Sexual assault allegations emerge in Austria’s professional skiing scene

Austrian prosecutors said on Friday that they have launched a preliminary enquiry into possible sexual assault in the Alpine country's hallowed professional skiing scene in the 1970s and as recently as 2005.

Sexual assault allegations emerge in Austria's professional skiing scene
File photo of an Austrian ski resort. Photo: Violin/Depositphotos

The probe was sparked by Nicola Werdenigg, a former Olympic skier under her maiden name Spiess, saying this week that she was raped in the 1970s when she was 16 by a male team colleague.

“If you didn't want to play ball then your place (in the team) was in danger. There were cases of assault, sexual assault,” she told the Der Standard daily. “Everyone knew about it. It was seen as normal.”

In a subsequent television interview, Werdenigg, now 59, said that she was also aware of a case of sexual assault taking place in 2005.

READ ALSO: 16 sexual assaults reported in Austria after New Year's Eve celebrations

The head of the Austrian Ski Federation (OeSV), Peter Schroecksnadel, said he was taking the claims “very seriously” and said that Werdenigg has been asked to provide more details on the alleged 2005 incident.

On Wednesday another former skier anonymously backed up the allegations about the 1970s, telling Der Standard that she and others were seen as “fair game” and that a man tried to rape her in a hotel room.

“He said it was his turn,” the woman said. “Everybody had things happen to them back then.”

But another former champion, Annemarie Moser-Proell, who won gold at the 1980 Winter Olympics, told ServusTV on Tuesday that she was unaware of any such abuse taking place.

READ ALSO: 'Men touched my body and I was surprised; I thought this didn't happen in Germany'

For members


Where are the best places to go skiing in Austria?

Austria’s ski resorts are some of the most popular in Europe, but the best one for you will depend on what you’re looking for. Here’s what you need to know.

Where are the best places to go skiing in Austria?

The winter season is big business in Austria with people from around the world flocking to the Alps. 

And this year is set to be even more enjoyable as the first one without Covid restrictions since the start of the 2019/2020 season (although with inflation-boosted prices).

To help you get started, here’s our guide to the best places to go skiing in Austria and what they offer.

FOR MEMBERS: From inflation to Covid: What to expect from Austria’s winter season

For glitz and glamour

For glitz, glamour and luxury (and prices to match), look no further than Kitzbühel in Tyrol and Lech am Arlberg in Vorarlberg.

Kitzbühel is a well-known name in the luxury ski world but is especially popular with people from Germany due to its close proximity to Munich. It’s a pretty town with a long history and also home to the annual Hahnenkamm Race – the world’s second oldest alpine ski race.

Lech is an exclusive resort in the Bludenz district of Vorarlberg with fancy villas and an upmarket après ski scene. It’s known as a playground for the rich and famous, complete with designer shopping in the main village.

Expect to pay high prices in Kitzbühel and Lech – for everything. For example, an adult day pass in Kitzbühel in peak season is €65. In Lech, a day pass costs €67.

For affordable prices

If you simply want to enjoy good snow conditions without the millionaire price tag, then head to one of Austria’s more affordable locations.

Flachau in Salzburg is a spacious resort with a rustic vibe, located just one hour from Salzburg Airport. It is known for great snow conditions due to its high altitude and is cheaper than some other resorts. Day tickets cost €61 in peak season if bought online.

READ MORE: 8 things to know if you’re visiting Austria in December

Another affordable resort to consider is Söll in Tyrol. Söll is located in the SkiWelt area and can be easily reached from either Salzburg, Innsbruck or Munich airports. As an added bonus, Söll is also home to Austria’s largest night skiing area. Plus, day tickets cost €60, or just €54 in low season (December 8 to 16 2022, or March 18 to April 10 2023).

Accommodation, food and shopping are all more affordable in Flachau and Söll – especially when compared with places like Kitzbühel and Lech am Arlberg.

For family-friendly skiing

Austria is a country with a strong focus on families and children, so it’s no surprise there are many family-friendly ski resorts to explore. 

A good place to start is St. Johann in Tyrol. The town has a mixture of traditional and modern hotels and restaurants, and the resort has a range of slopes for all abilities. Just don’t expect many late nights with people dancing on the tables in St. Johann as it’s more of an early dinner and early to bed type of place.

Alternatively, head to Schladming-Dachstein in Styria for a similar vibe and plenty of child-friendly slopes. There are even family tickets available, like 35 percent off ski passes for children and teenagers at the weekend. Plus, Schladming-Dachstein has a young families ticket for those with a child under the age of three.

READ ALSO: How to save money and still go skiing in Austria

For snowboarders

Snowboarding might not be as popular as it used to be, but there are still some resorts in Austria that are better suited to snowboarders.

Snowboarding is also a popular winter sport in Austria (Photo by Colin Lloyd on Unsplash)

Mayrhofen in Tyrol is one of the most well-known snowboarding resorts in the Austrian Alps and the location for the annual Snowbombing festival. It is also home to PenkenPark, which is considered as one of the biggest – and best – snowparks in Europe. Plus, as you would expect from such a resort, the nightlife is quite good and there are plenty of affordable accommodation options in the town.

Another top snowboarding resort in Austria is Arlberg, which sits between Tyrol and Vorarlberg. Arlberg is Austria’s largest ski resort and is known for its vast freeriding opportunities. As an added bonus, most of the lifts at the resort are gondolas and chair lifts, which are easier for snowboarders to use than drag lifts.

For après ski

Winter sports and partying often go hand-in-hand, and it’s no different in Austria.

A good place to make the most of the Austrian après ski scene is Ischgl in Tyrol. Unfortunately, Ischgl’s reputation as a party place was its downfall in March 2020 when it became a hotspot of Covid-19 infections. But the town has since managed to bounce back and is still the place to go for traditional après ski with schnapps, oompah music and waiters in Lederhosen.

Or make your way to Saalbach Hinterglemm in Salzburg – a popular location for British winter holidaymakers in Austria. Saalbach has a range of bars and restaurants to enjoy, from traditional huts to modern wine bars. Expect to find a lively atmosphere in Saalbach in peak season with the beer flowing and the tunes blaring.