Austria is one of the six largest ski nations on the planet with its nearly 600 ski resorts. It is no wonder because the country is credited with inventing the Alpine method of skiing. While the original inventor by the name of Mathias Zdarsky used the fixed heel method with one long pole instead of the two short ones commonly used today, he did teach skiing to thousands of people in his village of Lilienfeld, near Vienna. The ski hill is still in operation today.
Austrian ski resorts are unique when compared to those found in other countries because Austria does not have any purpose- built resorts. All Austrian resorts started when different communities adopted skiing while maintaining their customs. All efforts to commercialize are resisted. Due to rigorous planning laws, there are no rows and rows of concrete hotels; one only finds old-style chalet type buildings. Resorts like Alpbach have the most pure air possible with magnificent scenery.
The ski areas one finds in Austria are not small by any stretch of imagination. Ski Welt has over 250 km (160 miles) of runs that are collectively used by eight different resorts. This is in close proximity to Kitzbuhel’s ski area, which has another 160 km (100 miles). Together, they form one of the world’s top ten largest ski areas.
Whether one wants to have a holiday on a budget or they wish to go all out, there are resorts to suit all budgets. Additionally, there are slopes for beginners, as well as for the most experienced skiers. Some possible destinations include:
• St. Anton: This is one of the original ski resorts on the globe with astonishing skiing.
• Westendorf: This is one of the eight Ski Welt resorts housing Austria’s largest ski area linked with lifts. This is set in a beautiful traditional village that is voted as the most beautiful Europe has to offer.
• Arlberg: This ski area of Lech and St. Anton is another giant in the world of ski resorts. If one prefers a smaller or medium ski area, those are also available with one lift ticket and passes like Ski Amade or Salzburg Superski. These areas cover 1600 km (1500 miles) and house dozens of ski areas. These are great if one can spend the whole season and visit them all by hiring a car.
• Obergurgl: This is great for those with a greater sense of adventure as it is located at 1800 meters and is one of the highest traditional European villages that has ski lifts extending more than 3000 meters. The Tux glacier is among the few that operates throughout the year.
• Kitzbuhel: This town has a rich skiing history, as well as being host to the Hahnenkamm World Cup downhill race. The beauty of the town lies in the medieval buildings, cobbled streets, archways and stylish shops. It has as much to offer to skiers as it does to non-skiing vacationers.
• Fieberbrunn: This is the best Tirol has to offer as it has the greatest snow record. Small, yet perfect for short ski breaks with its 170 kilometers of piste. Off-piste, there is outstanding free-ride terrain.
• Alpbach: This is one of the most charming villages in the country. It plays host to beginner and intermediate skiers for the most part, but there are some challenging off-piste skiing for the expert skiers.
An added benefit of ski holidays in Austria is that a majority of the resorts are a short commute from the airport. The traditional resorts come with locally owned bars and restaurants, which means that one can truly experience the traditional culture and cuisine. Here, hearty meals prepared with local ingredients are the norm. For those who are not too confident with their skiing skills, Austria’s ski schools are well known for their friendly instructors who make it easy to either polish one’s skills or learn the craft.
A ski vacation in Austria is cost effective for families also as there are many discounts available for children. A majority of the lift tickets are in the same price range, or in some cases even lower, when compared with the Alps as a whole. Some of the larger resorts like Mayrhofen even have non-ski nursery care for the tiny-tots from ages zero to three.