From piste to pub to pillow: an insider ski holiday guide to Mayrhofen

Advice

A Tirolean British favourite

Mayrhofen has the chameleon quality that is the forte of so many Austrian resorts – it will be whatever visitors want it to be, and very successfully too. It can rock, it can rap, it can be the king of cool where even the gnarliest of snowboarders are happy to hang out and rub shoulders with skiers.

For decades Mayrhofen has been one of the most popular resorts in the Alps for Britons, whether on skis or snowboards, and the centrepiece of a Tirolean valley stuffed with ski resorts. It has 142km of runs and 59 lifts, and a reputation for reliable snow throughout a long season, with the runs mostly between 1,650m and 2,500m despite the village sitting at a modest 630m. 

The slopes suit decent intermediates perfectly, full of red-standard runs (although many are blue on the piste map) – but Mayrhofen also has Austria’s steepest slope, the Harakiri

Inside the resort . . .

This once-traditional village in the Zillertal – the Ziller valley – was one of the original migration points for British skiers in the Seventies, and its allure has never faded. In fact holidaymakers have been coming to Mayrhofen for more than 100 years and providing hospitality is a way of life for the locals.

Mayrhofen has a busy centre and is well served by equipment rental, clothing and high-end winter fashion shops. Après is manic here – it starts in huts up the mountain when lunch is hardly over. Bars, including the Pilzbar with oh-so-Austrian umbrella bar, surround the top of the Penken gondola at 1,800m, and more are waiting in the village, with Europop throbbing from the speakers.

Mayrhofen also hosts a number of major events, and none bigger than Snowbombing, a week-long snow-sports and music extravaganza held each spring. The Zillertal is also famed as one of Austria’s most musical valleys – almost every family boasts a member of a band, be it folk, rock or oompah. This extends to the mountain, and music wafts across the slopes from every mountain hut.

This is all set off by a heavily-timbered, picturesque, rustic village that has strictly maintained traditional Tirolean architecture as it has grown.

Off the mountain, there are several toboggan runs, ice skating, winter walking trails, snow shoeing, ice climbing, paragliding and hang gliding, horse riding and sleigh rides. And on the Ahorn, there’s the chance to chill out in more ways than one at the bar of the White Lounge igloo village – it’s a hotel too.

On the slopes . . .

Navigate Mayrhofen’s ski area with our insider’s knowledge of the local slopes and beyond, on and off piste, ski schools and terrain parks.

It may come as a surprise that the slopes of Mayrhofen are mostly above the tree line, considering the resort is at a modest 630m. Yet most of the slopes are between 1,650m and 2,500m, which means they’re relatively snow-sure throughout a long season.

Mayrhofen, with interlinked Hippach, Finkenberg and Lanersbach, has 142km of runs and 59 lifts – in the Zillertal as a whole there are 542km of runs and 180 lifts, also covering the areas of Fügen, Hochfügen, Kaltenbach, Zell am Ziller, Gerlos, Königsleiten and Hintertux. All multi-day passes cover the whole valley.

In Mayrhofen there are 70km of red runs, 44km of blue and 28km of black – although, this being Austria, some of the blues here might easily be graded red in other resorts. The slopes are particularly good for confident intermediates, with many of the reds presenting a proper challenge.

More expert skiers and snowboarders will find plenty to enjoy – and Mayrhofen is home to Austria’s steepest slope, the 78 per cent Harakiri (plainly it can be that gradient for only a short stretch of the overall run). And after fresh snow there is a respectable amount of good off piste not far from the marked runs. For good intermediates there are steepish options available from every lift.

Beginners will find designated areas to start their adventures – but not necessarily in places where it’s easy to meet up for lunch with more experienced friends. The best nursery slopes are on the Ahorn, a separate ski area to Penken. Beginners take a cable car there (the Ahornbahn) from town, and return home the same way at the end of the day. But there are also some beginner slopes near the top of the Penken gondola, and some steep slopes coming down from Ahorn to town, so there’s scope for group bargaining.

The significant queues that used to form at peak times to get on the Penken gondola are a thing of the past since the new gondola opened in 2015. But for variety, alternatives are available for the beginning of the day. Some people nip over to the Ahorn cable car and have two or three warm-up runs – the slopes back down from Ahorn are pleasantly steep and deserted in the morning, and usually freshly groomed.

Another option is to take the ski bus to one of the alternative gondolas that head up to the main area. Lanersbach has a gondola up to the isolated Eggalm sector, and another to the Rastkogel area of Penken. Finkenberg has one up to the Penken area, and Hippach has a gondola up to the valley between Penken and Horberg.

The Penken Park at Mayrhofen is widely regarded as one of the best terrain parks in the Alps. At 2,100m, beneath the Sun Jet chairlift on Penken, it’s rammed full of kickers, plus boxes and rails. It has a separate kids’ area, also with its own lift, as well as dedicated spaces set aside for intermediates, advanced and pro riders.

Who should go?

The slopes in Mayrhofen suit decent intermediates perfectly. They are particularly good for those wanting to build confidence, with many of the reds presenting a proper challenge. With 542km of runs on offering over the Zillertal there are plenty of miles to clock up too. Snowboarders also love it in Mayrhofen, thanks to its world-famous terrain park. Just as famous is its apres scene, both on and off the mountain, and the packed schedule of festivals and events, including Snowbombing, meaning party animals are well catered for.

Know before you go . . .

Essential information

British Embassy Vienna: (00 43 1 713 1575; gov.uk), Jauresgasse 12,
1030 Vienna

Emergency services: Dial 112

Tourist office: See mayrhofen.at, the website of the Mayrhofen Tourist Board, for weather reports, lift status, webcams, traffic details and local event listings. Pick up maps, leaflets and other information from the office located at the bottom of town in the conference centre.

The basics

Currency: Euro

Telephone code: Dial 00 43

Time difference: +1 hour

Local laws & etiquette

• Formal greetings are the norm when meeting someone, and you’ll hear ‘Grüss Gott’ (greeting the almighty), or the more worldly ‘Guten Morgen/Tag/Abend’, just about everywhere you go, and it’s customary to return the salutation. Locals love their titles, so if you are meeting someone who has a university degree, not only are you expected to know this fact, but you’re expected to use the title whilst shaking hands e.g ‘Grüß Gott Herr Doktor’ in cafés and restaurants the waiter will expect to hear a ‘Herr Ober’ (Mr. waiter) from guests seeking attention.

• Tips are not included, nor is it usual to leave them on the table. After the waiter has given you the bill add roughly 10 per cent and ask for it to be added to the total.

• A simple thank you is ‘Danke‘; ‘Bitte’ means both ‘please’ and ‘you’re welcome’.

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