Ski Review: Mayrhofen, Austria
Mayrhofen is one of Austria’s great ski areas with a huge array of slopes mixed with a pretty town replete with typical Tyrolean architecture and a lively nightlife.
Everyone from Eddie Izzard to The Prodigy has partied here while appearing at the Snowbombing and (now gone) Altitude festivals. And when you feel the need for a change of scenery there are plenty more resorts on your lift pass.
Mayrhofen Ski Areas
The main ski area is reached by the Penkenbahn, a swish modern supergondola (20-plus comfy seats) from the centre of town, next to the big Sporthotel Strass with its bars, and across the road from Hans the Butcher whose hot pork rolls make a perfect lunch to push into your pocket.
At the top there are beginner runs tucked away with their own lifts while most skiers head down into the huge bowl that combines lots of charming, tree-lined runs with the likes of Harakiri, the steepest run in the Alps.
There are lifts up the other side of the bowl, not least the Tux cable car 150 to the resort’s high point at 2,590 m. Other pistes head to Finkenberg and Lanersbach while in the other direction an off-piste route will get you down to valley level at the Horbergbahn, for a bus hop back to town.
With access right from the centre of town, Mayrhofen is perfect for families with the ski school meeting area as you pour off the Penkenbahn cable car.
Skiing is safe and away from roads. Intermediates can enjoy the gentle paths and the broad pistes – great for families who want to ski together. Boarders have fun at the Vans Penken Park probably one of Europe’s best snow parks.
There’s a full day’s skiing to be had heading to the resort’s far corners, and plenty of mountain restaurants with fabulous cakes and children-friendly meals such as Wiener schnitzel (breaded veal of chicken cutlet) and chips.
Don’t miss lunch at the Schneekarhütte, twin stone and glass pyramids sitting on a ridge at the top of the Horbergbahn lift, serving modern takes on hearty Austrian cuisine.
Just up the main street from the Penkenbahn is the Ahornbahn that reaches a separate peak and ski area with plenty of space for beginners to improve, and to relax at the White Lounge bar, a real igloo with deckchairs outside. Or stay over in one of the 28 bedrooms.
And more… The Zillertal
This is the Zillertal, a valley that lays claim to more skiing than any other valley in the world, some 510km. It’s a gentle place, wide and flat, served by free buses and the equally free little red Zillertalbahn train.
They connect with all the other resorts on the Zillertal Superski pass. Hochzillertal, taking in the villages of Kaltenbach and Fugen, is a fine place in itself with plenty of big, zoomy runs that children just love. The Zillertal Arena, starting out in Zell-am-Ziller has plenty more slopes with pretty Tyrolean backdrops.
Head farther up the valley and you come to a dead end at the Hintertux glacier, one of Europe’s most varied glacier ski areas, somewhere that’s open every day of the year.
There’s 60km of runs, everything from gentle pistes to bumps for experts, not to mention the Glacier Flohpark, at 3,250m the highest children’s playground in Europe with fun ski runs and tubing.
Mayrhofen – The Resort
The lovely main street is packed with coffee houses, bars and restaurants. The cakes in Kostner, with its smart Austrian design, are legendary and families descend on the place in late afternoon. The cool café/bar Pane-e-Vino Da Michele, run by the cheery Italian Michele Viteritti, serves up sophisticated pasta plus, grappa and giant tiramisu – perfect for a romantic evening.
The Sporthotel Strass is one of the liveliest hotels in the Alps, drifting down the high street in several grand Tyrolean buildings (at one point linked by a first-floor glass corridor). Its Ice Bar is the first stop for skiers’ after getting the Penkenbahn down.
Then, for this season, there’s its huge new lounge and bar, with a touch of
live music, while there’s also the perennial favourite, the subterranean Arena nightclub where Fatboy Slim has been been a regular. And if you need to recover from that, there are two spas – one for the family with a big swimming pool, and another for those who like to strip down to basics.
A stroll away, Scotland Yard is a late-night British pub that’s been part of the scenery for many years while Brück’n stadl, lively Austrian tradition, is near the bottom of the Ahorn.
The music festival
Mayrhofen comes alive for Snowbombing, the biggest music festival in the Alps and invovles DJs, electronica and live bands. The next one, the 19th year, is due 9-14 April 2018. There are events everywhere – the Strass, up at the White Lounge, out in the woods, on the slopes. This season top of the bill is Liam Gallagher.