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Austrian ski resorts and winter sports villages create the perfect mixture of snow-covered mountain panoramas with historic town centres and an authentic Alpine lifestyle.

Christmas in Innsbruck CREDIT Innsbruck Tourismus Christof Lackner
Photo: Innsbruck Tourismus_Christof Lackner

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Wide-open pistes, top-notch resorts, world-class ski schools, and superb snow conditions, along with some of the most beautiful mountains and scenery in the world: winter in Austria means immersing yourself in the beauty of the landscapes and really experiencing the Alpine lifestyle. So where is the best place to ski in Austria? Choosing one of the country's great ski towns gives you access to all the superb slopes and all the wonderful amenities of a resort village or town.

What's it like to ski in Austria?

Skiing in Austria means miles of perfect, snow-sure pistes suitable for all ages and skill levels, exciting powder hotspots, great value for money, buzzing après-ski, charming ski resorts and a world of off-slope activities. But there’s one other thing that makes a winter holiday in Austria unique…

Put simply it’s the Austrian philosophy of life, a philosophy they have a special word for: ‘Gemütlichkeit’. The concept is hard to explain as there’s no single word equivalent in English. Special and unique to this country, it embodies cosiness, comfort and homeliness. You'll find Gemütlichkeit runs through every aspect of your Austrian ski holiday, but is most felt in the warmth of the Austrians’ service and hospitality. Whether you’re nursing a hot, spicy Glühwein or a home-made schnaps in front of a crackling log fire in a cosy mountain hut, or basking in the warm welcome of a family-run hotel, you’ll soon feel part of the local way of life.

Photo: TVB Paznaun-Ischgl

Whether you’re a beginner taking your first turns, a returning skier getting your ski legs, or an advanced skier eager to go steep and deep, Austria's ski schools can help you take your skills to the next level. Well-developed pistes and cable cars as well as a modern infrastructure round off the experience.

But it doesn’t end there. Austria's winter wonderland offers up countless off-ski activities, such as snowshoeing, winter hikes, tobogganing, spa time, ice climbing, dog sledding, horse-drawn sleigh rides, ice skating and even igloo-building.

Moreover, ski resorts in Austria are working hard to give skiing a sustainable future with environmentally certified hotels, eco-friendly transport and a focus on regional, organic and seasonal food.

Gemütlichkeit now and always…

Where are the best ski towns in Austria?

As the beauty of Austria’s mountainous landscape knows no bounds and with its abundance of high-quality ski resorts, it can be difficult to know which destination to pick for your next holiday. The ski areas are dotted with brilliant resorts offering everything from world-class facilities to cosy, intimate authentic mountain atmospheres.

Photo: Kitzsteinhorn

Six of the best ski towns in Austria:

Austria has many fantastic resort towns and villages. Here are six of the best:

Photo: Innsbruck Tourismus_Klaus Polzer


Best for: Combining skiing with the joys of a city break.

Must do: Take a selfie in front of the famous Golden Roof.

What is the biggest ski town in Austria? It's the Tirolean capital Innsbruck. Innsbruck airport makes it the gateway for many ski visitors, but it's also a superb resort in its own right.

Skiing Innsbruck is not like any other European ski ‘resort’. Where else do you get a beautiful Baroque town surrounded by the majestic peaks of 13 separate ski areas, including a glacier? Where else can you stroll from your city centre hotel through streets full of imperial elegance and have a coffee in a classic Austrian coffeehouse, and then, take a lift and in just 20 minutes be at 2,000m ready to ski?

One of the most accessible ski destinations, Innsbruck is the perfect holiday spot for anyone who fancies combining skiing and snowboarding adventures with all the urban amenities of a city, such as shopping, museums, and day spas. The 13 resorts offer a total of 340km of pistes, with everything from nursery slopes for beginners, to extensive off-piste skiing and freeride terrain with the city stretched out below. All the resorts plus 22 city attractions such as museums, swimming pools and much more are covered on one pass – the Ski Plus City Pass. Eight of the ski areas also offer night skiing.

Among the most popular local ski areas is the Nordkette, an impressive domain rising to 1,900m behind the city and a 20-min funicular ride from the city centre. With a spectacular view over the city, it’s the perfect spot for that first attempt on skis. For freeriders, it's pure adrenalin along the challenging Karrinne couloir with its 70 degree gradient. 

After a great day’s skiing, you can enjoy some of Innsbruck's cultural nightlife, such as the colourful, interactive lights shows of Lumagica in the Imperial Gardens, or a show at the Tirolean State Theatre. Other popular hotspots include the Alpenzoo, the Bergisel ski jump, the Imperial Palace and Swarovski Crystal Worlds. Seven Christmas markets in the city add to Innsbruck’s atmospheric appeal in the run up to the festive season.

Find more info at

Photo: Kitzbuehel Tourismus


Best for: Visitors wanting a full-on winter experience.

Must do: Go for a winter hike on the Hahnenhamm.

With more than 130 years of skiing history behind it, this legendary Alpine sports town is known worldwide as one of the great winter sports destinations. The home of the historic Hahnenkamm downhill ski races, and the famous Streif downhill course – one of the steepest in the world - Kitzbühel undoubtedly deserves its iconic place among ski resorts.

But this colourful, 750-year-old town is so much more than just a ski resort. Centred on a charming medieval quarter and filled with smart boutiques, swish hotels, award-winning restaurants, it offers top-class amenities both on and off the slopes and some rocking après ski. You can also indulge in all manner of culinary delights, surrounded by stunning panoramic views at one of the 60 huts and mountain restaurants. (Try the hot granglwasser  - cranberry juice – or a warm egg liqueur with whipped cream at the Seidlalm or the pressknödelsuppe at the Hornköpflhütte!)

Inevitably, the fame and reputation of its fearsome Streif course on the Hahnenkamm, attracts many expert skiers. And the 233km of slopes in the Kitzski ski area do contain a number of good black runs, and some challenging off-piste, but the majority of the slopes here are very well-suited to intermediates.

It’s also a town of short distances, giving easy access to everything you need. You can ski straight from the mountain to the middle of the town, so getting around, seeing the sights and hitting the slopes is a breeze. Plus, the Hahnenkamm lift is just a three-minute walk from the town centre. Families will appreciate the free practice lifts on the nursery slopes in the valley.

Around Kitzbühel, a fairytale winter paradise opens up, with 70km of perfectly groomed cross-country ski trails, toboggan runs, curling matches on Austria’s only indoor curling rink, horse-drawn sleigh rides from the city centre or Schwarzsee, and relaxing wellness facilities for when you want to rest your ski legs. You can also go on guided winter and snowshoe hikes through some of the most beautiful Alpine landscapes.

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Photo: Kitzsteinhorn

Zell Am See-Kaprun

Best for: Wellness fans and lovers of jaw-dropping scenery.

Must do: Summit breakfast on the Kitzsteinhorn.

One of Austria’s prettiest ski towns. Skiing comes early to Zell am See in Austria’s SalzburgerLand. Open from October, the glacier ski area on the Kitzsteinhorn, which forms the spectacular backdrop to Zell am See and neighbouring Kaprun, brings together family-friendly downhill runs, freeride lines, action in five snow parks and opportunities for elegant carving turns on wide pistes.

When winter really drapes itself over the landscape, the lakeside town of Zell am See becomes a contender for ‘most beautiful resort’ in Austria. Nestled at the foot of the forested slopes of its own ski mountain beside a large freshwater lake, the town is charming, with an atmospheric old quarter at its heart, centred around a historic Gothic church and filled with tempting shops, good restaurants and lively bars.

 Zell am See's local ski area is the Schmittenhöhe, a densely forested horseshoe-shaped mountain that rises directly behind the town, its slopes sweeping down towards the shore. The views from the upper slopes are fabulous, stretching out over Lake Zell and taking in more than thirty 3,000m high peaks; and there are plenty of mountain bars and restaurants with panoramic terraces. Five valley runs promise intermediate fun, kids can go crazy on one of the longest fun slopes in the world, while experts have the Trass black run, a 4km piste with up to 70 per cent gradient.

Neighbouring Kaprun is a sizeable and pleasant riverside valley village, watched over by a picturesque church and a sturdy 13th century castle, with plenty of traditional-style buildings and a relaxed and friendly air. This likeable village also has its own local ski hill, the Maiskogel, plus easy access to the slopes of Zell am See. The Maiskogel is very much a 'Family Mountain', its wide, gentle slopes dotted with animal statues, a kiddie-sized snowpark, canopied chairlifts, family-friendly mountain restaurants, plus the popular Maisiflitzer rollercoaster. 

With the Ski ALPIN CARD you can also use the pistes of the Skicircus Saalbach Hinterglemm Leogang Fieberbrunn adding 270km of pistes to the 138 km in the local Zell am See-Kaprun area to provide 408km of pistes on one lift pass.

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Photo: TVB-St Johann in Salzburg_Chris Perkles

St. Johann in Salzburg

Best for: Families and mile-hungry intermediates.

Must do: Completing the 12 Peaks Tour circuit.

Affectionately dubbed ‘JO’, the lively small town of St. Johann in Salzburg is a firm favourite with families looking for an all-round winter holiday. Also known as St. Johann im Pongau, this resort sits in the middle of the SalzburgerLand, 60km from the German border and in a hugely accessible location for skiers. Just 45 minutes from Salzburg airport, and with its own train station, it's part of the Snow Space Salzburg with 210 km of perfectly groomed slopes and state of the art lifts. It's also part of the Ski amadé domain, with its 760 km of slopes.

The tourist heart of St. Johann is the Alpendorf district - 3km from St. Johann centre - with plenty of top-class hotels and restaurants, and direct access to the slopes via the Alpendorf cable car. With huge investment in snow-making over recent years, 98 per cent of the slopes in the Alpendorf area are now equipped with snow-making. Add in rustic huts, well-established wellness centres, a cool snow park, cross-country ski runs, toboggan runs and horse-drawn sleigh rides, and you can see how this resort has become a favourite for families in search of an all-round holiday spot.

Beginners and families will enjoy the 7km of slopes on the Hahnbaum hill, right in the centre of St. Johann. For everyone else it’s onto the Alpendorf cable – the gateway to mile upon mile of intermediate-friendly blue and red runs, with the altitude topping out at 2,650m. The new connecting Panorama Link between Snow Space Salzburg and the neighbouring ski resorts of Flachauwinkl and Zauchensee enables skiers and snowboarders to enjoy skiing on 12 peaks, down 5 valleys and across 210 kilometres of slopes, always with an almost endless panoramic view of the Hohe and Niedere Tauern mountains. Conquer all 12 peaks on the 12 Peaks Tour, and you'll get a special surprise before you leave.

There are many epic spots for freeriders and off-piste fans. St. Johann also makes an ideal starting point for small and large ski tours, both for beginners and hardened tourers.

As a year-round community, not just a winter resort, there is a lively, relaxing buzz in St. Johann, and it's a very family-friendly place. The JO Family Partner designation is a guarantee of accommodation specially tailored to the needs of families. It's also considered a great base for food lovers, with a strong emphasis on regional and high-quality dishes throughout the numerous restaurants, inns and rustic huts.

Find more info at

Photo: TVB Paznaun-Ischgl


Best for: Lovers of luxury, great snow and lively après.

Must do: Relax at the Silvretta Spa.

If you’re looking to liven up your ski holidays, Ischgl ski resort is an all-action, full-on experience both on and off the slopes. One of the largest ski resorts in Austria, Ischgl in Paznaun, in the Tirol region of Austria's Eastern Alps, has snowsure slopes from the end of November to early May and a high density of 4* and 5* hotels and toque restaurants. Add in the supercharged après-ski of some of the best open-air concerts and events to be found on any mountain and it’s easy to see why Ischgl is known as the winter entertainment capital of the Austrian Alps.

Just 90 minutes from Innsbruck airport, the resort’s huge, high-altitude cross-border ski area – the Silvretta arena – is best-suited for intermediates, and the 239km of slopes stretch all the way to Samnaun in Switzerland, making it the third-biggest ski resort in the Tirol region. The mix of altitude and lots of north-facing slopes pretty much guarantees great snow. Even the nursery slopes are at altitude.

Ischgl’s village is traditional Tirolean in style, with accommodation for everyone from budget apartment up to luxury hotel, and a reputation for gourmet culinary delights and lively entertainment – the Top of the Mountain Concerts and the Spring Blanc events are legendary.

Intermediate skiers have loads of terrain to explore and the option to ski over the border to Samnaun in Switzerland. The runs include long wide-open cruisers of up to 7km in length. There are high alpine bowls and fun runs down through the trees. Experienced skiers have several black runs and some excellent off-piste terrain. The lift system for the entire area is fast, modern, and up there with the best in Europe.

Off the slopes, other winter sports offerings include extensive cross-country skiing with 77km of prepared trails including loops for all abilities. There’s also a 7km toboggan run, guided snowshoe hikes on hidden trails, fatbiking, paragliding, ice skating, curling and horse-drawn carriage rides. The huge new Silvretta spa, complete with its own ice rink, is your go-to place for holiday relaxation.

Find more info at

Photo: Franz Gerdl

St. Johann in Tirol

Best for: Families and cross-country fans.

Must do: Take a moonlight snowshoe walk around St. Johann.

The picturesque ski resort of St. Johann in Tirol has a charming small-town feel and is ideal for a family ski holiday. With 40km of mostly red and blue slopes, its compact ski area is a great destination for families and skiers unfussed by the need to rack up miles of pistes.

Its slopes have something for everyone – including one long, steep black run down to the neighbouring village of Oberndorf – and most are wide and varied. The slopes are also dotted with 18 cosy, family-run mountains huts and inns, creating what the resort proudly calls ‘the agony of choice’ when it comes to deciding where to stop for a bite to eat.

Low-key, friendly, laid-back, with wonderful views of the Kitzbühel Alps and the Wilder Kaiser, St. Johann in Tirol has a lovely, traditional vibe and with the focus firmly on putting children first, is ideal for a ski holiday with the kids. The village height of 670m and top lift of 1,604m may not be the highest, but the predominantly north and north-west facing slopes here have a good record for holding snow.

A bustling market town, there is plenty to do in St. Johann for non-skiers and skiers alike. You’ll find top-quality hotels with extensive spa facilities. There are numerous cross-country trails and toboggan runs. It also has its own brewery – the 300-year-old Huber Bräu brewery. And if you fancy a break from winter sports a day trip to the city of Mozart, Salzburg is also very do-able.

Away from the downhill slopes, St. Johann in Tirol is a hotspot for cross-country skiers with more than 170km of routes, including a couple of night trails. You can also have a go at biathlon, paragliding, ballooning and take a Segway tour. Also popular are winter walks, snowshoe hikes and ski touring, while families will likely gravitate to the toboggan runs, the ice rink or the Flying Fox zipwire, as well as to the many facilities aimed at the resort’s smallest visitors, such as Kinderland and the Panorama bathing world.

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For more information about Austria's fantastic winter destinations, go to

Read our FREE Digital Guide to Skiing Austria!


Love skiing in Austria but can't decide where to go?

Austria is a magical place to be in winter, from the picture-postcard mountain scenery, to the warm welcome, cosy mountain huts and fantastic ski terrain. But how do you choose where to go? Take a look at our new digital guide and get to know 11 fantastic ski areas and resorts, including the likes of Zell am See-Kaprun, Innsbruck, Zillertal and more.


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