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SKIING

How to save money and still go skiing in Austria

Is it possible to go skiing in Austria this year and not spend a fortune? Yes, as long as you don’t mind compromising on a few factors. Here’s how.

How to save money and still go skiing in Austria
Skiing in Austria is expensive, but there are ways to save money. (Photo by Volker Meyer / Pexels)

Buy a season pass

If you live in the mountains, or not far away, and you plan to go skiing on a regular basis this winter, then the best value for money is a season pass.

A season pass gives you access to the slopes for the entire winter season, which means you can save a lot of money when compared to buying day passes. However, for the cost of the season pass to really pay off, you need to make the most of it and use it often.

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For example, an adult season pass in St. Johann in Tyrol is €382 and a day pass in peak season (December 24 to March 17) costs €53. This means you need to spend at least eight full days on the mountain to save money, otherwise a season pass actually becomes the more expensive option.

Go off-peak

Discounts are available for skiing during the off-peak season. 

As mentioned above, the main ski season is from Christmas to mid-March. But many resorts open earlier in December, if conditions allow, and offer big discounts until December 24.

In St. Johann, the adult day pass rate is €29 between December 8 to 23 – far below the €53 in peak season. Likewise, accommodation is often cheaper during off-peak times, providing another way to go skiing in Austria and still save money.

These off-peak rates don’t apply at all ski resorts but it’s worth checking before booking a trip to the mountains.

Try other winter sports

If the cost of skiing puts you off but you still want to explore the mountains, there are other (and cheaper) options to consider.

Langlaufen (cross-country skiing) is popular in Austria – especially during a good snow year. It involves gliding across groomed trails in the valleys and is completely free to enjoy. Apart from the cost of buying or renting Langlaufen skis and boots.

READ MORE: Is skiing still possible on Austria’s glaciers?

The Langlauf season is also shorter than the ski season. It usually starts around Christmas, or earlier depending on the amount of snowfall, and runs until around the end of February. 

However, the season can go longer if the conditions are right, like during the winter of 2021/2022. Or it might not happen at all if there isn’t enough snow. 

(Photo by Daniel Frank on Unsplash)

Then there is Skitouren (ski touring), which is hiking up the mountain on special skis with fur grips before skiing down. This is a good workout and a great way to explore the mountains, while also getting a skiing fix at the end. It’s also free in some places, or much cheaper than buying a ski pass.

The only downside to Skitouren is that you need to buy or rent different skis and boots, which can add to the cost.

An alternative to ski touring is snowshoeing where you hike up on special snow shoes. This can be done along ski touring trails but unless there is a gondola at the top, you will have to hike back down again.

Buy second-hand gear

It’s no secret that winter sports equipment is expensive with everything to consider from skis to boots, helmet, goggles, back protector and clothing. But there is a way to save money with second hand gear.

A good place to start looking is on Willhaben – Austria’s online second-hand marketplace. Alternatively, many sports stores that sell winter sports gear often have end-of-season sales, although this requires some advance planning.

Many ski rental places also sell ex-rental skis, boots and poles. This isn’t usually advertised but if you ask you can get a good deal. Just make sure the equipment is still in good condition, otherwise it’s not really worth it.

READ ALSO: Reader question: Is travelling to Austria this winter worth it?

Stay at self-catering accommodation

Staying in a hotel and going out for dinner every night is a great way to enjoy a week in the Alps. But it quickly becomes expensive – especially this winter with high inflation and rising prices.

Instead, try booking self-catering accommodation, like an apartment, where you can cook your meals and prepare packed lunches for a day on the slopes.

There are also many Pensionen (boarding houses) in cheaper ski resorts that offer good value for money and usually include breakfast. Some even do half-board, which can help to bring down costs even more.

Shop around

It’s human nature to want to follow the crowd and go to the most popular ski resorts, but they are often the most expensive.

Instead, do some research to find smaller, less expensive places to go skiing in Austria, like Ellmau, Kirchberg and Mayrhofen in Tyrol. 

And if you really want to save money, steer clear of places like Kitzbühel in Tyrol, Zell am See in Salzburg and Lech am Arlberg in Vorarlberg – all of which are known as ‘luxury’ resorts with a price tag to match.

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For members

SKIING

Is skiing still possible on Austria’s glaciers?

The hot summer in Austria this year was bad news for some glaciers. What does it mean for the winter season? And is skiing still possible on Austria's glaciers?

Is skiing still possible on Austria’s glaciers?

For many winter sports enthusiasts, skiing or snowboarding down a glacier is a must-do activity, and there are plenty of opportunities for that in Austria.

Or at least there were until recent years when warmer temperatures started to impact these large bodies of ice on Austria’s mountains.

In fact, the summer of 2022 had such an impact on Dachstein in Styria that there will be no lift operation on the glacier for the coming winter season.

READ MORE: Reader question: Is travelling to Austria this winter worth it?

The main reason for this is that the melting ice has affected the structural integrity of the supports for the T-bar lift, reports Der Standard.

For the lifts to open, Georg Bliem, Managing Director of the Planai-Hochwurzen-Bahnen, said: “We would have to move the supports by five metres and close the crevasses on the slopes.

However, Bliem added it was a “huge effort” to move the supports and there was no way to guarantee what the conditions would be like next year.

Typically the ski area has three drag lifts and one double chair lift in operation during the winter. But industry leaders are pessimistic that the glacier can be revived, which means skiing at Dachstein Gletscher (glacier) could be over for the foreseeable future.

FOR MEMBERS: What to expect from the ski season in Austria this winter

Additionally, Mölltaler Glacier in Tyrol is not opening until the official start of the winter season on November 18th. Usually the ski season at the glacier starts in October but the weather has been too warm.

So what about other glaciers in Austria? Are they still open for skiing? 

Thankfully, for winter sports fan, the answer is yes.

Here’s what you need to know about the autumn/winter 2022/23 season at Austria’s glaciers.

Should you cancel your trip to Austria this winter? (Photo by Daniel Frank on Unsplash)

Hintertux

Winter ski operations at Hintertux Glacier in Tyrol officially started on 15th October. However, this resort boasts all-year skiing and even has 20 km of pistes in operation during the summer months.

Lifts at Hintertux are currently in use from 8.15am to 4.30pm and a full day adult ski pass costs €65.

Kitzsteinhorn

The winter season started at the Kitzsteinhorn Glacier on October 7th. Prior to the opening, the 80cm snow cover was described as “quite impressive” in the Salzburger Nachrichten.

Kitzsteinhorn is Salzburg’s only glacier ski resort and has pistes up to 3,000 metres above sea level. The operators have a modern snowmaking management system that helps to regulate the conditions on the slopes.

The Gletscherjet gondola is currently in operation at Kitzsteinhorn from 8.15am to 4.30pm and further lifts will open from December. The cost of an adult day pass is €64.

READ NEXT: Discover Austria: How to make the most of 24 hours in Innsbruck

Sölden

The glacier ski area is also open in Sölden in Tyrol where the Alpine World Cup event was recently held to kick off the downhill ski race season.

The altitude at Sölden ranges from 1,350 metres to 3,340 metres. The glacier ski area across the Rettenbach and Tiefenbach glaciers covers 34.5 km.

The Gaislachkogl cable car is currently open from 8am to 4.45pm and the cost of an adult day ski pass is around €60 (the price fluctuates depending on the date).

Stubai

The autumn ski season at Stubai Glacier, near Innsbruck in Tyrol, started on 26th September. The Snow Park, known as Stubai Zoo, will open on November 4th with a special three-day event.

There are 11 lifts in operation at the resort from 8am to 4pm. An adult day ski pass at the Stubai Glacier costs €56.

Pitztal

At the Pitztal Glacier (Austria’s highest glacier at 3,440 metres), the slopes have been open since October 1st. Together with the Rifflsee ski area, there are 67 km of slopes at Pitztal.

Currently, the cost of a one day adult ski pass varies from €41 to €58. It’s possible to find cheaper tickets by booking ahead – sometimes up to 30 percent off.

The ski area at Pitztal is in operation from 7am to 1.30pm. From December 17th it will be open daily from 8.30am to 4pm. 

Kaunertal

The Kaunertal Glacier in Tyrol (at 2,750 metres above sea level) opened for skiing on 15th October, including the resort’s snow park for freeriding.

There are three lifts operating at Kaunertal from 8.15am to 4pm. The cost of a one day adult ski pass starts at €41 and Kaunertal uses the same ticket pricing system as Pitztal, so it’s possible to save 30 percent by booking ahead.

FOR MEMBERS: 29 ways to save money in Austria (but still have fun)

(Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP)

How much is climate change impacting Austria’s glaciers?

While the winter season is well underway at most of Austria’s glaciers, experts have been warning for years that the Dachstein Glacier is quickly retreating.

A recent report by Der Standard says the snow at the glacier is currently five metres less than what it should be and people are advised to avoid the area or use a mountain guide.

Elsewhere in Austria, scientists are concerned that most glaciers in the country are losing more ice in summer than they are gaining in winter, which is speeding up the overall ice melt.

And according to the International Commission for the Protection of the Alps (CIPRA), temperatures in Europe’s highest mountains have risen by nearly two degrees Celsius in the past 120 years almost double the global average.

What this will mean for skiing on Austria’s glaciers in the future is yet to be seen. But many glacial resorts are already planning to end the winter season early in 2023 to save energy and protect the glaciers.

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