Unique summits in the heart of the Central Alps, resorts with high snow reliability and magnificent powder snow descents one can only dream of – all this awaits you on your freeride adventure in Austria. Thanks to the high altitude of most of its resorts and their easily accessible off-piste areas, Austria is considered to be one of the most popular freeride destinations in the world.
If you’re interested in giving off-piste skiing a try, then you’ve come to the right place! In this blog article, the CheckYeti team reveal the 5 best ski resorts for freeriding in Austria and tell you where to learn powder snow skiing from expert instructors:
- Freeriding on the Arlberg mountain: 200 km of freeride opportunities
- Freeriding in Zillertal: beginner-friendly off-piste descents in the heart of Tyrol
- Freeriding in Fieberbrunn: powder snow skiing where real pros compete
- Freeriding in Montafon: high-alpine ski fun in Vorarlberg
- Freeriding in Gasteinertal: explore diverse terrains in the midst of the High Tauern
Freeriding on the Arlberg mountain: 200 km of freeride opportunities
The ski area Ski Arlberg is not only Austria’s largest ski area but is also internationally known as a powder snow mecca. Thanks to its altitude and location at the border between the Austrian federal states of Tyrol and Vorarlberg, the Arlberg mountain offers the finest powder snow during the winter months. A total of 200 km of marked deep powder snow slopes turn the areas between St Anton, Lech, Stuben and Warth into a true freeriders’ paradise.
The ski resort in St Anton, which is known as the “cradle of alpine skiing” but additionally as the Alps’ party hotspot, offers the perfect terrain for freeride skiers. Numerous off-piste descents can be found on the Valluga (2811 m), the Kapall (2330 m), the Rendl (2030 m), the Galzig (2185 m) and the Gampen (1850 m) mountains. The Arlberg’s deeply snow-covered hillsides attract more and more freeride enthusiasts from all over the world. First-timers and beginners can find what they’re looking for in one of the many ski schools in St Anton. Indeed, there is no other ski resort in Austria that offers as many guided freeride tours for beginners.
Whether they’re teaching a group of friends or holding a one-on-one coaching session, the professional and local guides love to share their knowledge on powder snow skiing. At the very beginning of a freeride tour, participants are given an introduction to the most important rules of freeriding, such as how to behave in off piste areas and how to correctly use safety equipment in case of an emergency. After that, freeride skiers will gain an overview of the area, be updated on current avalanche warning levels and learn how to act in an avalanche situation. Together with their guide, participants choose an appropriate descent, practice their powder snow skiing technique and, last but not least, get to enjoy the purest form of skiing.
CheckYeti Tip: The ski schools in St Anton organise multi-day freeride camps. During these 3-day courses, participants learn all there is to know about risk management and discover the best powder snow descents in the Arlberg area.
Freeriding in Zillertal: Beginner-friendly off-piste descents in the heart of Tyrol
Zillertal, also known as the Ziller Valley in English, lies in the south-east of Tyrol and is surrounded by beautiful summits: the Tux Alps to the west, the Kitzbühel Alps to the east and the Zillertal Alps to the south. With over 65 freeride runs, Zillertal is one of the largest powder snow regions in the Alps. With its 300 km of off-piste terrain, the area around Mayrhofen offers true powder snow bliss for freeride skiers. Zillertal’s back country is quite diverse: with wide alpine meadows, forests, narrow gullies – everything a freeride skier could wish for. The Horbergtal valley and the Wanglspitz mountain in Mayrhofen are especially popular freeride areas.
Experienced skiers and snowboarders who have already skied all of the Mayrhofen slopes may want to give freeriding a try: 80% of powder snow descents are directly accessible from the ski lifts and are therefore ideal for off-piste beginners. With their diverse freeriding offers, the local ski schools fulfill all of the powder snow novices’ requirements. Each trained mountain guide knows the area like the back of his or her hand and knows which descents are appropriate for beginners.
When choosing a freeride lesson, there is the choice of either a private lesson or a freeride tour in a group consisting of 4 to maximum 6 participants. The price of an offer usually includes risk management learning materials plus the rent of an ABS backpack, an avalanche transceiver device, a probe and a shovel.
CheckYeti Tip: Very ambitious skiers can opt for special lessons such as the “Climb to ski” tour, which combines a freeride adventure with a 2 h-long Nordic ski tour.
Freeriding in Fieberbrunn: powder snow skiing where real pros compete
The ski resort Fieberbrunn is located in eastern Tyrol, close to the border of the Austrian federal state of Salzburg. Fieberbrunn is part of the extensive ski area Skicircus Saalbach Hinterglemm. A few years ago, the resort was selected to become a fixed stop on the Freeride World Tour, making Fieberbrunn even more popular with freeride skiers. Every year, the world’s best freeride skiers compete against one another on the Wildseeloder mountain (2119 m) in Fieberbrunn.
The hillsides of the Kitzbühel Alps offer next-level powder snow fun: Freeride skiers can find challenging descents as well as long and soft runs. Holidaymakers in Fieberbrunn can access freeriding zones quickly and easily, thanks to the modern lift system. Several freeride runs are marked on the Fieberbrunn map and the off-piste area is especially good for skiers and snowboarders who already have some experience with powder snow skiing. Local ski schools offer various guided off-piste tours for experienced freeride skiers to try out steep descents and even jumps.
CheckYeti Tip: In Fieberbrunn, the safety of freeride skiers is one of the resort’s top priorities. There are several avalanche transceiver checkpoints where the equipment’s functionality can be checked. At the valley station of the Streuböden cable car, freeride skiers can access information from the avalanche warning system LO.LA and get maps of the resort at the information point.
Freeriding in Montafon: Alpine ski fun in Vorarlberg
Montafon is a 39 km-long valley in the south of the Austrian federal state of Vorarlberg. It lies at the heart of the Verwall Alps, the Rätikon mountain range and the Silvretta Alps. As the Montafon valley is surrounded by numerous summits over 3000 m in height, it not only offers magical and breathtaking views but also perfect conditions for freeriding.
A large number of routes and alpine powder snow runs, diverse terrain, spectacular cliffs and steep gullies make the ski area Silvretta-Montafon to what it really is: One of the most popular freeriding destinations in Europe. An example of its popularity is the “Open Faces Contest”, an event that takes place every year, where members of the freeriding elite compete against one another.
However, it is not only the true freeriding professionals who feel at ease in Montafon. Powder snow novices feel just the same. The local ski schools offer a variety of freeride lessons – even to children and teenagers. All young skiers who have already mastered parallel turns on the slopes can easily switch to discovering Montafon’s freeriding zones. Experienced ski instructors and mountain guides teach the kids and teens everything there is to know about skiing safely in powder snow and accompany them during their adventure – whether in a freeride zone or in a funpark, where freestyle jumps and tricks can be practised.
CheckYeti Tip: The necessary ski equipment can be booked in conjunction with a freeride course for kids or teens. The equipment can be adapted to the individuals’ height and weight by experts and is always competently serviced.
Freeriding in Gasteinertal: Diverse terrains in the midst of the High Tauern
The Gasteinertal, also called the Gastein Valley in English, lies in the High Tauern National Park in the state of Salzburg and is considered to be one of Austria’s most popular freeride hotspots. Alongside Montafon, the Gastein Valley is host to the annual “Open Faces Freeride Contest”.
The entire Gastein Valley is ideally suited for freeride skiers with powder snow areas being found throughout the Dorfgastein, Bad Hofgastein, Bad Gastein and Sportgastein ski resorts. The most popular off-piste runs are definitely the ones in Sportgastein, such as the “Skiroute 3”, also called the “Golden Ride”. As this route is only 666 m long and not too steep, it offers great conditions for beginners. Powder snow novices can also easily discover the powder snow runs in Dorfgastein and on the local Stubnerkogel mountain in Bad Gastein.
Skiers of every age can have their first freeride experience at one of the ski schools in Gasteinertal. Local freeride coaches share their knowledge using approved methods with a proven record of success. The instructors teach powder snow techniques plus important basic knowledge of snow conditions and avalanche awareness. In Gasteinertal, schools offer freeride lessons with access to powder snow areas via a ski lift, and also guided tours that can be combined with a long or short ascent.
CheckYeti Tip: Off-piste skiers can get the latest information and safety instructions for the region at the Freeride Info Base, which is located at the Goldbergbahn cable car mountain station in Sportgastein.
Whether I’m describing a beautiful ski area or telling you all about the right skiing techniques, writing articles always makes me want to leave for a new adventure, and I hope reading them has the same effect on you!