Who wouldn’t get excited to learn that over 1,700km of ski runs serve skiers in the province of Salzburg in winter and two glaciers (Kaprun and Dachstein) are accessible almost throughout the year. Winter enthusiasts delight in hundreds of cross-country trails and endless opportunities for snowshoe hikes, sleighing, horse riding, horse-drawn sleigh rides, ice-skating, climbing, curling and alpine bathing.
What must lure snow lovers is the kingdom of winter fun in less than 100km from Salzburg in the highest mountains of the Austrian Alps. Countless sporting opportunities and a variety of ski passes and cards are offered.
The Amadé Ski Region comprises five centres (Salzburger Sportwelt, Dachstein-Tauern, the Gastein Valley, Hochkönig Winterreich and Grossarl Valley). Although all 860km of the Amadé runs are not interconnected, a suitable resort can be found here. The Dachstein region, the most distant from Salzburg, attracts with its steepest slopes and leisure time on the glacier, the modest and oldest region, the Gastein Valley, combines a combination of snow fun and bathing – even nudist – in its spas.
From the poolside are perfect views of ski runs, the nearest alpine meadows and the famous local huts serving tea, mulled wine, sausages, cheese and strudel. This is where après ski usually begins before it hits the resorts below. The Europa Sport Region has 130km of runs above the lake in Zell am See and Kaprun. The first ever glacier opened for skiing in Austria in the beginning of the 1970s, the Kitzsteinhorn, attracts beginners to its mostly blue runs and fascinating views. To see all of the highest peaks, including the legendary Grossglockner, one walks through a 350m tunnel in the glacier. The panorama from the Glocknerkanzel terrace at the end of the tunnel is wonderful.
But from the top of the much lower Schmittenhöhe peak, easily accessible by cable car from Zell am See, the view is better and the Grossglockner is seen more clearly. It is no wonder that “Sisi”, the wife of Emperor Franz Josef, liked to climb the Schmittenhöhe. I discovered a lovely chapel here named after the princess. It is of the alpine style with a white interior, beautiful glass mosaics and a simple wooden ceiling.
Ski conditions are better on the Schmittenhöhe in December and January, but everyone heads for the Kitzsteinhorn in March and April. In summer one can ski on the glacier in the morning and water-ski or swim on the Lake Zell in the afternoon. The lake is used for skating, cross-country skiing, walking and many festivities and carnivals in winter.
Golf enthusiasts can try a winter alternative on a snow course at Kaprun. A special tournament is organised at the beginning of March each year. The more adventurous can join the groups of night skiers every Wednesday in winter, when they walk up the Maiskogel and ski down by the light of headlamps.
Skiers still searching for even more runs with an interconnected infrastructure can visit Saalbach (14km from Zell am See) to enjoy their winter fun in a ski “arena” with 270km of circuitous runs. The two main communities, Saalbach and Hinterglemm, provide many lifts and their famous après ski in numerous bars and discos. The runs finish at the community centre, thus making transport redundant throughout the stay. “The winter programme includes live concerts in the snow and night ski races to give visitors leisure and pleasure,” said an enthusiastic lady from Zell am See who prefers the Saalbach runs that bear the Harlequin emblem. Skiers with sufficient energy to take part in the Saalbach party nights will have found the right place.
Ski Amade: 25 locations, 860km of runs and 270 lifts, night skiing (1.5km of floodlit runs at the Achter Jet in Flachau), special carving stretches (Flachauwinkl-Kleinarl, Radstadt, Wagrain, Flachau Mogul), free-ride stretch (Zauchensee, St.Johann/Alpendorf, Flachauwinkl-Kleinarl), speed-ski (Flachauwinkl-Kleinarl), the Dachstein-Tauern provides a mogul run (Planai-Hochwurzen, Galsterbergalm, Hauser Kaibling and Reiteralm)