Ski South

The Prague Post

Austria and Italy Boast Good Snow, Great Skiing

The Czech Republic offers numerous winter fun opportunities. But being so centrally located means you are that much closer to many different skiing and other outdoor winter activities. Both Austria and Italy offer a wide range of activities, events, accommodations, you name it, for an entire season of icy cold fun.

Austria is a winter paradise. Quaint villages combined with top quality ski resorts make this a unique vacation on your own, with the family or as a romantic getaway. Ski amade is Austria’s biggest ski area, boasting 29 resorts and 800 kilometers of slopes. It covers the areas of Salzburg and Styria. You can purchase a single ski pass and have access to the resorts in Hochkonig’s Winter Kingdom, Salzburg Sports World, Schladming/Dachstein Tauern, Gastein and Grossarl Valley. With elevations as high as 2700 meters, 276 ski lifts and skiing, snowboarding, ice climbing and tobogganing opportunities, everyone should be able to find something to do in Ski amade.

The Gastein region is home to 3 quaint villages: Bad Gastein, known for its world famous thermal heating water and spas; Bad Hofgastein, a vibrant village set in the middle of a valley, surrounded by the Gasteiner Mountains; and Dorfgastein, boasting numerous walking paths as well as great family activities. This area has five large skiing areas, at an altitude of 2,650 meters. Markus Papai, Director of Central European Markets for Gastein Tourismus says the region offers something for everyone. “Beginners as well as experts will enjoy themselves to the full,” he says. “Because of the ideal altitude and snow-making facilities, snow is guaranteed from the end of November to the end of April.” Gastein, like many other resorts, offers something for non-skiers, or those who want to take a break from the slopes. Natural beauty is your reward for this healthy way of exercising, otherwise known as snow shoe walking. A 2,500 kilometer toboggan run and horse drawn sleigh rides will keep you plenty busy. Other unique gems include the only organic beer brewery in Austria, located in Bad Hofgastein.

Cross-country skiers may want to head for Salzburg Sportwelt, which is described as a “paradise” for cross-country skiers. Their network has more than 220 kilometers of well-groomed tracks for both the experienced and the novices. They have 13 easy trails, 12 moderate ones, and 3 that are rated difficult. Short practice tracks, a track encircling Lake Zauchensee and a marathon track make the opportunities endless.

The Grossarl Valley claims it is the ski resort for discerning guests of all abilities and to suit every taste. Grossarl and Huttschlag are the two villages here, with Grossarl being the starting point for the Grossarl Valley-Dorfgastein ski circuit, one of the most modern and best extended ski areas in the region. But skiing is only part of the outdoor fun to be had here. “On the one side, we have extensive skiing in our area,” says Thomas Wirnsperger, Director at Tourismusverband Grossarltal. “On the other side, we are also part of the national park Hohe Tauern, so our guests also do walking, Nordic-walking and ski-mountaineering.”

Hochkonig Winterreich is another popular place to cross-country ski, especially the seven-kilometer Panorama Trail between the towns of Dientner and Muhlbach. Winter hiking is also taken care of here, with more than 85 kilometers of cleared and well-maintained hiking paths. The folks in these cities, as well as the third, Maria Alm, that make up the resort, spent the off-season making improvements. They upgraded their existing snow-making equipment and now have 15 snow-making machines and 62 snow lances to ensure pristine slopes all season long. Night skiing will also be available for the first time this year in Maria Alm. Sabine Kroissenbrunner, Director of Marketing at Muhlbach can’t image why anyone would go anywhere else. “Ski fans will have their choice of 38 lifts, 150 kilometers of superbly groomed slopes and 30 kilometers of wonderful cross-country trails,” she says.

The Dachstein-Tauern region ranks among Austria’s top five ski areas. Nestled between the Dachstein and Schladminger Tauern Mountains, the 10 resorts have something for everyone, especially families. Themed ski routes to experience the area’s animals in the Fager forest, following Indian tracks and discovering the Viking path will keep younger ones entertained. So will the classes on ice climbing and igloo building and of course, skiing. The region has 224 kilometers of ski runs, reached by 97 ski lifts.

Ahhh Italy! The food, the romance, the sun…and the skiing. Yes, winter is just as good a time to take a trip to Italy as the warmer months. Don’t go so far south, and you will be in the Trentino region, the best place for skiing in Italy.

The area can be spilt into two sections, the Dolomiti Superski in eastern Trentino and the Skirama Dolomiti Adamello-Brenta in the western portion. Resorts such as Val di Fassa- Carezza, Moena-Tevalli and Val di Fiemme can be found in the east, while visitors to the west can go to Madonna di Campiglio, Folgarida-Marilleva and Pejo. And you are already late for the slopes here: due to an early snowfall, the slopes on the Presena Glacier in the Adamello ski area opened in October.

The Fiemme Valley stretches across the north-eastern part of the region, with 11 villages surrounded by mountains. Known for its natural beauty, it not only offers excellent downhill and cross-country skiing opportunities, but also boasts a lively nightlife for those not too worn out by a day on the slopes. The Dolomiti Superski zone is in this area, and gives skiers the opportunity to purchase a pass that covers five area resorts. That means you can visit a different resort everyday. There’s a free shuttle service linking the areas so a car isn’t even needed.

Val di Sol offers a variety of activities, especially catering to the ski-mountaineering crowd. Cirna Venezia at 3,290 meters. The “Pisgana Descent,” a 14 kilometer downhill run with a 2,000 kilometer vertical drop. Mount Cevedale at 3,769 meters. These are just a few of the offerings for ski-mountaineers. At the other end of the spectrum, cross-country skiers will also find great trails in Val di Sol. They have 70 kilometers of well marked trails through beautiful scenery and the recently built Vermiglio Cross Country Ski Center offers a 30 kilometer tourist and racing track network.

Paganella claims to have been taking care of skiers since the beginning of the century. Downhillers will want to stay in the towns of Andalo or Fai della Paganella. The Sport Center near Andalo offers a three kilometer cross-country track around the lake, and a five kilometer track through the woods. The city has two lift departures in the center of town, making it quick and easy to get on and off the slopes.

So what are you waiting for? Get out the hats and boots and book your Austrian or Italian skiing holiday now! And it’s not too late to ask St. Nick for a little something else under the tree. You’ve been good this year, right?