Sunday, March 11, 2018

Skiing in Kitzbuhel, Austria

This year I revived my annual skiing trips to Europe and so went on a long weekend to the Austrian ski resort of Kitzbuhel. It was a fun vacation and we had a great skiing experience in the long and tough slopes of Kitz. The weather was awesome and made the whole experience even more enjoyable, definitely a place to return again.

View from the slopes
We flew into Salzburg from London on a Friday and then drove from there to Aschau at night, the village where we had booked our airbnb. The drive was on a bright moon night, amid the mountains and the fog and it felt almost surreal. As we started there was white fog all around. And then the shapes of mountains emerged, sometimes dark, sometimes with the shape of green trees on the peaks and sometimes shining white with the moonlight reflecting on the snow. And sometimes the hint of lakes and streams on the sides, reflecting the moon and sometimes completely dark.

The temperature was quite cool outside and at times we saw the star filled sky. We passed by loads of villages on the way which would have looked very picturesque during the day. The roads were amazing, the drive was comfortable and the view outside so enchanting! With Indian music in the background, the whole drive felt almost uplifting and was the perfect start to the vacation.

I thought we were driving fast given it was mountain roads filled with snow, with a lot of turns and no light at night. But we kept on getting overtaken all the time. So clearly not! We did drive a bit faster after that but not as much as the others for sure. It took us about 1.5 hours till we reached the town of Kirchberg. We could see the night ski slope all lighted up before we got there, and the sense of going skiing became more real! While we drove through the village, people were drinking and partying after skiing, and it felt very alive.

View of Aschau
We reached our airbnb at night and quickly settled in. We were staying in the village of Aschau which was a very small one with maybe less than 50 huts. Our airbnb was an alpine apartment very comfortably decorated, and with everything you would need. Out of our window, we could see people come skiing down the slope right next to the apartments! Next to us conveniently located was a hotel where we had breakfast the first day. Overall the apartment was very convenient for the stay, it was a bit of a drive from the ski slopes of Kitzbuhel but totally worth it.

The next 3 days we drove to Kitzbuhel every morning, skied there the whole day and came back to our village at night. The drive till there was about 30 mins, through the village of Kirchberg and a few others. As expected, the drive was pretty picturesque passing by typical alpine views. With huge white peaks all around and the wooden hut filled villages, with the church spires peaking from in between. I never seem to tire of the view of the Alps at all, isn't it?

Skiing in the sun
The infrastructure while skiing as expected was amazing. There were multiple hills to ski on. We always started from Kitzbuhel and went up that way. And then of course, there was a network of lifts and slopes up on the mountains to spend the whole day there. The snow was good but not fresh as it hadn’t snowed for a couple of days, at places it was also a bit slippery. The slopes were long (including the 16 run which is supposed to be one of the longest blue runs in Europe) and well maintained, but I think they were tougher than usual. There were also lot of moguls on the first day but thankfully they vanished the next few days. And even when slopes were blue, they felt steeper than what I was used to.

The ski slopes were not very well linked though if you wanted to go up and come down all the way on blue slopes. I had to ski a bit of red slopes sometimes to come down. Also the bottom ski slop (No 20) apparently was red earlier but was converted to blue when people complained that there was no blue slope to come down! But overall, skiing there was fun and challenging.

We went up the top of the mountains a couple of times and could see a lot of the snow covered peaks all around. Almost felt like you were on top of the world. You could see the village of Kitzbuhel and panoramic views of the valley from many places on the top, with some green but mostly covered with white snow..

One of the Jocheburg slopes
One of the days I also went to the Jocheburg area to ski there which was amazing. It had great blue and red slopes which were quite wide and a pleasure to ski on. The views of the valley from that side were also very enchanting. We also saw some people para sailing and many hot air balloons in the air too - so there are things to do for those who don’t want to go skiing too!

The weather on two of the three days was absolutely fantastic! It was 10 degrees and sunny! You could see the sunlight slowly come into the valley and stay on some of its slopes. It made the skiing easier and warmer. The days were still short and it would get dark by 530 pm or so. By the way, we once saw the moon and sun out at the same time - it was quite a scenic view.

View of Kitzbuhel from the slopes
I have been to Kitzbuhel twice before on a work trip but this was the first time I went skiing and I saw a different side of the village. One of the days we were looking for a place to eat in the centre and it turned out all the restaurants were either booked or closed. There were only few restaurants around (but a lot of high end shops). It got quiet very quickly too. And the supermarkets closed very early by 5 pm, so you needed to be careful and buy food beforehand.

We finally ate at La Gondola that day which was very tasty food. One of the other days we went to the Pavilion, an apres ski place near the bottom of the slopes, and it was full of people after skiing. We didn’t do much apres partying overall but it looked fun for sure. There were loads of British people everywhere, on the slopes, in the village, tourists as well as instructors. Clearly Austria is very popular with British as a ski destination.

Three days there felt quite short. But it was a very enjoyable trip and a lovely place to go to, worth going again for sure.

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