Why Kitzbühel is the best skiing destination
Nothing beats the squeaky sound of snow underneath your skis, the sun on your skin and the fresh air around you while you speed down a slope. At the end of the afternoon you grab a drink during the après ski, have a bite in a cool restaurant and at night you crawl onto the couch in front of the fireplace. But with such a wide range of ski resorts, why should you choose Kitzbühel & Kirchberg in Austria?
Because it’s simply amazing. I will tell you all about it!
It’s officially the best ski resort in the world
And it’s not just me saying that, they won awards. Though it’s been the best ski resort in Europe for years, it also won the price for best ski resort in the world in 2015. Impressive, right? When I visited, I could see why. Everything’s just so well maintained. Because of its northwestern location there’s a guarantee of snow between December and April, which means you can ski 180 days a year. Also, all the slopes together have a length of 179 kilometer! You can ski from the top all the way down to the valley, and it’s very easy to discover all different parts of the area without constantly having to get on a shuttle bus (which is always a hassle, let’s be real). Because of the diversity in the slopes you can easily enjoy yourself for days.
Funny enough I found that especially the lifts really represent how well maintained the area is. There’s 54 lifts in total, mainly a mix of chairlifts and gondolas, and I’ve rarely stood in line any longer than ten minutes. Some lifts even had heated seats! And then there’s that view from the lift… snowy mountains surrounding the beautiful valley with its pointy roofs and eye-catching church tops… Just magical.
There’s all sorts of cool sports matches
Hahnenkamm: if you’re a fan of ski races, this name probably sounds familiar. During this well known skiing race the world’s best skiers make their way down, where they obviously try to set the best time. I had a quick look down the slope (called the Streif) and that was more than enough for me… although the Streif also has a red slope back into the valley, so I did go down that one! I also witnessed the Streif Vertical Up, where people try to run up the Streif as quickly as possible. This happens when it’s dark, and it’s really cool to see the lights go up the mountain (and tumble back down again, when people fall down!).
Kitzbühel is super cozy
From the first moment I walked into Kitzbühel, I fell in love. How can you not love those houses, painted in all colours of the rainbow? A lot of winter sports villages are built mainly around tourism, but I didn’t get that feeling at all in Kitzbühel. It’s not completely filled with little shops that sell touristic crap, but just with normal clothing shops (well… and also a Louis Vuitton ;-)). You’ll mainly find nice cafes and restaurants with tasty food, that are open all year round. There’s a normal life going on here as well, and I really like that.
There’s lots to do for people who don’t ski
Is your whole family gone from early in the morning until dinner, and are you scared there’s nothing for you to do? I’m delighted to say you’re wrong! From archery to hiking, and from a carriage ride to a Segway ride: there really is a lot to do in this area. What’s a plus is that you’re being active outside, which is really great in terms of discovering more in this area! I’ll soon write a big blog post about what to do in and around Kitzbühel if you’re not a skier.
The beautiful walk…
It’s easy to reach
Obviously, this depends on where you live, but it’s super central if you’re in Europe. Us Dutchies are quite used to driving far when going on a holiday, so if you leave from The Netherlands you can actually get to Kitzbühel in a day (from Utrecht it’s about a 9.5 hours drive). You could even take the train! The Alpen Express leaves from different places in The Netherlands. You get on the train during dinner time, and you get to Kitzbühel around breakfast. How great is that? Kitzbühel’s train station is actually located right underneath the Hahnenkamm lift, so if you want, you can be on your way to the first slope five minutes after arrival!
Of course you can also decide to fly there. The best way to do so is to fly to Innsbruck, but Salzburg and Munich are quite close too. I flew to Munich, after which the transfer took about two hours (a bit longer if you get stuck in traffic).
You can find accommodation for every budget
Part of the Kitzbueler Alps is the little town of Kirchberg, located close to Kitzbühel, and you can even ski from one village to the other. Kirchberg is quite popular with Dutch people, Kitzbühel seems to be more popular for British travelers. In both villages you can find accommodation in all price ranges. You can stay in five star hotels, or just rent a cozy apartment. I even spotted a campground in Kitzbühel, so even the camping fans are in for a treat here!
I stayed at Alpen Garni Auwirt, a cute bed & breakfast in the town of Aurach, just outside of Kitzbühel. I can highly recommend this one, even if it was just for the lovely couple that runs this bed & breakfast. I stayed in the cutest single room I’ve ever seen, with traditional wooden walls and furniture. Because of the location just outside of the village it was nice and quiet, and during my tasty breakfast in the morning I had an amazing view of deer wandering around the garden.
The food is delicious
I actually didn’t know that much about the Austrian cuisine before I went to Kitzbühel and Kirchberg. That turned out to be a mistake when I ordered a ‘beef salad’ on my first day, which turned out to be a plate filled with strips of beef…. just…WHY?! But the rest of the week I’ve tasted some incredible meals: from Käsespatzle to Kaisserschmarrn and from Wiener Schnitzels to Spinatknödel… the Austrian cuisine is warm, tasty and savoury. Every cuisine that involves carbs and cheese has my never-ending love, but I never had so much great food during a winter sports holiday, as when I was in Kitzbühel and Kirchberg. And this goes for on the slopes as well as in the village! From cozy family restaurants to chique and hip hotspots: there really is something for everyone. The prices weren’t too bad either, actually, I’d say you can compare them to Dutch prices. I’ll soon share my favorite Austrian dishes and restaurants in this area with you as well!
The nature is phenomenal
I guess this speaks for itself. I’m pretty sure you won’t find any more dramatic landscapes than the Alps, especially if they’re covered in a thick layer of snow, glistening in the sun. Close to Kitzbühel there’s also a beautiful lake: Schwarzsee. In other words: more than enough to see and enjoy! I went on a beautiful hike through the hills and forests of Jochberg, with the beautiful mountain tops in the background, and that was a moment of pure bliss. I also went on an intense snowshoeing hike, on and off piste, through the forests and deep layers of snow, with the most spectacular views of the valley you can imagine. Of course you can just go on a walk yourself, but almost every day there’s free walks and hikes you can go on, organised by Kitzbühel Tourismus. One of the guides, Engelbert, is a wonderful guy who takes you to all the best places – and this way you even get to know some new people in your hiking group! There’s many people who just come to this area to go on walks and hikes, and I can clearly see why.
The people are really friendly
Speaking of those people: I really loved the people in Kitzbühel. Austrian people are really friendly and direct, which caused that I had quite some laughs with them. I honestly only met nice and friendly people: from the guides Peppi and Engelbert to our skiing teachers Harry and Sebastian, and from the sweet hotel owners to the wonderful women of Kitzbühel and Kirchberg Tourismus. Overall there was just such a relaxed vibe in the whole area. You can have a talk with anyone, and although punctuality is something the Austrian people live by, you wouldn’t be able to tell if you would be visiting Kitzbühel. In a good, non-stress way!
(PS: If you ever take some skiing classes with Harry, please tell him I said hello! He will like that ;-))
Practical information about skiing in Kitzbühel
Though Kitzbühel is part of a big skiing area, you can basically go into two directions when you’re in the city: the Kitzbüheler Horn and the Hahnenkamm. I only went to the latter. Here you can take the lift up, and from there discover a gigantic area. A bit further you will find Kirchberg, from where you can leave as well. In between the two areas there’s a shuttle bus, but as I mentioned you can also reach both by just skiing and taking some lifts – which is much more fun! ;-) I personally really enjoyed the slope at Kirchberg, and at some point we even skied along a little farm with some chickens!
You can buy skiing passes at the lift and you can use them throughout the whole region (including Kirchberg). The pass is called Kitzbüheler Alpen AllStarCard, though you can just ask for a day pass (or one for multiple days, of course). I was really happy with this structure, because I didn’t have to think about what area to go to that day – you can just visit all of them on the same card! The skiing pass 2016-2017 cost me €53. On this website you can find the latest information regarding all the prices.
Like I mentioned before, there’s almost 180 kilometer of tracks for you to discover! I went to a few different places: Hahnenkamm, Kirchberg, Jochberg, Pengelstein, Bärenbadkogel and Bichlalm. And maybe even more places, because to be honest I just followed Harry and wherever he was going… On this map you can view the whole area.
The slopes are really beautiful. And they’re so long! I really liked that I could ski for kilometers on end, from one place to another. That’s something I’m not used to, and I find it a big plus. The snow on most slopes was really good, and the views were nothing short of spectacular. There was a lot of variety in the level of the slopes: there were easy blue slopes, more difficult blue slopes, and the same goes for the red slopes. I will never try my luck with black slopes (or ‘dark blue’ as my teacher likes to call it), as you could read in this article, but I’m sure they’re just as good. If you want to you can try out the route of the Hahnenkamm race on the black slope. It’s considered one of the trickiest world race parcours.
Of course you can just hit the slopes yourself, but I would really recommend getting a few hours of skiing lessons in. I personally thought I had a perfect technique, but I think I nearly gave my teacher a heart attack with repeatedly ignoring his instructions (“What do you mean: leaning INTO the valley? Are you literally trying to kill me?”). As soon as I started trusting him and started using his technique, it suddenly went much easier. Whoops…
I really feel I learned a lot of new things in terms of technique, and I think I made a lot of progress by just having a few hours of class. So I can highly recommend it, even if you just do it for one morning and do your own thing the rest of the week. We took classes from Skischule Rote Teufel, which I can highly recommend. We had private teachers, which is probably more economical if you book it with a small group. But you can obviously take some group lessons too! You can find the prices of the classes here.
We rented our ski equipment at Intersport Kitzsport at the Hahnenkammbahn, right underneath the lift. Super easy! I even switched skis and skiing shoes at some point because I wanted other ones, and that was no problem at all. What’s even better is that if you want to rent skis for seven days, you only have to pay for six – quite a good deal. You can find more information about ski rental on their website. If you make an online reservation you even get a 15% discount!
Look at me go…
Though I was here on invitation of Kitzbühel Tourismus, I think you won’t be surprised to hear that I’m already planning to go back later this year. That’s how much I loved it. It’s a beautifully maintained skiing area with great nature, affordable prices, great people and hip and tasty restaurants, that also offers more than enough for non-skiers. I can’t recommend it enough!
Have you ever been on a winter sports holiday in Kitzbühel or Kirchberg?
PS: Still not convinced? Then read Jeanne’s post about Kitzbühel, she’s the girl I was traveling with!
I was in Kitzbühel at the courtesy of Kitzbühel Tourismus. However, all my opinions (and the tears I cried on the red slope) are my own.