From the Bad Gastein piste map to the best ski schools, ski hire shops and après ski bars, here’s the lowdown on the principal ski resort in Austria’s Gastein Valley.
Not your typical Austrian ski resort, Bad Gastein is actually a world-famous grand spa town, set in impressive surroundings and offering a good range of on and off-slope attractions for skiers, snowboarders and non-skiers alike. It’s a year-round destination, drawing visitors to its famous natural hot-spring spas and therapeutic climate caverns.
The historic town centre of imposing Belle Epoque buildings sweeps across the steep flanks of a picturesque gorge, bisected by an impressive series of waterfalls. This old quarter of the resort is peppered with smart restaurants, genteel cafés, and upmarket boutiques, which line the hilly arc of the old high street.
The main Stubnerkogel ski area access point is located in the modern upper suburbs at the top of the gorge, close to the town’s railway station. The surrounding Gasteiner Valley is a popular scenic tourist area and is ringed by a series of other ski areas, including the resorts of Bad Hofgastein and Dorfgastein, all included on the local Gastein area lift pass and accessible with the great value Ski Amadé lift pass which covers more than two dozen ski resorts in this region.
Ski Resort Highlights
Bad Gastein – Ski Map & Pistes:
Bad Gastein has two local ski areas, Stubnerkogel and Graukogel, both offering good steep red run descents best suited to intermediate-level skiers and snowboarders. Unfortunately these two areas aren’t linked together and are based on opposite sides of the town. However, the larger Stubnerkogel area is linked with Bad Hofgastein’s Schlossalm ski area, forming a sufficiently extensive linked area to satisfy most visitors’ desire to rack up the miles.
Other options include the separate high-altitude Sportgastein ski area at the head of the valley beyond Bad Gastein, plus, in the opposite direction down at the mouth of the valley, the fairly extensive slopes of Dorfgastein, which are linked with those of Grossarl over in the neighbouring valley. Altogether, the local ski domain is doubled in size to around 200km with the addition of these other areas.
There are nursery areas near the gondola station and at Angertal. But finding good progression slopes is tricky – the mountains here are essentially steep. Because of the fragmented layout, most visitors need to rely on the area’s ski bus service to move around between the non-linked ski areas and resort villages. All three principal Gastein Valley resorts are also linked by train, which also presents a viable alternative for reaching other regional resorts including Zell am See and St. Johann im Pongau.
Bad Gastein – Off-Piste, Backcountry & Ski Touring:
Gastein is known as something of a freeride hotspot within Austria. The mountains here offer expert powder-skiers wide northern slopes with fabulous all-day powder, fast tree runs, gullies and even big mountain descents.
In Bad Gastein the Stubnerkogel pulls in the freeride crowd, with good options near the Jungeralm, while the Schlossalm offers lift access to many of its best off-piste descents. Reaching up to 2,686m, Sportgastein is another go-to spot, with abundant snowfalls creating deep snow slopes without the need for a long ascent. Three marked routes make access easy for freeriders and waist-deep snow is pretty standard.
Bad Gastein – Restaurants, Bars & The Town:
Whereas Bad Gastein does have a couple of popular bars which are well-known for their rocking early-evening après ski atmosphere, the Silver Bullet Bar at the Hotel Salzburger Hof being one of the liveliest, nightlife in all of the Gastein Valley resorts is generally quite low-key and focused primarily on convivial dining followed by relaxed drinks in hotel bars. For more exciting late-night entertainment, Bad Gastein also has a grand casino plus a couple of small nightclubs.
Off-slope activities include traditional toboggan runs, the ones at Bad Gastein and Dorfgastein floodlit in the evenings; horse riding excursions; trekking with llamas; scenic walking routes; and ice-skating at Bad Hofgastein’s Ice Arena.
The principal non-ski attractions of the Gastein Valley resorts are the two big thermal spa centres: the Felsentherme Spa in Bad Gastein, and the fabulous Alpentherme Spa + ‘Relax World’ in Bad Hofgastein; a number of hotels in the valley also have their own in-house spa and wellness facilities.