When being able to jump onto a lift – or click into skis – is priority #1these are the best resorts in Austria's Tirol region for accomodation on the slopes

It’s early December, which means that resorts across the Alps are ramping up their winter operations – with those at higher elevations (for obvious reasons) typically being the first to open, and the first to fill their Facebook/Instagram/Twitter feed with enviable snow pics. However, getting in some quality skiing in November or early December may well require heading to glacier resorts, which are not typically known for their ‘ski-in, ski-out’ accommodation. Quite the contrary. There are a number of resorts across the Austrian Tirol that can boast reliable early-season snow – due to a combination of elevation and snowmaking infrastructure – as well as the convenience of ski lifts and pistes right on the doorstep.

The following selection runs the gamut from hedonistic hotspots to family-friendly piste-side perches, through to romantic alpine villages. What they all have in common is that there is a range of accommodation directly on the piste (or within a very short walk from the lift) for a quick start in the morning, and they are only a short Schuss away from the slopes at the end of the day.

Obergurgl-Hochgurgl

Chris Taine

At the top of the Ötztal valley, ringed by 3000m peaks, the linked resorts of Obergurgl and Hochgurgl nestle up against the main alpine divide, and reliably boast some of the best natural snow in the Alps. Compared to its next-door neighbour (Sölden) Obergurgl-Hochgurgl is rather more refined in character, but there is still no shortage of on-snow action for the adventurous, with some excellent off-piste and ski touring terrain.

The pistes themselves are very much in the sweet spot for intermediate skiers; wide, sweeping groomer with the occasional steeper pitch or gentle bumps to entice a bit of exploration. Hochgurgl is the better option for beginners, with bunny slopes and gentle blues starting from right outside the hotels sitting at 2150m.

Hochgurgl boasts traditional huts (such as the Kirchenkarhütte) as well as breath-taking 360 degree panoramas from the Top Mountain Star. Snowsure slopes (with terrain between 2000-3000m) and a long season is one reason Obergurgl-Hochgurgl has long been a favourite amongst Brits, but the ski-in, ski-out nature of the accommodation certainly plays a role too. In Obergurgl, upmarket digs such as the Hotel Hochfirst, Hotel Jenewein, Hotel Edelweiss & Gurgl and Hotel Josl cluster around the base of the Rosskarbahn and Hohe Mut Gondola. Over in Hochgurgl, the accommodation is even closer to the pistes, with some of the pistes passing directly by the front door.

St Anton

Chris Taine

The Arlberg region, widely regarded as the cradle of alpine skiing, is legendary – in many different senses of the word. Hannes Schneider, who founded the first ski school here and revolutionized skiing with his ‘Arlberg technique’ is just one local legend. The off-piste terrain – especially around the 2,809m Valluga – is legendary, as is the après-ski action that unfolds each afternoon at the base of the mountain. And its status looks unlikely to change any time soon, as last season’s link-up between St Anton and Lech-Zuers creates Austria’s largest ski area, and one of the top five largest in the world.

While its reputation is a big part of the draw for British skiers, St Anton’s convenience is undeniably a factor too. What’s more, for someone looking for ski-in, ski-out in St Anton, there are actually a range of places from which to choose. St Anton itself will be a natural choice for après fans, with just a few wobbly turns between the Mooserwirt, Krazy Kanguruh et al. and hotels such as the Bergheim, Schindler, and Bergschloessel. For anyone looking for a bit of peace and quiet, St Christoph – on the road connecting St Anton to Lech – has high-alpine character and high-alpine flair. The Arlberg Hospiz is the pick of the cluster of hotels that lie at the foot of the St Christophbahn. The area also has its own beginner slopes.

Kühtai

The pint-sized resort of Kühtai is one of the closest resorts to Innsbruck (and Innsbruck airport, which is the gateway to the region is only 30 minutes way) but feels a million miles away. Its village – at 2020m is the highest resort base in Austria – makes it an ideal starting point for a spectacular variety of ski tours, not to mention a snowsure choice for early or late season long weekend trips.

A single road runs east to west through Kühtai, dividing the resort in two, with lifts rising up on both sides of the road. The hotels and apartments are strung out along this road, meaning that almost all accommodation can be classed as ski-in, ski-out.

Jonny Cass

The south-facing side of the resort catches plenty of sun – making restaurants like Zum Kaiser Maximilian extremely popular. Rolling red pistes from the top of the four-seater Hochalterbahn and the Kaiserbahn gondola are quality runs top to bottom, covering 500m of vertical. It’s here that you’ll find the slopeside Hotel Mooshaus, with its high-altitude infinity pool overlooking the bunny slopes.

For more serious off-piste, there’s a great mix of terrain up the Dreiseenbahn, from steeper pitches at the top to playful gullies dotted with trees at the bottom. The north-facing Hohemutbahn keeps the snow in great condition, with steep black pistes, gentle off piste, sidecountry powder stashes and an immaculate snow park (used for the 2012 Youth Olympics Games) all easily accessible from the top.

Although there’s a selection of hotels right on the piste in Kühtai, one of the best bets is the Alpenrose. It’s a 15-minute walk from the village proper, but they serve up enormous buffet breakfasts and dinners, so at the very least you’ll ski that little bit harder to justify those second helpings. The real selling point though is that the best terrain is right on the doorstep, as it’s situated at the base of the Dreiseenbahn and Hohemutbahn.

Ischgl

With the majority of its pistes (about 90%) over 2000m and a huge investment in snowmaking infrastructure, Ischgl is a perennial favourite for early and late season blasts, something reinforced by the resort with spectacular mountaintop concerts that bookend the November to May season.

Ischgl’s famed après-ski spots such as the Trofana Alm and the Kuehstall (as well as numerous nightclubs) are a big part of the draw for many visitors, however the terrain of this expansive resort should not be underrated. The variety of terrain is enviable too. Duty-free shopping jaunt via a rolling red piste to Swiss Samnaun? Intermediate cruising around Alp Trida? Thigh-burning steep black runs in the Höllkar? Lunch in the Fimbatal, surrounded by 3000m peaks? All of above? No problem.

In terms of ski-in, ski-out accommodation, it’s more ‘ski-out’… with the valley descent providing run-outs down the main village thoroughfare, where a host of 3 and 4 star hotels line the way. It’s usually just a few steps back to the hotel, and in the morning a few minutes’ walk to the base of the high-capacity, modern Silvrettabahn or Pardatschgratbahn. Hotel Seespitz and Hotel Verwall are amongst the best, not to mention most convenient, options.

Kitzbühel

Chris Taine

Kitzbühel’s famed Hahnemkamm plays host to the most intense and exciting race on the World Cup Downhill circuit, and the Streif is feared for good reason. One thing that skiers and riders do not need to fear in Kitzbühel however, is a time-consuming transfer.

Kitzbühel, despite the reputation of its World Cup racecourse, is in reality an extensive family resort with 215 km of pistes and oodles of intermediate terrain. It boasts a traditional yet cosmopolitan town centre, sophisticated nightlife and raucous après. With the highest lift stations just squeaking in at 2000m, there’s still 1200m of vertical, so there are plenty of long descents, and some surprisingly good off-piste and touring potential right on the doorstep.

Pistes over on the Kirchberg side have spectacular views toward the jagged Wilder Kaiser range, with predominantly cruisy intermediate runs and the occasional challenging black piste. And the village of Kirchberg presents accommodation options at a range of price points, somewhat more down-to-earth than Kitz’s glitzy and boutique shop-lined centre. It’s not all glitz and glamour though – establishments such as the Oberbräu serve up traditional and no-frills Tirolean food.

While the village centre is dominated by the swankier hotels, just a short walk from the lifts, a little further up the hill are a range of pensions and apartments right on the famed Hahnenkamm piste – very much fitting the bill as ski-in, ski-out. However the smaller village (i.e. Kirchberg and Jochberg) have a range of slopeside accommodation too. In Kirchberg it’s more of a laidback, family-friendly vibe, while Jochberg has some upmarket digs such as the Hotel Kempinski Das Tirol, and TirolApart 1709. Jochberg has the additional benefit of lying equidistant from Kitzbühel’s famed Hahnenkamm and the Pass Thurn area, meaning that the entire vase resort can more easily be explored.

SkiWelt (Westendorf, Hopfgarten, Brixen, Ellmau)

Chris Taine

Austria's largest resort is a wonderland for families, intermediates… and foodies, with nearly 300 on-mountain restaurants, huts and après-ski bars. SkiWelt Wilder Kaiser-Brixental (for the sake of simplicity, henceforth SkiWelt) is now Austria’s second-largest ski area (after St Anton), encompassing a whopping 284 km of ski pistes, the vast majority of which are wide open groomers perfectly suited to skiers and riders of the intermediate ilk. The area, served by 90 lifts, is accessed from a number of villages on all sides of the ski area, all of which provide an ideal access point to the vast domain.

Sunny Brixen im Thale is ideally situated for serious skiers and riders. Long valley runs and off-piste on the Choralpe, while on the other side of the valley the gondola to Hochbrixen accesses easy intermediate terrain, and sun-drenched slopes, not to mention a unique igloo village. Brixen is the departure point for one of the best pistes in Austria. The Kandler descent is a rollercoaster red piste that drops more than 1000m vertical from the Choralpe down to Brixen im Thale. Ski it all in one go, and you’ll know if your pre-season fitness program has worked or not!

Tiroleans are known for their hospitality, and it is in ever-popular Söll that this really shines through. Beyond the rowdy après bars, there are also trendy restaurants and cool bars. There are more than 30 restaurants in the area, many serving hearty, traditional Tirolean. For this, Auf da Muhle and the Dorf Stubn are hard to beat. To work up an appetite, the Hexenalm and the Salvenstadl are the places to head. Of course, staying out on the slopes until late is possible too, with 11km of illuminated night skiing from Wednesday to Saturday each week.

For slopeside accommodation, Brixen im Thale is the best bet, with its access to the Choralpe area as well as the Hohe Salve, but Hopfgarten and Ellmau and Westendorf also have a choice of lodging that qualifies as ski-in, ski-out.

 

More ski in ski out resorts and hotels find on : www.visittirol.co.uk

Article contributed by Chris Taine, former Ski Club Website Editor, current Alpine transplant and Tirol correspondent.


You can discover some of the best Tirol resorts with Ski Club Freshtracks holidays, find out more here - Lech, St Anton and Obergurgl

Make the most of your trip to the Tirol and let our Ski Club Leaders show you all the best pistes, conditions and restaurants, you can book to ski with Leaders here - Ischgl, Obergurgl and Kitzbuhel or try our Instructor Led Guiding in St Anton am Arlberg