Alpine Adventures: 12 Unforgettable Skiing Experiences in Tirol
Skiing is a great sport for lots of reasons. Some skiers like staying fit on the slopes, while others search for the ultimate adrenaline kick. Families enjoy spending time together in the fresh air, foodies complete a few runs in the morning before settling down to a long lunch. We have put together twelve unforgettable skiing experiences in Tirol, with something for everyone.
Snow is amazing. It dampens the noise of everyday life, it hides the world under a sparkling white blanket, it offers the perfect conditions for family holidays. It can also be a blank canvas upon which experienced skiers can create their own artwork – perfect first tracks winding their way down the mountain. Here are a dozen top tips for unforgettble skiing experiences in Tirol.
1. Obergurgl: Early-Morning Skiing with Local Guides
The clue's in the name! First Tracks is an initiative offered in selected ski resorts which open their lifts early in the morning for skiers willing to get up with the lark in return for deserted pistes and perfectly groomed slopes. Obergurgl invites early birds onto the slopes every Friday before sunrise. A select group of up to 50 skiers can then enjoy the freshly prepared runs for 1.5 hours before the resort opens to the general public. A local guide is on hand to accompany the First Tracks group, with the session ending at the Hohe Mut Alm hut, where a sparkling wine breakfast awaits.
Skiers who have always dreamt of having the pistes all to themselves can make this fantasy a reality in the resort of Obergurgl. © Tirol Werbung - Klaus Kranebitter
2. St. Anton am Arlberg: Exclusive Powder Experiences
Skiers who would rather sleep in than set the alarm will also find plenty of unforgettable first tracks experiences in Tirol. One of the most thrilling is taking on the Valluga, the highest peak in St. Anton am Arlberg. The run leading down from the top of the mountain is one of the most challenging anywhere in Tirol and is not groomed or prepared in any other way. This makes it very much experts only! Indeed, you won't be allowed onto the famous Valluga II gondola without a ski guide. If you just want to travel up to the top to enjoy the view, you have to leave your skis at the bottom.
What a feeling! Powder skiing in St. Anton am Arlberg. © Tirol Werbung - Josef Mallaun
3. Kaunertal Glacier: Drive a Piste Groomer
The Kaunertal Glacier offers visitors the chance to make a boyhood (or girlhood!) dream come true by driving a piste groomer. After a quick introduction, guests are invited to take control of the PistenBully machine and feel the power of the 510 horse power engine. A member of the piste-grooming team is on hand at all times with tips and advice.
Always wanted to drive a piste groomer? Visitors to the Kaunertal Valley have the chance to do just that. © Tirol Werbung - Bert Heinzlmeier
4. Paznaun: Duty-Free Shopping on Old Smuggling Routes
The region between Paznaun and Samnaun, on the Austrian-Swiss border, was once used by smugglers transporting luxuries such as nylon tights and coffee to Tirol in return for products such as butter and cheese. Today there is nothing illegal about duty-free shopping over the border in Switzerland, though on the border you will still find an old customs checkpoint. There are three runs leading from Austria down into Samnaun on the Swiss side, where shoppers will find fine boutiques selling jewellery, watches, etc. No need these days to creep back over the border in the mountain fog, but be sure to check the rules on bringing duty-free items into Austria.
The ski pistes lead over the Swiss border into Samnaun, along routes once popular with smugglers. © Seilbahn Komperdell GmbH
Enjoy the view
"Hunger is the best cook" goes an old saying here in Tirol. After a day of action and adventure in the fresh mountain air, there is nothing quite like a hearty meal out on the terrace with the sun in your face and the mountains on the horizon. Here are some of the top spots to sample the local cuisine.
5. Hintertux Glacier: Haute Cuisine in a Private Gondola
The smell of fresh coffee, a beautifully set table, freshly baked bread – and a view which changes every time you look out of the window! Breakfast in the private gondola on the Hintertux Glacier is an unforgettable experience giving visitors the chance to experience haute cuisine in the truest sense of the word. Take your time as you travel up the mountain, then back down, then back up, etc.
Breakfast for two in a private gondola is a unique dining experience on the Hintertux Glacier. © Hintertux Glacier
6. Pitztal Glacier: Cappuccino at 3,440 Metres
Café 3440 on the Pitztal Glacier is, unsurprisingly, located at 3.440 metres above sea level. This makes it not only the highest café in Austria but also the highest cable car station and, interestingly, home to the highest registry office for all those in search of a unique wedding location. The views from the café are, as you may imagine, quite breathtaking. Mountains which can be seen include the Wildspitze, the highest peak in Tirol. Food includes not only coffee and cake but also hot meals. Fun fact: the air is so thin that the cakes and pastries actually have to be made further down in the valley.
The Pitztal Valley is home to Austria's highest café. © Tirol Werbung - Maximilian Margreiter
7. Stubai Glacier: World's Highest Award-Winning Eatery
3,000 metres above sea level, 89 points in the Fallstaff guide – the Restaurant Schaufelspitz on the Stubai Glacier offers its diners haute cuisine in more than one sense of the term. It is run by head chef David Kostner, who uses outstanding produce to create "dishes rich in ideas" (Fallstaff) and "top-level Austrian cuisine with an international flavour" (Gault & Millau). Diners can choose from the cosy wood-panelled snug or the large sun terrace with majestic views of the surrounding alpine landscape.
The Restaurant Schaufelspitz is the highest fine-dining location in the world. © Wintersport Tirol AG & CO Stubaier Bergbahnen KG
8. Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis: Dining from Dusk till Dawn
Dining from dusk till dawn is no exaggeration in the ski resort of Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis. Early birds can ride a piste groomer before sunrise over to the Hexenseehütte, where breakfast is served as the sun slowly appears behind the mountains before clipping into their skis and enjoying a day cruising the slopes. Lunch can be enjoyed at the Crystal Cube, a miniature eatery with just one single table where diners can enjoy multiple courses all on their own. As the day draws to a close, how about a romantic dinner at the Monte Mare complete with candles, fine wines and wonderful food?
The Crystal Cube is a miniature restaurant with just one table where diners can enjoy fine food and wonderful 360° views. © Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis Marketing GmbH - Foto Müller
Travelling broadens our horizons, inviting us to open our hearts and minds to new ideas and cultures. Here are four experiences in Tirol sure to leave a lasting impression.
9. Brixen im Thale: Spend the Night in a Tipi
Brave travellers in search of a unique overnight experience can head to the ice hotel in Norway – or they could spend the night at the Igloo Village in Brixen im Thale. Before settling down for the night, guests are invited to take part in a torchlit walk through the snowy landscape followed by a hearty fondue (vegetarian option available) rounded off with a few drinks around a blazing campfire. There is even the option of carving your own ice sculpture! There are no Northern Lights this far south, but the starry night sky is a marvel to behold.
The Igloo Village in Brixen im Thale offers unique accommodation for those who don't mind the cold. © ALPENIGLU® GmbH
10. Sölden: Follow in the Footsteps of James Bond
Fans of 007 visiting Tirol shouldn't miss out on the chance to visit one of the shooting locations featured in the blockbuster hit "Spectre". Several scenes in the movie were filmed at the eye-catching ICE Q restaurant, next to which you will find the 007 Elements exhibition and adventure world. The ICE Q building was given the role of a medical clinic in the film, but in real life it is a café and restaurant serving fine food with fabulous views.
The ICE Q restaurant on the Gaislachkogel mountain featured in the James Bond film Spectre, where it was the Hoffler Clinic. Right next door is "007 Elements", an exhibition and adventure world dedicated to the world's most famous spy. © ÖTZTAL TOURISMUS
11. Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis: A Look Behind the Scenes
Normally it's very much "staff only" inside the engine rooms of the ski lifts and cable cars in Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis, but every now and then visitors have the opportunity to take a look behind the scenes and see just what goes into making a ski resort work. The three-hour guided tour shows participants where the gondolas are kept overnight, how they are re-attached in the morning, what it is like to be a cable car technician and how the power is generated which runs the many lifts and gondolas. The adventure ends with coffee and cake, with the tour guide happy to answer any questions.
The ski resort of Serfaus invites visitors to take a look behind the scenes. © Bergbahnen Fiss-Ladis - Andreas Kirschner
12. St. Ulrich am Pillersee: Giant Crucifix on the Slopes
On the slopes in St. Ulrich am Pillersee you will find a huge Jakobskreuz crucifix topping out the Buchensteinwand ski resort. It is the largest cross of its kind anywhere in the world where visitors can walk upinside it to enjoy the view from the top. Skiers and snowboarders can take a break from the slopes and do precisely that. All in all there are four differnt viewing platforms overlooking the spectacular surroundings. On a clear day you can see as far as the Großglockner, Austria's highest mountain. auf Inside the crucifix there are exhibitions which change on a regular basis. If you are wondering what's behind the name, the crucifix is on the route of the Way of Saint James (in German: Jakobsweg) leading through Tirol to Santiago de Compostella in Spain.