Ski Touring in Austria
The best regions for beginners, experts, multi-day adventures, and night skiing tours.
Still going downhill or already going uphill? Ski touring is a trend that keeps on climbing, with more and more winter sports enthusiasts swapping their regular skiing for touring gear, including from the U.K. But why would anyone walk up the slopes when it’s so much easier to just hop on a lift or gondola? Those who’ve jumped on the trend rave about the feeling of achievement when reaching the top of the mountain on their own muscle power, the chance to venture into quieter, more isolated areas in popular resorts, and the beauty of the landscapes they get to enjoy along the way. The mix of slower pace and the connection with nature also make ski touring a great mindfulness activity.
So, what exactly is ski touring all about? And what are the best spots in Austria for beginners, experts and tourers looking to head out after sunset?
DOWNHILL SKIING VS. SKI TOURING
The key difference between downhill skiing and ski touring is that you are walking (or “skinning”) up the slope rather than the lift. Unsurprisingly, a different sport calls for a different equipment to ensure safety and best possible comfort, so don’t attempt to head off with your downhill gear: Unlike downhill skis, touring skis are clipped to the toe of your binding, to aid with movement. You’re also wearing “skins” (long thin pieces of fabric that fit the base of the skis) to stop the skis from sliding back when walking up.
The most common newbie mistake is to lift the skis off the ground when on the ascent. However, it’s way more efficient to keep contact with the snow throughout. The poles – usually with a bigger basket at the base than the classic version – are used to support the legs as you push into your strides. Since ski tourers are more likely than those staying on the groomed slopes to encounter avalanches, an avalanche transceiver, probe, and shovel are essential.
SKI TOURING REGIONS FOR BEGINNERS
It can’t be that difficult to walk up a mountain, right? Well, yes and no. Beginners should have a good level of fitness and sign up for a ski touring course before heading out. That way they will learn how to “read” the mountain and the weather, spot potential dangers, and how to use the avalanche transceiver. The ski touring equipment can be hired in most resorts, so no need to buy and carry around skis, boots, and poles.
Ischgl is a go-to place for ski touring, with roughly 15 routes and schools and guides available throughout the region. Beginners can make use of the Piz Val Grondabahn (on the border of Austria and Switzerland) and get right up the starting point without having to skin all the way up. The actual tour begins on the piste down to the Col Val Gronda (2,752 m) and includes both descends and easy ascents. It is about 3.4 km long and usually only takes 90 minutes – perfect for a first experience.
Equally popular is Grossarl in SalzburgerLand. The valley’s most famous ski mountain is the Kreuzkogel, while the surrounding mountains are significantly quieter and more peaceful. This includes the “Kreuzeck” in Hüttschlag, a great option for newbies to ski touring. Local association Berg-Gesund (“mountain health”) offers beginner taster sessions with certified guides as well as week-long packages.
Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis in Tirol awaits newbie tourers with tasting sessions, teaching them all the basics before heading on a small adventure with a local pro. Another popular option is the so-called “Smuggler’s Tour to Switzerland”, where the touring group crosses the border and skins p two short ascents before skiing down on powder snow. Stunning scenery and – in the latter case – return by cab included.
The Schatzberg mountain in Ski Juwel Alpbach Wildschönau is another popular choice for those new to the sports. Newbies can master their skinning skills starting at Inneralpbach and walking all the way up to the top. This ski tour is possible even in winters with little snowfall. The route is also suitable for snowboarders using a split board.
SKI TOURING REGIONS FOR PROS
Experienced ski tourers can choose from a variety of options in Austria’s ski resorts, ranging from short (but challenging) routes to multi-day adventures.
The Achensee region offers breathtaking panoramic views and challenging routes for those who have some experience under their belt. A popular destination is Rofanspitze mountain (1,259 m) with its Wiesing ascent, one of the most spectacular runs in the astern Alps. Those who’d like to further improve their skills with a local pro can also book two-day ski touring camps in January and February.
Austria’s most westernmost province Vorarlberg is another ski touring favourite. One of the most challenging tours runs up the highest summit of the Rätikon massif, the Schesaplana (2,965 m). Starting at Brand, a picturesque mountain village, it takes about five hours to complete and rewards tourers with stunning summit views and a long descent.
MULTI-DAY SKI TOURING ADVENTURES
One day is not enough? We don’t blame you! The four-day ski tour in the Kitzbühel Alps is a must-do for tourers looking for a longer adventure. It starts in Kelchsau and ends in Aschau – by the end tourers will have walked roughly 60 km, with the lowest point at 790 m and the highest at 2,447 m. Accommodation can be booked along the way. Please note this route is highly challenging and suitable for experienced tourers only!
The Silvretta Montafon region is another favourite for multi-day ski tours. Those taking the whole tour around the region (5-7 days) start and end in either Ischgl or Galtür. Cosy traditional accommodation is available at multiple huts, with Heidelberger Hütte, Jamtalhütte and Wiesbadener Hütte the most popular options. Bonus point in this area: The route can be adapted according to time, skills, and fitness level.
SKI TOURING AT NIGHT
Who says you can only go ski touring when the sun is out? Evening adventures on flood-lit slopes are often even more magical. To ensure safety, tourers are advised to stay on the dedicated pistes and respect the official opening hours.
Innsbruck has several night ski touring options, with Mutteralm an especially popular one: Start in the village of Mutters and skin all the way up to Pfriemesköpfl (1,801 m), then head to the restaurant at the top of the Mutteralm. Every Wednesday until 10 PM. Patscherkofel also offers several routes depending on fitness and skill level, with some ending at the Patscherkofel Schutzhaus Restaurant. The Olympic downhill run is open for ski tourers every Thursday until 10 PM. Looking for a challenge? The steep route up Bergeralm might be just your cup of tea. Open on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday from 6:30 to 9:30 PM.
Heading to Ski Juwel Alpbach Wildschönau? Get ready to spend your Tuesday night skinning up the Reither Kogel mountain (1,110 m). There are no lifts in operation - the family descent (piste number 71) is reserved for ski tourers from 6:30 to 9:30 PM.
Holidaymakers in the Seefeld region can walk up to the Rauthütte mountain hut at 1,600 m every night. The hut is open until 10 PM from Monday to Saturday and until 7 PM on Sunday. Friday is Burger Day – we recommend booking a table in advance!
More ski touring tips in Tirol:
More ski touring tips in SalzburgerLand:
More ski touring tips in Vorarlberg:
More ski touring tips in Carinthia:
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