Top ski resorts in the Salzburg region
Mühlbach am Hochkönig is a resort situated 60 kilometers away from Salzburg. Although it may not be as well-known among foreign visitors as Zell am See or Kaprun, the quality of the slopes is in no way inferior to them.
If you take a look at the ski lift plan, you will notice that it connects the nearby resorts of Dienten and Maria Alm. You can get an excellent route from Mühlbach via Dienten to Maria Alm by choosing the right paths. This route will take you half a day there and half a day back, giving you a full day of intense skiing without ever going on the same track twice. The trails offer a diverse range of difficulty levels. Out of the 120 kilometers of trails, about 60 kilometers are blue, which are very wide and safe to ski on. There are also about 40 kilometers of red slopes and approximately 20 kilometers of black ones. Among these three villages, Maria Alm is the most touristic. Nearby, you can find the larger settlement of Saalfelden, which offers plenty of shops and leisure facilities. Mühlbach is a small village, and the buildings here are situated on steep slopes, making it impractical for walking. To get to the town of Bischofshofen, you can take a train from Salzburg and from there, either take a bus or taxi. Bischofshofen boasts a famous ski jumping stadium, various leisure facilities and shopping options.
If you plan to take your children skiing, I recommend choosing a smaller resort like Lofer. The ski tracks in Lofer are mostly designed for beginners, making it a great place for families with young children. You'll find a free rope lift at the lower station of the cable car, which is perfect for practicing before buying a ski pass and heading to the main ski area. Upstairs, you'll find a ribbon lift called "magic carpet", which is suitable for little skiers, and several fan parks with slides and pictures of fairy-tale characters. However, if you are an experienced skier, Lofer might not be challenging enough for you. The total length of the trails is 46 kilometers, with 31 kilometers being of easy difficulty (blue). One of the best things about Lofer is that the price of ski passes is lower than at larger resorts.Lofer is only 50 kilometers away from Salzburg, but getting there by public transport is not very convenient. Buses from Salzburg to Lofer run rarely, so it's better to go by car or book a transfer. It's also important to note that you will pass through Germany, and document control is possible. Close to Lofer is the Bavarian town of Bad Reichenhall, which has a beautiful city center and an excellent thermal complex called Rupertusthermen, which is a great place to visit with your children.
Another great resort for teaching children how to ski is Werfenweng. The resort offers flexible and affordable rates, making it an excellent choice for families with children. The beginner ski area includes a fun park with fairy-tale characters, small slides, slalom poles, an indoor ribbon lift, and three buggies that move at a moderate pace. The resort is located near Salzburg and can be reached within 45 minutes by car. The only downside, in my opinion, is that the primary ski area for experienced skiers is relatively small. However, the slopes are of moderate and challenging difficulty level, and the tracks are straight and fast. I highly recommend it to skiing enthusiasts looking for high-speed skiing!
If you're looking for a ski resort that offers more than just skiing, or if you have someone in your group who doesn't ski, then consider the Bad Gastein and Bad Hofgastein resorts. These resorts have a lot to offer, including thermal springs, wellness radon tunnels, and a suspension bridge with amazing views. There are also plenty of options for those looking for family-friendly hotels and apartments at reasonable prices, many of which are connected to the thermal springs.
The ski area is quite large, covering about 100 kilometers, with a good mix of red and blue trails. However, some of the family trails are quite narrow, which can make experienced skiers uncomfortable. With that said, the resort is a great option for families with children and elderly relatives. In addition to skiing, the area has excellent cross-country ski trails. For a change of scenery, I recommend spending a day skiing at the nearby Dorfgastein resort, which is just a 20-minute bus, train, or taxi ride away.
Between the two resorts, I think Bad Hofgastein is the more comfortable option. It's a larger town with a pedestrian zone that has plenty of shops and restaurants. The Alpentherme Gastein thermal complex here is also much larger than the Felsenthermen in Bad Gastein. However, if you prefer more modern facilities, then you might prefer the Felsenthermen as it is newer.
Bad Gastein is a charming historical town with a waterfall in the center and beautiful 19th-century architecture. The town is located at the foot of a mountain, which makes for picturesque views of the valley and the Alps from the hotels. However, keep in mind that if you prefer more relaxed cross-country walks, you'll have to deal with altitude differences here.
Finally, if you're wondering about transportation, Bad Gastein is just a 1.5-hour train ride from Salzburg or a 3.5-hour train ride from Munich (with a change in Salzburg). The distance between Bad Hofgastein and Bad Gastein is nine kilometers (4 miles), while Salzburg is 90 kilometers away and Venice is 330 kilometers away.
The Radstadt resort is a popular destination thanks to one of the longest toboggan slides in Austria. The path is separate from the ski slope, wide enough for overtaking, and features lighting in the evening. Sleighs can be rented on-site for 5 euros, with an additional 5 euro deposit. During the day, an elevator costs 18 euros for adults and 10 euros for children or is included with a multi-day ski pass for Ski Amade. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the toboggan run is open until 9:00 pm, with an evening fare that is slightly more expensive and paid separately. However, there are only 17 kilometers of ski slopes in Radstadt, so it may not be the best choice for those looking for a wide variety of skiing options.
A village called Zauchensee, located just 15 minutes away from Radstadt, is one of my favorite ski resorts. It offers vast, diverse, and well-maintained trails. The lifts are modern and the snow is usually well-preserved until noon. Once, I went to the Flachau resort and found the snow conditions to be poor, with many pits and mounds. However, after complaining at the ticket office, I was able to use the same ski pass to go to Zauchensee, where the snow was much better and there were fewer skiers. Zauchensee has a total length of 45 kilometers of ski slopes, but if you want more, you can take a free ski bus to the neighboring valley and explore the Flachauwinkl - Kleinarl - Flachau - Wagrain - Sankt Johann Im Pongau region, which offers even more options for skiing.
Kleinarl is a charming village situated in the Alpine valley of the Arles River. It has many hotels that offer spa treatments, traditional restaurants, hiking trails, and cross-country ski trails. The skiing area is vast, with lifts connecting Kleinarl to Flachau, Zauhensee, Wagrain and St. Johan in Pongau. Here, skiers of all levels can find a trail that suits their taste and skill.
Saalbach and Hinterglemm are beautiful villages that offer the best entertainment and nightlife. They frequently host open-air festivals featuring various types of music, making it ideal for young people. You can find the program of events in Saalbach-Hinterglemm by following the link. It takes about 1.5 hours by car from Salzburg Airport to Saalbach. Leogang is closer to Salzburg.
Obertauern is a decent ski resort in Austria that you can safely visit for a week. Though the lifts here are a bit old compared to Saalbach-Hinterglemm, the trails are exciting and varied. I usually go around the resort in a circle two times after 5-6 hours of intensive skiing, including lunchtime. The total length of the trails is 100 km, of which 60 km are blue. For those who love cross-country skiing, there is a 20-kilometer track at an altitude of about 1400 meters, where the snow remains excellent until the end of April even when the lifts close. You can practice touring skiing in Obertauern until mid-June when the snow tongues melt in the hollows. The town itself is situated at an altitude of 1100 meters and has plenty of bars and good restaurants. The resort is of average price, and the ski pass is cheaper than other larger resorts. It takes about an hour by car from Salzburg. However, please note that the road leading to Obertauern (Katschberg) runs among the mountains at a high altitude and is closed in the event of heavy snowfall.
It is famous as the filming location of the 1965 Beatles film "Help!". In addition, there are several iconic places with memorials of the group, where it is necessary to take a photo!
There are some beautiful trails in the Zillertal Arena located in Zell am Ziller, near Tyrolean Mayrhofen. You can feel the unprecedented scale of the trails and the quality of the cover and lifts there. I highly recommend it to everyone. If you're interested in skiing during the warmer months, you can head over to the Hintertux glacier. It's about 170 kilometers from Salzburg to Mayrhofen, so it's easily accessible.
Kitzbuhel, which is about 80 kilometers from Salzburg, is an exclusive resort with the highest price level. It offers a wide variety of trails with an approximately equal ratio in terms of difficulty. One of the highlights is the chance to test yourself on the orange track, where the annual Ski Alpin discipline is held - the Super G Slalom and Streif downhill. The total length of the trails is about 180 kilometers. The ski pass cost, food, and accommodation are among the highest in Austria, and discounts are rare. Despite being small, the town's center is lovely, designed in a single historical style. There are many fine dining restaurants and expensive boutiques, so it's definitely a place to go if you're looking for luxury.
I'm often asked about reliable resorts where snow is guaranteed to lie during the winter. In Salzburg, January usually begins with the heaviest snowfalls and temperatures dropping to -10 - 15 degrees Celsius. February is also a cold and snowy month. Since March, thaws start, but there is still excellent snow in the mountains. So, you don't have to worry about snow in winter at ski resorts in Austria.
Another common question is: what is the best month to go skiing in Austria? Based on my experience, I recommend the following periods: from the 15th of December before the Christmas holidays begin. The second half of January until the beginning of February. From the second week of February until the end of the month, there is a semester and school holidays, which increases the number of skiers on the slopes, making it difficult to book hotels. The whole month of March is an excellent time for skiing. By the beginning of April, it's already warming up, and you will have to climb higher and higher for regular snow.
If you visit during the offseason, you can practice all year round on the Kitzsteinhorn, Dachstein, Hintertux, and Stubai glaciers. However, keep in mind that during the summer months, the snow on the glaciers may start getting wet and less slippery as the day progresses. Therefore, it's recommended to hit the slopes early in the morning.