This Little Austrian Ski Resort Might Be Your Perfect Winter Escape

16 May 2015
Read Time: 2.8 mins

This small Tyrolean village sits at just under 1,000 metres at the bottom of a long valley of the same name, overlooked by the 1,899-metre Gratlspitz mountain.

Since the arrival in 2012 of an eight-person gondola linking the Alpbach side of the resort with the Wildschonau valley, Alpbach has become part of the Ski Juwel area, which incorporates the resorts of Reith, Oberau and Niederau, whose 145 kilometres of runs make it one of the largest areas in the Tyrol.

Amid the timber-clad chalets and dark green spruce trees, you may come across a plaque announcing that you are entering the most beautiful village in Austria – and it’s spot on.

Farmhouses dot the slopes, for this is a working village of more than 100 farms, and you might end your ski run next to a pile of fresh manure or find that your ski instructor works as a dairy farmer in summer.

 Unspoiled Alpbach (Image: Getty)

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The Choice Of Generations

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In the 1970s, the village introduced laws requiring that every new building be constructed in traditional stone-and-wood style. And that’s a clue as to why most people come here – the relaxed pace and great scenery.

Skiers tend to get up the mountain by 9am, have lunch at about noon and head off the slopes at about 3pm.

Loyalty to Alpbach is very high: it’s the resort of choice for generations of a small number of British skiers. One veteran said: “I’ve been coming here every year for 27 years. It’s friendly, it’s welcoming, and you get great food and skiing. Why would I want to go anywhere else?”

Ski lift. On the ski lift. Photo: Alamy

There are three gondolas: the Pöglbahn and Wiedersbergerhornbahn for the Alpbachtal side, and the gondola up to the Schatzberg, the highest peak on the Wildschönau side at 1,898 metres.

Lifts are fast with short queues, and pistes are well-marked and generally quiet.

And once you get up the mountain, there’s a diversity of options: there are steeper slopes on the Alpbachtal side and the more cruisey Wildshönau side is good for leisurely afternoons, with nursery slopes, jump parks and cross-country routes.


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You Might Not Dance On Tables But Apres Ski Is Lively

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The pistes at Reith are floodlit three times a week.

The area is best suited to intermediate skiers. Some of the 78 kilometres of reds are fantastic, offering descents of almost one kilometre from peak to valley floor.

But skiers should bear in mind that what’s classed as a red on the Alpbachtal side is considered a black across the valley. There’s a handful of black runs (18 kilometres in total) under the Wiedersbergerhorn. Book skiing or snowboarding lessons with Skischule Alpbach.

A good place to hire equipment is Conny’s in the village.

There’s about 70 kilometres of walking tracks, including a panoramic trail along both sides of the valley, passing waterfalls, woods and farmhouses.

Ski Lodge in Alpbach. Ski Lodge in Alpbach. Photograph: Neil Beer/Getty Images

You won’t be dancing on tabletops, but Alpbach’s apres ski is lively enough. Head off the slopes to bars such as Umbrella Six or Joe’s Salettl, or to friendly village bars like Post Alm or the Jakober Irish pub, which have live music evenings, or Waschkuchl for Wednesday karaoke.

Restaurants in the village are affordable.

Boglalm is a cosy mountain hut famous for its spit-roasted chicken that you have to order 24 hours in advance and Grostl, an Austrian hash of beef or bacon fried in a huge iron pan with herbs and potatoes.

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A Rustic Meal Sums Up The Retro Charm

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Higher up, Hornboden has a panoramic sun terrace and, on the Schatzberg side, popular Gipfö Hit serves traditional Tyrolean dishes such as Knödel (spinach dumplings), Käsespätzle (cheesy noodles), and Germknödel, a sweet yeast dumpling.

Walk up the mountain behind Alpbach to the Zottahof restaurant for Kaiserschmarrn – torn strips of sweet omelette served with stewed fruit and washed down with fresh farm milk. It’s a rustic meal that sums up Alpbach’s retro charm.

 There are walking tracks too (Image: Getty)

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The nitty-gritty

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  • Alpbach has 145 kilometres of pistes, 47 lifts, highest altitude 2,030 metres
  • Good for traditional feel and easy access
  • Lift pass (six-day): adult €211 (A$300); child €105 (A$150)
  • Beer: €4 (A$5.75)
  • Runs: 1 green, 34 blue, 13 red, 18 black
  • Limitations: The village isn’t right on the slopes, but free buses make the 10-minute trip to the gondolas.
  • Getting there: Innsbruck airport is an hour by car, and Salzburg, Munich and Bolzano less than two. Or take the overnight train from London to nearby Worgl.

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Visit your local Flight Centre store or call 131 600 for more travel advice and the latest travel deals.

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This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk

This article was written by Jessica Aldred from The Guardian and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Jessica Aldred

Jessica Aldred is the deputy and production editor of theguardian.com/environment and writes on wildlife and conservation. She has worked at the Guardian in a range of roles covering news, sport, arts and public sector since 2002. You can follow her on Twitter @j_aldred.