One of the highest alpine destinations in Austria, with a rich heritage dating back to at least the 15th century, a time when the Emperor Maximilian hunted in these very landscapes. In the present day, the resort retains its original prestige and offers an unparalleled location for traversing wooded terrain, making it an excellent choice for those seeking an exclusive ski touring experience.
Kühtai - Overview
Rob Stewart presents an intriguing perspective on Kühtai, the snow-sure, high-altitude Austrian resort that transcends its role as a reliable late-season venue for the ski industry's annual ski test.
Nicknamed 'Cow Valley', Kühtai is tucked away in a high-altitude valley a short drive from Innsbruck airport, although there are no cows to be found here. This absence proves advantageous, as the snow-rich Kühtai, with its village at an altitude of 2020 metres, boasts a perpetually snow-covered winter landscape. This sight may displease cows, but it certainly delights skiers, which is why the ski industry selects Kühtai for its annual ski evaluation.
Surprisingly, Kühtai's name rarely graces the ranks of illustrious Austrian ski resorts such as St Anton, Kitzbühel or Ischgl. This could be due to its size - the village and ski area are relatively small, with nightlife limited to a few bars lining the main road. However, when assessing the value of a ski destination, several factors need to be considered, not just one.
At 2020 metres, Kühtai is one of Europe's highest ski resorts, particularly noteworthy in Austria, where many renowned resorts are comparatively lower by modern standards. Surprisingly, the highest lifts at several prominent Austrian resorts do not reach the height of the village of Kühtai, which sits at the base of the local slopes.
Kühtai exudes a friendly, relaxed and intimate atmosphere. Its accessibility, less than an hour's drive from Innsbruck, adds to its appeal. Historical records mention Kühtai as "Chutay" in 1280, associated with the Counts of Tyrol. Emperor Maximilian secured hunting rights here in 1497. The construction of a princely castle began around 1622, followed by the construction of a road through the Sellrain Valley in 1624. The hunting lodge still stands today, transformed into a charming hotel run by a descendant of the Austrian archdukes.
With its rich history, Kühtai remains a convenient resort offering ski-side accommodation and easy access to amenities just steps away. Recognised as a commendable ski-in, ski-out destination, Kühtai's friendly, relaxed atmosphere prevails, all within 40km of Innsbruck.
Ski Resort Highlights
Kühtai - Ski Map & Pistes
Right in the middle of the Alps, Kühtai beckons snow lovers with an extended ski season from December to May, a testament to its reliable snow cover. The local slopes exude tranquillity, making lift queues a rarity and setting the scene for an idyllic alpine experience.
For those new to the world of skiing, Kühtai offers an exceptional starting point. The ski school is strategically located in the centre of the village, just a short walk from most accommodations. Here, beginners benefit from the resort's high altitude, which gives them access to the village's nursery slopes throughout the season - a privilege often unavailable in lower resorts due to insufficient snow cover towards the end of the season.
Conversely, expert skiers can enjoy a vast 47km of pistes, more than half of which are classified as intermediate (red), which means they are seamlessly catered for. Experienced skiers and snowboarders will find 8km of black runs, complemented by an extensive range of guided off-piste and ski touring options.
Every Wednesday and Saturday from 7.30pm to 10pm, a unique night-time skiing experience is made possible by the 10,000-volt Hochalter Quad, which illuminates the floodlit slopes. Families with young members can immerse themselves in the specially curated Kids Park, while those with a penchant for freestyle can explore the K-Park - a sprawling, three-area snow park catering to their tastes.
Kühtai's charm also extends to cross-country skiing enthusiasts, with 15km of immaculately groomed trails traversing the stunning landscape, their appeal enhanced by the resort's reliable altitude.
Including neighbouring Hochoetz, the resort's pistes cover a total of 80km, stretching on either side of the high mountain pass that runs through the village. This dual perspective creates an intriguing juxtaposition. The south-facing slopes offer sweeping red runs with the occasional challenge, while the north-facing side unveils an assortment of terrain red and black runs, as well as tempting off-piste vistas for the more adventurous skier.
Adding to the resort's appeal is its inclusion in the prestigious Glacier Lift Pass since 2004-5. This comprehensive pass covers the Stubai glacier lifts, ensuring year-round skiing - 365 days of guaranteed snow.
Snowboarders will find solace in Kühtai's small but charming fun park - a delight for enthusiasts. Off-piste enthusiasts can experience the thrill of powdery terrain with local experts on hand to illuminate the unexplored trails.
Meanwhile, first-timers will find a welcoming environment with comprehensive facilities, beginner-friendly slopes and the convenience of the Magic Carpet lift. The local ski and board schools maintain high standards, adding to the resort's appeal and ensuring a comprehensive experience for all.
Kühtai – Off-Piste, Backcountry & Ski Touring
Explore the boundless allure of Kühtai, Austria, and you will find a paradise tailor-made for expert skiers and off-piste enthusiasts, especially those captivated by the magic of ski touring. Nigel Shephard, the renowned British mountain guide, has described Kühtai as a "ski touring paradise", his grin a testament to the sheer thrill it offers.
The word "breathtaking" is often overused when describing Alpine scenery, but in the case of Kühtai it is apt. Surrounded by majestic peaks soaring towards 3,000 metres, the resort is an inviting realm for both ski tourers and nature lovers. There's an undeniable sense of exclusivity here, a sense of exploring a sheltered and welcoming mountain kingdom.
Kühtai isn't just a ski resort; it's an alpine tapestry, inviting enthusiasts to paint their tracks on its rich canvas. The realm of off-piste skiing, backcountry exploration and ski touring unfolds in a fascinating symphony of possibilities.
Adventurers craving powdery escapades will find a generous supply of off-piste terrain in Kühtai. The flanks of the Wiesberghorn and the slopes of the Dreiseenlift are a treasured canvas for those seeking the art of off-piste skiing. These areas are often adorned with a blanket of virgin snow, a siren's call to thrill-seekers.
Kühtai's borders extend beyond the boundaries of the resort, beckoning backcountry enthusiasts. The Wiesberghorn and Hohe Mut mountains offer an embrace of untamed terrain, a realm for those with a penchant for exploration. But tread with care, for the backcountry demands respect - a tribute paid through the acquisition of knowledge and preparation.
The poetry of ski touring comes alive in Kühtai's rolling landscapes. The routes around the Hohe Mut Alm and the Wiesberghorn create a scenic narrative of ascents and descents. A choreography of breathtaking views accompanies the rewarding ascent, embodying the essence of ski touring.
Lifts, often the gateway to adventure, take on a new dimension in Kühtai. The HochAlter lift becomes the starting point for off-piste and backcountry adventures. Given the complex terrain and potential avalanche risks, it's advisable to hire local guides or instructors who know the area and can enhance your experience while ensuring your safety.
Always prioritise safety. Check the avalanche forecast, carry the necessary safety equipment (beacon, shovel, probe) and consider taking an avalanche safety course.
Be aware of changing weather conditions that may affect the stability of the terrain. Remember that conditions can vary and it's important to plan and prepare thoroughly before going off-piste, backcountry skiing or ski touring. Respect the natural environment and obey all regulations set by the resort and local authorities.
Kühtai - Family Skiing
Kühtai is a family-friendly resort with comfortable accommodation right on the slopes and the promise that all runs lead back to the valley, making it safe and enjoyable, especially for families with some skiing experience.
Children are a priority here. They have tailor-made programmes, including a kindergarten for children aged two and over, which runs from Sunday to Friday in the Tourist Association's multi-purpose room. Enrolment is via the 1st Kühtai Ski School. For children aged four and over, the Kühtai Kids Club, with instructors from the 1st Kühtai Ski School, looks after them on practice slopes just a few metres from the hotels. There's also the Top 2000 ski school and the opportunity to take lessons with the Follow-The-Ski School.
The Kühtai ski pass gives you access to the family-friendly Hochoetz slopes, with 13 modern lifts and 47km of well-groomed slopes.
For something different, there is night skiing every Wednesday and Saturday from 7.30pm to 10pm. Families with young children can enjoy the specially designed Kids Park, while freestyle lovers can explore the KPark, a sprawling three-area snowpark.
Kühtai - Restaurants, Bars & The Town
The village of Kühtai is dotted with sprawling four-star hotels, a modern landscape that may seem a departure from traditional Austrian architecture. However, this departure is more than compensated for by the exceptional value and quality of the accommodation. Austrian hospitality thrives here, with most hotels offering half or full board options. The latter is particularly convenient as these hotels are just a stone's throw from the slopes, making it easy to ski back for lunch.
The Sport Hotel and the Astoria, both owned by the same family, remain open throughout the winter season. These expansive four-star properties offer traditional 'wellness' centres - complete with spas, pools and saunas - for those seeking a break from the slopes or a post-ski relaxation session. The culinary experience is of a high standard, with four-course evening dinners, nutritious lunches and lavish breakfast buffets.
Kühtai is dotted with over 20 inviting bars, restaurants and ski huts within the resort. These culinary hubs offer a rich variety of predominantly Austrian, Alpine and Tyrolean flavours. In the dining rooms of the Hunter's Castle, the winter panorama complements the sophisticated culinary creations and fine wine selections. There is also a touch of international flair, with options for Italian and Asian cuisine.
Dining out is just as rewarding. Kühtai boasts a dozen restaurants within the resort, offering a menu full of Austrian, Alpine and Tyrolean dishes. Pizzeria Rustica adds an Italian touch to the menu. In the heart of the hunting lodge, the "Fürsten- und Jägerstube" and the "Veranda-Restaurant" are not only a culinary delight but also a visual treat - a breathtaking winter panorama accompanies every meal.
Kühtai - Après Ski
Kühtai may not be at the top of the après-ski charts, but it does offer its own share of nightlife, in keeping with Austrian ski resort nightlife. For those still in the mood for some post-slope merriment, there are options.
The Kaos Bar, located in the Hotel Tyrol on the main road, offers moments of occasional chaos, albeit largely civilised. An alternative and fun venue is the Igloo Village near the Hotel Alpenrose. This is a natural ice bar, wrapped in the warmth of cowhide rugs.
Other hangouts include the bar at Hotel Konradin and the Kühtai Dorfstadle restaurant. For most, however, the charm of Kühtai lies in relaxing with fellow guests in the welcoming, cosy atmosphere of their accommodation.
At the end of a day's skiing, traditional cafés such as Loisl's umbrella bar add to the atmosphere. At weekends, an exuberant crowd from Innsbruck arrives to add to the party atmosphere. Skiers, snowboarders, hikers and tobogganers alike stop for a social rendezvous at the Graf Ferdinand Haus at the Alpenrose Lift, next to the illuminated toboggan run.
For those seeking an elevated experience, a chairlift ride to the Kaiser-Maximilian Hut is a tempting option. Here you can enjoy a warming Jagatee and sweeping views of the illuminated village. The hut is open several evenings a week to coincide with the resort's night skiing schedule.
The Graf Ferdinand Hut, another eatery, opens its doors every evening. It can be reached on foot or by shuttle bus, but the reward after a good meal is a toboggan ride down a long, floodlit run.
Kühtai - Ski Hire
In the village of Kühtai, embarking on your skiing adventure is made easy with convenient ski hire facilities right in the heart of the village. Local rental shops offer a range of equipment, from skis and snowboards to boots and poles, tailored to your preferences and level of ability.
With attentive service and expert advice, you can choose the perfect equipment to enhance your skiing experience on Kühtai's pristine slopes. Whether you're a beginner or an expert, these local rental shops will ensure you're equipped for an unforgettable time on the slopes.
Here are some recommended ski and/or snowboard hire shops in Kühtai:
Kühtai – Ski Schools and Guided Tours
Surprisingly, despite its modest size, Kühtai is home to four notable ski schools, including Skischule Kühtai, Skischule Top 2000, Gerber Sports and Follow Me.
In contrast to big-name destinations like Meribel or Val d'Isere, prices here are on the more affordable side. For example, a two-hour private lesson at Follow Me costs about two-thirds of what you'd pay at a ski school in a top French resort.
Among the schools, Skischule Kühtai stands out as being particularly accommodating to English-speaking visitors. Group lessons for adults are 5x4 hours and cost a fraction more than 5x2 hours at other English-speaking ski schools in France.
Customisation is a hallmark here too. 1st Skischule Kühtai, for example, offers the flexibility to book group lessons from one to six days, with options for both full and half-day tuition.
However, Kühtai may not be the ideal spot for beginners, especially for a full week. While the nursery slopes are suitable, the lack of long blue runs for progression is a challenge. If you're just getting to grips with linked turns, the steepness of most of the slopes can be daunting. If you're looking for beginner-friendly options, check out our other resort reviews for the best beginner alternatives.
There is also plenty on offer for first time ski tourers. The resort offers quality ski touring tuition, guided experiences and avalanche training. Notably, the Follow Me ski school has its own ski touring training centre, underlining the resort's commitment to providing a variety of experiences.
Below you'll find a selection of ski schools in Kühtai that are dedicated to improving your skiing experience with patience, expertise and a passion for the sport.
- Follow Me Ski- & Snowboardschool Kühtai – A renowned ski and snowboard school in Kühtai, Austria. Their expert instructors offer personalised programmes for skiing, snowboarding, ski touring and avalanche training. With a focus on tailor-made experiences, Follow Me offers the perfect opportunity to improve your skills and explore off-piste terrain in the beautiful alpine setting of Kühtai.
- 1st Ski and Snowboard School Kühtai – Another renowned ski school located in the Kühtai ski resort. With experienced instructors, they offer ski and snowboard lessons for all levels, focusing on personalised tuition to improve technique and confidence. They cater for both children and adults and offer group and private lessons.
- Ski School Top 2000 Kühtai – Top 2000 offers quality ski and snowboard lessons for people of all levels, including beginners and experienced riders. The school's experienced instructors are also available for private cross-country and ski touring lessons and guided tours.
- Gerber Sports – Best known as a ski and snowboard rental shop, Gerber Sports also offers private lessons (up to 2 people) for skiers and snowboarders of all levels, including complete beginners, all of which are individually tailored to the client's requirements.