Austria has over a hundred years of skiing history, and it’s home to some of the best ski resorts in Europe. Expect friendly locals and traditional alpine towns and villages. The valleys are filled with tree-lined slopes, and there are lots of fast, modern lifts to get you around. And the best bit? You’re in the home of après – think cheesy music, steins of beer and lots of dancing on tables. Here’s a round-up of our favourite Austrian resorts.
Best for mixed-ability groups: Mayrhofen
Mayrhofen has 139km of slopes on its doorstep, with lots of variety for groups. For the beginners, the snowsure nursery area at the top of the Penken gondola is the perfect place to learn the basics. Intermediates have heaps of red runs to tackle around the main Penken-Horberg area. And experienced skiers can take on the Harakiri – with a 38-degree gradient, it’s Austria’s steepest groomed slope. Or if the snow park is where you prefer to be, check out the Penken Park, one of the biggest and best in the Alps.
Your Zillertal Superski lift pass also gives you access to the three other ski areas dotted along the Ziller valley, including the high-altitude slopes of the Hintertux glacier. And thanks to the excellent local bus service, it’s hassle-free to explore them all. Off the mountain, the large, traditional town is filled with bustling bars, restaurants, and accommodation ranging from upmarket luxury to budget-friendly.
Best for families: Obergurgl
With its quiet slopes, laid-back atmosphere and excellent ski school, Obergurgl’s one of our best resorts for families. Tucked at the end of the Ötztal valley, this mountain village also has plenty of high-quality hotels close to the lifts. And at 1,930m high, it’s got one of the best snow records in Austria, so the season starts early and ends late – just right for a magical Christmas holiday or snowy Easter break with the little ones.
The compact 122km ski area is spot on for younger skiers. Confident kids can whizz down the banked turns of the Audi Quattro fun slope, while budding freestylers hit the mini jumps and boxes in the family park. And on days when the flakes are falling, the sheltered woods below the Steinmannbahn chairlift are the perfect playground, with lots of twisting tracks between the trees to discover.
Best for intermediates: Ischgl
If you’re after snowsure slopes and a large ski area then add Ischgl to your list. The 238km ski area stretches over the border into the Swiss resort of Samnaun, so you can ski two countries in one trip. There are plenty of long, wide-open red runs that that are great for high-speed cruising. And as most of the skiing here is above 1,800m, there’s usually good snow all winter.
Ischgl itself has grown from a quiet farming community into a bustling resort. Lots of chalet-style buildings help keep its traditional charm, but around each corner, you’ll find boutique shops and top-class restaurants. When it comes to après fun, the square by the Silverettabahn is the place to be – head to Fire & Ice or Kuhstall to party after the lifts close.
Best for après: St Anton
This Tyrolean village is one of Austria’s après heavyweights. Head to one of the famous slope-side spots, like the Mooserwirt or Krazy Kanguruh, and end the day dancing to some cheesy Europop. Off the mountain, the car-free main street stays lively till late, with plenty of buzzing bars and cosy pubs to hop between.
As for the skiing, St Anton’s got a reputation for challenging runs and steep slopes. Experts should head to the area below the Valluga mountain to tackle bumps, gullies and snow-filled bowls. And if you want to rack up the miles, take on the Run of Fame ski trail. The 65km route starts in St Anton and ends in the resort of Warth-Schröcken, on the far side of the 305km Arlberg ski area.
Best for off-slope activities: Zell am See
Set between the mountains and lake, Zell am See’s linked to 408km of slopes and also has plenty to do when you’re not skiing. For some family-friendly fun, whizz down the alpine coaster, check out the climbing wall at the Jugendclub or get your skates on at the ice rink.
The medieval centre is car-free, so you can wander the cobbled streets to discover boutiques and cafés. For a leisurely afternoon, take tea at the lakeside Grand Hotel, before strolling along the waterfront promenade. And if you fancy something even more relaxing, hop on the bus to the Tauern Spa in nearby Kaprun, which has whirlpools, saunas and steam rooms galore. There’s even a separate area with fountains and waterslides for kids.
Best for charm: Saalbach
In the wooded Glemm valley, Saalbach is your traditional Tyrolean village – think wooden buildings clustered around an onion-domed church. A small river runs through the centre of the resort and the pedestrianised main street is filled with bars and restaurants dishing up local favourites like dumplings and schnitzel. Accommodation-wise, there are plenty of cosy, family-run guesthouses to choose from.
Saalbach is part of the 270km Skicircus area, with speedy lifts to the nearby resorts of Hinterglemm, Leogang and Fieberbrunn. There’s a mix of sheltered tree-lined skiing, easy-going blues and steeper, north-facing slopes. And with 60 mountain huts dotted around, you’ll never be far from a hot chocolate stop.
Ready to say ‘hallo’ to Austria? Check out our latest deals and start planning your winter getaway.