Discover why you should be planning your ski holiday in Zell am See and Kaprun.
Zell am See and Kaprun is a winter's lovers nirvana. It's a winter ski destination that may not be as well-known as St Moritz and Zermatt or the Austrian resorts of Ischgl, Sölden and Kitzbühel. But it is one of Austria's best ski resorts, a well-kept secret.
Here are 10 reasons you should spend your next winter ski holiday in Zell am See and Kaprun.
Unforgettable winter holidays in Zell am See & Kaprun
1. Guaranteed snow and winter memories
What is worse than planning a winter getaway than arriving at your destination and finding green grass and no snow? The horrors.
That will not happen on your Kaprun ski holidays. Kaprun's Kitzsteinhorn Glacier is one of the first ski resorts to open in October every year. At 3203 m, you'll be rewarded with some of the highest pistes in Salzburgerland. The resort has 41 km of slopes and guaranteed snow from October to May/June (when you can still hit the slopes). So no matter when you visit, there will be snow.
2. Two quaint villages –Two ski resorts- Three mountains
Why choose only one mountain when you can have the choice of three ski areas and two villages? Zell am See and Kaprun lie in the Pinzgau region of Salzburgerland and boast year-round adventures and relaxation. Mountains, lakes, rivers and pristine nature– a piece of paradise waiting to be discovered.
Zell am See is nestled between Lake Zell and the Schmittenhöhe Mountain. Since Roman times, the historic village has been populated and was a major market town in the 19th century. The centre of Zell am See is characterised by the 11th century medieval stone tower (Vogturm) and the Romanesque St Hippolyte's Church. Zell am See's charming traffic-free Altstadt is the perfect place to stroll along the cobblestone laneways lined with cafes, boutiques, shops and restaurants.
The village of Kaprun lies in the Kitzsteinhorn glacier valley. Kaprun was once an alpine farming village, but since the end of the 19th century, it has become known as a holiday destination. Farms still dot the countryside, and the village has stayed true to its roots. But, now the village is also home to world-class skiing, hotels, restaurants, cafes, shops and après ski venues. Kaprun is the place to be for sports enthusiasts and the gateway to access the Kitzsteinhorn and Maiskogel mountains.
3. A fabulous holiday for everyone and all budgets
A winter holiday in Zell am See and Kaprun will suit everyone- adventure, relaxation or sightseers. It is an ideal spot for families, a place to plan a romantic couple escape or somewhere to meet with a group of friends.
And best of all, you don't need to break the bank to have a great winter ski holiday- unless you want to. Accommodation is available from high-end luxury 5 Star hotels to self-catered apartments to Bed & Breakfast (Pensions) and Youth hostels.
Zell am See and Kaprun is one of the top family-friendly ski destinations and perfect for groups with non-skiers. Multigenerational ski holidays are easy with child-friendly activities, free events and fun non-skiing adventures for young and old.
For the jet-set, there is plenty to rival Kitzbühel and Switzerland. Land your private jet at the Zell am See Airport, take a private ski tour, rejuvenate at the spa, dine at gourmet restaurants and finish your evening sipping a martini at the Casino.
The choice of restaurants and dining options also caters to every budget. From takeaway to casual family dining to gourmet restaurants-Zell See and Kaprun offers a wide range of choices for eating out, and a variety of cuisines is catered for.
4. World-class downhill skiing
Now let's talk about skiing.
The area offers three mountains that provide a variety of slopes that appeal to beginners- intermediate and advanced. There are family-friendly funslopes and day-long supervised ski programs to occupy the kids allowing mum and dad to enjoy the pistes. In fact, the local ski schools have some of the best instructors in Austria (the Austrian ski instructor school is based at Kitzsteinhorn). Beginners can start their love of skiing or intermediates, and experts can brush up on their skills.
Kaprun is home to 61 km of pistes and 23 gondolas/lifts. The Kitzsteinhorn glacier, Austria's first glacier resort, has 41 km of slopes and guaranteed snow from October to May. You can ski with spectacular views above the cloud, with the pistes altitude between 1,976m to 3,029. Even for beginner's - there is 13 km of wide easy slopes that meander down from the glacier to the Alpinecenter. Intermediate skiers will be challenged with over 22 km of slopes. Expert skiers will find the steep Black Mamba and 5 sign-posted freeride routes for backcountry skiing adventures.
The Maiskogel, located in the centre of Kaprun, is an ideal ski resort for families. The 20 km of pistes provide a gentle terrain, friendly atmosphere and plenty of cozy mountain restaurants.
The Schmittenhöhe Resort in Zell am See is open from December to April. The summit slopes are reached from the gondolas in the village centre and the AreitXpress in Shüttdorf. The Schmittenhöhe ski resort has 77 km of pistes, and 5 of the pistes lead directly down into the valley. The resort caters for all abilities: 15 Blue runs (30 km), 17 Red Runs (28 km) and 3 Black Runs (19 km). Check out the Nightslope at the Ebenbergbahn lift (open every Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 18.30 to 21.30), where you can glide down the illuminated slopes to the lakeside village.
And just down the road is the Ski Circus at Saalbach/Hinterglemm/Leogang. In total 408 km of slopes.
5. One ski pass-Three connected resorts
The Apin Card gives you the convenience of one lift ticket to access over 408km of slopes and 121 lifts of Kitzsteinhorn/Maiskogel, Schmittenhöhe and the Skicirus at Saalbach/Hinterglemm/Leogang resorts.
That means you will never have to ski the same piste twice- unless you want to.
And it is easy to travel between Kitzsteinhorn/Maiskogel and Schmittenhöhe pistes with the free ski bus that runs every 15 min.
Getting up to the Kitzsteinhorn glacier is even more accessible. The new 3K K-onnection allows skiers to 'Ski-in Ski-out' directly into the centre of Kaprun. Ride the MK Maiskogelbahn from the Kaprun Centre to the Maiskogel Mountain Station (1,570 m) and from there, the 3K K-onnection will take you to Langwied on the glacier.
Opened in December 2019, the ZellamseeXpress gondola links the Schmittenhöhe with the valley station in Viehofen. The 680 bus will deliver you to the Schönleitenbahn gondola and directly onto the Wildenkarkogel of the Ski Circus. Eventually, there are plans to directly connect Viehofen to the Schönleitenbahn Gondola.
This will make Kaprun/Zell am See/Saalbach/Hinterglemm/Leogang the largest ski area in Austria.
6. Ski touring – the best way to get up the mountain
If you find taking the gondola as the lazy man's way to reach the summit, then ski-touring is for you! Strap your skis with skins attached and hike up the mountain. When you reach the top, lock down the heels and ski down. Here are four of the popular ski touring routes:
- The Ronachkopfe at Thumersbach is a popular place for ski touring with the Enzianhütte a favourite hut to rest and eat before you ski down.
- Starting at the Areit Valley Station on the Schmittenhöhe, a steeper 6km ski tour trail ends at the top of the Areitbahn III Station.
- Starting at the Langwiedboden station on Kitzsteinhorn, there are two sign-posted high altitude ski touring routes, "Eisbrecher" (Icebreaker) and "Schneekönigin" (Snow Queen).
- A 6.5 km ski touring track begins near the Kaprun Centre and winds its way up the Maiskogel to the Almbahn mountain terminal at 1,733m. Every Wednesday evening until 8 pm, the Maiskogel night-time ski touring track is open.
7. Cross-country skiing in Nature's paradise
Not all skiing fun happens on the mountains in Kaprun and Zell am See. The region boasts over 107 km of prepared cross country ski (langlaufen) trails, catering to classic and skating styles.
The 36 km of groomed trails in Kaprun takes in the scenery of the Kapruner Moor and the Burg Kaprun and includes Golfplatztrail, Taurenspa trail and Schloß trails. In Zell am See the circular Schüttdorf loop, starts at the Tennis Centre and journeys through the Conservation area of the southern shore of Lake Zell. When the sun sets, the Kaprun Nacht and Schüttdorf loop trails are illuminated until 10 pm.
If that's not enough, the Gletscherloipe on Kitzsteinhorn provides high altitude training on the glacier plateau at 2,900 m.
Most sports shops rent and sell cross country ski equipment. The Langlauf-Sportschule (Augasse 6a) is located at the start of the Taurenspa and Schloß trails (next to Kaprun Fire Station). Here you can rent skis and organise cross country ski lessons.
8. Natural beauty in the heart of the Pinzgau Region
The charm of winters in Zell am See and Kaprun is not just skiing but also its natural, unspoiled countryside. Zell am See and Kaprun is located in the heart of the Pinzgau region of Salzburg province.
Only 85 km south of Salzburg, approximately 380km southwest of Vienna and 200 km south of Munich. The area is easy to get to by car, bus or train.
Although it is central, the magic of Zell am See and Kaprun is that you are immersed in its natural landscape. As you get closer to Zell am See and Kaprun, you'll notice that the mountain ranges start to wrap you in their embrace. The Zell and Kaprun valleys are surrounded by the Kitzbühel alpine range in the west, the Glockner range to the south and the Steinernes Meer plateau to the North.
It's not just the breathtaking mountains but also the abundant natural beauty in the lakes, forests, pastures and wetlands.
Kaprun sits amongst the Hohe Tauern National park, the largest national park in Austria and one of the largest protected areas in Central Europe. The park is famous for its spectacular high mountain landscapes, glacial valleys, alpine forests, plants and wildlife.
Everywhere you turn, you are surrounded by nature and 360° picture-postcard alpine views. The locals will attest that the air is fresher, cleaner and healthier.
9. Fun non-skiing adventures
Don't enjoy skiing? Worried about how the non-skiers in your group will spend their day while you are on the slopes?
Being a non-skier does not mean just sitting by a fire, reading a book and sipping hot chocolate. In Zell am See and Kaprun, there are plenty of memories waiting for non-skiers or for those who just want to enjoy a day off the piste. And even the die-hard skiers will want to take time off the slopes to explore all the activities on offer.
Start with exploring the spectacular landscapes, hiking, walking or snowshoeing, on one of the over 40 km of groomed trails to enjoy. Wander around the lake, through forest paths or discover the routes on the Schmittenhöhe or Kitzsteinhorn. Explore the scenic view of Zell am See and the lake from Enzian Hut at Ronachkpf or the Bergasthof Mitterberg.
Looking for a bit of an adrenaline rush? Fasten your seatbelt and speed down the Maiskogel on the Maisiflitzer alpine coaster. Or leap off the side of Schmittenhöhe and hover above the winter landscape in a tandem paragliding adventure. Want to keep your feet on the ground? Grab a toboggan and slide down the snow-covered slopes.
Take a gondola up to the summit and linger on a sunny terrace enjoying the panorama vistas for more sedate memories. You have a pick of more than 36 mountain Alms, restaurants or bars on the Kitzsteinhorn, Maiskogel or Schmittenhöhe mountains-truly the best spots to have lunch and enjoy the delicious Pinzgauer specialities. On the glacier, warm up with a Glüwein in an igloo at the Audi Quattro ICE CAMP. Or dine at 3,029m at the Gipfel Restaurant on Kitzsteinhorn, in Salzburg’s highest restaurant. Still, looking for winter memories? Enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride through the Kaprun Nature Reserve or glide across the ice on skates.
After days of adventures, it's time to relax. With the views of the snow-covered mountains, there is no better place than to float away your aches in the heated outdoor pools or soothe your muscles in the spa and sauna world at Kaprun's Tauern Spa
(And, just so you know- there are also plenty of restaurants and cafes to indulge in a mug of hot chocolate and a piece of strudel by a roaring fire.)
10. Après Ski – Perfect end to the day
Enjoy a typical Austrian Après Ski experience. The après ski sessions typically kicks off in the afternoon in the mountain Alms and bars (most are accessible for non-skiers to join). The party continues in the valley at the MaisiAlm (Kaprun Valley Station), Kitz900m (Valley Station Gletscherjet 1) and Cabrio Bar (Valley station Areitbahn). The celebration kicks into overdrive in the villages, where the party goes on until the early morning.
Want to dance on the tables singing your favourite ski songs, or a venue with live bands, discos to quieter tête-à-tête at cocktail and gin bars. There are over 50 different venues to choose from. Or end the night trying your luck at the Zell am See Casino.
There is a reason that Wolfang Ambros sings about going to Zell am See, in his famous Austrian ski anthem 'SkiFoan' (Skifahren in dialect).
"Am Freitog auf'd Nocht montier i die Schi (Friday night I put the skis)
Auf mei' Auto und dann begib i mi (On my car and I drive to)
In's Stubaital oder noch Zell am See (Stubaital or to Zell am See)
Weil durt auf die Berg ob'm ham's immer an leiwaund'n Schnee (Because there, on top of the mountains they always have the best snow)
Weil i wü', Schifoan, Schifoan, wow-wow-wow, Schifoan (Cause I want, skiing, skiing, wow-wow-wow, skiing)
Weil Schifoan is des leiwaundste
Wos ma sich nur vurstelln kann (because skiing in the most beautiful thing you can imagine)"
Wolfgang Ambros, 1976
Ready for your winter adventure in paradise?
We have the best self-catered apartments in Zell am See and Kaprun. Our apartments are fully-equipped and close to the ski hills.
Find your perfect holiday getaway and Live like a Local