Kitzbühel’s known for its infamous race course, but there’s much more to this Tyrolean resort than the Hahnenkamm. Just make sure you book late to ensure there’s plenty of the white stuff…
It’s the Tyrolean town that put cowbells, Jägermeister and Franz Klammer on the map. Kitzbühel’s notorious Downhill race, the Streif, is the highlight of the World Cup, thanks to heart-in-your-mouth features like the Mausefalle (a gnarly 80-metre stretch of airtime, that comes with reassuring 85% drop and bullet-hard landing).
But the Hahnenkamm and lycra aside, Kitzbühel is a worthy destination in its own right. Okay, we’d prefer it be be 300m higher, but when the snow is good (our advice is to book late when you know the conditions are good) its skiing is up there with the big guns, with plenty of steeps and good off-piste to be found, and there’s even a dedicated freeride/touring area. All this with a big dollop of olde-worlde village charm that the Tyrol does so well.
It’s even managed to shake off its hoity-toity reputation, with more affordable hotels springing up all over the valley.
But, let’s get back to the Jäger, because you just can’t talk Kitzbühel without mentioning the après. It makes Ischgl look reserved. Just don’t expect to make the 7am bubble the next day…
Duncan Whitaker liked it so much (the resort, not the Jäger) that he made Kitz his home. Here he tells us about was it was that got him hooked…
BEST RUN FOR A WARM UP
Head to the Hahnenkamm gondola for the first lift of the day (around 7.30am, depending on the time of year). Follow the piste for 200m down to the start of the famous Streif, where there’s a great red running parallel to it. Hoon it down the perfectly-prepped courdrouy a few times before the rest of Kitzbühel’s even finished their kaffee. Then head to the Direttissima run – it’s the piste with the most vertical drop in Kitzbühel (up to 70%) and a great leg-burner.
THE BEST PLACE TO HEAD AFTER A SNOWFALL
If the snow’s just fallen, head straight to the top of the south-facing Kitzbüheler Horn. There’s never any artificial snow on this side of the valley, and when conditions are good, like last year, it’s an absolute dream to ski. Just get there quick, before it melts!
FOR A DAY AWAY FROM THE LIFTS
Try Bichlalm, once a small, nondescript area overlooked by the Kitzbüheler Horn, which has been transformed into a off-piste/touring area without any lifts in sight. Take a guide or use the snowcat service (which takes up to 14 skiers at a time) to spend a day lapping up its backcountry powderfields. Don’t forget your camera! Visit www.alpin-experts.at for more info.
DON’T LEAVE KITZBÜHEL WITHOUT
Skiing the Streif. The classic Hahnenkamm run is a must-do, though it’s only open after race weekend in February. Mostly unpisted, with lots of bends and undulating terrain, it’s notoriously steep in parts, resulting in big jumps at high speeds. So forget hooning it down in sub-two minutes à la Cuche and co, and take it slow…
WHAT’S THE BIGGEST MISCONCEPTION ABOUT KITZBÜHEL?
Kitzbühel might be renowned for the Hahnenkamm race, but it’s not all high society. In reality, Kitz isn’t actually that expensive; it caters for normal/average earners with a great range of accommodation, restaurants and bars. It’s a real proper living town that still retains its charm, beauty and Tyrolean tradition, despite the tourism.
BEST FOR MOUNTAIN BITES
If skiing the Kitzbüheler Horn it would have to be the Hornköpflhütte. It serves good, traditional Austrian food such as Käsespätzle (a macoroni cheese type dish), Tiroler Gröstl (potatoes with pork and a fried egg) and, of course, Wiener Schnitzel. The owners are musicians so when they get our their guitars, be prepared for a long afternoon.
FOR CHEAP EATS IN TOWN
Try the Huberbräu-Stüberl a traditional vaulted tavern in the centre of Kitz. It serves large portions of Austrian classics, such as Wiener Schnitzel and liver dumplings. It’s full of locals too – which is always a good sign. They don’t take reservations, but it’s worth the wait.
FOR AN APRÈS-SKI TIPPLE
The Sporthotel Reisch, Stamperl and The Londoner are all within 100m of each other (great if your one après-ski tipple turns into a few), and between them offer something for everyone. Pick the Londoner if you like live music (there are live bands playing every night), or the small, more traditional Stamperl if you’re after something a little classy.
FOR A POST-WORLD-CUP-STYLE PARTY
It has to be Take Five. It’s the classiest of the nightclubs (think stylish decor, VIP areas), and not on the cheap side, but it’s well worth the money, with top DJs pumping out house, soul and funk into the early hours. You might want to skip the warm-up run the next morning though – it doesn’t close ’til 5am…
Pistes & Passes
Ski area: 170 km of pistes
Percentage Blue: 40%
Percentage Red: 46%
Percentage Black: 14%
Lift passes: €23.50 per day.