A guide to skiing the slopes in Austria

It may have been overlooked in the past, but skiing in Austria has never been more popular. Often better value for money than the interlinked ski areas of France or the glaciers of Switzerland, the Austrian resorts appeal to skiers at every stage, offering excellent levels of hospitality and teaching. Add to this a healthy dose of quintessential Alpine charm and you begin to get an idea of why so many make the trip.

If you’re a first-time skier wondering where to start, you can do no better than Alpbach. The resort’s only slopes are strictly for beginners but there’s easy bus access to more challenging runs in the Inneralpbach area. The visual appeal of the village itself is enough for a return trip: snow-laden chalets with handy mountain panoramas beyond. If you have a family in tow, Ellmau or Filzmoos are both great choices with ski schools and nursery facilities for little ones and more variety only a short distance away for the older generation.

Intermediates can really take their pick in Austria: there’s plenty of interesting terrain to practise your off-piste skills and more complicated slopes when you’re ready for a challenge. Head to Lech and you’ll land right in the middle of the extensive Arlberg area, with famous names such as St. Anton and St. Christoph included in the ski pass. The full spectrum of green to black runs can be found here so you can be as selective as you want. A good alternative is Saalbach, outside Salzburg, where the 200km-network of trails allows you to stretch your ski-legs that bit further.

Most advanced skiers head for Galtür in the Silvretta range, one of Austria’s highest offerings which has some of the country’s toughest slopes as a result. Neighbouring Ischgl is serious about its night-life if you like to party as hard as you ski. You might also want to try Zell Am See for some serious black runs through the native woodland and the more adventurous visitor can take the bus to the Kitzsteinhorn glacier and make the most of the Europa Sport Region pass there.

Austria seems to come up with a ski resort for every traveller; those who look for off-piste activities head to Igls, snowboarders rave about Mayrhofen and fans of the après-ski scene are often to be found partying in St. Anton. You can even reduce your budget quite considerably if you shop around in destinations like Soll. Whatever your motivation for a winter holiday in the Alps, Austria represents a quiet contender to its more crowded Alpine neighbours and this may be reason alone to give it a closer look.

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