Winter has arrived and for us skiers it is time to decide where to take our annual ski trip. Many travelers immediately write off the idea of a ski holiday in Europe for fear of breaking their wallets. However, when comparing the ever-increasing cost of skiing in the US where lift tickets at major resorts can cost up to 90 dollars a day, the relative cost of skiing in Europe is actually not that bad.
A few years ago I spent a ski season in Kitzbühel, Austria. This is a place that truly embodies everything about skiing and ski culture: children get let out of school early for ski lessons, mountain-ready locals socialize around town over hot gluhwein (mulled wine) and jagertea (a concoction of black tea and whiskey) and the Austrian Alps never stop taking one’s breath away. Skiing in Austria is like eating a hot dog in New York City; it is an absolute must!
Kitzbühel is one of Austria’s premier ski resorts made famous for its annual world cup ski race, the Hahnenkamm. You can’t help but notice the glitz and glamour of this resort where Prada shades, fur coats and Bogner get-ups abound. Surprisingly however, a day-lift pass will only cost you 28 Euros (roughly 35 dollars) and you will get an even better deal when buying a multi-day pass. Although accommodations here can be expensive, staying in a surrounding village will give you just the same easy access to the slopes without the price tag.
Kirchberg, the town I called home during my three month stay, is located just 5 minutes by train from Kitzbuhel. Here you’ll find everything you need at a lower price and all within walking distance. The town has a young, easy-going feel with holiday-makers coming from Germany, Holland, and Britain. Getting to the lifts is easy via the ski bus which will pick you up at various stops throughout town.
Lunching on the mountain in Austria is a totally different experience from eating at ski lodges in the US or Canada. Luckily here, the food is not wildly overpriced or mass-produced junk food. Take the opportunity to enjoy some typical Austrian fare at one of the many restaurants located on the mountain.
Some of my favorites dishes while taking a break from the cold are:
Germknoddel: a bun-shaped dessert made of yeast dough with added sugar. The center of the bun is filled with a sweet and spicy plum jam and then covered with hot melted butter or vanilla dessert sauce, and topped with crushed poppy seeds and sugar.
Kaiserschmarren: a caramelized pancake made with raisins, chopped almonds, and pieces of apple. The pancake is split into pieces while frying, sprinkled with powdered sugar, and served with an apple or plum sauce. This dish can be eaten as a dessert, for breakfast, or for lunch at mountainside restaurants and taverns.
One of the most prominent differences between skiing in Austria and skiing in North America is the après ski culture. Basically, Austria has it and the US and Canada does not. When 4:00 pm rolls around, the mountain huts and ice bars are already packed with young and old, tossing back Flügels (red vodka and red bull), Schnapps, and beer. There will be anthems blasting, ski boots dancing on the tables, and the party will no doubt continue into the night at one of the many discos or bars in town. When it comes to Après ski nobody does it better than the Austrians!
Kitzbühel is located just 80 miles from Munich airport and only 50 miles from Salzburg. This winter, multiple airlines are flying non-stop NY to Munich for as low as $511.00! Book your ticket early and experience real Austrian ski culture at a reasonable price.
Cheap accommodations in Kirchberg:
Kitzbüheler Straße 47, Kirchberg
Tel +43 05357 3905
Club Habitat Chalet
Kohlgrub 9, 6365 Kirchberg
Tel +43 05357 2254