Fun Front End, Glacial Behind!
662 kilometres of pistes, including glacier access, and 171 lifts - that is the Tyrolean Zillertal in winter. It consists of four holiday regions, all easily reached from the Inntalautobahn. Everyone will find the perfect place to suit their taste and skiing ability here.
The Zillertal, a wide Tyrolean side valley, was named after the Ziller river, which runs from Strass to Mayrhofen. This 'back end' is where the Tuxertal, featuring the Hintertuxer glacier, starts; at 3,250 metres above sea level, this is a year-round ski area. The 'front end' has three further winter sports resorts and their ski areas to offer:
1. Ski Optimal Hochfügen-Hochzillertal, with the Spieljoch ski area,
2. Zillertal Arena with Zell am Ziller and Gerlos,
3. Mayrhofen with Penken and Ahorn.
Of the 662 kilometres of pistes, 81.4 kilometres are black, 414.8 kilometres are red and 165.8 kilometres are blue graded pistes. All 171 lifts can be used with the Zillertaler Superski Pass.
The Hochzillertal's ski area Hochfügen (2,500 metres) offers wide pistes for those skiing for fun, and numerous off-pistes for freeriders, even providing a freerider information point advising, for example, on the current situation regarding avalanche risk and so on. As from 2011, freeriding taster courses will also be on offer.
Jewel in the Alpine ski crown is Stephan Eberharter, Hochzillertal born and bred. Inspired by his medal wins at the Salt Lake City Olympic Games, there is now a 'Stephan Eberharter Olympia Abfahrt', a downhill run best approached from Kaltenbach. The more manageable Spieljoch area, especially popular with families, can be reached from Fügen.
166 kilometres of ski slopes, 49 lifts, 200 kilometres of loipen tracks – the Zillertal resorts of Zell, Königleiten and Gerlosplatte were combined into one ski area with the 'Zillertal Arena Skipass' in 1999. The lively resorts Zell and Gerlos offer skiing, snowboarding and plenty of après ski, whereas quiet Königsleiten includes the family ski area Gerlosplatte and is more suitable for those seeking rest and relaxation. Here, and in Krimml, are the high loipen with guaranteed snow, and 100 kilometres of Nordic Walking or winter rambling tracks. During the 2010/11 winter season, the arena has started a quality assurance campaign, with new one cable gondola lift circular routes replacing the old chair lifts, equipped with, for example, heated seats.
Mayrhofen, which, along with Hippach, has developed into a trendy modern ski area over the last few years, is situated at the end of the Zillertal. Apart from the older Penkenbahn, Austria's largest cable car also started operating here in 2006, leading to the pleasant ski areas at the Ahorn. The Penken is the resort's 'Hausberg', or house mountain. Ski fanatics adore the 'Hara-kiri Piste' - a 78 percent downhill incline. Snowboarders love the huge Penken Park with four lines, said to be one of the best in the Alps. Freeriders can show their off-piste skills at the Horber, and touring skiers will be happy at the Rastkogel.
Before you actually reach the glaciated region of the Hintertuxer, you can ski on mainly easy to intermediate pistes in the large Rastkogel/Eggalm/Penken area, coming from Finkenberg or Lanersbach. Snowshoe hikers will also find some well-signposted routes here.
The glacier itself can be reached extremely comfortably by means of gondolas reaching speeds of up to 70 km/h, the so-called Gletscherbusse ('glacier busses'). There, above the timberline, a ski area rich in variety may be found which, for good reasons, serves most of the national ski teams as a training ground. There are fantastic deep powder snow areas, as well as wide 'freeways' and black challenges, for example the hilly Olperer piste.
A special tip for freeriders: the BMW Freeride Guide on DVD!