If the world-famous Hahnenkamm World Cup Men’s downhill race didn’t exist, Kitzbühel would still be loved for its enchanting and historic medieval town and excellent ski mountain.
- The medieval old town filled with excellent restaurants and bars.
- Picturesque views across valleys.
- A lively atmosphere any time of year.
- Due to its low altitude there are some lovely tree-lined runs.
- An extensive and varied amount of terrain that all levels of skiers will enjoy.
- A good range of hotels to suit all budgets.
- Due to its low altitude the snow can be variable.
- Accommodation gets booked up well in advance for the Hahnenkamm race week, which is staged in mid-late January.
- The town is fairly spread out and there’s a lack of accommodation right near the slopes.
- If the nursery slopes at the base of the Hahnenkamm are closed beginners lessons usually take place on the Horn, a smaller mountain on the other side of town.
Kitzbühel is a magical place. Unlike many other quaint and peaceful Austrian ski villages, Kitzbühel is a vibrant and busy town, but one whose center is blessed with medieval architecture, car-free cobble-stone streets and a great variety of hotels, bars and restaurants.
Fortunately it also boasts a wonderful ski resort; one that can not only be enjoyed by skiers of all standards but more famously plays host to the most highly anticipated race each year, the Hahnenkamm men’s downhill. With its twists, banking turns, flats and jumps it’s one of the most difficult in the World Cup circuit, so it’s not surprising that Kitzbühel becomes one monster party as more than 70,000 spectators descend on the town. The run, which extends from the top of the gondola down the Streif course to the town, is closed to skiers until the race is over (usually mid-late January). After then, any punter can try their hand at the course and, given how steep it gets in places, appreciate how truly terrifying it must be at speeds of up to 130km/h.
Unfortunately, the one thing Kitzbühel is stuck with is its altitude. It’s pretty low (800m) and this often results in some fairly ordinary snow conditions. When Scout arrived in mid-February 2014, which to be fair was a sub-par snow year across a great deal of Europe, most of the ground and lower slopes were grass. We went to sleep to the sound of rain and when we woke it was a winter paradise – up to 20 inches had fallen up top, and given how dire the conditions had been the day before, we were pleasantly surprised to find some excellent powder stashes. So you might just get lucky with the snow, even with little about. If you aren’t then there’s certainly plenty to do around town that will keep you occupied and happy.
Kitzbühel resort is a vast ski area with 170km of groomed slopes and 32km of off-piste routes that connect several villages; the biggest being Jochberg and Kirchberg. Thanks to some pretty fast lifts and a relatively new gondola stretching across a wide valley, it’s easy to ski the different areas in one day and makes for some excellent touring around. The mountain and ski map can be a bit confusing at first – lifts are grouped by letters based on their location. But once you start to find your way around there’s some awesome skiing and boarding to be had. One of the great things about the runs is that there is often an easy and a hard way down, meaning groups of varying abilities don’t have a hard time riding the same lifts together.
Most visitors staying in Kitzbühel will catch the Hahnenkamm gondola from town and then continue to travel up to ski the Pengelstein area. There are some awesome, long, tree-lined runs down to Kirchberg and the smaller villages of Aschau and Skirast while the further away areas of Wurzhöhe, (connected to Pengelstein by the impressive 3S gondola) Bärenbadkogel and Resterhöhe areas are sunny and less crowded. Just make sure you leave enough time to get back across the valley if you’re staying at Kitzbühel.
Advanced skiers will find some great steep skiing under the Steinbergkogel and Ehrenbachöhe lifts and plenty of other stashes of powder off-piste. There’s endless terrain to keep all levels of intermediates happy, including on the Kitzbüheler Horn side of the mountain. There’s a beginner nursery with free lifts in town at the base of the Hahnenkamm so given it’s so low it’s prone to poor snow conditions. When there’s no snow, beginner lessons are taken up on Kitzbüheler Horn and it has some great intermediate slopes to progress to – the drawback of the Horn being its location away from the main slopes. In summary Kitzbühel is not ideal for beginners.
Given how spread out Kitzbühel is it doesn’t make for the easiest destination for families. Added to this is the location of the nursery slopes at the bottom of the mountain. This means that if your kids are first-timers you’ll be hot-tailing it all the way back down the mountain any time you need to check on them. This disadvantage can be balanced by the fact two of the lifts at the nursery slopes there are free. Jochberg, which also has a free lift, would be a convenient place for families to stay considering it has some good nursery slopes right in the center.
However, if your kids are more advanced and you don’t mind a bit of a schlep to the slopes, you’ll find Kitzbühel a memorable and magical place for a family ski vacation, especially since there are plenty of side activities to keep them occupied after the lifts close.
Kitzbühel has a wide variety of hotels catering to all sorts of budgets. We found that location doesn’t always dictate price and there are even some within walking distance to the Hahnenkamm Gondola that won’t break the bank. You will want to pick your accommodation carefully as some are less convenient to the town and slopes and there are several that will require a shuttle bus to get anywhere. It’s also worth noting that the gondola base is up a small hill, so that needs to be factored in when understanding walking distances.
There are plenty of styles to choose from, including traditional 4 and 5 star or luxurious, modern design hotels as well as chalets and self-catered accommodation.Search Hotels and Deals Get your
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Kitzbühel is a shopaholic’s paradise, particularly if you’re after beautiful clothes, including traditional Austrian costumes. We discovered one shop selling the most beautifully made kids clothes and nearly found ourselves buying leather lederhosen for our nephew, until we saw the price tag of well over €100. But there are plenty of other options if costumes aren’t your thing, and shops that will cater to every budget.
Beyond shopping, eating and drinking (which Kitzbühel also caters well to) there are the usual side activities of snowshoeing, cross-country, ice-skating (including on a natural ice lake), ice hockey, curling and sledging (sledding).
There’s also an excellent Aquarena with wellness facilities such as a swimming pool, saunas and massages.
Kitzbühel is easy to get to with the closest major airports being Innsbruck and Salzburg, just an hour’s drive away, or Munich which is two. Each one also has direct train links.
The majority of the town, while spread out, is relatively easy to walk around. If you’re choosing a hotel that’s a little out, make sure it has a shuttle bus as taxis are quite expensive and the bus system not that convenient. There are free shuttle buses that circle around the main part of town.
The number of days that Kitzbühel is open depends on the season – on average it is open for skiing for 155 days. In an effort to sway people away from worrying about the snow conditions, the resort goes to great lengths to talk about how cold and long the season is, and that members of the Austrian ski team train in Kitzbühel.
Some lifts open at the start of November and the resort operates until the beginning of May, conditions permitting.
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