Austria is a land of cute alpine villages, gently wooded slopes and super-friendly hosts, 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 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 these destinations, you're guaranteed to have a good time. These are the best ski resorts in Austria right now.
Image credit: WilderKaiser_Daniel Reiter_Peter von Felbert
Perennial Brit favourite Söll is the liveliest village in the vast SkiWelt domain. Popular with beginners, it also works for intermediates – and lovers of Austrian table-dancing.
This traditional Austrian family-friendly ski village is the biggest of the nine gateway villages around the SkiWelt ski area, and the main gateway to its 279 km of mostly easy and intermediate pistes. Its reputation for family fun isn’t just down to easy ski runs either - with loads to do in and around the resort, from ice skating to making a splash at the aqua-leisure centre. Also be sure to check their fantastic night-skiing run for something a bit different.
Check out our Söll ski resort review for the full lowdown.
This Tyrolean resort is most famous for its historic Hahnenkamm downhill ski race. Famously the gnarliest course on the World Cup downhill 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.
What really makes Kitzbühel however, is the town - a classy, old-world village, with a history stretching back centuries. 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 come après time!
Check out our Kitzbühel ski resort review for the full lowdown.
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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 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.
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St Anton in the Arlberg region is one of the world’s most famous ski resorts. It's home to some of the most challenging slopes in the Alps – and an equally demanding après scene!
Sitting in a narrow valley, St Anton village has a car-free centre, with bags of traditional character, 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, St Anton is 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.
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.
The hugely popular Saalbach-Hinterglemm-Leogang Ski Circus area was recently expanded with a gondola link to Fieberbrunn, giving it the the tongue-twistingly long name of Saalbach-Hinterglemm-Leogang-Fieberbrunn. As it sounds, 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. If you're staying in Saalbach itself, you just need to make sure you're up for the après once you step off them!
To get the full lowdown, read our Saalbach ski resort review.
Image credit: Otztal Tourismus_Alexamder Lohmann
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 - the 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 the fact that the resort faces north-west means 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 lifts (accessible on the same Ötztal lift pass) offer access to an enormous high altitude areas, dotted with refuges and mountain huts.
The village itself has all the usual après attractions, but still somehow seems quiet compared to its noisy neighbour, Solden. Thankfully, Solden 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.
For the full lowdown on what makes this area one of the ten best ski resorts in Austria, check out our Obergurgl ski resort review.
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Laden with traditional Tyrolean charm, Alpbach is one of Austria's prettiest ski resorts. In fact, it's often voted ‘Austria’s Most Beautiful village', and the link to the neighbouring Wildschönau valley only makes it all the more attractive.
Just because its chocolate-box cute, however, doesn't mean that Alpbach doesn't know how to party - slopeside bars like Joe's Salettl start pumping from midday onwards. The ski area, dubbed Ski Jewel Alpbachtal-Wildschönau, offers a huge array of intermediate slopes, and is excellent for beginners.
Read our full Alpbach ski resort review to find out the full pick of the pistes.
Zell am See
If Alpbach has a rival for the title of 'most beautiful ski resort in Austria' then it has to be Zell am See. Set on the shores of a large freshwater lake, it's stunning all year round, and in the winter the the glacial peak of the Kitzsteinhorn and the surrounding Hohe Tauern range, create 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.
Our full Zell am See ski resort review tells you where to start in this huge area.
Winter party capital, Ischgl, 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. If the real, 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 capital.
Image credit: Wilder Kaiser_ Mathaeus Gartner
Ellmau is perhaps the ultimate family-friendly ski resort - a charming traditional village tucked away in the corner of the SkiWelt ski area, that's renowned for not costing an arm and a leg - both in terms of lift pass prices, and accommodation, food, and drink.
The SkiWelt is fantastic for intermediates, but novices can find its sheer vastness overwhelming. Ellmau, however, has its own little ski hill – shared with its tiny neighbour Going – in the quietest corner of the domain, where gentle slopes are served by a well-designed series of parallel ski-tows.
If we were taking the family skiing in Austria, Ellmau would be where we’d go. Unusually, for Austria, the après ski scene here isn't that developed, giving the resort a peaceful vibe. Good child-friendly facilities and an excellent beginners’ zone, right next to the village, combine to make this one of the best ski resorts in Austria. Not only that, it's excellent value for money too!
Read our full ski resort review of Ellmau to find out what makes this lesser-known resort one the best Austrian ski destinations going.
Independently researched and written by the Snow Magazine team, sponsored by the experts at Crystal Ski Holidays.
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