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Photo: Simon Beizaee

Places

3 special places in Tirol

No other ski areas in Europe have the diversity of the Austrian Tirol. They range from picturesque chocolate-box villages with a handful of lifts to world-class ski hubs that offer hundreds of linked kilometres of skiing for all standards.

Whichever you choose, you can be sure of a warm welcome, expert ski instruction and friendly childcare, along with delicious cuisine. The choice of where to stay ranges from the simplest B&B to modern selfcatering apartments, familyrun pensions, and luxury hotels with international reputations.

PillerseeTal

Internationally, the best-known resorts in this area are Waidring and Fieberbrunn, but Hochfilzen, St. Jakob in Haus, and St. Ulrich am Pillersee also have a lot to offer visitors. The region is renowned not only for its alpine skiing but also for the cross-country and biathlon that take place along the valley floor. Buchensteinwand at St Jakob is a friendly ski area that should keep the whole family happy. The Pletzi-Bär-Kinderpark nursery area provides little ones with a fun introduction to skiing while they are supervised by first-rate instructors. The 20 km of pistes served by eight lifts will keep parents happy too. This is the top corner of the Tirol for snow-cover.

Whether you choose alpine skiing or cross-country, there is a wide variety of activities in PillerseeTal. Photo: cdefrancesco

Just a few kilometres away lies the bigger and more challenging Steinplatte Waidring – Winklmoosalm, in what’s known as the Border Triangle of Tirol, Salzburgerland, and Bavaria. It has 42 km of groomed runs and a renowned snow park featuring the Triassic Fun Line, which at 1.5 km is the longest in Austria.

144 km of pistes cater for everyone from complete beginners to experts.

The skipass alliance has 408 km of piste, including Saalbach Hinterglemm Leogang Fieberbrunn ski circuit, Schmittenhöhe in Zell am See, Kitzsteinhorn Kaprun. This connects Tirol to the Salzburger Land. The area is spacious, diverse, modern, sporty and casual. And with its numerous snow parks, freeriding parks, floodlit slopes, ski movie locations, speed courses and racetracks, it is considered to be one of the most varied skiing areas in Austria. Fieberbrunn’s motto is “Easy up – wild down”, and this freeriding hotspot certainly offers some fantastic steep and deep descents. The best skiers go up to the Wildseeloder at 2118 m. It’s a 70 degree slope at the top – so you almost take off! It takes under a minute to descend to the Wildalmen, which is a good 600 meters drop in altitude. You can watch them at the Freeride World Tour on 7th March.

Getting around
The Regiobus service that travels up and down the valley is free with a guest card. There’s also a train service through the Kitzbüheler Alps that runs from Hochfilzen to Wörgl.

Where to stay
For information on hotels and other accommodation: www.pillerseetal.at

The resort
Kitzbühler Alpen – PillerseeTal Dorfplatz 1, 6391 Fieberbrunn info@pillerseetal.at, +43 5354-56304

Sölden

Sölden in the Ötztal is little more than an hour’s drive from Innsbruck airport. Daniel Craig filmed Spectre here for release back in 2015, so the resort is now indelibly associated with the slick and sophisticated image of 007. This was the first time a James Bond movie was filmed in the Tirol, even though author Ian Fleming lived in Kitzbühel during the 1920s.

The resort’s skiing image is as impeccable as that of the master spy. The Rettenbach and Tiefenbach glaciers go up to a heady 3340 m and are among the best developed in Austria. The resort is also home to some exceptionally long runs. One of them, from the Schwarze Schneid (3340 m) to the bottom of the Gaislachkogl lift (1370 m) is 15 km long and drops through a muscle-melting 1970 vertical metres.

The presence of the two glaciers here also ensures guaranteed snow-cover for much of the year. Skiing continues outside the main winter months and the first European races of the FIS Word Cup are here each autumn. This year, they will take place from October 25 to 27. From mid of November, all 31 lifts will be in action, with an uphill capacity of 70,000 skiers per hour. 144 km of pistes cater for everyone from complete beginners to experts.

Some 30 huts and restaurants offer everything from a beer to a gourmet lunch. iceQ on the Gaislachkogl (up at 3058 m) is the most famous of these. If the impressive glass cube looks familiar, that’s because it featured as the Hoffler Klinik in Spectre. Nearby is also the setting for 007 Elements, a series of galleries and tunnels inside the mountain with movie and interactive displays dedicated to the world of James Bond.

There’s also a new gondola opening for this winter and linking Hochsölden with Rotkogl, replacing the old chair-lift. Passengers can now reach the Giggijoch ski area in under six minutes. Skiing and 007 apart, Sölden is essentially a party town with a vibrant aprèsski culture. It is also home to music festivals, including the Electric Mountain Festival which takes place at the beginning of April.

Getting there
There are regular international flights to Innsbruck. Trains take you to the Ötztal station at the entrance to the valley, and there are taxis and buses to bring you to Sölden.

Where to stay
For information on hotels and other accommodation: booking.soelden.com

The resort
Ötztal Tourism, Gemeindestraße 4, 6450 Sölden, info@oetztal.com +43 572 00-200

Hohe Salve

Hohe Salve is a mountain region at the heart of one of the largest linked ski areas in Austria. SkiWelt Wilder Kaiser – Brixental has a mighty 284 km of groomed runs served by 90 lifts. At the heart of it all is a scenic 1828 m mountain dominated by the pretty little chapel of St John, which dates back to the 16th century. In summer it’s a popular wedding venue.

From the adjacent mountain restaurant, you have 360-degree views of 70 peaks of 3000 m or more. It’s the starting point for some glorious descents down to the SkiWelt villages of Söll and Itter, and more directly to the market town of Hopfgarten. With its 18th-century twin-towered church, cobbled alleyways and ancient stone buildings, the town makes a delightful and convenient base for a family holiday.

The Kids Club Hohe Salve accepts children aged one to three years old and is located at the main lift station, while there a choice of two ski schools – Hopfgarten and Alpin – for lessons for older children. There are nursery slopes on the edge of the village, and easy pistes are reached from the top lift station. Après-ski begins in the mountain huts long before the lifts close for the day and then continues into the evening down in the resort.

Photo: Christian Kapfinger

The nearby village of Kelchsau provides a more tranquil base in the Hohe Salve. Its 16km of pistes are served by four lifts and make an ideal family playground. The village is also a popular centre for skitouring. If you are visiting the region, it’s easy to explore further afield on skis. The giant ski area includes the villages of Going, Ellmau, Scheffau, Westendorf, and Brixen im- Thale. With an extended lift pass, it’s even possible to link from Westendorf to the 185km of skiing in the Kitzbühel area. But first a word of advice: distances are huge. Make sure you allow enough time to return to your accommodation before the lifts close for the day.

Where to stay
For information on hotels and other accommodation: www.hohe-salve.com

The resort
Kitzbühler Alpen – holiday region Hohe Salve, Innsbrucker Straße 1, 6300 Wörgl, info@hohe-salve.com, +43 57507-7000  

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