Austria is the land of cute alpine villages, gently wooded slopes and friendly hosts. It’s where beginners can learn with an arm round the shoulder rather than a shove down the slope, where intermediates can ski all day on pistes wider than a motorway. Yet it’s also home to classical steep resorts, such as St. Anton.
And the superb skiing is washed down with the world’s liveliest après-ski. Austria is where après has its spiritual home – in the slope-side bars of party resorts like Mayrhofen and Ischgl, skiers dance in their ski-boots to an irresistible blend of alcohol and cheesy Europop.
Transfer times in Austria are mostly shorter, snowmaking is first-class and its lift systems are among the world’s fastest. It’s also where everything, from your lift pass to your lessons, lunches and liquid refreshment, costs less.
Skier at full speed in Austria – photograph: Maarten Duineveld, Unsplash
Perennial European favourite Söll is the liveliest village in the vast SkiWelt domain. Popular with beginners, but it works best for intermediates – and lovers of Austrian table-dancing.
This traditional Austrian family-friendly ski village is the biggest of the nine gateway villages around the SkiWelt ski area, and the main gateway to its 279 km of mostly easy and intermediate pistes. Its reputation for family fun isn’t just down to easy ski runs either, with loads to do in and around the resort, from ice skating to making a splash at the aqua-leisure centre.
Family skiing in Söll, Austria – photograph by Christian Kapfinger
A Tyrolean resort famous for its historic Hahnenkamm downhill ski races, Kitzbühel is a classy, charming old town, with rocking après ski.
Kitzbühel is one of the world’s most stylish resorts, centred on a charming medieval quarter and filled with swanky boutiques, swish hotels, and swisher patrons. Its varied ski terrain especially suits intermediates and experts, although a low base altitude means snow reliability can be an issue.
Varied ski terrains in Kitzbühel, Austria – photograph by Medialounge
A favourite with the party-lovers, this fun picture-postcard resort is perfect for confident skiers. And did we mention that it’s fun?
This large village in the scenic Zillertal in the heart of the Tyrol, looks as you’d expect an Austrian resort to look – it’s also a longstanding favourite with British skiers, who enjoy its alluring blend of authentic Austrian ambiance, good skiing, and very lively nightlife.
Snowy Alps in Mayrhofen, Austria – photograph by Pim Myten, Unsplash
St. Anton in the Arlberg region is one of the world’s most famous ski resorts, with some of the most challenging slopes in the Alps – and equally demanding après scene!
Regarded as the cradle of modern Alpine skiing, St. Anton is rightly established as one of the world’s big-name ski resorts. Sitting in a narrow valley, the village has a car-free centre, with bags of traditional character, and bustles with activity throughout the day and late into the night.
Ski lifts in St. Anton am Arlberg, Austria – photograph: Charlie Storey, Unsplash
One of Austria’s most rocking resorts, Sallbach is centred on an attractive old Tyrolean village and renowned for its full-on après-ski. Oh, and access to Austria’s largest linked ski area…
Saalbach is by far the hardest partying of the resorts in the hugely popular Saalbach-Hinterglemm-Leogang Ski Circus area, which, following a new gondola link with Fieberbrunn, now has the tongue-twistingly long name of Saalbach-Hinterglemm-Leogang-Fieberbrunn.
Deep snow in Saalbach-Hinterglemm – photograph: Saalbach-Hinterglemm Tourism
High, snow-sure and handy for Innsbruck, Kühtai has a rather exclusive reputation and is one of the best places for touring through forests.
Host of TV show ‘The Jump’, Kühtai, at 2020m, is one of the highest ski resorts in Austria, a country where many of its neighbours are low lying . Getting here is easy – it’s under an hour from Innsbruck and it boasts plenty of slope-side lodging. There’s a friendly, relaxed and intimate feeling to the place, and it’s also generally quiet on the slopes.
Hotel right at the ski slopes in Kühtai – photograph: Paul Pastourmatzis, Unsplash
Tyrolean charmer Alpbach is set in picturesque scenery and linked to the beautiful Wildschönau Valley and is ideal for discerning intermediates.
Nestled in an attractive valley setting, this historic village is often voted ‘Austria’s Most Beautiful’. It radiates Tyrolean charm, yet has all the mod cons. The scenic local ski area was recently linked to the neighbouring valley, forming the Alpbach-Wildschönau ‘Ski Jewel’ region, more than doubling the options.
Winter scenery in Alpbach – photograph: Alpbachtal-Seenland Tourism
Winter party capital, Ischgl, in the Eastern Alps, has the liveliest après-ski scene in Europe – once you’ve finished revelling in its awesome skiing.
High, snow-sure slopes, an excellent lift system and the best party scene in the Alps make Ischgl a great choice for a full-on ski holiday. The skiing here is excellent, but Ischgl prides itself as much on its parties as its pistes. The infamous Hotel Elizabeth with its booming Euro-pop and scantily-clad dancing girls sums the resort up.
Fresh snow in the mountains of Ischgl, Austria – photograph: Alexander Sinn, Unsplash
Lech, in the Arlberg, combines a lovely setting with superb skiing and extensive off-piste in one of the snowiest regions of the Alps.
Once a humble farming village, Lech has become the winter hideaway of the well-heeled and well-known. However, with its pretty riverside setting, and wide range of hotels from the five-star to the budget, it caters for all tastes and pockets – and for intermediates skiing here it’s a joy.
Downhill skiing in Lech, Austria – Photograph: Sepp Mallaun
This ultimate family-friendly ski resort is a charming low-cost traditional village tucked away in the corner of the SkiWelt.
If we were taking the family skiing in Austria, Ellmau would be where we’d go. This peaceful resort has good child-friendly facilities and an excellent beginners’ zone next to the village.
The SkiWelt is fantastic for intermediates, but novices can find its sheer vastness overwhelming. Ellmau, however, has its own little ski hill – shared with its tiny neighbour Going – in the quietest corner of the domain, where gentle slopes are served by a well-designed series of parallel ski-tows.
The snowy mountain village of Ellmau in Austria – photograph: Freysteinn G Jonsson, Unsplash