by Max Hardy
Nowadays it’s all about the Facebook photos. The Instagram likes. The Twitter hashtags. On rainy days in the UK many of us find ourselves sighing over photos of places we’d rather be, thinking ‘if only’.
But why can’t we be the ones taking the photos for once? Today I’ve been surfing the web for some awesome pictures of people having some amazing ski holidays in Austria that will make you wish you were out there in the mountains yourself, clogging up everyone else’s newsfeed with your own photos.
1. This perfect little village
This is the kind of photo you might see on Instagram, or on a billboard, and think ‘places like that don’t exist anymore’. Picture the modern ski holiday and you’d be forgiven for seeing budget apartment blocks, ski rental complexes, machine-like canteens, unbearable queues of squealing ski school kids in your mind’s eye.
But alpine resorts aren’t all purpose-built concrete towns – the idyllic chocolate-box villages still exist, you just have to find them. This photo is a perfect example of a traditional Austrian ski resort.
Skiing in Austria doesn’t necessarily have to involve a big party resort like St Anton with its fair share of intoxicated seasonnaires, either – that quite understandably doesn’t appeal to everyone. Most of the villages popular with tourists have been around far longer than skiing was ever even considered – these are real towns or villages that happened to be surrounded by breathtaking mountains. Forget the soulless, purpose-built ski resorts you may have visited in other parts of the Alps and look to Austria for its traditional architecture, friendly locals and family-run businesses.
If you’re looking for an unspoilt ski resort, try Alpbach with its charming cosy chalets and tree-lined slopes. Kitzbuhel and Seefeld are two other gorgeous medieval towns with a traditional and atmospheric feel to them – all worthy of being considered among the most romantic resorts in Austria.
2. This I’m-drinking-Gluwein-and-you’re-not snap
The classic ‘Gluhwein with mountain backdrop’ photo – a mandatory upload that promises to make all your friends sitting bleary-eyed at their office desks back home in the UK jealous. Who could resist gloating about their fantastic day’s skiing followed by relaxing and warming up with a hot drink? Gluhwein is enjoyed after a long day on the Austrian slopes in a typical wooden hut. It’s basically red wine with plenty of cinnamon and cloves, but warmed up to become quite exotic. Gluhwein is an essential part of any ski holiday.
Choose to leisurely sip a glass or two on the sun terrace of a busy mountain hut like the Idalp in Ischgl (there are 800 seats outside in the popular self-service) or the Grillhofalm in Mayrhofen (think deck chairs, music, and reasonable prices) and rest your aching legs as you sunbathe after a delicious lunch.
Or if you’re looking for a stylish, much more luxurious après-ski experience, watch skiers as the slopes drown in the shade of the setting sun in Lech at the Sun Terrace and Ice Bar of Hotel Krone.
Wherever you are in Austria you’ll find you’ll want to spend every afternoon in the cooling fresh air with a drink in your hand, watching the sun fade over stunning snowy peaks.
3. The amazing looking powder day in this pic
Is there anything more beautiful than untouched snow? Mounds and mounds of it. Instead of searching the hashtag #freshpowder or #powderday or the tragic, seasonaire-esque #powpow (yes, you’ll actually find thousands of photos under this), why not be the one to post your own photo like this? More and more skiers nowadays are venturing off-piste – away from the crowds and into the deep stuff, and thanks to fatter skis and other advances in equipment, it’s easier, safer, and more affordable than ever.
New to off-piste? Try Lech, a resort on the northern side of the Alberg Pass in Austria. Super posh but super snowy, with around 7.3m of snow per season at resort level. The terrain isn’t as tough as somewhere like St Anton, but if you’re a little rusty or hitting the off-piste for the first time, it’s ideal.
So hire some powder-bashers, don your avalanche bleeper, and get back out there. But never ever without expert guidance. The best off-piste guides in the resort can be found at the Alpin Centre.
Make it your mission this winter to seek out the fresh powder and make the first tracks of the day. Stop staring at your smartphone wishing you had the guts to get back out on the mountain, and actually do it. Oh, and take a photo to prove you really did do it, obviously. #nofilter guaranteed.
4. How warm and welcoming does this chalet look?
Can you picture yourself in this photo? Rosy-cheeked in sallopettes heading back to the warm chalet for a mug of hot chocolate after an exhausting but brilliant day on the mountain? Yes, I thought so. We’ve all seen the photos and dreamed of stepping inside one.
Forget noisy hotels and bleak rental apartments – a chalet like this is the ultimate way to treat yourself. There’s little better than snuggling up after a chilly day with friends and family in a traditional Alpine wooden chalet.
Most chalets in Austria are run by English tour operators, but local owners are still around too. Prices range massively, and I mean that. Chalet N in Lech, often claimed to be the world’s most expensive ski accommodation, costs an average of £11,430 per person per week. Wow.
For the rest of us though, there are still options. Bargain hunters, be sure to book off-peak times in the season: early December, late January, and March.
In your typical chalet, half-board provisions usually consist of daily breakfast and afternoon tea (yes, cake everyday), as well as dinner with wine six nights a week – all included in the price. So instead of flicking through that travel magazine or scrolling through your social media feed, feeling envious of friends and family as they splash their oh-so-perfect ski holiday photos all over for you to see, check out some of the incredible available chalets this season on chalet finder or on the Crystal website.
Chalets are the ideal accommodation for big groups of friends or families with children, and some great deals can be sought out.
Inside the wood and stone building the floors will be stripped and polished, the bare beams and panelled walls made from oak or pine. The spacious rooms will be furnished with carved and hand-painted chairs and wardrobes with colourful rugs on the floor to keep your toes warm and cottagey curtains at the windows. Most essential is a crackling open fire to complete the scene. Cosy…
5. It doesn’t get any more après-ski than this!
This picture perfectly sums up Austrian après-ski. If you’re looking for a party on the slopes, Austria’s the place for you. They love their Bier (beer) and of course a Jaegermeister or two (or three or four). And around 4pm every day of the season, resorts are transformed and locals and tourists alike go wild. Après ski is a big deal for the Austrians, and boy do they know how to drink. Just make sure you brush up on your German so you can get a round of drinks in.
Soelden has 45 different après-ski bars and upholds its reputation of a hard partying resort, along with Ischgl – both play host to some of Austria’s most magnificent alpine events. Here you’ll find plenty of hot post-skiing spots fuelled with unlimited Schnapps, best washed down with live music at the Trofana Alm.
You don’t need to be a youthful seasonaire to down a Spiegelei (Austria’s inventive shot served in an egg shell), but remember: if you’re partying on the slopes often you’ll have to ski down.
No matter where you are, the locals will show you a good time. And after your first Austrian après experience, it’s unlikely you’ll be getting that first lift up the next morning…
So this year I dare you to book that holiday you’ve been meaning to book. It’s your turn to make them all jealous.
And when you return home with stories and photos of beautiful Austrian villages and endless adventures on skis, you definitely will.
Max Hardy is a director of ski information website Welove2ski.com.