Ski and Snowboarding Destinations in Kitzbühel, Austria

Kitzbühel, Austria Ski Resort Review

The magnificent old walled town of Kitzbuhel, having its exquisite medieval architecture, pastel-painted houses and cobbled streets, has almost everything going for it except altitude and - apart from the fearsome Streif downhill on the Hahnenkamm - anything in the way of serious challenges. Neither its altitude (troublesome) nor its outstanding center (stunning) are going to change, and aficionados put up with one to enjoy the other. However in recent years, having drastically broadened its snowmaking facilities, 'Kitz' has done unexpectedly well with its snow cover. There's a lot of good intermediate skiing with marvelous ambience.

Kitzbühel ChairliftCredit: Flickr photo by mahmut

The primary attraction, which most visitors are keen to try part or all of at least once throughout their stay, is the famous 'Safari' route to Pass Thurn, the highest portion of the ski area, which often guarantees good snow. Like most major ski circuits, there's an Achilles' heel. In Kitzbuhel's case, it's double: you have to take a taxi for a shortish distance to get to Jochberg, and you must get a bus - typically cramped - home from Pass Thurn.  The safari is decidedly worth doing, although in one's decision to reach Pass Thurn good runs tend to be ignored on the way. These are worth noting for future outings. Depending on conditions, most if not all of the Streif run will be open to the public. Much of it is quite easy, but there are short, phenomenally steep sections that require expert skills just to stay upright. The separate ski area at Kitzuheler Horn, accessed by gondola from near the station and having slopes up to just under 2,000m, is worth at least one visit in a week.

For quick access, the Hochkitzbuhel, a modern waitress-service restaurant, is within easy walking distance of the top of the Hahnenkammbahn gondola, although inevitably it's a bit pricey. There's a sun terrace, an umbrella bar and even a cable-car museum in the complex. The Bergrestaurant Pengelstein is also recommended. When you do the Safari, you'll want something fast, simple and good just to refuel: the Kasereckhutte, which you'll pass soon after leaving Pengelstein for Jochberg, is perfectly situated and so is the Bruggeralm with a splendid terrace. Down in Jochberg there's a selection of restaurants around the base area close to the Wagstatt lift before you carry on with your journey. Options increase as you get to the final stages. Skiers and boarders may find a conflict of interests here: they will be in a hurry to get to the finish and find seats on the bus, but likewise tired and in need of a break. There are seven restaurants along the last stretch between Barenbadkogel and Pass Thurn. The most dramatic views are offered from Panorama-Aim, with two 'snow-bars' on the shoulder of Zweitausender, at 2,004m the highest lift-served point in Kitzbuhel's ski area.

On Kitzuheler Horn, this is where the special snowboard area, complete with half-pipe and boardercross track, is rated. There's a PA system and on-mountain bars, and you can clock your speed on the radar course. Access is from the cable-car and Brunellenfeldlift. The area includes a few evocatively named features: Rollercoaster, Leathal (sic) Exit, Rattlesnake, Devil's Head, Lunch Tray, Washing Machine, Vicious Radiu, Rattle Back and Survivor's Zone. Canyon Pipe, the permanent half-pipe, is 100m long, 15m wide and is up to 3.5m high. Sections of the Hahnenkamm and Bichlalm, a small but perfectly formed satellite area, are likewise popular.

In the center of Kitzbühel in the Austrian Tirol is the SnowBunnys BackPackers Hostel which is close to all restaurants, bars, nightclubs  and caters to the younger, budget oriented ski holiday tourist.

This walled town center is a treat, especially if there's snow on the ground. But as an international winter resort, there's little Kitzbuhel doesn't offer up in the way of extra-curricular activities. The list is predictable but welcome: bobsleigh, cross-country, curling, skating, ski-jumping, night-skiing and tobogganing, indoor horse-riding, sleigh rides, snowshoeing, hot-air ballooning, parapenting, and three indoor tennis courts. The big 'wellness' pool-and-thermal attraction is the Aquarena with two waterslides, a sauna area with steam and Turkish baths, solarium and mud baths.

The Hotel Tennerhof's restaurant is on the expensive side but highly acclaimed. The Unterberger Stuben, with a sun terrace and wonderful garden, features authentic, unadulterated Tirolean dishes in huge portions. For more modest but no less tasty fare, the bustling Barrique in central Hinterstradt serves up first-rate Italian treats. Bar Chizzo, just outside the gated town centre entrance in Josef-Herold Strasse, has a reputation for good-value, wholesome Austrian food in cozy surroundings.

During weekends - particularly the Hahnenkamm weekend - the nightlife is boisterous. There's a casino for high-rollers (and 60 slot machines for low-rollers) at the Goldener Greif Hotel, plus dainty tea parlor for families, including the famed Cafe Praxmair. But if you like noisy pubs and want to drink where the Hahnenkamm racers celebrate (or drown their sorrows), the only place to be is the Londoner, still going strong with live music and lashings of beer. Otherwise you could drop into the Drop In Pub in Rathausplatz with terrace and cocktails or Jimmy's or the Sportscafe in Jochbergstrasse, which also has internet access. Although Kitzbuhel is a serious party town, you may also want to venture along for an evening in nearby Kirchberg, which is about 6km away, that claims one of the most vibrant apres-ski bars in the Alps: the London Pub.

For tourists who prefer a place that is lively, Alpenrider Chalet is a good choice. It is in Kirchberg, a village 4km from Kitzbühel but all the same ski area as Kitzbühel.  Run by a friendly team, solely catering for boarders and skiers that come from all corners of the globe.  The laid back ambiance welcomes travelers coming through the area. They can feel safe and at home at all times. Guests can ski or snowboard within 50 meters out the back door when staying at this hostel.

Top accommodation is the Tennerhof, a luxuriously converted barn with prices to match. The Hotel Tiefenbrunner is first-rate without being pretentious. Nearby is the Zur Tenne, just about as central as you are able to get, and having a great restaurant where you can watch the crowds as they stroll up and down the main Vorderstadt. Cheaper but recommended guesthouse/B&B accommodation that will get you on to the ski slopes in no time includes the three-star Pension Rosengarten close to the Hahnenkammbahn (main gondola station) and the three-star Pension Rainhof, right next to the Kitzbuheler Horn cable-car across the valley.

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