Serious skiers typically head to France at the first sign of snowfall, but in doing so they might well be missing out on one of the best ski areas in the Alps: the Tyrol.
Flying into the Alpine ski capital of Innsbruck, snow-blanketed peaks spread out in every direction. There are nine different ski resorts — all accessible via a free ski bus — within an hour of the city, and together they boast 300 kilometres of pisted runs. If you are brave enough to go off-piste as well, the possibilities are endless.
Best for beginners
If you are tentatively starting out on the slopes — either on skis or a snowboard —we loved family-friendly Mutteralm. Billed as the ‘adventure mountain’, Mutteralm is relatively close into Innsbruck, and though it’s not particularly high, snow cannons ensure that all the pistes have powder even if there’s been little natural snowfall. First-time skiers can take classes at the ski school and gain their confidence and balance on the gentle slopes around the Ski Station, but as you gain control you can also explore the downhill slopes to Mutters and Götzens and the slalom course at Pfriemesköpfel. And if you’re not sure you want to ski all day, Mutteralm has other activities, too. You can ride a controllable Pistenbock sledge down the ski runs, and there are nearly 5 kilometres of toboggan slopes as well. There’s a permanent snow bike trail with hourly hosted rides, and a Fairy Tale Forest designed for children but equally entertaining for adults.
The Pitzcal Glacier is the highest ski resort in Austria, and as such you can ski here well into May. It’s a relatively small resort, however, so consider also skiing at Kühtai, the highest world cup village in Austria. The resort’s altitude is in excess of 2,000m and there are around 40 kilometres of slopes for skiers of all abilities. Gondolas, chair lifts, and tows will get you to the top of the pistes, and you can then work your way down 44 different groomed pistes. Unusually, Kühtai also permits night skiing. The slopes are open every Wednesday and Saturday from 7.30pm to 10.00pm, a ski bus will get you there and back, and the Kaiser Maximilian Hut is open to serve you drinks and food. There’s quite a party atmosphere, and the snow gleams in the moonlight.
Largest ski area
Stubaier Glacier is the largest ski resort in Austria, with 35 different runs crisscrossing the mountains up to an altitude of 3,170m. There are 26 lifts and cable cars, and each run is up to 10 kilometres in length. When we visited in February, Stubaier Glacier had the best snowfall of all the Austrian resorts, in large part due to its average altitude. One of the greatest attractions of skiing is the views, and at Stubaier Glacier there are plenty of points when you’ll want to stop, stand, and stare. Of course, you have panoramic views from the chair lifts, and time to look around as you ride, but still the beauty of the mountains catches you as you turn a corner. Stop and inhale the clean mountain air and the beauty of the natural world. Apart from at weekends when the Austrians come here to ski from Innsbruck, the resort isn’t overly crowded, and you can break your skiing with beers and food in the mountainside restaurants. Eigrat’s claim to fame is that it’s the world’s highest pasta factory, and you can watch the chefs at work!