Cruisey, forest-lined pistes, great snow from early season on, heaps to keep the family entertained… discover why Austria’s Zell am See-Kaprun is an all-mountain winner.
Lofty snow-capped peaks carpeted with forest that tumble down towards a glittering, crystal clear lake – there is no denying that when it comes to ski resorts with the scenic wow-factor, Zell am See-Kaprun blows most out of the water (or, should we say, lake). Throw in a traffic-free, historic centre and it’s easy to assume that most visitors to this Salzburg region ski resort come here merely to gawp at the views. Though, while it may be one of the most picturesque ski resorts in Austria, it is the skiing – and the guaranteed snow conditions – that people flock here for. It’s no surprise it is one of the most sought-after resorts for Crystal Ski Holidays customers.
The skiing in Zell am See-Kaprun is split into two main sectors – Schmittenhöhe, above Zell am See, and the Kitzsteinhorn, the glacier ski resort in Kaprun. This winter season a new cable car connection from the centre of Kaprun makes it easy and convenient to access the skiing fun on the glacier. Thanks to the new 3K K-onnection you can now, for the first time, enjoy the comfort of ski-in ski-out access from the town centre via the Maiskogel family mountain, directly from your bed uphill to the glacier.
Moreover, there is the brand new zellamseeXpress on Schmittenhöhe to and from the next valley that links it to the Skicircus Saalbach-Hinterglemm-Leogang-Fieberbrunn via a short ski bus ride. The link means that the resort has grown to an impressive 408km of pistes, all united by the new Ski Alpin Card ski pass.
Pistes cover almost every aspect of the mountain, both above and below the tree line. While beginners and children can perfect their snowplough on the nursery slopes at the bottom of the Zell am See and Kaprun ski areas, there is a vast network of mellow blues and more challenging reds to progress on to higher up.
Don’t be alarmed by the smattering of black runs immediately above Zell am See-Kaprun – these are not as technical as you might expect and would be graded red in many resorts. This really is an intermediate skier’s haven.
Pistes are all well and good, but what about the ever-growing breed of freeskiers who love nothing more than getting their ski tips into something deep and steep? Head for the Kitzsteinhorn and you’ll find no less than five freeride areas; all are well-signposted routes located near the lifts and offer diverse terrain features.
For youngsters who consider their best days to be the ones where they spend more time in the air than on the snow, the Kitzsteinhorn is also home to three snowparks. James Woods wannabes who are just starting out can perfect their tricks on some of the more mellow features, and then watch the pros in action on Austria’s biggest super-pipe. How big is big? At 135 meters long and over six meters high, it is a beast… in a good way.
The best part about the Kitzsteinhorn is that, whether you are skiing at the beginning or end of the season, you can expect great snow. Here, the slopes on the Kitzsteinhorn glacier rise to a mighty 3029m – it’s one of the best areas for early-season skiing we know.
FOR ALL THE GENERATIONS
After a morning spent lapping the wide, tree-lined reds off the zellamseeXpress II gondola and adjoining Sonnkogelbahn chairlift, you will need to re-fuel. And here nothing sets you up for an afternoon more than Kasnocken: Austrian dumplings tossed with cheese in a cast iron skillet, cooked until golden, and topped with caramelised onions. A local speciality, you’ll find them in many of the mountain restaurants.
Breiteck Alm, located off the TrassXpress gondola in Zell am See, is one of the oldest mountain restaurants in the region, run by the same family since the 1950s. Local specialities are made from recipes passed down through generations, from the liver dumpling soup to the Tiroler Gröstl. Plus mulled wine freshly cooked every day according to ‘Grandma’s recipe’.
While we are on the subject of ‘generations’, if you are visiting Zell am See with your young children in tow you’ll be pleased to hear the resort caters well for littlens. Up on Schmittenhöhe, the Kidsslope adventure area at Glocknerbahn has obstacles, waves, tunnels and slalom courses for kids to ski through, round and over. Look out for Schmidolin, the giant green skiing dragon mascot, who is on hand to help children learn to ski in a playful way.
WINTER YOUR WAY
It’s 4:30pm. The ski lifts are grinding to a halt, the sun has dipped behind the mountains and skiers are making their final runs back to base. But the day is by no means over: Zell am See-Kaprun is renowned for its lively après-ski. Down in town the party scene kicks off at 4pm and continues well into the early hours – don’t be surprised to find some revellers still in their ski boots at midnight. For live music, try the Off Piste Bar – there is a dance floor for those who have excess energy to burn, and later it turns into a club with more live music and DJs.
Meanwhile, families who prefer their après-ski to involve flying down a slope on a toboggan should head for the 1.5km-long designated toboggan run from the Köhlergraben through the Schmittental to Zell am See. Stomach cramps from laughing so hard are guaranteed. There is also night skiing on offer several times a week – the sweeping views across the frozen Lake Zell from the floodlit slopes are reason enough to try it.
In fact, even if you simply fancied a day off the slopes, there are plenty of non-ski activities to keep you amused, from snowshoeing to horse-drawn sleigh rides.
Activities for everyone, and options for all – this is what makes Zell am See so special: whatever you want your ski holiday to be, it’s all there laid out for you. Easy.
And getting there is just a smooth and stress-free too, thanks to Crystal. Not only do all holiday packages include flights, transfers and accommodation, but you can also add lift passes, equipment hire and ski school to your booking too, so everything’s ready for when you arrive. You’ll get expert service every step of the way and Crystal’s free Ski Explorer app has snow reports, resort info and more. And of course, they’ve got you covered with ABTA and ATOL protection.
From cruising miles of blue and red runs to hitting the super-pipe, from partying until the early hours to tobogganing with your kids, from snowshoe excursions to horse-drawn sleigh rides – there is no one way to winter in Zell am See-Kaprun.