Overview of Skiing in Austria
Ski holidays in Austria are steeped in snowsports tradition and authentic Alpine apres, with wonderful wood-lined slopes linked by the latest lift technology and charming chalet-style accommodation.
For solo ski travellers, adventurous couples, active families and fun-loving groups of friends, this might be the ultimate location for a ski break, and Erna Low can ensure your tailor-made trip is everything you’ve dreamed of!
Austrian ski resorts are typically a little more laid-back than their glam French and Swiss equivalents, with traditional-style rather than modernist purpose-built architecture and a diverse mix of slopes to suit novices, intermediates and advanced skiers, as well as dynamic snow parks for snowboarders.
For those in the know, resorts like St Anton am Arlberg, Kitzbühel, Mayrhofen and Sölden compare favourably with ski destinations anywhere in the world, while lift-linked ski areas like the expansive 300km Arlberg, 279km SkiWelt and 240km Skicircus offer stunning scenery and scintillating doorstep skiing for all styles and abilities, not to mention legendary hospitality that encourages many visitors to return again and again!
But why choose us to arrange your Austrian ski holiday? Because our trailblazing pioneer Erna Low was Austrian, and it was here in Sölden in 1932 that she took her first group of British skiers to the slopes and introduced the concept of the ski chalet holiday to the world.
So no one has a deeper heritage in tailor-made Austrian ski holidays than Erna Low and we’ve continued to innovate in the decades since our foundation, fine-tuning our ski package service so that it satisfies every type of customer. When you want an Austrian ski holiday that’s a little bit special, think Erna Low.
Best Ski Resorts in Austria
Best for snow quality
Whether you prioritise high-altitude, snow-sure slopes, black runs and off-piste opportunities for advances skiers, cruisy blues for intermediates or steady nursery slopes for beginners, Austria has it all.
And when it comes to apres-ski, you’ll find the genuine article right here too, whether chilled-out cafes, high-end restaurants, bustling bars or bouncing clubs are your speed.
Top off these Austrian ski holiday highlights with super ski schools and quality childcare facilities, and there’s everything you need for a winter wonderland break to remember. Here’s the lowdown on a few exceptional ski resorts in Austria.
Snow retention is good at most Austrian ski resorts and robust snow-making facilities mean that there’s good cover even at lower-altitude resorts for most of the season. However, some resorts here are particularly powdery ̶ here are a few highlights:
Sölden is blessed by three majestic peaks that rise over 3000m (Schwarze Schneide, Tiefenbachkogl and Gaislachkogl) and the glacier skiing here includes lots of spectacular high-altitude blue and red pistes for intermediate skiers, with standouts including the sweeping blues on Tiefen, and the tricky World Cup Retten run.
Kaprun is home to the Kitzsteinhorn glacier, which is Salzburg’s sole glacial ski terrain and the first glacier in Austria made accessible to skiers (way back in 1965!). Thanks to this 3029m monster and the natural blessings of nearby mountain Maiskogel, snow conditions here are so good that some seasons it only closes briefly in August and September, with summer and winter adventures on the slopes fairly standard. If you’re an advanced skier up for a powdery plunge, don’t miss the Black Mamba ̶ this vertiginous 1km run includes a steep vertical drop which you won’t forget in a hurry!
Lech is often the snowiest resort in Europe, with top depths of over 7 metres here during some seasons and dumps of fresh pow starting in September and continuing throughout the season. As you might expect, this is an off-piste paradise for freestylers and if you hire a mountain guide, they’ll take you to amazing spots like Zuger Hochlicht where you’ll sometimes be wading through fresh powder that reaches right up to your chest.
Best for family groups
Fancy an Austrian ski holiday with your whole family clan? There are plenty of child-friendly resorts here ̶ consider the following excellent examples:
Soll was previously party central, but in recent years it’s built much more of a family-focused reputation. Facilities and amenities here include the Snow Pirates kids club for very young visitors, and the Skischule for young ones aged three and upwards. If you’re a mixed ability group, there are plenty of wide, gentle slopes to have fun on together, 13km of floodlit slopes where you can extend your sessions into the evening, off-piste activities like husky dog sledding and ample cafes and restaurants where there’s something on the menu for kids of all ages.
Mayrhofen is another fab Austrian ski resort for families and it’s handily split into ‘leisure’ and ‘action’ mountains, which makes maximising the fun for every member of your party much easier. The Ahornbahn gondola will whisk you to the gentler slopes and here you’ll find an Igloo Village that young kids absolutely adore. Meanwhile, the Penkenham lift takes you to the Penken Park, a favourite place for teenage and older kids to hang out with peers and practice their tricks. Off the slopes, you can head out on a romantic horse-drawn sleigh ride, get your skates on at the ice rink or try traditional tobogganing.
Hinterglemm has two ski areas, no less than eight magic carpets on beginner’s areas (much easier for kids to handle than hopping on and off traditional chairlifts), and two fun mascots (Snowy and Leo) who you’ll see wandering around. Once you’re all ready to tackle slightly more difficult runs, a snazzy system of super-efficient high-speed lifts takes you to a nice network of blues and reds in record time.
Best for groups of skiers or snowboarders
Prefer ripping up the pistes with pals on your snowboards to swooshing along on two skis? In that case you’ll love Austria, because many of its top-rated ski resorts have well-designed snow parks and terrific off-piste terrain that’s perfect for freestyle adventures. Here are a few top picks:
Mayrhofen deserves a second mention here because of the Penken Park, which features a gargantuan rainbow box amongst many other gnarly obstacles, as well as adrenaline-fuelled, black-graded powder runs like the super-steep Devil’s Run and the Harakiri, which boasts the steepest pitch in Austria at 78%.
St Anton offers access to over 180km of astonishing freestyle trails, including several like the Mattunjoch and Mattun which have steep inclines made for shredding. Meanwhile, if you want to top up your repertoire of tricks, the Stanton Park has a vast array of kicker lines and rails for all aptitudes, a mushroom bubble and even an elephant butter box!
Westendorf is the snowboarding capital of the SkiWelt area and has much to recommend it for riders. There are plenty of sweeping blues here for practicing your turns and the Gampenkogel Boarder’s Playground features a mix of intermediate and advanced lines, with the 20m ‘Big Mama’ kicker being the highlight for thrill-seekers. The freeriding is rad too, with loads of fantastic wood-lined runs amidst amazing scenery.
As you can see, skiing in Austria is a bountiful buffet with tasty treats to suit just about everyone!
Ski Areas in Austria
Focused on maximising your fun and value for money on Austrian slopes? There are several linked ski areas here where you can sample diverse on- and off-piste action as well as apres-ski, so if you’re travelling in a group with mixed tastes and abilities, consider the following locations:
The Arlberg ski area is Austria’s largest (and one of the five biggest globally) at an impressive 300km and it’s so steeped in snowsports history that it’s known as ‘the cradle of Alpine skiing’. Resorts of note here include St Christoph, Stuben, Zürs, Lech and St Anton, with over 200km of deep powder runs, 88 cutting-edge cable systems and a wide choice of funparks. Throw in traditional Alpine restaurants, lively apres-ski and a host of family activities and Arlberg is hard to beat as a winter destination.
The SkiWelt area is home to a 279km skiable area with well-groomed pistes aplenty to suit all types of skiers and snowboarders. Voted the world’s best international ski resort for four years running, it boasts 90 high-tech lifts and cable cars, 80 cuisine venues and a total of 284 runs. This is a snow-sure resort, but cover can also be enhanced by 1700 snow cannons which are capable of covering 225km with completely manmade powder. Home to the ski resorts of Hopfgarten, Westendorf, Söll, Scheffau, Ellmau, Brixen, and Itter, although the highest lift reaches just 1825m, the snow quality and retention are excellent, as are the range of runs and the childcare provision. If chalet-style accommodation and lovely tree-lined runs float your boat, Ellmau is a good choice, Scheffau is an authentic Tyrolean village with awe-inspiring views at the foot of the Wilder Kaiser Mountains, and Hopfgarten is nestled in a sheltered, sunny, powdery basin in the Kitzbuhel Alps. There are very few black runs here, so in terms of the skiing itself, it’s best suited to intermediates and family groups.
The Skicircus ski area boasts a varied 240km skiable terrain which incudes the ski resorts of Fieberbrunn, Leogang, Hinterglemm and Saalbach. An efficient network of 70 lifts maximises your time on the slopes and the expansive winter sports area ranges from altitudes between 830m and 2096m and features snow parks, great freestyle territory around Fieberbrunn and legendary apres-ski in Saalbach and Hinterglemm. The majority of runs are easy blues here and there are also plentiful reds to test intermediates, while the 18km of black runs keeps advanced skiers and snowboarders happy. For kids, there’s a ski kindergarten and several friendly ski schools with dedicated children’s areas where they can find their feet under the supervision of eagle-eyed instructors and amongst peers. For an all-round amazing Austrian ski area, consider the variety on offer in one of the nation’s lovely lift-linked ski areas.
Seasonal Snow Conditions in Austria
Snow conditions across all Austrian resorts are generally good (with near year-round skiing available in some destinations) and even although some traditional ski villages are located on valley floors, in recent years almost every resort has vastly increased its snow-making capacity, meaning that natural cover can be easily topped-up if necessary. For example, take a look at the most recent historical snowfall stats for St Anton am Arlberg:
- In the most recent season, St Anton had a 365cm total snowfall, 19 total snowfall days, average summit depth of 219cm, maximum summit depth of 460cm, average base depth of 73cm maximum base depth of 120cm and 45cm largest snowfall.
Austria pioneered the apres-ski party in the 1970s, when ski package holidays were still in their infancy and nowadays you’ll still have an absolute blast at the plethora of pubs, bars and clubs that permeate the mountains here. Here are a few nightlife hotspots you shouldn’t miss!
St Anton earns another special mention for its amazing apres-ski and many of the nightspots here have reputations which precede them. Mooserwirt might be the most famous venue here, which is said to serve 5000 litres of beer daily and is packed out from the late afternoon, while Krazy Kangaruh has been entertaining revellers since the 1960s with its supercharged oompah music and tabletop dancing.
Ischgl usually kickstarts its season with an Opening Week Festival featuring big name international music acts, but it’s lively all year round thanks to terrific venues like Niko’s Hexenkuche, the Trofana Alm, and Pacha (the local branch of the legendary Ibiza nightclub). There are dozens of bars and clubs to choose from here, so you’ll never be stuck for somewhere to party.
Solden features again on our list here thanks to it’s hard partying reputation. Pubs like the Schirmbar get the party started with endless pints of ice cold beer punctuated by exotic shots, and if you’re not staggering by the time this establishment calls last orders at 10pm, there are a dozen clubs to choose from where you can party til the wee small hours.
Saalbach boasts over 35 bars of all stripes, so you’re sure to find something that floats your boat. Evi and Co is a bit of an institution with several buzzing floors to choose from and a sun-kissed terrace that’s usually very busy, while the Zum Turm is a weird and wonderful place to feel refreshed ̶ it’s an ancient prison converted to a dynamic drinking den!
This handful of bars, pubs and clubs are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Austrian apres-ski emporiums, but hopefully they’ve whetted your appetite.
Ski Accommodation in Austria
You’ll find a wide range of ski accommodation in Austria, most of which (in the exterior at least) tends towards the traditional chalet style and is often a short stroll from the slopes and resort centre.
Whether you choose a ski hotel, apartment or other configuration will depend on your plans and the requirements of your group. Here are a couple of helpful tips.
Austria Ski Hotels
If you’re yearning for a slightly more luxurious travel experience, an Austrian hotel might be your best bet. As well as a comfy suite with all the mod cons, the best ski hotels here have onsite gyms, pools, saunas, restaurants and bars ̶ meaning that everything you need is under one roof on those nights when you can’t be bothered straying far.
Austria Ski Apartments
Ski apartments in Austria are suitable for independent travellers who enjoy doing their own thing. Apart-hotel style residences might include amenities like pools and cafes, but many apartments are self-contained, self-catering units, therefore you can choose to socialise exclusively with your own travel group for much of the time if that’s your desire.
Ski Flights & Transfers in Austria
Ski flights and transfers are the most popular way of getting from your home to your Austrian ski resort and Erna Low are happy to include these components in your customised ski holiday. We’re more than capable of finding fab deals on flights and transfer deals from a number of UK airports (including Edinburgh, Manchester and Gatwick) to Austrian ski gateway hubs like Salzburg and Innsbruck.
Ski Passes & Other Extras in Austria
The beauty of ski package holidays is that they’re stress-free from start to finish, therefore no one wants to waste time on arrival queuing for ski passes and ski equipment hire. Let Erna Low take the weight off your shoulders by making these arrangements for you through sourcing quality partners at reasonable prices and rolling everything into one convenient package that suits you down to the ground!