Austria, and the Arlberg in particular, prides itself on being the 'cradle of skiing' thanks to Hannes Schneider, who was born in the small town of Stuben and founded the Arlberg Ski School in 1921, which revolutionized downhill skiing techniques. Since then, Austria has spawned a host of skiing superstars who have consistently dominated the international ski scene, with the ski industry now accounting for up to a quarter of the economy in regions such as the Tyrol which counts around 80 resorts, from Axam Lizum to Zugspitze.

Austria attracts a fairly eclectic clientele. For many visitors, its appeal lies in reviving the rosy-cheeked charm of skiing in the 1950s – gliding down empty tree-lined slopes into small villages with onion-domed churches to sip glühwein in front of a roaring open fire. For others, it's the glamour of resorts such as Kitzbühel and Lech or the wellness scene of spa towns like Bad Gastein. For a significant few it's simply the lure of vast quantities of beer and Jägermeister and table-top dancing in ski boots, while still others come in search of the renowned off-piste terrain of resorts such as St Anton and Mayrhofen. Can one small country cater for all these diverse tastes? We think it can, and does.

Conditions

The weather systems in Austria come in from all angles. Generally speaking, weather from the north, and especially from the northwest, brings cold and snowy conditions. Weather from the east can bring snow, while anything straight from the south can bring snow as well. This unique set-up basically means there's always snow to be found.

When to go

Austria has classic Alpine weather. Early snowfalls are common (November/December 2007 was a fantastic time to be in the Austrian Alps) but it would be foolish to book a trip for the end of November and expect there to be snow. Most resorts gear up to a full opening the week before Christmas although Ischgl usually opens at the end of November. The other exceptions are the glaciers – Kitzsteinhorn and Hintertux remain open all year apart from a few weeks in June while Sölden's glaciers and the Stubaital open in October and stay open through May. The best weather is traditionally through early February until the end of March, although clearly this is subject to fluctuation.

Off piste policy

Austria has a very relaxed attitude to off-piste riding. However, follow the resort rules and read the warnings closely. Austria has a high fatality record for avalanches.

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