Austria: Chocolate-box villages, tree-lined slopes & legendary apres-ski –

The times when Austria used to be known as a winter sports destination for smaller budgets are over. You will not get a one-day ski pass for less than €25, and prices can reach up to €44, depending on the ski resort's size and location. Lift companies are quite family-friendly, though: virtually all of them grant free rides to children under the age of 6, some even to children under the age of 10. Furthermore, despite similar lift pass prices, Austria tends to be cheaper than France and Switzerland in terms of food and drink.

Après-ski is said to have its origins in Austria. In some resorts the parties do not start after (après) skiing, but noon at the latest. You can have beer, champagne or Jagatee (tea with rum) in cosy huts close to the slopes or in bars and discos down in the valley. St. Anton, Ischgl, Soelden, and Saalbach-Hinterglemm are famous for their après-ski parties where the booze is flowing in gallons, the music is loud, and flirting is mandatory.Austria is also home to alpine "Gemuetlichkeit" (coziness) and delicious local cuisine. Most of the inns and huts are run by local families who are happy to serve you traditional cuisine, such as dumplings, pasta with cheese, schnitzel, and tons of sweet pastry. Some fruit schnapps afterwards is highly recommended.

Austria’s large linked ski areas – Ski Amade, SkiWelt, Ski Arlberg, Kitzbuehel Alps – are made up of a series of small, pretty ski villages with relaxed, family-friendly atmospheres and affordable prices. These ski villages are connected to large ski areas offering something for all levels, extreme snowparks and stomach-lurching verticals to wide open green runs and world-renowned ski schools.Most Austrian ski resorts feature state-of-the-art lifts, such as eight-person cable cars or heated chairlifts, and slopes are usually in excellent condition. Austria's off-piste skiing is famous, especially in high-altitude areas such as Ski Arlberg and Silvretta-Montafon.

Some of the most popular Austrian ski resorts in Austria include St. Anton, Ischgl, Mayrhofen, Kitzbuehel, Obergurgl-Hochgurgl, Solden, Saalbach Hinterglemm Leogang, Lech Zuers, Obertauren and Schladming.

St. Anton am Arlberg (1,300-2,811m) is the best-known resort in Ski Arlberg. It is renowned for having some of the most challenging skiing in Europe as well as some of the liveliest après-ski entertainment. The 280km of skiable terrain reaches heights of 2,800 metres and offers plenty of challenging terrain (particularly off-piste) for advanced skiers as well as a wide choice of intermediate runs, but is not as well suited to the beginner.

Ischgl (1,377-2,872m) lies in the Paznaun valley, between the Silvretta and Verwall ski areas, and its 200km of slopes benefit from reliable snow conditions and modern infrastructure. The resort is also well known off the slopes for attracting international pop stars to its legendary Top of the Mountain concerts at the beginning and end of the season.

Mayrhofen/Hippach (630-2,500m) has 159 kilometres of ski runs and 48 lifts. Snowboarders can practise tricks at Vans Penken Park while experts take on Austria’s steepest ski run, Harakiri, with its 78-percent gradient. The area is easily accessible, just 65 kilometres from Innsbruck Airport.

Kitzbuehel (800-2,000m) made a name for itself in 1931 when it hosted its first ever Hahnenkamm Race. Its reputation has escalated from there and is now one of the most well-known ski resorts in the world. Its 170km of ski slopes are suitable for all levels and are scattered with quaint mountain huts.

Obergurgl-Hochgurgl (1,800-2,080m) in the southern Tyrol, is known for its long, snowsure season. Here you'll find 110km of well-groomed slopes, up to 3,082 metres altitude, connected by 22 state-of-the-art lifts.

Solden (1,350-3,340m) has 150km of slopes served by ultra-modern lift systems and features two glaciers.

Saalbach-Hinterglemm (1,003-2,096m) makes up half of the massive 200km interlinked Skicircus Saalbach-Hinterglemm Leogang ski area. Highlights include black World Championship runs, race routes and mogul skiing. Free ski buses run between the Saalbach Hinterglemm and Leogang.

Lech-Zuers am Arlberg (1,450-2,811m) offers 110 kilometres of ski runs for all levels and is well connected to its neighbouring villages via modern lifts and well groomed pistes. Lech is a particular favourite among royalty and celebrities and boasts a number of exclusive hotels. Zuers is smaller with only a handful of hotels – all of which are luxurious – and is known for its impressive back-country skiing.

Obertauern (1,630-2,315m) has a long season stretching from the end of November to beginner of May. Set in the Salzburg mountains, it offers 100km of slopes, modern hotels and an exciting night life.

Austria also offers the opportunity of combining city breaks with ski holidays. Innsbruck is particularly well placed, surrounded by 25 ski villages, but ski-city breaks can also be taken in Salzburg and Vienna.

The Austrian glaciers of Stubai and Kitzsteinhorn offer year-round skiing. South of Innsbruck, the Stubai Glacier is the largest glacier in Austria. Set between 2300 and 3200 metres, it boasts a wide range of runs, particularly blue and red, as well as plenty of off-piste. One hour from Salzburg, above the village of Kaprun, is the Kitzsteinhorn Glacier.
The Kitzsteinhorn has a large ski area with lots of varied runs, mostly intermediate, up to 3030 metres.

Austrian resorts also offer plenty to see and do for non-skiers. Sleigh rides, snowshoe adventures, and ice skating are available at most resorts. Austria boasts a modern transport infrastructure; most resorts are within an hour’s drive from the airports of Innsbruck, Salzburg, or Munich. Scheduled buses and trains are also fast and reliable.

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