Despite the altitude, the lean 30-minute drive up from Innsbruck makes this transfer from airport to resort one of the quickest in the Alps (and less scary than the plane landing).
This high altitude also ensures great snow coverage right up until the end of April. But what’s most impressive as you drive into the resort is the scenery. At this altitude you might expect it to be more ‘moonscape’ than pretty, but it’s actually breathtaking.
Its modest size has undoubtedly kept it off the Brit radar, but Inghams now operates in three hotels including the Elizabeth and the Moosehaus. Both of these are conveniently close to the ski slopes with barely a two-minute walk before you’re putting your skis on.
Skiing is on both sides of the high valley directly above the village. It’s not a huge area, even by Austrian standards and its 44km of slopes (85km when you buy the Kuhtai-Hochoetz pass, recommended for anything over a couple of days) sounds a bit paltry when compared with some of its relative neighbours like Solden or St Anton, but the terrain itself makes up in quality what it lacks in quantity. And rather like the Tardis in Doctor Who, this place is bigger than it looks from the outside.
Compact enough that families can easily meet up, within minutes you’re whisked up to the kind of terrain that would keep the best of us happy for days on end. Off-piste skiers will find an abundance of options that are easy to get into, including some fantastic wide open bowls that will rival many of the well-known ‘off-piste’ resorts.
One must-do excursion for experienced off-pisteuers involves a hike of about 20 minutes up from the Hohemutbahn Chairlift (do not attempt this without a local guide as the terrain is prone to avalanches in certain conditions). A large dam wall that dominates the easterly view from the village centre sits high up above the valley.
The walk up takes you to a small ridge where a steep descent is required before you arrive on top of the dam wall itself. From here there are two options that include either skiing below the dam into a large snow bowl or hiking part of the way across the wall and skiing down it. Skiing down the dam wall does feel a bit James Bond, happily without the machine guns. It’s a good descent that brings you back around to the Alpenrose Hotel which has an excellent terrace and a bar serving Mr Bond’s new favourite drink – cold beer.
Nigel Shepard, a well-known and experienced British mountain guide who visits the Kuhtai area often, endorses the local view that it’s the “Eldorado of ski touring”. ‘Peaks are easily accessible for day touring,’ he says ‘And the myriad of routes offer skiers everything from a gentle skin-up, to long, full-on mountain days.’
Kuhtai’s après scene is pretty laid-back with a couple of bars playing music until dinner time. After that, one bar in the middle of town called Kaos - with its own small nightclub attached – will stay open into the early hours. Otherwise the main focus is on the hotels and a few, including the Moosehaus have pool and spa centres.
As a final thought, its proximity to Innsbruck airport, means you can get a full last day’s skiing and still be back home in the UK in time for dinner. Now that’s rare.
Kuhtai 7-day weather report and forecast here