Bad Gastein, Austria Ski Destinations

Bad Gastein, Austria Ski Resort Reviews

Bad Gastein has an almost dreamlike location. The once internationally famous spa town arises dramatically from the banks of a gorge, where a semi-frozen waterfall plunges into the River Ache, cascading past the old hotels that loom over the baroque town hall, casino and other venerable buildings.

There are four principal ski areas in the Gasteinertal (Gastein Valley). The lowest, Dorfgastein (830m), is connected with Grossarl in the next valley (but not with its own companions further up the valley). Bad Hofgastein (860m) is linked with Bad Gastein (1,080m), but once again Bad Gastein is not linked with its own satellite area, Graukogel, where a few of the steepest slopes are found. Even further up is Sportgastein (not linked), at 1,600m, a useful but moderately bland high-altitude ski area (though having challenging off-piste) that comes into its own during poor snow conditions lower down. There's an abundance of skiing, but due to the exasperating prospect of bussing - or driving - between some of the resorts, it's better to ski one area at a time. If you include the extensive off-piste on Bad Gastein's 2,245m Stubnerkogel and Bad Hofgastein's 2,050m Schlossalm, there's more than enough terrain for all.

Bad Gastein SBX - Markus Schairer AUT Ludovic Guillot-Diat FRA Rok Rogelj SLOCredit: Wikimedia Commons

The Aeroplanstadl ski hut, just on top the Schlossalm mid-station over the Hohe and Kleine Scharte, features home-made dishes (game and pork specialities) and milk straight from the cows on its own farm. The Feldinghutte, near Bad Hofgastein's Skizentrum, also utilizes its own farm produce. The Achen Cafe at the Europaischer Hof hotel has a sun terrace where you can savor coffee and home-made cakes. Skiers taking a break at the snow bar at the Hotel Pyrkerhohe at Bad Hofgastein can enjoy a splendid view across the Gasteinertal - and catch a glimpse of some bird life: the briny downhill slope is an ornithological nature trail for bird watchers.

There's a snow park for boarders in Grossarl, on the flip side of Dorfgastein, near the Kreuzkogel (No.9) run, featuring a half-pipe and two quarter-pipes.

Besides enjoying traditional winter activities like snowboarding, skiing, ice-skating, ice-climbing, curling, walking (there are 100km of winter hiking trails), tobogganing and sleigh rides, you may also prefer to indulge in some of the resort's spa treatments. Heated indoor and outdoor pools abound, six indoor tennis courts, squash, and horse-riding at the Oberhaitzing Farm. Floodlit tobogganing is popular here as well: the Aeroplanstadl-Bad Hofgastein run is 3.3km, and floodlit every Tuesday and Thursday.

Being a hotel-dominated ski resort, hotel restaurants tend to hog the limelight, while several visitors favor the Bahnhof restaurant. The food at the Arcotel Elisabethpark is excellent and the service professional, with the emphasis on local Salzburger specialities. The Hotel Mozart specializes in fondues, while in Bad Hofgastein the palatial five-star Grand Park is a behemoth of a place having serious culinary aspirations and prices to match. It's worth to drive the 3km round to eat at the cute Hotel Gruner Baum, built by Archduke John as a hunting lodge in 1831. The valley is presently a national park and the lodge and its village have been converted into a luxury hotel.

Bad Gastein's Belle Epoque ambience is, unfortunately, fading, but the casino and a few elegant tea rooms maintain the old-world order. For something a bit more up-to-date, the Silver Bullet bar at the Hotel Salzburger Hof has two bars and live music, the disco at the Gatz Music Club rocks until 4am, and Haegbloom's bar, which serves locally made schnapps, is a quite popular post-piste watering hole.

If you love spas, you will be in your element. The Arcotel Elisabethpark and the Wildbad, near the Stubnerkogelbahn ski lift, both have excellent thermal pools and wellness areas. The three-star Mozart, painted in imperial yellow, is set in the heart of Bad Gastein, while the Hotel Gruner Baum, practically a private village, is in a marvelously romantic setting 3km from town, with a regular bus back to the centre. The Cordial Sanotel is right next to Bad Gastein's famous waterfall and boasts an indoor pool.

Euro Youth Hotel And KroneCredit:

A lower cost accommodation option would be the Euro Youth Hotel And Krone hotel & hostel is situated in a wonderful alpine setting and is located just 100 meters from the train station on a main European line in the majestic town of Bad Gastein. This is among the regions where the emperors of Europe once used to relax and enjoy the fresh air and mountain views.  Rates start at $23 per person.