Often, when you think of Austria, you think of the Mozart, The Sound of Music, yodeling, wide open spaces, and of course – skiing.
Austria has hosted the winter Olympics twice and at the last winter Olympics in Turin, Team Austria won no less than 20 medals in skiing disciplines alone.
With many Brits flocking to the more renowned resorts such as Kitzbuhel and St Anton, I recently travelled with Club La Costa to the more family oriented resort of Zell am See.
As the name suggests, Club La Costa are normally associated with warm winter sun, yacht clubs and Spanish summer holiday destinations. I was more than intrigued to find out what their Austrian Alpine Centre had to offer.
The main cities of Innsbruck, Vienna and Salzburg are all on direct flight routes from the UK with budget airline carriers. Each city provides convenient access into the Austrian Alps with many resorts only an hour away from the airports.
Zell am See is the capital of the Zell am See district in the Austrian state of Salzburg. It is the second largest city in the Pinzgau region and is only a one hour drive from Salzburg itself. The village only has 5,000 permanent residents, but doubles in size during the winter months when the resort becomes a hive of activity. The resort is perfect for families, with a range of terrain suitable for all levels and a host of activities that won’t leave you board for a second.
Zell am See lies next to the Hohe Tauern National park and as a result, is perfectly located for excursions to explore the surrounding valleys. This makes the resort an ideal place for both those looking for a relaxing holiday or an all action trip.
The resort of Zell am See itself is exceptionally picturesque with tree lined slopes and a beautiful winter lake at the base of the mountains. The lake is the epitome of a winter wonderland and perfect for popping on a pair of skates whilst soaking in the atmosphere of the encompassing snowy peaks. The village is very traditional with plenty of Austrian charm, no more so typified than by the sight of horse drawn carriages as you enter the bustling streets of the town centre.
Zell am See is a hive of activity and has everything you could wish for in a ski resort. Additional to the more typical activities of alpine skiing, snowboarding, cross country skiing and hiking; those feeling more adventurous can also try their hand at snow kiting, gliding, parachuting and caving – to name a few!
There is no less than 138km of skiable terrain to explore with a wide variety of runs, making the slopes easily accessible for all abilities and ages. Each resort has their own ski school, which have child friendly learning areas and plenty of fun activities to keep children of all ages entertained. Features include special slalom runs, igloos and ice caves.
In neighboring Kaprun, there is even the opportunity to spend the night up on the glacier at the Volvo Ice Camp. The igloos provide a comfortable, albeit rather unusual bed for the night when you can relax and unwind around the fondue pot, sharing a meal with friends before wrapping up in reindeer skins as you drift off to sleep.
On a sunny day, many people chose to spend the day up the mountain by simply taking in a gondola ride to enjoy the scenery and fresh mountain air. There is also an abundance of hiking trails connecting to many of the neighboring valleys for those who may wish to chose an alternate activity to skiing.
Another activity is ‘Rodeln’ or tobogganing. As one of the oldest pieces of alpine sports equipment, tobogganing is more popular in Austria than ever before and is considered by many as their favourite snow sports activity.
Some of the toboggan runs in the Salzburg region are only available at night as they cross the ski pistes. Although, every 10 miles there is a toboggan run of some shape or form. In Saalfelden, just outside Zell am See, there are two toboggan runs; one by day and one by night. The runs themselves are no less than 6km long and are accessible by chairlift.
Zell am See also caters for armchair sports fans through various evening ski shows and even a national ice hockey team called the Polar Bears.
The Alpine valley has been a health spa resort since the early sixties and Lake Zell also acts as a natural reservoir, proving the town with fresh alpine drinking water.
The region is also famed for its many festivals, such as Krampus night – or ‘devils night.’ In the time leading up to Christmas when the days are getting shorter, young people of the region dress up as devils. The ‘Krampus’ through his mysterious appearance, wild movements and dark tones of bells, removes evil wherever he goes leaving just the good behind. The Krampus can be seen in the local area from 6th -10th December at their various parades.
In the midst of beautiful alpine scenery, The Club La Costa Alpine Centre is an ideal holiday choice. The resort is conveniently situated between Saalfelden and Zell am See, making it the perfect base for both those who want complete relaxation or for those looking to enjoy the wide variety of year round local sporting activities.
The Alpine Centre itself is very friendly and family orientated resort. Facilities include swimming pool, sauna, restaurant, cocktail bar, outside BBQ, games room, TV room and wireless internet. For those on a tighter budget, all rooms are equipped with self catering facilities – including fridge, cooker, microwave, dishwasher, TV and Hi-fi system.
The Alpine Centre also has a ski hire and boot room on site. The equipment is up to date with the latest designs and ski technology with skis and boards serviced to an exceptionally high standard.
In terms of location, The Alpine Centre is well placed for exploring the region and taking in sightseeing trips. The resort provides a regular bus service to and from the slopes of Zell am See. Buses depart from the resort door in the morning and take you directly to the base of the mountain, with a return service back to the Alpine centre at the end of the skiing day.
For those visiting outside the winter season or simply looking to take a break from the slopes, resort also provides guests with easy access to the cultural delights of Salzburg, the Krimml waterfall, Grossglocker high Alpen Pass (Austria’s highest mountain at 3,797 meters), the Kapruner reservoirs and the casino and salt mines at Bad Reichenhall.
Club La Costa staff are on hand to take care of all your holiday requirements from arranging your ski pass and ski school lessons, to booking your site seeing trip or kite boarding tuition.
If there is a down side to Zell am See it’s that sometimes the low altitude of the mountain means a lack of snow. However, with a glacier in Kaprun, you can virtually ski everyday of the year, no matter what the weather maybe.
The snow so far this season has been superb and the mountain has a fantastic base to keep the pistes in great condition right through until the April.
Even in an average season there is plenty to see and do in the village, making Zell am See the perfect resort to combine skiing and après activities.