Kitzbühel – Beyond Expectations
For skiers worldwide, there’s a mysterious subliminal awareness of what Kitzbühel is. Perhaps because it has hosted skiers for 126 years, perhaps because it is home to the most famous ski race in the world since 1931. Perhaps because of its heritage as a medieval silver-mining centre, well preserved with heavily buttressed walls and delicate painted frescoes. Many believe it rightly deserves its reputation as the most beautiful ski town in Europe. It frequently tops the best ski resort surveys, including the 4 times winner of Best Ski Resort in the World in the last six years. It’s not only the skiing, as a lifestyle destination Kitzbühel attracts visitors in all seasons with world class facilities. In this and subsequent blogs, we explore why.
Naturally we start off with the skiing. Altitude isn’t everything, in our SkiMiles® dataset, Kitzbühel scores 4 out of 5 for “snow sure”. And if there is less snow around, it scores 4.5 out of 5 for snowmaking. The ski season often opens in October, right through to April. Let’s touch on some other key stats: the total length of runs for all 3 ski areas is 230km served by 57 cable cars and lifts. Most of this infrastructure is impressively efficient, as we often see in Austria, the lift company has invested €280m since 2000. It is a big area – 17 km from north to south; combined with SkiWelt, you have 400km of easily accessible pistes and for those wishing to explore further, the great value Kitzbüheler Alpen AllStarCard lift pass covers seven further ski areas in the Tryol. There are 92 runs, the longest is over 8km, and 1000m vertical. There are 16 ski schools, and no less than 60 mountain huts and chalets. Despite the formidable reputation of the Hahnenkamm, sections of which are open to the public, the huge variety of slopes are ideal for beginners to advanced intermediates. There is plenty of off-piste to be explored.
Out of the ski season, if the weather is poor, or if you just can’t do too many activities, Kitzbühel is there for you. 62km of cross-country ski trails reach as far as the dramatic Wilder Kaiser, the Brixental valley and up to Pass Thurn. The Aquarena, right in the town center, has a swimming area with waterfall and slides, a 25m sports pool, saunas, steam baths and massage rooms. Discounts are offered to lift pass holders. The Sportpark offers indoor climbing and skating. It has the only curling hall in Austria open to the public. The ice hockey arena hosts international tournaments and is home to the Kitzbühel Eagles – take the family to an evening match, it is an action-packed spectator sport. Seven outdoor tennis courts also host the Austrian open.
In the summer months, thousands of road and mountain biking enthusiasts flock to Kitzbühel through dramatic and bucolic alpine scenery. We can see why they come, yet it won’t feel crowded – for the road bikers 1,200km of routes incorporate 18,000m of altitude difference. The ascent to the Kitzbüheler Horn is a 950m climb over 21km, you’ll be needing that massage! Mountain bikers can choose 800km of designated forest and alpine trails, including the fearsome Kitzbühel Downhill. It has the largest connected e-bike range in Europe, and with typical Austrian efficiency, 75 rental and battery exchange stations.
Adrenalin junkies are well looked after here, with numerous adventure sports on the doorstep. The region’s many vertical rock faces and exposed ridges are perfect for climbers. Canyoning and rafting are popular. And if you prefer to take in this adventure playground from an eagle’s perspective, you’ll love all the paragliding opportunities. What could be more exciting than launching yourself from the famous “Mausefalle” jump?
HIKING AND TRAIL RUNNING
Let’s go by foot. Kitzbühel offers 1,000km of signposted trails. From forest paths to alpine meadows, riverbanks to mountain peaks, there is something for everyone. And refreshment is never far away, in the form of cosy huts and mountain restaurants. More energetic types will enjoy the 12 trail running routes which range from an “easy” 210 metre height distance, through the intermediate level Streif Vertical, where you start at the ski race’s end and finish at the start 887 metres above. Or go for the most challenging, the 31.5km Horn-Südberge trail with a challenging 2,000 metre height difference.
“To find a man’s true character, play golf with him.” With 4 courses in the immediate vicinity and 30 courses in the surrounding area, Kitzbühel can justifiably call itself the centre of alpine golf. Golfclub Schwarzsee’s 18 holes has amazing views of the Astberg, Rauher Kopf and Wilder Kaiser peaks. Golfclub Eichenheim ranks as one of Austria’s finest courses, set in natural slopes and forest with the Wilder Kaiser and Hohe Tauern mountains providing a stunning backdrop. The two nine-hole courses are good for beginners yet should not be underestimated. The Golf & Land Club Rasmushof course is located at the bottom of the legendary Streif downhill ski run. After a round enjoy local specialities in the excellent restaurant. Golfclub Kitzbühel was opened in 1956 and its 9 holes have been redesigned with plenty of water features. Pretty – and hazardous. Kitzbühel’s golf is a major draw for golfers worldwide, with no fewer than 10 hotels offer golfing packages with spa facilities and fine dining, including the exclusive Kitzbühel Country Club.
Kitzbühel is easy to get to. 125km from Munich airport, 80km from Salzburg and 95km from Innsbruck airports. Road connections are excellent, and it has its own train station.
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All photos © Kitzbühel Tourism | Michael Werlberger