Ski in Austria: A winter wonderland in Westendorf's snowy Alps
Ski & Snowboard holidays
Westendorf is an idyllic Austrian village that attracts Irish skiers back year after year, says Deirdre Mullins. Here's why.
Set the Mood
As a charming Tyrolian village with a lively après ski scene and great skiing, it’s hardly surprising that the Austrian resort of Westendorf has remained a top favourite for Irish skiers year after year.
Rambling streets here are lined with snow-capped traditional houses, and its onion domed church contributes to the villages's timeless feel. All the hotels are all within short walking distance of the lifts, and there’s a good variety of slopes, making it ideal for mixed level or family groups.
An extensive nursery area is in town beside the main lift - and once beginners find their ski legs, there are plenty of gentle wide blues for them to progress to.
Intermediate skiers will be kept happy with a spread of cruisy blues and wide reds. And while Westendorf may not be the best resort for advanced skiers, the short black 112, which is the steepest in the SkiWelt, will be a challenge.
SkiWelt: The Lowdown
The SkiWelt is one of Austria’s largest interconnect ski regions and easily accessible from Westendorf via gondola. Over half a billion euro has been invested since it started over 40 years ago, and it now boasts a whopping 284km of piste, 90 lifts, four fun parks and 77 cosy mountain huts. It connects the resorts of Westendorf, Söll, Scheffau, Brixen, Ellmau, Going, Itter, Kelchsau and Hopfgarten. Invest in the All Star Card lift pass to access the whole area and insures that the most experienced of skiers won’t get bored.
Is there anything more romantic than snuggling up on a horse-drawn sled, with the sound of hooves traipsing through the snow and the jingling of bells?
My sled ride (€10 to €70 depending on numbers) was a relaxing journey through a magical winter landscape to the Aunerhorf Restaurant, set in a snow-covered forest just outside Westendorf.
After the ride, we warmed up by open fires, before tucking into their delicious Tirolean menu. Recommended is the onion soup with cheese dumplings (€7.50) or the hearty roast beef (€17.90). If you’re lucky, they might be hosting a traditional Tyrolean evening with schuhplatter dancing... involving men in lederhosen doing some interesting thigh and bum-slapping moves.
The Westendorf tourist board offers free guided snow shoe hikes every weekday morning (rent the giant shoes for €9 and big-foot your way through forests, fields and hamlets).
The enthusiastic guides host beginner hikes on Mondays which last about two hours. The more advanced hikes last five hours and go to higher altitudes. Enquire at the Tourist Information Office in the village for more details.
Ski the long (mostly) red run from Westendorf to Brixton, which snakes through forested areas and around mountains giving spectacular views of the valley. It’s a varied run with some steep sections. Intermediate skiers can avoid the black slopes by taking an easy accessible blue as a detour.
Après ski drinks are a must in the Bruchstall bar (bruchstall.at) on the final ski run home to Westendorf. Watch out for the locals who challenge you at the nail game (a race to hammer a nail into a log of wood); they make it look easier than it is... and the loser buys the round.
As Westendorf lies at 800m and the highest point in the ski area is at 1,800m, the snow can be unreliable at the start and end of season. But thanks to extensive snow making facilities it’s skiable all season.
Get me There
Aer Lingus (aerlingus.com) flies twice daily from Dublin to Munich and a weekly from Cork. Fares start from €34.99.
Westendorf is an hour's transfer from Munich airport. A return transfer is around €95 per person with Four Seasons (tirol-taxi.at).
For more information on Westendorf visit kitzbueheler-alpen.com.
Read more:'I was truly stunned' - Holly Carpenter takes her first ever ski trip in Solden