More casual and laid-back than the glitzy resorts of France and Switzerland, Austria’s ski scene exudes an old-world charm, with trail and lift networks linking small Alpine villages surrounded by spectacular snow-covered peaks. From most of these cozy villages, you can ski all day without ever repeating a run, whatever your level of experience, for Austrian terrain ranges from some of the world’s steepest runs to gentle slopes and trails perfect for learners and youngsters. But what has boosted Austria’s popularity with international skiers in the past few years is its value for money. Holiday packages, lift passes, lodging, dining, ski schools, and even après-ski activities cost less here than in the French or Swiss Alps, and you’re sure of warm hospitality and high service standards, as well as sophisticated lifts and snow maintenance. Austrian skiing is also not limited to winter – glaciers provide year-round snow, and most ski resorts are only an hour’s drive from Innsbruck, Salzburg, or Munich international airports.
Charming and romantic, the walled and frescoed town of Kitzbühel, in the Alps between Salzburg and Innsbruck, is indisputably one of Austria’s loveliest towns, and it’s closest to the glamour of the high-end Swiss resorts. But aside from its luxury hotels, smart boutiques, and fine dining, Kitzbühel is a skier’s dream, and its traditional town appeals just as much to family members who don’t ski. Ski race fans know Kitzbühel for the annual Hahnenkamm, the toughest of all downhill ski races, on terrain that reaches 85 percent vertical in places. But the 170 kilometers of skiable pistes and slopes have plenty for all skill levels, as well as the added allure of cute little mountain huts scattered along them, where you can stop for warming drinks and snacks.
Skiing is in three areas: the Kitzbüheler Horn; the much larger Hahnenkamm; and Bichlalm, a small area for freeriders. In addition, a short bus ride links Kitzbühel to the SkiWelt, adding 280 kilometers of trails served by 90 lifts. Both are included in the nine-area Kitzbühel Alps AllStarCard. New for the 2017/2018 season, Kitzbühel has added an eight-person, high-speed detachable chairlift with bubble covers and heated seats. Although Kitzbühel abounds in luxury hotels and attracts its share of glitterati, it also has plenty of small family-run inns for budget travelers.