Austria has ski resorts by the hundred in the forms of old market towns and quaint mountain villages. Ski areas come in varying size, from a handful of runs to multi-resort networks. Après ski is a cheery, ‘come one, come all’ affair, the food is delicious and holidays dent your wallet less than a trip to France or Switzerland might.
Saving you sieving through so many destinations, we’ve narrowed it down to five Silver Traveller favourites, covering what we like about them as well as recommended travel and accommodation.
A handsome, historic mining town, Kitzbühel has been awarded Austria’s Best Ski Resort a staggering seven times in the World Ski Awards.
Skiers have groomed pistes totalling 234km, served by an efficient lift system (we particularly like the Brunn chairlift with its heated, slip proof seats). Over 60s qualify for a reduced ski pass on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which is well worth cashing in on if you don’t plan to ski every day of your stay. The town has boutiques, cafes, museums and acclaimed restaurants to explore, and non-skiing activities range from winter walks to attending snow polo matches.
We suggest either getting here by rail (the town has 3 stations) or flying into Salzburg which is 75 minutes away by car. The 4-star Hotel Schweizerhof comes highly recommended for its ski in/out location, right by the city centre.
Zell am See
Circled by peaks, this elegant lakeside town is a true feast for the eyes. Covered by a single ski pass, 408km of pistes are shared between the local Schmittenhöhe area and several others including the Kitzsteinhorn glacier.
For non-skiing fun, explore the town’s shops and cafes (the markets at Christmastime are magical) and visit neighbour Kaprun for attractions such as visit Vötter’s Vehicle Museum.
The most convenient way to get here is flying into Salzburg airport, which is 80km away. Stay at the 4-star Grand Hotel Zell am See, which dates back over 100 years and takes prime position on the waterfront.
Saalbach is both picturesque and practical: an authentic Salzburgerland village with an onion-domed church and abundant accommodation within easy reach of the slopes.
Anyone not schussing the 270km ski area can explore the surroundings by snowshoe or horse-drawn sleigh, visit museums devoted to skiing and local history or book a curling session.
When it comes to getting here, Salzburg airport is 90km away. The 4-star Saalbacher Hof hotel is hugely popular for its central location, in-house library, winter garden café and art gallery.
St Anton am Arlberg
Renowned as ‘the cradle of Alpine skiing’, not to mention one of the world’s greatest après ski resorts, this Tyrolean town is chock-full of character.
The Arlberg region (which you can read about in more depth here) boasts 305km of pistes and 200km of powder terrain, with discounted ski passes for over 74s. Non-skiers have plentiful ways to pass the time, including horse drawn sleigh rides, curling, winter hiking and the Arlberg WellCom leisure centre. Don’t miss the charming St Anton museum with its on-site restaurant.
To get here, fly into Innsbruck airport which is 100km away. The Hotel Post is highly praised, a traditional 4-star property in the heart of resort.
Lech Zürs am Arlberg
Lech Zürs belongs to the same spectacular 305km Arlberg ski area as St Anton (mentioned above). In comparison, this is a classier, more compact resort with less intimidating terrain. It gets some of the region’s best natural snowfall and is home the Weisse Ring ski circuit which all serious senior skiers should have on their bucket list.
Fireside lounges, fine restaurants and spas in high-end hotels fill any non-skiing hours, as well as horse drawn sleigh rides, spas and winter hiking paths.
To reach the resort, it’s best to fly into Innsbruck airport which is 120km away. If you can nab one, book a room in the 5-star Hotel Arlberg. A luxurious local institution in the village centre with ski in/out access, it’s known for being Princess Diana’s accommodation of choice during her many visits to Lech.