Skiing is one if my favourites sports. It challenges you physically and mentally, often mind over matter is the biggest problem. Skiing Austria is a fairytale. The astonishing beauty that surrounds you as you ski down the Tyrol Alps can be a huge distraction. Sometimes stopping and admiring the view is just a necessity. I joined Contiki for their Contiki Ski Austria tour, based in Hopfgarten for 1 week.
Hopfgarten is in Kitzbühel, Tyrol, Austria. You can catch the train from Munich bound for Italy, and hop off 2hrs later in Wörgl. Hopfgarten is just a short 10 minute drive away.
Hopfgarten is home to SkiWelt (Ski World), Austria’s largest interconnected ski park. SkiWelt joins 6 ski resorts, into one epic lift pass. There is 280km of skiable terrain, 90 cable and chair lifts (some of which have heated seats and even wind shields), an igloo village with a bar inside, plenty of spots to stop for food, and apres-ski which the Austrians do best! The lift pass costs €46 per day, making it an insanely good deal.
The SkiWelt park is beautiful and is an absolute delight. There are quite a few sections and corridors that are very flat that snowboarders struggled with – skiers towed them along, so SkiWelt is better suited to skiers, but if you didn’t mind having to unstrap and walk it, is a snowboarders dream too.
The quality of the snow is beautiful. We had a good firm base, with fresh powder ontop. Of course, the higher you go, the less powder and more ice there was, with the peak of Hopfgarten / Söll very icy, and definitely not for the faint hearted, especially with the sharp slope.
The Hopfgarten side of the mountain is good, but the best part of this park is that it doesn’t matter where you stay, as you can connect through to anywhere! I enjoyed the Söll side of the mountain most, which involved catching the gondola up to middlestation, skiing to the Rigi chairlift and then skiing down the valley into Söll. Söll was my absolute favourite, especially in the morning as the sun doesn’t hit that side of the mountain until the afternoon, which meant crisp powder allllllll morning!
During the weeks stay, we managed to explore as far as Going. Each section was different and catered better towards certain skiers. For example, Brixen Im Thale was better for advanced skiers. Scheffau had some really fun runs, that had the best chairlift at the end – heated seats! The park is seriously impressive, without a doubt I would return.
Having skied several times back home, I classified myself as an intermediate skier. However, I quickly learnt that skiing in Australia is comparable to skiing on hills. Skiing in Austria is much steeper terrain. I quickly found myself signing up for lessons as I was unable to confidently ski down. This was the best decision I could have made, and one I would highly recommend to anyone.
My wonderful British instructor, Peter led me and my group of 6 around the entire park for 3 days. As the park is so large, knowing where to go and when was invaluable. He taught us plenty of new techniques to cope with the terrain, and left me feeling absolutely confident to conquer these slopes for days after.
The lessons are really well priced at €145 for 3 days. Lessons start at 10am and finish up at 3pm. We stopped for lunch as a group around 12pm daily, leaving enough time for 1-2 runs before and after. The runs here are really long, so planning your route is important.
Years ago, Contiki bought Haus Schoneck in Hopfgarten, a large traditional chalet on the edge of town. The gasthof is used all year round by Contiki, with summer tours stopping for the day, and winter tours crashing week in week out.
The quad rooms are basic, 4 bunkbeds with linen provided (towels can be rented), a small bathroom (bring a hairdryer and shampoos etc, this is a lodge not a hotel) and a window which will be covered in snow.
My room was particularly small, which made it challenging to share with 3 other girls, all with huge suitcases. But the whole point of the week is to ski and snowboard and not sit in the room, so it’s not too bothersome. Bring a powerboard with you, this gasthof was not built for our modern device charging requirements! You won’t get WiFi in the rooms (although I was lucky enough to find a 5cm spot on the top right hand corner of my bed that got WiFi😉) but there is good WiFi in the common room, bar and dining room for all your Facebook and skyping needs.
Contiki offer you a half board option when you arrive, which is €55 for a 3 course dinner for 5 nights. This means that 2 of the nights you’ll need to have dinner in town, which is perfect as you get to have traditional Austrian food. In town you’ll pay €15 per main, so what Contiki offers is really very affordable and good home cooked meals, which most people (80%) end up taking.
The food is simple, think pumpkin soup, goulash beef, spinach chicken and croquettes, burgers, cheesy bread, spaghetti Bolognese, and apple strudel for dessert. For breakfast they offer toast, cereals, vegemite, Nutella, and 1-2 hot options like eggs, pancakes each morning. For one Austrian town night, my group went to Gasthof Oberbrau for their pork knuckle. It has to be ordered 24hours in advance and is simply to die for!
THE CONTIKI EXPERIENCE
I labelled this experience like school camp with alcohol. You stay in the same spot with the same people for a week and drink in the evenings, party and alike. The group usually is about 100 people, mostly Australians, a few Kiwis, Canadians and South Africans all aged between 18 – 30. The whole point of this tour is to be social and have fun skiing. Yes some people do come just to not ski alone, but there is so much fun to be had with the group! Contiki organises trivia nights, a white hot party and a day trip to Salzburg, all of which were really good days. The bar is well stocked and cheap, with Aussie bartenders tending to your every need. Your crew will join you on nights out, they work really hard, so they deserve a break too! Contiki is designed to cater best to singles, but couples fitted in well in this scenario as it was a one destination trip.
I recommended finding your own way to Hopfgarten, rather than take the bus from London. I took the train from Munich, and within 2hrs was in paradise.
if you are going to brave it from London, it is a 17 hour drive. Some people who had taken the bus to Hopfgarten ended up booking flights back to London from Munich as it was something they only wanted to experience once. The bus back to London leaves at 4am, so partying all night long and busing 17 hours isn’t really a great option (unless you can knock yourself out on the bus… then go for it!).
I was very happy to be taking the train onwards to Salzburg from nearby Wörgl train station. Contiki happily pick you up and can drop you off at Hopfgarten train station, and if there are enough of you, can even drive you to Wörgl train station.