I have fallen in love with the little village of Alpbach where we took our ski holiday in Austria this year. Fallen hard.
Have you heard of the word ‘hygge’? It’s a Danish concept that means a moment that is cosy, charming or special. Well Alpbach is hygge in the form of a village. Ski hygge – I’ve invented a new variation!
It’s not just the authentic architecture or the perfectly gorgeous decorations, although Alpbach is regularly voted Austria’s most beautiful village. It’s not just the picturesque setting between the Kitzbuhel Alps and the Rofan Range.
Alpbach is hygge because its genuinely hospitable populace exude a welcoming atmosphere. Perhaps this is because the village is dominated by local, family-run businesses, with a smattering of longterm ex-pats.
How do they keep Alpbach looking so perfect? With careful regulation of course. No buildings can rise above three floors and all must be constructed of wood above the first level. Everywhere you will see the traditional houses with their carved wood decorations.
The 15th century church of St Oswald provides an elegant focal point to the village and is worth popping into (it’s never locked) to see the Rococo façade of the organ and the beautiful altars.
There are only two modern buildings in Alpbach. One is the supermarket in the lower part of the village, which is great for us self-catering ski holiday types.
The other is an example of Europe’s reputation for striking contemporary architecture – the Congress Centre. But even this is carefully melded into the landscape and has become an important part of village life.
Staying in Alpbach
I love the mountains and being able to wake up, draw the blinds and see a snowy mountain landscape is my ideal.
We stayed at the Ferienhaus Lehrerhausl and arrived to a warm welcome from the Siedner family to their traditional old Alpbach house decorated with evergreen branches and lights. It looks like something out of a fairytale but has all modern amenities inside. The kitchen is well-equipped and this accommodation in Alpbach is perfect for a large family or group of friends (it sleeps up to 10).
From the windows we could see the village and the mountain, even the lights of the busy snow groomers making the pistes lovely for us every night. From the upper balcony I watched the sun set down the valley, in my hand a glass of beer from the one-man brewery in Inneralpbach.
There is a strong focus on family skiing, which is why Alpbach is often included in listicles of the top places for family skiing. Everything is done to ensure that children, and their families, have a wonderful time on their ski holiday.
Ski school in Alpbach
I was really sold on Austria’s approach to teaching kids to ski last year on our ski holiday in Zell am See.
Alpbach has two ski schools: Alpbach Skischule (the red one) and Alpbach Aktiv (the blue one). This year the whole Wandering Kiwi family decided to have lessons and we chose Alpbach Skischule. Mr Wandering Kiwi and I spent the week learning from one of the best instructors I’ve ever learnt from, whose family have lived in Alpbach for generations.
Wandering Kiwi Jr also had a great time during her lessons. Every ski destination and ski school is different and we found here in Alpbach that the instructors expect to keep the students throughout the lunch break (costs an extra EUR10 per day) and this seemed to work well.
The Congress Centre is the perfect venue for the end-of-the-week prize giving and celebration on Friday evening at 5pm. Each ski class is presented with their medals and cheered by the gathered instructors and parents. There are refreshments on sale, as well as professional photographs of each child and class that had been taken during the week.
On Wednesday evening in the village the Alpbach ski schools, together with the ski schools from neighbouring Reith and Niederer, put on a ski show on the little Boglerlift ski slope beside the Congress.
I went to a demonstration by the ski instructors in La Plagne a few years ago but this was on a whole other level of entertainment! There was ski jumping, comedy sketches on skis, and even a crazy guy with an aircraft-type propeller strapped to his back (the kind you’d see on an airboat).
All this was enhanced by a professional fireworks display. The evening was so much fun and so much more than I expected. That’s another Alpbach thing, trying to exceed the expectations of their guests.
Skiing in Alpbach
Alpbach is part of the Ski Juwel Alpbachtal Wildschonau ski region and has 109 kilometres of pistes and 46 lifts, with a good variety of easy and medium ski runs, and some more challenging pistes. There are also a number of outstanding off-piste routes, two terrain parks and a funslope.
One of the biggest surprises was the lack of queues at the lifts. This was, after all, the UK February half term, when the rest of the European Alps is thronged with British skiing families. Alpbach is small so it doesn’t attract the big groups and big tour operators.
We loved the skiing here, especially the long runs down to Inneralpbach and ‘route 66’, which winds through the valley and offers a lovely mix of pistes and gliding through the trees.
The Verbindungsbahn whisks skiers across to the Schatzberg side of the ski area, another beautiful series of pistes with wide runs that are perhaps a little less steep and sporty than on the Alpbach side, although there are no beginner runs in Schatzberg.
Tirol is known as ‘the Land in the Mountains’ and there are ample opportunities for winter walks, snow-shoeing and tobogganing, as well as all the skiing fun.
The other fun thing we did was to climb to the top of the highest point of the Wiederbergerhorn (2,128m).
We left our skis at the Horn Alm cafe and tramped up (keep your poles in hand) to enjoy incredible 360 degree views of the surrounding mountains.
Going out in Alpbach
Alpbach is not known for its wild apres ski but we felt no lack in the range of restaurants and pubs. The Postalm is at the heart of village social life and we loved the cosy atmosphere and hearty food. On some evenings there is a mix of traditional and popular entertainment and it felt like being at the ‘local’ back home.
On Tuesday night the ski instructors held a little party in the tiny square outside the church. There was a great live band and a bar, and early in the evening some dancing for the children with Bobo the skischule mascot. It was relaxed, friendly, and fun.
This is the kind of ski destination that people ‘discover’ and then return to again and again. I met so many people during the week who love Alpbach and have skied here many times.
Alpbach is truly a place full of inspiration and comfort and I can’t wait to go ski hygge there again.
By Natasha von Geldern
Ski holidays in Alpbach: Practicalities
I dont’ know about you but the biggest challenge for me is figuring out the logistics of how everything works on the first day in a ski resort you haven’t been to before. Registering for ski school, picking up ski gear from the hire shop (pre-ordered online of course), buying lift passes and getting to ski school on time…
There’s plenty of information you’ll need to plan your ski holidays in Alpbach are on the www.alpbachtal.at website.
However, I have to admit that despite my best laid plans we got on the wrong bus on our first morning in Alpbach and ended up getting to the ski school meeting point at the top of the Wiederbergbahn gondola a few minutes late. Luckily we had allowed plenty of extra time!
At your accommodation you will receive the Alpbachtal Seenland Card, which is your ticket to free bus services throughout the region as well as various discounts and activities. From Alpbach there are two (free) buses – to Inneralpbach or to the Wiederbergbahn valley gondola station.
There are ski gear rental shops in the village, as well as at the Poglbahn gondola station in Inneralpbach and at the Wiederbergbahn station. You can also buy lift passes at all three of these points.
My plan was to get the bus up to Inneralpbach, rent our ski gear there and leave it in secure, heated lockers. That way we didn’t have to carry ski gear back to our accommodation and could change into comfortable shoes. The lockers cost the best part of EUR50 to hire (there’s room for the ski gear of five people in each one) but I felt this was worthwhile!
On the other hand, keeping your ski gear with you gives the option of catching either the Inneralpbach bus or the Wiederbergbahn bus (which is more frequent) at the beginning and end of the day. Regardless of which option you choose, everything about skiing in Alpbach works efficiently and after that first day it was no problem getting to the slopes quickly in the morning. Especially as there were never any queues!
Up on the mountain the Hornboden café near the ski school meeting points is the big alp hut where the ski schools usually go for lunch. It has freshly-made pizza and plenty of room. More typical mountainside cafes I recommend are the Kafner Aast and the charming Boglalm (near the mid station of the Poglbahn).
How to get to Alpbach
Innsbruck airport is a 40 minute drive away from Alpbach and Munich airport is just one hour and 45 minutes’ drive. However, be aware that at busy holiday times there will be plenty of traffic and these times are likely to be longer. It took us around two-and-a-half hours to get there.
We arranged a transfer to meet us at Munich airport and drive directly to Alpbach but I have to say I hesitate to recommend the service I booked. However, this is the easiest way to start (and finish) your ski holiday and costs around EUR80 per person. With a group, I think it would be more cost effective to hire a car from Innsbruck or Munich airports and drive yourself.
Austria has excellent public transport of course, and from Munich airport you can get a train to Munich Ost station and from there ride the train to Jenbach or Worgl down in the valley. From both of these stations there is a free bus service up to Alpbach (you just need to show your accommodation booking in Alpbach to get a free bus ticket).
If you liked this post why not pin it for when you plan your ski holiday to Alpbach?