Skiing in Austria
Why choose Austria?
If you want to spend a week or two skiing in the one country in Europe that is almost obsessive about winter sports, then look no further than Austria. Skiing has an important place in Austria’s long history and Austrian citizens look down upon those who do not have a passion for the sport. For this reason, the country’s ski resorts attract skiers of all abilities from across the world. Part of the appeal of Austria as a skiing destination is the unique atmosphere present in almost all of the resorts. Since the Austrian Alps have always been inhabited to some extent, the rise of tourism in the country did not necessitate the construction of artificial, manmade resorts. Rather, the small villages were adapted slightly, incorporating reliable lifts and a range of accommodation that varies from basic to luxurious. As a result of this, Austrian ski resorts are uniquely friendly and welcoming, maintaining a traditional atmosphere whilst offering skiing of a world-class standard. Although many visitors to the country are German, English is widely spoken and the instructors who work for the world-famous ski schools have a very good reputation for being fluent, making the ski resorts an ideal choice for Brits.
The infrastructure in Austrian ski resorts is of an extremely high standard, with even the smallest villages boasting transportation links to other ski areas. As such, those who are easily bored should consider choosing Austria as the destination for their skiing holiday. You can spend all morning skiing in one area before ending the afternoon in a completely different valley. Indeed, you can spend a whole week, or even two, exploring the local vicinity and you still will not have covered all the runs on offer. As a rule, the numerous runs in all the resorts are clearly laid-out and well-signposted. Furthermore, if you want a change from skiing, Austrian ski resorts offer numerous other winter activities. The country is great for snowboarding and boarders of all abilities will find something to keep them happy there. Many of the ski resorts have previously hosted international snowboarding tournaments. Snowboarding aside, other winter activities include ice-skating on one of the country’s numerous beautiful frozen lakes, curling, hiking with snow shoes, cross-country skiing, and riding through the breathtaking countryside on a horse-drawn sleigh.
The only negative point to choosing Austria as a destination for a skiing holiday is the slightly unreliable snowfall. Since many of the resorts are at mid-altitude, the snow cover can be less reliable than the cover offered by resorts in France and Switzerland. However, this is rarely a problem since the majority of Austrian resorts have invested heavily in advanced snow-making equipment, such as impressive snow cannons which generate artificial snow to supplement the natural snowfall. Furthermore, the country’s reputation for offering great accommodation and facilities at a reasonable cost more than compensates for this slight drawback.
The main resorts
Austria offers world-class skiing in numerous provinces such as the Tyrol, Vorarlberg, and the region surrounding Salzburg. The resorts in the Tyrol are picture-perfect and include St. Anton, situated on the Tyrol side of the Arlberg pass. This resort is great for those who like to mix action on the slopes with exciting action off the slopes. The nightlife is fantastic and there is something to keep everyone happy, no matter what age they happen to be. For something more exclusive, try the small resort of St. Christoph, located at a high-altitude on the old Arlberg road. St. Christoph boasts several exclusive hotels all furnished to an extremely luxurious standard. The resort is close to Stuben, a little village which offers a range of smaller hotels and guesthouses, each with their own unique charm.
St. Anton is a large resort suitable for groups of all sizes and skiers of all standards. You can access the slopes at St. Anton from the centre of the town as well as from the beautiful suburb of Nasserein. If nightlife is important to you, consider staying at Sölden. This resort used to have a slightly negative reputation as a vulgar, noisy skiing town suitable only for young groups of hardcore clubbers. However, during the past ten years or so, Sölden has worked hard to improve its image. The slopes, which were once overcrowded as a result of poor infrastructure, have now been transformed since the resort invested heavily in a new lift system. Furthermore, family groups will now feel just as welcome in the town as younger groups.
The Vorarlberg, the Austrian province closest to Switzerland, contains several fantastic resorts. Lech is a playground for the rich and famous, making it an ideal choice for those looking for luxury and real comfort. The snowfall in Lech is very reliable and the slopes will keep skiers of all abilities satisfied. At the bottom of the Albona can be found the popular resort of Stuben. This resort is easily reached and boasts fantastic off-piste options for those after a real challenge. Some British skiers choose to stay in Salzburg and use the city as a base from which to access ski resorts nearby. The city is a lovely place to spend a few days, with its breathtaking castle walls and cathedral domes. Resorts such as Zell am See, Villach, Graz, Linz, and Innsbruck are all accessible from Salzburg.
The people, culture, and food
Visitors to countries across Europe often remark that the Austrian people are the friendliest in the continent. They have a fantastic reputation for being welcoming and the importance that they place on hospitality is evident in the service provided in accommodation, ranging from the most basic of guesthouses to the most luxurious alpine hotels. As a visitor from Britain, you will be pleasantly surprised at the public transport system and general facilities that consistently run like clockwork. The Austrians pride themselves on their highly developed sense of efficiency and their good organisational skills will ensure that all aspects of your holiday will run smoothly.
Austrian culture focuses largely upon its long and important folk tradition. Regional variations in music and dancing help to keep the culture very much alive in even the tiniest Austrian community. Architecture is also extremely important, and the castles, palaces, cathedrals, and churches which are spread throughout the country boast a unique blend of architectural styles and artistic traditions.
Austrian cuisine has an unfairly poor reputation as being boring and unoriginal. However, in recent years, a new emphasis upon regional variation in both produce and mode of preparation has done a lot to improve the image of Austrian food. Furthermore, the delicious pastries and sweets on sale in bakeries and local shops in ski resorts across the country are of a world-class standard. Until relatively recently, vegetarians have found it difficult to eat well in Austria but this is rapidly changing and, if you are a vegetarian, you should certainly not be put off visiting this amazing country.