Give it a try if… You love ski resorts that offer a wide variety of slopes, landscapes and areas to explore.
Steer clear if… It is March, the sun is shining and temperatures would rather suggest a trip to the seaside.
Mention Kitzbühel to most avid skiers, and you will see their eyes shine. This Austrian resort, situated in Tyrol, is über-famous for the yearly World Cup competition on legendary piste Streif. Its slopes will live up to the highest expectations of any intermediate skier, but there is more to explore at short distance, like the surprising SkiWelt.
Roll up Your Sleeves
One of the hallmarks of skiing in Austria is the frequent possibility to sweep through multiple resorts on the same trip: if you are not a creature of habit, a short SkiBus or car ride can open up whole new worlds for you. That is what I experienced on the Kitzbüheler Alpen, a huge, lovely area I will certainly visit again and again. One first look at the whole map might give you a headache, just like you might get lost in the confusing pool of partly overlapping official websites – yet if you roll up your fleece sleeves and strive for orientation, I promise you will not regret it.
Do’s and Don’ts
To enjoy the many different facets of these resorts, check out tipsology’s Kitzbühel-Kirchberg-SkiWelt 2012 photo gallery on Flickr.
LOCATION – In this respect, as we Italians say, you really have “the embarassment of choice”. Less obvious locations than Kitzbühel may be quieter and even allow for easier transfers between the resorts. After doing some research I decided to stay in Kirchberg, but although it was good enough for me, I found the flaunted link to the SkiWelt via the Ki-West gondola a bit inconvenient – while the SkiBus to Brixen im Thale, which would make for a much faster connection, inexplicably only passes once an hour. There is so much of the area I still need to explore, but all in all I was left with the impression that Brixen might be a smarter choice.
LODGING – As usual in Austria, posting a request via the official websites is the best way to find a place to stay. After changing my reservation at the last minute (I found out that the landlord’s vague statements about transfers were cleverly devised to disguise that his house was actually in the middle of nowhere – do not forget to double check!) I went for Haus Stoecklbauer in Kirchberg, which I could not wholeheartedly advise: the good location, nice decor and perfect cleanliness are offset by hordes of screaming kids and poor breakfast, plus I frankly did not click with the owners and staff (lots of affected smiles, little actual care).
SKI RENTAL – I found a good deal booking online in advance through Snowell (try discount code stkd111211, hoping it has not expired in the meantime) . My skis for this week: Völkl Racetiger Speedwall SL (so amazing that I found a way to get the same exact ones in Lech).
SKIPASS – Buying the limited KitzSki pass really makes no sense when for a cheap upgrade you can get the amazing Kitzbüheler Alpen AllStarCard, gaining access to ten different resorts for a total of almost 1,100 Kilometres. Spending two subsequent weeks in different resorts of the area is a smart choice to get 13 skiing days at an affordable price.
SLOPES – I do not even know where to begin. In a week I could only explore about 60% of the combined slopes of Kitzbühel-Kirchberg and the SkiWelt. This was partly because of the slopes, which in my case offered a strange mix of ice and slush: I was confined on the mountain tops most of the time, so much so that I only came down the Streif once. This is a place where you definitely want to get informed about snow conditions before booking: most areas are at quite low altitudes, so in average seasons it might be safer to come in January or February. The upside is that there are many areas among the trees, which I personally love, especially since the actual pistes are interesting apart from the scenery (a bit like in Paradiski‘s Peisey-Vallandry area, but even better I’d say). Most slopes on top of Kirchberg are quite nice, don’t miss any of them. The middle area until the 3S cable-car is interesting, sometimes inspiring, while the 3S itself is long and boring; the next part up to the Zweithausender chairlift is a lot of fun – without forgetting to slide down to Jochberg, although the way back is so slow you can easily take a nap… then you get to that final area and it all somehow boils down to an indistinct frozen blob – a bit of a disappointment, especially considering the long time it takes to get there, not to mention the temperature and snow conditions, which in my case were the most impeccable of the whole area in an unusually warm week. I could not get down to Hollersbach, nor did I visit the Kitzbüheler Horn; I was eager to explore the SkiWelt, which undoubtedly was a good idea. The whole part from the top of Ki-West to Brixen, including all the way down to Westendorf, is worth exploring inch by inch; I loved it, wept on it (courtesy of Sinéad O’Connor’s latest album), and I can’t wait to ski there again. Beyond that, the first trip to the core of the SkiWelt can be disorienting – many slopes, long connections, lots of queues in my case – but a little practice is all it takes to start enjoying its most entertaining areas. I found Söll a little too gentrified, nor did the slopes impress me. But a ride up to the Zinsberg reveals the gate to several scattered gems, surrounded by much fewer people, up to the gorgeous slopes around the Hartkaiser, which was as far as I got for this year.
RESTAURANTS – You can easily find good traditional food in the on-piste restaurants, but no place really stood out for me. The Seidlalm in Kitzbühel is quite nice on a cold day, and the Sonnalm (near the Zweitausender) has a wonderful terrace; the Keatalm in Söll is a clearly mass-market option, but food was much better than I would have thought.
APRES-SKI – …what?
UPS Score (Utmost Perfection Scale): 8.5/10 + wow!
Explore tipsology’s Kitzbühel-Kirchberg-SkiWelt 2012 photo gallery on Flickr.
Read a post with general advice on the area – Skiing in Austria: Magical.