Kitzbühel’s ski area has grown over the years into one of the world’s leading ski regions. There are two sectors immediately accessible from the town itself, with gondolas ascending from opposite sides of the resort to the stand-alone ‘natural snow paradise’ of the Kitzbüheler Horn on one side and the famous Hahnenkamm on the other – from which it is possible to ski onto neighbouring ski areas above Jochberg and Pass Thurn.
You can quickly expand the ski area available to you by purchasing the Kitzbüheler Alpen AllStarCard pass and taking a short ride on the ski bus to neighbouring areas such as the Skiwelt (280km more piste) or the Schneewinkel at neighbouring St Johann (170km more piste), each just 10 minutes away, and all included on the pass which incorporates other areas too – more than 1,100km of piste served by 360 lifts altogether in fact.
Back on Kitzbühel’s local slopes, you’ll find 170km/60 pistes which are largely easy blues or intermediate reds, although there are more than a dozen blacks and 32km of marked off-piste routes so plenty to challenge experts too. Much of the terrain is below the treeline, but the 750 snow guns ensure snow isn’t a problem.
Kitzbühel is not known as one of the world’s leading powder destinations, but there are a myriad of off-piste opportunities if you know where to look.
The off-piste above Pass Thurn is often the best in the area as it’s the highest sector which typically, if not always, means the best snow. The Steinbergkogel area is recognised as freeride terrain down to the Ehrenbachgraben and routes 90 and 33 from there are possible, although you need to take a bus or taxi from the bottom of 33 or it’s a long hike back.
On the Hahnenkamm area there can be good tree skiing and often unpisted slopes near the Eggl lift. There’s also a growing freeriding scene at the Bichlalm sector, once something of a Kitzbühel backwater, now offers some excellent powder field skiing served by a snowcat.
Although Kitzbühel does have plenty of off-piste challenges, the vast majority of skiers here are not looking for that, but rather the groomed cruising terrain which the ski area offers in abundance. Indeed if you add Kitzbühel’s ski area to the SkiWelt, you get 450km of piste – 85 percent of which is made up of blues and reds that just go on and on, the longest of them a 7km descent. Buy the regional Kitzbuhel All Star pass and that volume of pistes doubles again with more similar neighbouring regions added.
This excess of easy and intermediate graded runs, supported by state-of-the-art high-speed, high-capacity chairs and gondolas, and you get wonderful family-friendly skiing. Half a dozen different itinerary routes are offered by the tourist office to help you make the most of it all.
Bigger still, but suitable for most recreational skiers, the Ski Safari route which takes you on a 50km circuit (35km on pistes, 15km on lifts) around a huge ski area covering Kitzbühel/Kirchberg to Pass Thurn is a ‘must ski.’ Since the completion of the 3S gondola, no ski buses are required to make the full safari route. The route is suited to intermediate level skiers and above.
But it’s not all easy and intermediate stuff on the pistes. There are 28km of groomed black runs including the infamous Streif (see Inside Scoop) of course, one of the world’s most famous runs, and its neighbour, used for classic World Cup slalom racing, the Ganslern slope.
Children are not forgotten either, the wonderful Mini-Streif course at the base of the Hahnenkamm is a brilliantly designed combination fun ski run and obstacle course for the budding young downhill racer. It’s not to be missed.
As with many leading resorts, Kitzbuhel has revised its snowpark over the years and has constantly invested in ever better facilities. The original park on the Kitzbuhelhorn remains but its focus is now on providing a smaller provision for beginner and early intermediate level freestyle skiers and boarders.
The resort’s main facility is now at the Hanglalm in Jochberg where the state of the art Snowpark Kitzbuhel contains lines for all ability levels right up to pro. Signature features include the giant Gap jump, not for the faint hearted. Along with lines of rails, boxes and kickers, there’s a popular ‘treeline’ using elements made of wood. An all-new sector was added to the park in 2011-12 adding beginner-to-intermediate level elements to broaden the park’s appeal. An active shape team work to keep the elements in top notch condition, under the guidance of park designer Franz Lechner.