Whatever way you like to do winter, Austria will tick all those scribbles on your ‘must-have’ list. It’s known for its charming, pretty villages, epic slopes, probably the best lift system in the world and as the home of après it’s got everything from quiet and cosy to loud and lively, and is fun, cheerful and cheaper than most countries.
You’ll find English-speaking instructors in the brilliant ski schools, and the main ski areas in Austria provide access to a huge amount of skiing. Arlberg is the biggest ski area, joining St Anton and St Christoph with more than 300km of runs across several mountains. Next is the SkiWelt, bringing together Söll, Scheffau and Ellmau under an umbrella of 279km of piste. Not far behind are the 270km of snowy peaks and slopes (and 60 mountain huts!) of Saalbach’s Skicircus. Not sure where to start? Here are a few top resorts to get you thinking:
A sophisticated resort squeezed in between the Hahnenkamm and Kitzbüheler Horn mountains, and famed for its après, Kitzbühel is one of the most cosmopolitan Alpine resorts. Brightly-coloured medieval buildings dot the high street where you’ll find traditional hotels, sophisticated shopping, lively après and bags of atmosphere. Add to that the wonderful scenery, a huge and diverse ski area - with 230km of piste - and it’s easy to understand Kitzbühel's appeal. It also hosts the annual Hahnenkamm Streif, the Ski World Cup’s most notorious downhill race!
The mostly tree-lined Söll has long been a favourite, especially with families, intermediates and party lovers. This small, charming village is part of the larger SkiWelt - Austria’s second largest fully linked ski area with 280km of slopes – so there’s plenty of scope to keep even the most intrepid of skiers busy all week. Söll is fairly compact, full of quaint, chalet-style buildings and a pretty church. Busy bars with live music provide your après fix and are generally great value. Snowboarders have plenty of cruising runs and a park for practicing some tricks.
St Johann in Tyrol
Despite its low altitude (700m) this chocolate-box, traditional resort with a vibrant international feel usually gets amazing snow. It’s a small, picturesque town nestled between the towering Kitzbüheler Horn and the majestic Wilder Kaiser mountains. With many north-facing slopes, the resort boasts a good snow record and is an excellent choice for groups of mixed ability skiers, with plenty of long, gentle runs to build confidence. The Freizeit area pass brings into play the ski areas of Lofer, Unken and Waidring Steinplatte, all linked by local bus services.
Zell am See
Picturesque resort next to Lake Zell, great for families and beginners. Magnificent views, glacier skiing on the Kitzsteinhorn and a buzzing atmosphere make this a ‘groundhog’ resort – it’s invariably full of returning customers eager to ski Zell again. It’s blessed with traditional architecture, a dazzling lake and a towering mountain backdrop. It’s well-connected too - from the town centre it’s easy to grab the CityXpress gondola up the Schmittenhöhe, where you’ll find wide, scenic pistes, a variety of different skiing and plenty of mountain huts to satisfy your hunger.
One of skiing’s most famous names. With 136km of skiing and Austria’s steepest run, the Harakiri, Mayrhofen is also one of the most diverse Alpine resorts. All slopes are reached by gondola, the ski schools are great and the range of easier runs make for fast progression. For boarders especially, Mayrhofen has a wide variety of more challenging runs and some impressive off-piste. Every April, the Snowbombing festival takes over Mayrhofen - bringing world-famous DJs, bands and plenty of revellers. But whether you prefer skiing or boarding, partying or lazing in the spa, Europop or rock, up-market or budget - you’ll find it here.
Hugely popular with experts, St Anton is a real ski village with stacks of charm, sophisticated spas and a cosmopolitan atmosphere. Famed for excellent snow conditions and legendary off-piste, skiing here can be challenging, but your pass gives you access to a substantial 305km of varied terrain in the Ski Arlberg area - the largest linked ski area in Austria. This includes the labyrinthine tree runs of Gampen and the under-rated Rendl. St Anton also has one of the best après scenes in Europe: after a hard day on the slopes, finish off with a slopeside drink at the infamous Mooserwirt or Krazy Kanguruh.
Framed by high-altitude peaks, this is one of the highest ski resorts in Europe at 1,927m, ensuring some of the most snowsure skiing in Europe and a very long season.
The skiing and lifts start directly from the village. And as Obergurgl is relatively small, it's quick and easy to get up the mountain. Many of the hotels are really close to the slopes - so you might be able to ski right back to your door. Off the slopes, Obergurgl remains largely unspoilt - oozing character, charm and tradition. Plus there's a great selection of après ski bars, beer kellers and restaurants and many of the hotels come with great spas.
Whether you’re going with family, friends or setting off solo, with Crystal you can choose from over 120 resorts to find the ski holiday that’s right for you. Feel at home in a half-board hotel, self-catering apartment or cosy chalet – there are as many places to stay as there are outfits on the slopes.
All Crystal holidays include flights, transfers and accommodation. Plus, you can add lift passes, equipment hire and ski school too, so everything’s ready for when you arrive, so whichever destination you choose, you’ll get expert service every step of the way and Crystal’s free Ski Explorer app has snow reports, resort info and more. And of course, Crystal has got you covered with ABTA and ATOL protection.
There’s no one way to winter. But however you do it, do it with Crystal Ski Holidays.