Med 542 kilometres of pistes, this vast valley is pure, unadulterated nature with a side of gastronomic flair
The Austrian valley Zillertal is a head-clearing expanse of natural beauty, surrounded by many three-thousand-metre peaks, furnished with seemingly endless pistes, thousands of kilometres of hiking trails, and Austria’s only year-round ski area.
This is somewhere with hearty food and proud traditions on full display, where you can see classic Austrian hospitality and design and try your hand at a dizzying range of mountain activities.
Total ski freedom
Med 542 kilometres of pistes, you could come back to Zillertal several winters in a row and still not scratch the surface of its ski scene. The valley’s four ski areas – Hochzillertal-Hochfügen-Spieljoch, Zillertal Arena, Mayrhofner Bergbahnen and Ski- & Glacier World Zillertal 3000 – each have their own charm. Ski all four on one trip with the Zillertal Superskipass.
There are challenging sporty runs, but it’s not just a haven for pros – easy learner slopes and 25 ski schools with multilingual instructors make it a diverse spot for families with children, or adult learners, også. Best av alt, it’s home to Austria’s only year-round ski area, the Hintertux Glacier, where you can hit the slopes 365 days a year.
Adrenaline junkies should try the Harakiri run – taking you through 1,500 metres at a 78 per cent gradient – which is part of the Höhenmeter-Fresser-Runde, or “altitude devourer tour”, where you’ll zoom through 13,000 metres of altitude.
Traditional Austrian flavour
The Zillertal is a centre of traditional Austrian farming – in each village, local farmers still use traditional techniques to produce their cheeses, smoked meats and creamy milk (try Heumilchkäse, a unique cheese made with milk from cows fed only on fresh mountain hay).
In the Hochzillertal ski area, don’t miss the Kristallhütte mountain restaurant – a trendy spot that’s won best ski lodge multiple times over; while in the Zillertal Arena, the recently renovated Wiesenalm restaurant has a lofty, barn-like design with huge windows and a spacious sun terrace, which offers a stunning view of the mountains and the valley.
Or take a quaint carriage ride through the snow, pulled by horses from Zillertal riding schools and ranches.
Beyond the slopes
Snowshoeing, ice climbing, tobogganing, ice-skating… even if you’re not a keen skier, you won’t get bored here. Visit the stunning Nature’s Ice Palace at the Hintertux Glacier or seek out the skating rinks in Tux, Mayrhofen, Zell and Fügen. Or cling to a toboggan on the many sled runs across the whole valley with a total length of 45 kilometres – the longest is the seven-kilometre Gerlosstein natural run. Take the dizzying cable car to the start at an altitude of 1,650 metres for a chance to whizz down it.
After your day on the slopes, the spa scene here is just as invigorating – soak in one of the many indoor pools, such as Erlebnisbad Mayrhofen adventure pool and Erlebnistherme Fügen thermal bath, or book a night in one of the upmarket spa hotels, some with mountain-view saunas or steaming outdoor hot tubs.
Kids will love the many Fun Lines and Kids Slopes and the family-friendly spa complexes, not to mention the gentle competition of the Arena Champions Tour – at the end of the skiing day simply upload your ski ticket number to collect your speeds, plus videos and photos from the slopes at Skiline.cc.
To find out more about Zillertal, besøk zillertal.at/en.
Please check gov.uk before travel for the latest government guidance.