alpbacherhof in Alpbach from £699 per person on half-board, including flights and transfers.
W WINTER HIKING
Hiking is not just for summer and the mountains aren’t just for skiing. Winter is the perfect season to get up into the mountains and go hiking. The well-signposted hiking trails lead you through some of the region’s most stunning scenery, covered by a white blanket of snow. Attentive observers discover wildlife tracks everywhere in the snow and the fresh, clear air will clear your mind. The beauty of these snow-covered landscapes, and the combination of peaceful silence and healthy exercise, make for an unforgettable experience. The groomed hiking trails are also great for Nordic walking. Tyrolean hiking hotels are the best places to stay for winter and snowshoe hiking experiences: you can benefit from the best local knowledge and equipment. Qualified guides know all the most beautiful tours and cosiest lodges, and can help you find some unforgettable experiences, such as enjoying a glass of glühwein in the middle of a deserted forest.
X XMAS MARKETS
The Christmas markets across the Tirol region are some of the most atmospheric in the world and a sure way of getting you in the festive mood. The medieval town of Rattenberg is located at the entrance to the Alpbach Valley and is home to one of the most beautiful Christmas Markets, bringing back memories of Christmases of old. Innsbruck hosts two Christmas Markets: one in the Old Town with traditional handicrafts and one at the market square – the meeting point for glühwein and hot chocolate for locals and tourists.
Y YOUTH WINTER OLYMPIC GAMES 2012
The first ever Winter Youth Olympic Games will take place from 13-22 January 2012 in Innsbruck and Seefeld. Innsbruck will become the first city worldwide to host the Games for a third time, following 1964 and 1976. The Youth Olympics help to introduce young athletes to the Olympic spirit and enable them to showcase their talents. More than 1,000 athletes, aged between 14 and 18, from more than 70 nations, will compete across a range of disciplines from biathlon to bobsleigh to downhill skiing and ice hockey. The construction of the Olympic Village is almost complete and many of the venues used in 1964 and 1976 have been renovated and upgraded.
Making up the Zugspitz ski arena and relatively unknown to British skiers are four small ski resorts, Berwang, Ehrwald, Lermoos, Biberwier. Situated on the border between Austria and Germany, the Zugspitze – Germany’s highest mountain – can be accessed taking the legendary Tiroler Zugspitzbahn from Ehrwald to an altitude of 2,962m. The panoramic views across the mountain peaks of four countries are simply stunning. The ski resorts offer excellent value for money, with the 52 lifts and 152km of slopes – very good for beginners and intermediates – covered by one ski pass. For a ski and spa holiday stay at the Mohr Life resort and for a trendy, hip place take a look at the Cube hotel.
Daily flights from Gatwick to Innsbruck with easyJet (www.easyjet.com) and twice weekly from Bristol and Liverpool. British Airways (www.ba.com) fly five times a week from Gatwick direct to Innsbruck. For car hire at Innsbruck airport visit www.innsbruck-airport.com or for airport transfers, visit www.transfer.tirol.at. Alternative options are flights to Salzburg airport from Bristol, Liverpool, Gatwick and Luton with easyJet; from Leeds-Bradford, Edinburgh and Manchester with Jet2 (www.jet2.com); from Stansted with Ryanair (www.ryanair.com) and Exeter with flybe (www.flybe.com)
Munich airport is also an option with British Airways, Lufthansa (www.lufthansa.co.uk), easyJet or BMI (www.flybmi.com)
If you want to travel to Austria by rail, visit www.snowcarbon.co.uk
If you don’t want to do it yourself there are
many tour operators to choose from:
Crystal Ski www.crystalski.co.uk
or call 0871 231 2256
Direct Ski www.directski.com
Erna Low www.ernalow.co.uk
or call 0845 863 0525
Esprit Holidays www.esprit-holidays.co.uk
or call 01252 618300
or call 0845 863 9600
First Choice www.firstchoice-ski.co.uk
or call 0871 664 0130
or call 020 8939 0862
or call 01606 720199
or call 020 8780 4447
or call 01730 260263
Mark Warner www.markwarner.co.uk
or call 0871 703 3888
Momentum Ski www.momentumski.com
or call 020 7371 9111
or call 0845 070 3460
Scott Dunn www.scottdunn.co.uk
or call 020 8682 5400
Skiing Austria www.skiingaustria.co.uk
or call 020 8123 7817
Ski Independence www.ski-i.com
or call 0131 243 8097
Ski Total www.skitotal.co.uk
or call 01252 618333
or call 08444 930430
or call 08453 708570
or call 020 7962 9933
Thomson Ski www.thomsonski.co.uk
or call 0871 971 0578
Go to www.visittirol.co.uk/offers for all the latest holiday offers to the Austrian Tirol