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24 March 2017

Top 5 Late-Season Skiing in the Austrian Tirol

Apres, corn snow and sun-softened groomers: These five resorts offer late-season delights even when the valleys below turn green

Compared with the numerous purpose-built mega-resorts in France, and the high-alpine nature of many Swiss resorts, many of the popular areas in Austrian are relatively low-lying, and consequently are not often seen as top choices when it comes to late-season skiing.

There are, of course, events like Snowbombing – Mayrhofen’s infamous season-ender bender – that are really more about the après than about the skiing itself, but there are in fact a handful of glacier resorts in the Austrian Tirol that offer reliably good skiing throughout April and sometimes well into the month of May.

Being conveniently based in Munich, these resorts are typically on my personal spring "hit list", but all are easily accessed from Innsbruck airport, which itself is well-served by flights from the UK. Late-season powder is always a possibility, but if not, there’s no shortage of top flight events taking place during this time too.

Sölden

The real selling point of Sölden is that rather than being strictly a glacier resort, it's really a top-flight winter destination, that just happens to have an expansive glacier area that extends its season longer than most. Also famed for its nightlife, spring also brings with it the Electric Mountain Festival (6-7 April) amongst other events. But if you're there for the skiing, you'll find plenty of it up on the Tiefenbach and Rettenbach glaciers. Rettenbach has the steeper slopes, and even hosts the first Alpine World Cup event of the season, in October. Come springtime, you'll enjoy long days of sunshine and lively après. Depending on snow cover, there is often still good skiing on both the Giggijoch and Gaislachkogel areas well into spring.

Tiefenbach Glacier in Soelden
Tiefenbach Glacier in Soelden.

Stubai Glacier

From Innsbruck, the capital of the Austrian Tirol region, Stubai Glacier is the most easily accessed high-altitude resort, and can even be reached by city bus. This makes it ideal for a city break that combines skiing with a bit of city flair, but it’s also a top choice for freeriders in search of spring off-piste. There are numerous marked freeride routes, and the huge swathe of terrain under the new Eisgrat 3S gondola offers up a vast playground for off-piste skiers and riders. And the ultra-fast new lift means plenty of vertical. The snowpark, up the Gaisskarferner, is home to one of the liveliest freestyle scenes in Europe, and it kicks into high gear through April and May. While there’s not much going on directly at the base of the mountain (with the exception of sometimes rowdy après at the Mutterbergalm) the nearby town of Neustift makes a good base.

Windachferner at the top of Stubai Glacier
Windachferner at the top of Stubai Glacier.

Kaunertal Glacier

Although the park scene in Kaunertal picks up during the spring season, this is also the gateway to one of the Alps’ most varied and untamed ski touring regions. Tucked away in the southwestern corner of the Austrian Tirol, near both the Swiss and Italian borders, the resort boasts easy pistes high up on the glacier, as well as challenging freeride terrain under the Ochsenalm quad chair. A short boot pack – or a willingness to put on skins and walk – opens up even more possibilities. While Feichten, the nearest town and effectively the base for the glacier, is a quiet mountain town, it does liven up during the annual Spring Classics – a series of events that runs throughout April and May.

Kaunertal Glacier
Off piste in Kaunertal.

Hintertux

One of only two resorts in the Alps that is open for skiing year round (the other being Zermatt), Hintertux lies at the far end of the Zillertal valley, which is lined with world-class ski resorts. But after the snow melts away at lower elevations, the action moves to the high-alpine glacier slopes of Hintertux. The views towards Italy from the south-facing Schlegeis chair are impressive, as is the 3476m Olperer, which looms large over the snowsure glacier slopes that are mostly served by T-bars. Lower down the mountain, at 2530m, the Spannagelhaus is a full service restaurant that, despite recent renovations, retains its rustic charm - a nice change to the large self-service joints at many European glacier resorts. 

Hintertux Glacier
Hintertux glacier slopes below the 3476m Olperer.

Ischgl

Although not technically a glacier resort, Ischgl – with the majority of its pistes over 2000m and a huge investment in snow-making infrastructure – is definitely worthy of a mention. Connected to Swiss Samnaun, it’s possible to make a ‘duty-free’ run for some cut-price schnapps, but it’s in Ischgl’s famed nightspots such as the Trofana Alm or the Kuehstall that you’ll likely be consuming the stuff. That said, Ischgl also has a quieter side, and a spring trip to the beautiful Paznaun Valley offers the possibility to explore the area around the Heidelberger Hut with numerous ski tours that make the most of the scenic Silvretta mountains.  

Ischgl
Ischgl also has a quieter sidel.

All ski areas are included in the Tirol Snow Card, which provides access to 4000km of pistes, more than 1000 lifts and 86 ski areas throughout Tirol.

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