Sandwiched between the Tuxer Voralpen and the Kitzbüheler Alpen, the Zillertal (Ziller Valley) is storybook Tyrol. A steam train chugs through the broad valley, passing fertile farmland and wooded mountains, and affording snatched glimpses of snowy peaks and the fast-flowing Ziller River.
Ask an Austrian to rattle off the top ski resorts in the country, and Kitzbühel will invariably make the grade. Ever since Franz Reisch slipped on skis and whizzed down the slopes of Kitzbüheler Horn way back in 1893, so christening the first alpine ski run in Austria, Kitzbühel has carved out its reputation as one of Europe's foremost ski resorts.
St Anton am Arlberg
Once upon a time St Anton was but a sleepy village, defined by the falling and melting of snow and the coming and going of cattle, until one day the locals beheld the virgin powder on their doorstep and discovered their happy-ever-after… In 1901 the resort founded the first ski club in the Alps and downhill skiing was born, so if ever the ski bug is going to bite you it will .
The wild and austerely beautiful Arlberg region, shared by Vorarlberg and Tyrol, comprises several linked resorts and offers some of Austria’s finest skiing. Heralded as the cradle of alpine skiing, St Anton am Arlberg is undoubtedly the best known and most popular resort.
Grazing the Swiss border and running west of the Inntal, the Paznauntal (Paznaun Valley) is a dramatic landscape overshadowed by the pearly white peaks of the Silvretta range. The villages are sleepy in summer, a lull that is broken in winter when skiers descend on party-hearty resorts like Ischgl.
Zell am Ziller
Scenically located at the foot of knife-edge Reichenspitze (3303m), Zell am Ziller is a former goldmining centre. There’s now less sparkle and more swoosh about this rural and deeply traditional little village, with its fine skiing and thrilling 7.5km floodlit toboggan run.
What is today a sleepy little town with pastel-washed houses and winding streets was once, believe it or not, Austria’s second-largest city after Vienna. Schwaz wielded clout in the Middle Ages when its eyes shone brightly with silver, past glory that you can relive by going underground to the show silver mine.
Seefeld sits high on a south-facing plateau, ringed by the rugged limestone peaks of the Wetterstein and Karwendel Alps. While most Tyrolean resorts are crazy about downhill, Seefeld’s first love is Langlauf (cross-country skiing), and fans of the sports flock here to skate and glide along 279km of prepared trails in winter.
Landeck is an ordinary town with an extraordinary backdrop: framed by an amphitheatre of forested peaks, presided over by a medieval castle and bordered by the fast-flowing Inn and Sanna Rivers. The town makes a good-value base for outdoor activities and exploring the nearby Inntal and Patznauntal valleys.
Beautifully situated in the wide Gurgltal (Gurgl Valley) and spreading towards a range of thickly wooded mountains, Imst is famous for its many springs. While the town itself won’t keep you long, its surrounding meadows, rugged peaks and gorges might. Imst makes a fine base for hiking and skiing in the nearby Ötztal.