Skiing in Austria: A Short Introduction

This is a website that I intend to be a useful tool for prospective visitors of Austria. Since many of them come for the simple purpose of skiing, skiing and more skiing, a decent number of articles providing information about Austria′s national sport is a must. This one is meant to be the core of them: It will give you a quick introduction to skiing in Austria′s Alps and references to the articles here on that are related to the topic.

Just for the record: Skiing and its concerned industries are responsible for an impressive 4.5 percent of the General Net Product (GNP) of Austria. Agriculture, for a comparison, sums up to something around 3 percent. This should give you an idea just how important skiing really is for the country: Anywhere in Vorarlberg, Tyrol, southern Salzburg, Carinthia, southern Upper Austria, southern Lower Austria and northern Styria, you will have a hard time not finding skiing facilities and a well-developed winter tourism infrastructure.

Alongside with downhill skiing, other winter sports are popular: Nordic or cross-country skiing, snowboarding and tobogganing are practised all over the Alps. Skiing is not only part of international tourism, but also a key element of Austrian culture. The fact that I am not skiing makes me about as freaky as a Chinese not doing martial arts, a Brit disliking tea or an Italian hating mobile phones. As far as I remember, I started skiing at the tender age of four (as most Austrians do) and stopped when I was around 14 (unlike most Austrians do). So keep in mind that it is not unusual to ski even for very young children in Austria.

FAQ: A Checklist of Skiing in Austria

When did skiing start? The history of Alpine skiing goes back to the 19th century or even further (depending on how strict you are in your definition of "ski"). However, Alpine skiing in the modern sense of the word developed around 1900, when many skiing clubs formed. Skiing legend Hannes Schneider started his internationally influential career as a ski instructor in 1907, and by 1930, a pan-Alpine skiing tradition had developed.

How long does the season last? In some areas it starts in late November, but generally around Christmas. It lasts until around April, but in recent years, these times have been blurred by global warming and strange weather phenomena. In glacial areas, you can go skiing all year round - summer skiing is expensive, though.

What are the main areas? As stated above, pretty much anywhere in the Alps. It is worth discriminating between regions that are more suitable for beginners, intermediate or advanced skiers. Beginners will be happy in places like Lech in Vorarlberg, but even more so in Tyrol east of Innsbruck (Ötztal Alps, Alpbach, Niederau, Obergürgl) and in most areas of Salzburg (Neukirchen, Skiwelt Amade) as well as Styria and Carinthia (Bad Kleinkirchheim). It′s not only that you will find "easy" slopes here, but also an infrastructure accommodating the needs of families with children (and spas!).

Intermediate skiers should head for Ischgl, Kitzbühel and Söll. Salzburg offers access to Saalbach-Hinterglemm and St Johann. Advanced skiers should go to the South of Salzburg around Badgastein or to the Arlberg region (Vorarlberg and Western Tyrol). The "skiing capital" of Austria is St Anton, still hugely popular among advanced skiers. St Christoph, Zürs and Lech are also famous for challenging slopes.

How much does Skiing cost in Austria? Hard to say - the fares vary hugely between trendy regions and not-so-trendy ones. Generally, skiing is expensive. Expect to pay 30 to 40 Euros for a day-pass and something between 150 to 200 or more for six-day-passes. It is still the cheaper option to take combination tickets for a certain amount of time if you want to ski properly - single tickets are often seriously over-priced.

Renting gear costs typically anything from 100 Euros for six days. Tuition for six days (in addition to the six-day pass) will be somewhere between 100 and 150 Euros and will typically include four hours of instructions a day in small groups. Tuition for children is slightly cheaper. Add the costs of staying in a hotel and going out in Austria′s most expensive areas, and you realise that there are cheaper ways of spending a vacation.

Where is supplementary entertainment best? Depends on what you are looking for. "Classic" après-ski of the "get-loaded-and-laid" type is supposedly best in Kitzbühel. Family entertainment for children is good in areas that don′t have overly challenging slopes (such as Carinthia and Styria). Spas are good in Salzburg near Badgastein. Generally, most ski resorts take an effort to keep people entertained off the slopes regardless of what they are looking for - anything between cocaine and folk culture, you should be able to find what appeals to you.

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Further Reading

Skiing Resorts and Areas of Austria

Hannes Schneider - Pioneer of Austrian Skiing

Austrian Skiing Legends: Karl Schranz

Austrian Skiing Legends: Franz Klammer

Austrian Skiing Legends: Hermann Maier