The Austrian Alps are arguably one of the best places for anyone who enjoys wintersports, and are definitely top ranking when it comes to quality of ski resorts. With the availability of the COVID-19 vaccines and the impressive efforts made by the Austrian skiing resorts to ensure that they can open the hopes are high for a proper 2020 season albeit without the après-ski. To commemorate these efforts we have made an analysis of two of the very best skiing resorts Austria has to offer.
To make sure the list is not based upon personal bias, we have chosen to follow the 18 point criteria system by Skiresort.info. The system gives all 18 criteria receive a score of 1 to 5 with 5 expectations that are valued double to account for their importance to a ski resort, these being
- The ski resort size
- The slope offering and variety of runs
- Lifts & cable cars
- Snow reliability
- Slope preparation
Besides these factors, all other criteria get a 1 to 5 star score to come to a total score that will be divided by the total possible score tot come to a final rating for each resort. The other factors that make up our rating are:
- Accessibility and parking
- Orientation on site
- Cleanliness and hygiene
- Environmentally friendly skiing operations
- Friendliness of staff
- Mountain restaurants & ski huts
- Accommodation offerings directly at the slopes and lifts
- Options for Families and children
- Advanced skiers, freeriders
- Snow parks
- Cross-country skiing and trails
So without further with ado, lets take a look at our favorite resorts for the 2020 season
At number 1 is the Kitzbühel/Kirchberg ski resort. With 181km of slopes and an additional 52km of marked routes this resort is not the biggest in Austria nor the highest at 2000m at its peak. So why is it at the top of our list? Simple, this is one resort that has no flaws. Based upon the 18 test criteria Kitzbühel scores no lower than a 4 on only 3 out of the 18 categories, this reflects on the incredible infrastructure and the quality of the village itself.
So what are the drawbacks one might experience when visiting Kitzbühel. Realistically there are none, what can be said however is that the apres-ski, access and parking and the friendliness of the staff are not quite the top of the range but still are at no point to be considered bad, just not quite at the top.
The first topic to discuss would be the accessibility, using the autobahn it is easy to reach the resort although you do have to pay for the main parking area at the Hahnenkammbahn. For the other lifts starting at the base of the resort there is free parking and the additional option to take a bus from Munich or a train from Rosenheim to reach the resort. All in all this means that there are plenty of options to reach Kitzbühel, but none have a commute that is as easy as the other two picks on this list.
Après-ski is another factor where Kitzbühel scores high. Well known for a wide variety of options ranging from umbrella bars to full booked nightclubs there is no worry that you won’t be having a party when choosing Kitzbühel, yet there is one small drawback that can be hampering for those who enjoy a few pints after a days of skiing or snowboarding; and that is the limited amount of Après-ski that are in the actual village. Looking at the different bars in Kitzbühel you will come to find rather quickly that the majority of the establishments are found on the slopes themselves which can be a risk for those who want to drink some more or those that are new to the sport and can become a hazard for themselves and others.
At last comes the friendliness of the staff. We can be quick on this one, the staff is very friendly and more than willing to help you with anything or answer your questions. Being a busy resorts however one cannot overlook the fact that at times the staff, in particular those manning the lifts can feel a bit rushed and frustrated when rush hours start and end. Understandably a large crowd of inexperienced visitors can bring some frustration but it would be nice if this was less evident when being handled.
Comprised of the three villages that form the name that jointly form the name of our next entry on the list is Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis, a slightly larger resort than Kitzbühel and renowned for the variety of slope levels and above all the friendliness of the area to children. The only reason this resort did not outright win the competition is because of some it has slightly more flaws making it the runner-up on this list. So what shortcomings can be named in this otherwise great skiing resort? In this case there are 5 minor cases: accessibility, environmental friendliness, Après-ski, cross country skiing and Beginner slopes.
Following the order we start with the accessibility of the resort. Within the resort there is public transport and an underground train in each village to reach the first lifts, this is where you notice the first minor inconvenience as there is no direct connection between villages except for a single lift connection and a bus that passes all 3 villages. The resort itself is only accessible via a mountain pass that is close to a highway so the resort is fairly well accessible.
Another point that Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis does well but not quite as good as some others is the influence on the environment. On one hand this resort makes excellent use of locally sourced products and reduction of their carbon footprint. Contradicting this is the fact that the resort has made a greater impact on the local habitat of the Tyrol region with the realisation of new slopes and lifts costing some but not an excessive amount of vegetation in the area.
The Après-ski in the resort is a more complicated area of discussion. In the village Serfaus you will find a wide variety of some of the best Après-ski in Austria both on the slopes and in the village itself. Fiss also has a respectable Après-ski but not in the same extend as Serfaus. Ladis on the other hand has fewer locations than the former two and will generally see these establishments closing far earlier than their counterparts in the other villages.
Lastly we see the cross country skiing and the beginners slopes. This is again, not so much a weakness as a compromise for Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis as they do offer both but not in the quantity that some other resorts offer this. At about 18 km of checked routes the resorts has a relatively offering of cross country skiing, the large degradations in the slopes also mean that for beginners the amount of slopes they can realistically use safely is limited to only about 5 or 6 routes depending on what is counted as accessible for beginners.