Skiing in Austria (Skiwelt)


I missed out on skiing last season as my daughter went with her school to Pila, so this was my first time back on the slopes since skiing in Andorra.

Why Austria

As with Andorra it was my neighbour John’s suggestion, and I went with it as it’s generally more fun to ski (and socialise) in a group.

Getting there

We flew to Munich Airport (MUC) and picked up a hire car for the 1½hr drive to the hotel. I got the car sorted whilst John collected the bags, so we were out of there in good time. Sunday evening traffic coming out of Austria was awful, but going in we were fine apart from the need to stop along the way for a €9 ‘Vignette‘ toll sticker to allow us onto the Austrian motorways (because for some insane bureaucratic reason the rental car place wasn’t able to provide this).

I paid a little extra to get an estate car (to fit in our skis) and was generally pretty pleased with the Renault Megane Estate. Apple CarPlay was great for music and navigation from our iPhones, but the heater/blower controls were a mystery that none of us figured out. In retrospect it was a mistake to not get a ski box for one of the cars in our party as then we’d have all been able to fit into a single car rather than going around in convoy.


John’s original target was Westendorf, but everything was booked out. In fact pretty much everything in the whole area was booked out. The combination of UK and German school holidays likely didn’t help, but I get the feeling that people return to the same hotels year after year making the supply of accommodation pretty tight unless you book well in advance (and this was looking in October – 4 months before we went).

We ended up in the Gasthof Fuchswirt in Kelschau, which was great. Friendly service, huge rooms and good hearty traditional Austrian dishes for dinner every night – highly recommended. The breakfast was great too.


Although Kelschau is part of the Skiwelt area it’s a bit of a small island, and there’s not much infrastructure beyond the 3 (somewhat ancient) lifts. Looking online at the options I chose Sport Verleih Fuchs in Itter via Skiset as they had better (and cheaper) gear than the corresponding place in Westendorf.

My choice of ‘Excellence’ skis got me a nice pair of Fisher Pro Mtn 80. They weren’t quite as amazing as the Lecroix Mach Carbon skis I had last time, but still performed very well. The ‘Sensation’ skis got my daughter some Volkl RTM 7.4, which she liked a lot.

Once we were kitted out with boots, skis, poles and helmets it was a matter of popping to the kiosk over the road to get a pass for the Skiwelt area, then into the telecabin to get up onto the slopes.

The other kit thing that I should mention is my Xnowmate boots. I’d ordered these prior to my last Andorra trip, but they didn’t arrive in time, so this was my first chance to try them out. They exceeded all expectations – comfortable, lightweight, warm, dry, and more comfortable. I wore them as chalet slippers in the hotel, I wore them to drive to the piste, I wore them to get to the first run of the day (rather than clomping around in ski boots) and they were just great.

The skiing

From Wikipedia:

The SkiWelt is Austria’s largest interconnected ski area. It has 90 Cable car lifts and Ski lifts, 280 Kilometers (173 Miles) of Ski Pistes, and 77 Ski Huts. The member villages are: Brixen im Thale, Ellmau, Going, Hopfgarten, Itter, Kelchsau, Scheffau, Söll and Westendorf.

That’s a lot of skiing for a single week (5 days once we’d factored in travel there and back), but we had a crack at it anyway.

Day 1 – since we’d picked up our gear at Itter that’s where we started out from. It was snowing, so conditions weren’t great, so we didn’t cover a huge amount of ground, and generally got our ski legs back.

Day 2 – we headed over to Westendorf and pretty much skied out that part of the map. It was fantastic, with the run down 16a that took us to Brixen im Thale for lunch idyllically empty of other skiers. We also loved the 120 run on the other side of the mountain. If there was a part of the area I’d hurry back to it’s this bit.

Day 3 – we parked in Hopfgarten and headed to join a friend of mine who was starting out from Ellmau, but fluffed the transition at the top of lift 22 and ended up taking a detour via Söll that was pleasant but time consuming. The lesson for the next day was to exit the lift on foot to the right and hike up past the restaurant.

Day 4 – parking again in Hopfgarten we struck out for (and made it to) Going on the other side of the resort. Starting the day with the 2c black run wasn’t too bad – we’d skied it the day before and it’s not really that steep or narrow. I suspect that many of the black runs in the area don’t really deserve the rating, but the signposts do a good job of scaring people away. We were also amused by the ‘purple’ runs, where blues suddenly turn into reds, not that it was a problem for anybody in the group. The only really challenging black we found were the sections of 80 down into Ellmau where the piste follows the line of the lift with one particularly interesting steep/icy section. That lift back out of Ellmau is notable for its modernity and comfort :) Though when we got to the top it had started snowing for our return journey.

Day 5 – we’d always planned to tick off Kelchsau on our final day, but the rain/wet snow made conditions pretty miserable so we called it a wrap and took our skis back after a run down from the top (rather than the better weather plan of a bit more skiing in Itter/Söll).

I have to say that the piste map (and corresponding app that held it) weren’t the greatest, and neither were the piste posts. It took too much trial and error to get around, and more time spent poring over the map in evenings that could have been better spent on apres ski.


I’d go back just to do Westendorf again, but we barely touched Going or Söll and there’s stuff around Brixen in Thale we didn’t get near, so I could easily spend a second week in Skiwelt without getting bored of it.

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