Austria is a land of cute alpine villages, gently wooded slopes and super-friendly bar men and maids, armed with endless bottles of schnapps. It’s where beginners can learn with an arm round the shoulder rather than a shove down the slope, intermediates can ski all day on pistes wider than a motorway, and experts can enjoy some of Europe's most epic off-piste itineraries.
It's is also (despite the French name) the spiritual home of après ski. There are world-famous venues like the Mooservirt in St. Anton, but it's the sheer ubiquity of banging slopeside bars that really makes Austria special. Ski down any one of the pistes, in any of the country's 435 ski resorts, on any given afternoon and you're all-but-guaranteed to come across some old local, one-piece stripped to the waist, dancing on the tables to the sounds of "oompah trance": you know, that genre of music that's found exclusively in Austrian ski resorts, where the accordion is always accompanied by a thumping club beat, and every chorus is a variation on "oi, oi, oi!"
Best of all, Austria is also relatively cheap for a world-class skiing destination. Its resorts are as big, as snow sure, and as well groomed as any ski resorts in France or Switzerland, but almost everything - from accommodation, to lift passes, to the cost of a round of jägerbombs, works out less expensive.
Transfer times in Austria are also often shorter, snowmaking is first-class, and its lift systems are among the world’s fastest. So what's not to like? Of course, not all ski resorts in Austria are created equal, but if you pick one of the spots on our guide to the best Austrian ski resorts, you're guaranteed to have a fantastic time – and you might even end up dancing on a table or two.
It might seem strange to include the city that most people fly into to reach the Austrian Alps among the ski resorts on this list. But in recent years Innsbruck has emerged as a skiing destination in its own right.
The latest element in this evolution from transit hub to terminus came with the introduction of the Ski Plus City Pass in 2019 —a single ski pass which offers access to 13 of the closest ski areas as well as 22 of the city's museums and other attractions. Each of the many ski resorts which overlook the city offers something slightly different, from the beginner-friendly ski slopes of Mutteralm, to the famous fun parks of Nordkette and Kühtai.
The latter two, while not the largest ski resorts, both boast some seriously challenging terrain, and there are more excellent off-piste opportunities in Axamer Lizum. If you're there early or late season, there's snow sure skiing on the Stübai glacier, and the varying aspects of the different resorts means that the snow quality is second to none. In short, there's something for every type of skier around Innsbruck.
While they're not all linked, the modern lift system which serves Innsbruck's various resorts is supplemented by the busses, and bus travel is also included on your lift pass. The city itself, a university town of 125,000 people, has world-class restaurants, beautiful architecture and the kind of cultural life that most ski resorts can only dream of.
Of course, if you're after ski-in ski-out, then Innsbruck itself can't cater (although you could stay in one of the resorts and still makes use of the Ski Plus City Pass). But there's more to this town than Innsbruck airport (convenient as it undoubtedly is). If your ski holidays have become a bit samey, and you fancy combining your next one with the best bits of a city break, then this is the place.
Read our full Innsbruck ski resort review here.
Love a soothing spa after a day on the slopes? You’re in the right place – Ischgl has some of the best ski resort spas, including the spectacular Silvretta Spa, a mecca for alpine-themed wellness which opened in late 2022.
The resort, which you’ll find in the Eastern Alps, has one of the liveliest après ski scenes in Europe, if not the world. But that's not all it's got to offer. High, snow sure slopes, an excellent lift system make Ischgl a great choice for a full-on ski holiday.
The lift-linked Silvretta Arena ski area here is large, but you can also access three neighbouring resorts Galtür, Kappl and See, on the same lift pass. Yet for all that the skiing here is excellent Ischgl probably prides itself more on its parties than its pistes. The infamous Hotel Elizabeth, with its booming oompah trance and scantily-clad dancing girls sums the resort up. Neither fourth-wave feminism nor the #MeToo movement seem to have had much impact on Ischgl yet, and while that's probably not to everyone's tastes, if the old-skool Austrian après ski experience is what you've come for, look no further.
Check out our full resort review of Ischgl to find out where to go - and where to avoid - in eastern Austria's après ski capital.
This Tyrolean resort is best-known for its historic Hahnenkamm downhill skiing race. Famously the gnarliest course on the World Cup calendar, it's a maker of skiers' reputations, and all too often, a breaker of skiers' bodies! For all that scariness however, the terrain here is actually pretty varied, and it's an excellent resort for intermediates, although a low base altitude means snow reliability can be an issue.
When it comes to the vibe in the village, however, Kitzbühel is in a class of its own. Architecturally, it's a beautiful old-world ski town, with a history stretching back centuries. Culturally, it offers the perfect a mix of high-end hotel restaurants, rambunctious piste-side après ski spots and late night, underground dive bars. The charming medieval quarter is filled with swanky boutiques, swish hotels, and even swisher patrons—but thankfully, all of them know how to cut loose once the lifts are closed.
For winter 2023/24, Kitzbühel has joined the American Ikon Pass scheme, which offers serious savings if you're planning multiple ski holidays in a single winter.
Check out our Kitzbühel ski resort review for the full lowdown.
For a long time, Lech was something of a secret—tucked away in Austria's Arlberg region, it was overshadowed, in the British imagination at least, by the massive resort of St. Anton nearby. That allowed it to cater for a more discerning (and higher paying) clientele, and develop more organically, away from the attentions of developers.
With the opening of the Flexbahn Gondola in the 2016-17 season, however, Lech found itself connected to the vast Ski Arlberg area (of which St Anton is a part). While it still maintains its smaller village charm, it now has offers access to a vast network of pistes that rivals anything in Austrian skiing. With 88 lifts and cable cars and 300km of pistes Ski Arlberg is now one of the largest ski areas in the world.
The sheer number of groomed pistes mean that there's plenty for intermediate skiers here. In fact the local ski area around Lech could have been designed for them, with plentiful red and blue runs to choose from. But there's also a ton of options for advanced skiers and snowboarders around the Ski Arlberg region, including multiple snow parks, and over 200km of marked, but un-pisted, backcountry ski routes. While the off-piste terrain throughout the ski area is impressive, the ski areas of Lech and Zurs (see below) are where the best stuff is found, making this a great place for more experienced skiers to base themselves.
As you might expect, Lech's opening up of its pistes has been accompanied by developments in town. New openings for the winter 2023/24 season includes the Knappaboda Aparthotel, which boasts a fantastic wellness centre.
Read our full-length ski resort review of Lech here.
A favourite with party-loving Brits, this picture-postcard resort is perfect for confident skiers, and boasts one of the Alps' great snowboarding scenes. The legendary Aësthetiker crew call the surrounding Zillertal valley their home, and the snowpark here is second to none, with lines for every level of rider or skier, from complete beginners to seasoned pros.
The village, linked by the Penkenbahn cable car to the main resort, looks as you’d expect an Austrian resort in the heart of the Tyrol to look -chocolate box cute, with a few new additions bringing things into the 21st Century. But while it's quiet by day, this place comes alive in the afternoons and evenings - especially when the Altitude Comedy Festival, or Snowbombing—the world's biggest, best, and longest-running winter music festival—rolls into town.
Check out our Mayrhofen ski resort review for the full lowdown.
Stretched out along one side of the upper Ötztal valley, Obergurgl, and its twin sister Hochgurgl, combine to form one of Austria's most snow sure resorts. The main reason for this is the high altitude - Obergurgl village sits at 1,930 metres, and the lifts go up to above 3,000 metres. But there's also an impressively high-tech snow generation system to fill in the gaps where needed, and because the resort faces north-west, snow coverage is pretty much guaranteed all the way into May.
If its backcountry you're after, head to the tiny nearby town of Vent, where the two chairlifts (accessible on the same Ötztal lift pass) offer access to an enormous high altitude areas, dotted with mountain huts where ski tourers can stay overnight.
The village itself has all the usual après attractions, but still somehow seems quiet compared to its noisy neighbour, Sölden. Thankfully, Sölden is accessible on the Ötztal lift pass, so if you want a big night out, head down there for the day and simply catch the bus back up the valley at whatever time you finish.
One of Austria’s most rocking resorts, Saalbach is centred on an attractive old Tyrolean village and renowned for its full-on après ski. Oh, and access to one of Austria’s largest lift-linked ski areas, which will be the site of the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup finals in March 2024. The Saalbach-Hinterglemm-Leogang Skicircus area, to give it its full name, was recently expanded further with a gondola link to Fieberbrunn—giving it the tongue-twistingly long moniker of Saalbach-Hinterglemm-Leogang-Fieberbrunn.
As that name suggests, this is now a sizeable ski area, with over 270km of pistes. From the freeride paradise of Fieberbrunn, to the cruisey blues surrounding Saalbach village, these slopes cater for every kind of ski holiday. This winter, the much-loved Limberg four-seater chair will be replaced by a brand new high-speed 8-seater chair. A fun fact? During its 29 years of service, the old lift has carried no fewer than 29 million skiers skywards.
To get the full lowdown, read our Saalbach ski resort review.
St. Anton in the Arlberg region is one of the world’s great ski resorts. Home to some of the most challenging slopes in the Alps, it has hosted numerous skiing competitions, including various World Alpine Ski Championships and Ski World Cups.
Sitting in a narrow valley, St. Anton village has a car-free centre and bustles with activity throughout the day and late into the night. The surrounding slopes offer an incredible amount of diversity, from the steeps of the Valluga to the gentle village slopes around Nasserein. An extensive artificial snow-blower system ensures that the ski area is always snow sure.
As well as being one of the best ski resorts in Austria, St. Anton is steeped in history - one of the very first cable cars in the Alps was installed here, and it was here, in the 1920s, that the concept of group ski lessons was first tried. Regarded as one of the cradles of the modern Alpine skiing tradition, this resort deserves every bit of its reputation as one of the best resorts, not just in Austria, but in the world.
For more information, read our St. Anton ski resort review.
This pint-sized resort, a 10-minute drive from St. Anton, is the most beginner-friendly village in the Arlberg ski area. Accommodation consists mostly of chalets, although there are a handful of luxury hotels too. (We recommend the Arlberg Hospiz, a family-run property right next to the nursery slopes).
St. Christoph is ideal for those who want easy access to a huge skiing area, while remaining outside the hustle and bustle of a major resort. Come here and you’ll be on the doorstep of the Arlberg area, which includes Lech and Zürs, but you'll still have peace and quiet once the lifts stop running. The village has under 30 buildings. It's small, manageable size makes it an ideal ski resort for families.
Visitors who aren’t staying in catered chalets won’t go hungry, however. The village’s hotels are known for their food, and one of the most popular restaurants is at the aforementioned Arlberg Hospiz, famous for its 600-year-old wine cellar. Any time you’re craving more choice, St. Anton is just six kilometres away.
The terrain in and around St. Christoph itself is limited, but there's a nice nursery area for beginners to perfect their snowploughs, before hopping on the chairlift to cruise down the blue runs which surround the Galzig mountain station. Once you've found your ski legs, heading to the wider Arlberg ski area couldn't be easier — and you could spend weeks there without doing the same run twice.
Serfaus Fiss Ladis
A seriously underrated ski resort, this charming Tyrolean town offers access to a massive 214 kilometres of slopes, with terrain that suits all abilities. There are 47 kilometres of blue runs, 112 kilometres of red and 27 kilometres of black runs in Serfaus Fiss Ladis, accessed by 38 lifts. There’s also a 22-kilometre cross-country skiing route for those who enjoy a slower pace of life.
There are fantastic off-piste activities here too, with special shout-outs due to the Fisser Flieger, a four-person zip line which streaks across the Möseralm, and the Skyswing, a simulated freefall ride. Most visitors to Serfaus Fiss Ladis stay in aparthotels (there’s a huge range suitable for all budgets) although there are a handful of hotels here, too. For families, it’s hard to beat Laderhof Adventures, a kid-friiendly hotel with a statue of a smiling, lederhosen-wearing local on the roof. (Because what more could you want?)
This winter, they're opening a swish new 10-person gondola that will whisk skiers from the main village to the Komperdell skiing area in record time.
Popular with beginners, this traditional Austrian family-friendly ski village is the biggest of the nine villages which make up the SkiWelt ski area, and the main gateway to its 284km of slopes. In recent years there’s been significant investment in the family and children’s facilities. Beginners strapping on skis for the first time will love the Hexenwiese ski area, which is free to access, while the two children’s adventure areas – Hexenkinderland and Minikinderland – are great options for youngsters who’ve mastered the basics.
The pistes are served by 90 lifts, which include a large number of gondolas, and chairlifts with heated seats, which will help you and the little ones stay warm and dry, even when the powder’s falling. Söll's reputation as a family friendly ski resort isn’t just down to its ski runs there's loads to do in and around the resort, from ice skating to making a splash at the aqua-leisure centre.
Check out our Söll ski resort review for the full lowdown.
Zell am See-Kaprun
Set on the shores of a large freshwater lake, Zell am See must be a contender for the most beautiful resort in Austria. The lake is stunning all year round, and in the winter the glacial peak of the Kitzsteinhorn and the surrounding Hohe Tauern range creates an incredible, ice-white backdrop.
The village itself is equally beautiful, with an attractive and atmospheric old town centred around a Gothic church, and filled with charming boutiques, restaurants serving traditional Austrian fare and, inevitably, some excellent après ski bars. The lift pass for Zell am See offers access to Kaprun, creating one of the largest ski areas anywhere in the country, with an incredible 400 km of pistes accessible.
This winter, the resort is opening a brand new combo lift (comprising both gondolas and eight-seater chairs) which will replace the old three-seater Sonnkogelbahn, built in 1984.
Our full Zell am See ski resort review tells you where to start in this huge area.
Full disclosure – Zürs isn’t the kind of resort where swanky new cable cars and apartment blocks are added every other year, but that’s precisely its charm. Just a stone’s throw from Lech (and just as swish), this is a quaint resort which has it all. It's one of the best ski resorts in Austria as far as terrain is concerned, as evidenced by the fact that it's one of the most popular places in the country for heli-skiing.
The resort is perched at 1,720 metres, and the highest run tops out at 2,450 metres. Stay here and you’ll get access to 305 kilometres of runs, served by 97 lifts. The majority of the ski area is best suited to beginners and intermediates, although there are around 40 kilometres of black runs for advanced skiers to explore, along with some brilliant off-piste areas, and of course, the heli-accessible terrain beyond that.
Although it’s not the cheapest of the ski resorts of Austria (accommodation mostly consists of four and five-star hotels) there’s a reason Zürs has an army of regulars. It’s a resort filled with fantastic spas, great restaurants and brilliant bars, and it also does quite well in the sustainability stakes, too – it relies on its very own biomass heating system, which allows the resort to operate completely independently of fossil fuels.
Check out our brilliant Zurs ski resort review to find out more.