Ski resort features
The Ziller valley: Great skiing at Ahorn, Penken and Horberg
Year after year, skiers and snowboarders of all ages and ability levels come back to the Ziller valley: with 130 kilometres of pistes and 58 ski lifts, skiing par excellence is assured. Families and beginners focus on the 40 kilometres of blue slopes, while the 66 kilometres of red pistes are significantly more challenging. Expert and ambitious skiers, meanwhile, pit their skills against 30 kilometres of black runs. Depending on weather conditions, visitors to Mayrhofen can ski from mid-December to the end of April. The Mayrhofen skiing region in the Ziller valley has something for everyone. The Penken is known as the Action Mountain: it’s all about steep descents and quick times. The eight fun parks, meanwhile, deliver an adrenaline rush for elite freestylers and snowboarders. The Penken is accessed via the Penkenbahn or the Horbergbahn from Schwendau. Known as the Leisure Mountain, the Ahorn is far more relaxed and easy-going, making it ideal for families, beginners and pleasure skiers. The summit is reached via the Ahornbahn, the biggest aerial tram system in Austria. The majority of slopes are designated red and blue, which are ideal for skiers performing turns and carving their way down into the valley in sporty style. With its summit station at 1,645 metres, the Horberg offers a good blend, with several red pistes welcoming skiers of all ability levels.
• Sheer adrenaline: the Harakiri descent. With an incline of 78%, the Harakiri is the steepest piste in Austria, attracting expert and ambitious skiers in search of a unique thrill. At a photo shoot arranged every Friday from 1:00pm to 3:00pm, visitors can pick up a souvenir action shot to take home.
• For lasting memories, skiers can also head to piste 16, the official Skimovie section of the area.
• Penken fun park: with eight Fun Spots featuring high jumps, untamed mogul slopes and a wallride, the Penken is the Action Mountain of the Ziller valley.
• When speed matters, the Unterberg is a racers’ paradise. Here competitive skiers can face off and compare times on three giant slalom routes.
• The Ahorn is more relaxed; as mentioned earlier, it is known as the Leisure Mountain. There is even a leisure lounge complete with Iglu Bar, hotel and chillout zone. That said, the demanding descent from here will challenge even experienced skiers – and the 5.5-kilometre run promises superb views of the Ziller valley.
• Panorama descent: those who simply wish to enjoy their skiing on simple descents are advised to take the beginners’ route on the Penken. A series of blue runs leads gently down into the valley.
• Freeriding is also possible in the Ziller valley: there are several deep snow slopes in the area of the Unterbergalm and the Wanglspitz. When fresh snow falls, the powder is best here. SAAC camps provide information on current conditions as well as background knowledge.
The natural toboggan run from the Gasthof Wiesenhof delivers an exhilarating run into the Ziller valley. In addition, there are two illuminated toboggan runs at the Tristenbachalm and Gerlossstein. For a fresh experience, visitors to the Ziller valley can try their hand at ice climbing: the valley has a number of icefalls in winter that make suitable climbing sites. Guided tours are also available with local mountain guides. Equipment can be rented locally. For those seeking an experience on flat ice, there are two skating rinks – at the summit station of the Penkenbahn and at the artificial ice rink in Mayrhofen. For a winter hike, visitors can join the Filzenkogel and Ahorn trails to enjoy the winter landscape at their own pace.
Needless to say, burning energy all day creates an appetite. With numerous cabins and restaurants on the Ahorn, Penken and Horberg, there are plenty of places to take a break for refreshment.
• The Tappenalm on the Penken radiates a rustic mood. The home-made goulash soup is deeply warming and supplies the necessary energy for further descents.
• The pyramid-shaped Schneekarhütte by the six-person Schneekar lift really catches the eye. Another good tip for the hungry skier is Hamburger Deluxe.
• The Freiraum at the summit station of the Ahornbahn is also a good place to stop and savour incredibly panoramic views of the mountains through floor-to-ceiling windows over coffee and cake.
• The Horberg Restaurant at the summit station of the Horbergbahn on the Penken is a popular venue for lunch. Tyrolean specialities are served, with après-ski drinks enjoyed later in the day.
• The party continues on Mayrhofen’s Hauptstrasse, where the Harakiri Bar is a legend: just like the steep slope of the same name, the Harakiri Bar claims to be the steepest bar in the Ziller valley. The valley has 15 bars and pubs in total, as well as three clubs.
When the weather in the Mayrhofen area takes a turn for the worse, there is still plenty to do: numerous attractions entice visitors away from their hotel rooms to explore the Ziller valley.
• The ErlebnisSennerei Zillertal dairy is a great excursion for the whole family. Guests can see how a master cheesemaker produces cheese right before their eyes. At the alpine dairy, they find out how cheese gets its holes and how delicious yoghurt is made from fresh milk. Naturally, sampling is encouraged.
• If the weather precludes a day on the slopes, the cross-country tracks make a rewarding diversion; cross-country skiing is still possible even when the weather deteriorates. There are 13 different cross-country tracks around Mayrhofen-Hippach.
• Ride the old-time Zillertalbahn: a trip on the steam railway makes a perfect alternative to skiing in poor weather. The train chugs the length of the Ziller valley at 35 kilometres per hour. The atmosphere in the train is always cosy, even when it’s snowing or raining outside – and guests can eat in the buffet car.
• Another poor weather possibility is floodlit tobogganing on the Tristenbachalm. Visitors can get active again after a day’s rest and enjoy the invigorating evening air on a descent into the Ziller valley – energetic types then go back up on foot, or take a toboggan taxi.
• The Kunstraum at the summit station of the Ahornbahn is another worthwhile excursion: there are works and pictures by local artists to enjoy, followed by Ziller valley specialities in the café bistro. • Another attraction in poor weather conditions is the Mayrhofen leisure pool.