The magnificent crown of the High King is the show piece of the Hochkonig ski region and the views in this part of the Austrian Alps had this mountain-lover grinning at the top of every immaculately-groomed run. Just look at it!
Now take a look at this photo:
Around here this looks like a quaint antique, an anachronism from a former time. It is the ONLY old-style chair lift in the Hochkonig ski region. All the other equipment has been built in the past decade. There are chairlifts with seat warmers; gondolas with free wi-fi; the access points work infallibly; everything is efficient and well-designed.
Hochkonig is based around three villages – Mühlbach, Dienten and Maria Alm – all of which offer a full complement of ski holiday services. With 90 per cent of the ski slopes in the Ski Amade equipped with snowmaking capability, the ski season runs from the beginning of December until the end of April in this part of Austria.
I tackled a part of the famous Konigstour – a 32-kilometre tour that takes you zigzagging up and down the pistes without skiing the same run or taking the same lift twice. If you are confident skiing (relatively friendly) red runs you can easily do this amazing ski tour – just follow the yellow or orange signs depending on direction.
The Blue Tomato-sponsored Hochkonig freestyle ski park has now been developed to a Q-Parks level and attracted an extra 100,000 visitors last year last year alone as a result.
The Hochkonig ski area is only an hour’s drive from Salzburg’s WA Mozart international airport and it is a part of the massive Ski Amade region, It is not overrun or overpriced; it has excellent facilities and warm hospitality. What more could you want? Here are a few practical tips to help you make the most of your ski holidays in Austria’s Hochkonig…
Hochkonig mountain huts
Exercise in the fresh mountain air makes me hungry! Most of the mountain huts in Hochkonig are independently owned and beautifully run, offering a high level of food quality and great service. The ski lift company runs two self-service restaurant huts where the ski school groups of children tend to be taken.
You can’t beat the on-the-mountain hospitality in Europe – it’s one of my favourite things about skiing in Europe after all. There is nothing quite as fabulous as skiing up to a gorgeous rustic-looking mountain hut and taking a break on the sun-terrace over a delicious meal. The Austrians are amazing at building mountain huts that look traditional with distressed wood in all directions, yet have a modern feel. I don’t know how they do it but it works. There’s that gorgeous Hochkonig backdrop again…
At the Zapferl Alm I had an amazing rosti and smoked salmon salad combination. Lunch at the four-year-old Steinbock Alm offered excellent schnitzel and pizza, as well as more gourmet options. The service everywhere is super-efficient.
For a ski holiday afternoon wind down make your way down the pistes to Muhlbach via four alpine huts. It’s up to you how much you drink on the way… A favourite was the Tiergarten, where we downed the inevitable schnapse and played ‘the nail game’. This involves taking turns trying to hit a nail into a log of wood. Surprisingly entertaining, although maybe that was the schnapse, or the gluhwein.
Apres ski and where to eat in Hochkonig
One of the best places for après ski is the Scheppal Alm, located right at the bottom of the piste in Mühlbach. You can walk, ski or drive/bus there. This is a top location with a fun atmosphere and good food. There is scope for both relaxed eating and drinking, or partying here at the Scheppal Alm.
In the village of Mühlbach itself, if you need a coffee and a pastry in the morning or somewhere to go after skiing if après ski is not your thing then try the bakery (konditori) Cafe Bauer. It is open from early in the morning to the late afternoon with a range of fresh cakes, bread and pastries. They do a mean chocolate croissant filled with something akin to Nuttela.
Situated on the main high street of Muhlbach is the Mesnerhaus. This is a lively (but not over the top) bar restaurant, which serves a good standard of pizza and Italian dishes, there are also a few traditional Austrian favourites on the menu. The service is good and friendly; it is run by a local couple called Robbie and Helga. They are open normally from 14.00 most days in peak season.
Andelwirts is located just off the main high street and has great traditional food at good prices. This is an older style, family-run restaurant inside with lots of wooden features. The service is great and it has a local bar atmosphere. There is a small area to have a beer if you want a relaxed drink in traditional surroundings.
Alpenrose Hotel is located directly on the high street in Mühlbach, There is a bar and restaurant, the food is straight forward, traditional Austrian and good value. They often do a special Farmers’ buffet or Italian night. There is an apres ski night once a week.
The Pass Bauer offers excellent food quality and friendly service just outside the village of Mühlbach (about a five-minute car journey or a 40-minute walk up a mountain road). You can also arrange a taxi with the restaurant directly and it costs very little. In winter you can take a sledge and head back down into the village on the road. It is great fun and a very Austrian thing to do!
Continuing the tobogganing theme, I had a great evening at the Jausenstation Grunegg Alm near the village of Dienten. This is a traditional mountain hut where the Rainer family serves up hearty Austrian food, an astonishing range of home-distilled schnapse and also have a toboggan run to get back down the hill.
Where to stay in Hochkonig
I stayed at the Hotel Bergheimat. Prices start at EUR 138 per person per night incl. half board at this mountain hotel up the hill from Muhlbach where the accent is on comfort and friendly unobtrusive service. After a day on the mountain, relaxing in the spa as you look out over a landscape of mountains is bliss. For stays from four nights or longer prices start at EUR 135 per person per night incl. half board.
If you want to stay in Mühlbach itself and go self-catering try the Haus Wasserbauer, a small pension run by an English couple that is just a couple of minutes bus-ride from the Muhlbach cable car station.
By Natasha von Geldern
I was a guest of Austria Tourism for my ski holiday in the Hochkonig region of Ski Amade but my opinions, and schnitzel addiction remain entirely my own.