Skiing anywhere in the alps is a true bucket list experience and one of the most beautiful places in the world to do that is in Austria. You may not think of it first, you may instead think of France or Switzerland for your ski adventure, but I urge you to consider Austria.
What months can you ski in Austria?
The ski season in Austria lasts from early December to late March. You can find a small number of ski resorts that keep their lifts open all year. Those are usually situated on glaciers near Italy. The best conditions for skiing in Austria are in mid-January. But, this will also be the coldest time of the year. If you can wait till late February then you'll be rewarded with plenty of sun.
Unsurprisingly, the slopes get the most crowded from December the 25th until January the 2nd. It may be too crowded to actually enjoy the slopes. But also be aware that ALL of February is crowded because of school vacations. If you want to avoid crowds the best times are early December, mid-January and late March.
Where to Ski in Austria?
If you're a beginner then you should stick to the smaller resorts, and one of the best (and prettiest) villages in Austria to ski is Alpbach. It's only a 40 minute drive from the Innsbruck airport and again, absolutely great for beginners. Alpbach is also a great value for money and prices are pretty low (for Austria). A Six-day lift pass runs around €220. The height of the slopes run from 670 meters to 2,025 meters, there are 46 lifts and they make about 70% of their snow.
If you consider yourself an intermediate check out Saalbach-Hinterglemm-Fieberbrunn ski area. The slopes range from 830 meters to 2,095 meters and there are 70 lifts. They make about 90% of the snow. This great ski area is only a 90-minute drive from Salzburg airport. Saalbach is actually the larger of two villages that are close to the slopes and there's a charming city center with cafés, bars, boutiques and hotels. The other nearby village is Hinterglemm and is much more peaceful and a better bet for families.
If you're an expert on the slopes then the best skiing in Austria is at St. Anton. Do beware this area is not for the faint-hearted. Do not take expert lightly! The village itself is 1300 meters up and the highest lift drops you 2800 meters up. You shouldn't be surprised to see waist-high moguls and intense conditions. There are 87 lifts here and snow coverage is usually pretty reliable.
What to Pack for a Ski Trip to Austria
Packing for a ski trip can feel overwhelming, especially if it's your first time. Here's a short guide that will help you remember all the essentials so you don't find yourself on the mountain freezing. This ski packing list covers all the basics for skiing and snowboarding in any weather and also what you may need off the mountain for Apres-ski gatherings!
Ski Essentials - Tops
The key to staying warm while skiing is layers. As the day gets hotter, and you build up a sweat crushing those black diamonds, you can peel off the layers and stay cool.
Your first layer should be a base layer the wicks away sweat. I would pack one base layer for every 1-2 days of skiing. Your base layer (or thermal underwear) is basically your second skin. It should fit snug but comfortably - it shouldn't chafe or be baggy. The best fabric for a base layer or thermal underwear is merino wool or any synthetic wool fiber. This fabric absorbs any moisture (like sweat) away from your skin while also preventing heat loss. Most importantly, cotton is a bad option for base layers and thermal underwear. It gets wet and stays wet (and cold) all day long - which will make you uncomforable and cold.
On top of the base layer you want a mid-layer made of flannel, down or fleece that insulates you and will keep you warm. Many shells (those are next) have a mid-layer built in. Keep in mind that without a shell, a mid-layer is useless, but without a mid-layer, you’ll never be able to trap and conserve body heat.
I love the retro fleeces that Obermeyer is putting out right now. A big plus is you'll be easily spotted on the mountain.
Finally, for the top layer you want a waterproof shell. These are usually made of Gortex or a similar waterproof material. For skiing and snowboarding, they must be wind and waterproof.
As you can see I linked a lot of Obermeyer products. I highly recommend this brand and actually most of my gear is from them. Not only is the quality fantastic but Obermeyer comes in gorgeous and fashionable styles so you don't look like the Michelin man on the mountian. Plus, their clothes are super affordable, while also being built to last.
Also, ladies, don't forget to pack an awesome sports bra that is made for sports. I'm not saying I don't love the occasional fancy cute sports bra for my Zumba class. But, for skiing/snowboarding you want one with support and made with fabric to wick away sweat (again not cotton). Personally, I love Nike.
Ski Essentials - Bottoms
Again you will want to start with a base layer on your legs. This will wick away sweat and keep you nice and cool. On top of your base layer you can add another round of fleece leggings or warm sweats.
Finally, you'll want waterproof ski pants. I'm obsessed with my white pants from Obermeyer because they make this Miami girl look like she grew up around the chic Austrian ski slopes.
Ski Essentials - Hands, Feet, Head, and More
Depending on how cold it is, you'll want a ton of extra accessories to keep you warm. Here's everything I suggest bringing starting at the top and working down.
- Knit Hat - Pack a thin one to put under your helmet on the slopes (yes, you should be wearing a helmet). Also pack a thick stylish one for nights out.
- Goggles - They should fit not only your face but your helmet. You also want to look for ones that are polarized to protect your eyes from the reflection of the sun on the snow. Mine are Zeal Optics and are awesome.
- Neck Gaiter - These keep your face from getting wind burnt - yes that's a thing. They also keep your neck warm so you don't have to wear a bulky scarf.
- Gloves/Mittens - They should be waterproof and very insulating. Hands and feet are the first things to get frostbitten so make sure you cover them up. Gloves, while sometimes more convenient, are not as warm as mittens.
I love and recommend the brand Hestra.
- Hand warmers - It may sound like over kill, but you'll thank me when you're on the mountain and don't have to pay $4 for a single pair.
- Socks - Consider buying ski-specific socks because they will be tall enough for the ski boots, thin enough that they don’t cut off circulation in your foot (more of a problem for skiers than boarders), and still thick enough to keep your toes warm. My favorite brand right now is Bombas.
- Shoes - Although you'll mostly be wearing your ski/snowboard boots on the mountain the second you're done for the day you'll want them off. I wear Altra running shoes because they offer a bit of grip and protection walking the snowy streets while also being stylish enough to wear to bars. I get a lot of questions on my Instagram about the black sneakers I wear, they are Women's Solstice from Altra.
Other Ski Trip Essentials
- Fanny pack - It may sound... interesting... but a fanny pack is one of the best ways to carry all of the extra stuff you may need while on the mountain. Plus, being retro is so in style right now.
- Sunscreen - You will get burnt on the slopes. Use protection!
- Lip Balm
- Water Bottle - I prefer Igloo because it keeps your beverage hot or cold all day!
- Tiger Balm (or Icy hot) for aching muscles. I'm a big fan of the patches that you apply directly to your body.
- Ginger Chews - they help with altitude sickness
So now that we’ve gone over all the things you need for an enjoyable ski trip, you have to think about the aprés ski, which in most ski towns is just as important as the actual skiing portion of your day! Remember to pack comfy outfits, a go-out-to-dinner outfit and a bar-hopping outfit. Also, so many ski resorts have hot tubs and heated pools so pack a bathing suit!
And of course, if you have any questions DO NOT hesitate to reach out to me via Instagram, Twitter, or just shoot me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org).