- Extensive, attractive, varied slopes offering a sensation of travel
- Increasingly slick lift system
- Exceptionally beautiful medieval town centre, more or less traffic-free
- Vibrant après-ski and nightlife
- Lots to do off the slopes
- Hotels to suit every budget
- Some excellent mountain restaurants
- Excellent snowmaking, which is deployed to give an impressively long season, but ...
Latest user reviews
marksurridge 30 Mar 2013
If you have visited this resort not too long ago, why not add your own short review to this page?
News – 2016/17
Snowmaking is to be improved, notably on the lower half of Kitzbüheler Horn.
News – 2015/16
A major new lift was added – the 8-seat Brunn - on the north-facing slopes between Ehrenbachhöhe and Pengelstein, with new black and red pistes linking to the blue run 27 to the valley at Skirast. And a double chair opened on the minor Bichlalm area, to serve its one blue piste and multiple ungroomed slopes.
Kitzbühel’s Hahnenkamm downhill race course is the most exciting on the World Cup circuit, and race weekend is one of the jolliest parties in the Alps. But the place has powerful attractions at other times too – see our + points list. This is, for our money, one of the most attractive ski towns on the planet.
The lift system, once a bit of an embarrassment, has been transformed in the last decade and it now gets our highest ***** rating for fast lifts.
Sadly, Kitz doesn’t get the same rating for snow – for us, the great weakness of the place. These days, powerful snowmaking means it’s not a matter of quantity, but of quality. Often the snow is fine high up but crunchy or slushy lower down. The fact is, Kitzbühel would benefit from more altitude.
But then lovely medieval towns are a rare thing at altitude.
Kitzbühel is a large valley town with its major ski area on one side and a couple of minor ones on the other. The major area, spreading south-west from the famous Hahnenkamm directly above the town, is reached by gondola from just outside the town centre and shared with Kirchberg, another substantial resort and covered at the end of the chapter.
The Kitzbüheler Alpen AllStarCard lift pass covers seven separate ski areas in the region. One of those – the SkiWelt – is accessible by the Ki-West gondola, a short bus ride from the Kitz lift system at Skirast.
Medieval town centre
The sizeable and largely car-free medieval centre – with quaint church, cobbled streets and attractively painted buildings – is delightful and a compelling place to stay. Many visitors love the upscale, towny ambience and swanky shops and cafes. But the resort spreads widely, and busy roads surround the old town. This is no quiet little village.
Choose your spot carefully
A gondola from the edge of the town goes up to the Hahnenkamm, the start of the main area of slopes. Across town, close to the railway station but some way from the centre, another gondola accesses the much smaller Kitzbüheler Horn sector.
The size of Kitzbühel (compare the map on the previous page with other Austrian resorts, such as Ischgl) makes choice of location important. We, and many visitors, prefer to be in the centre of town and close to the Hahnenkamm gondola. Beginners should bear in mind that the Hahnenkamm nursery slopes are often lacking in snow, and then novices are taken up the Horn.
Views have varied on the free buses. The circular route and high-season crowding have led some recent reporters to walk instead, but a regular visitor rates them ‘quick, efficient and uncrowded’. There are ski/boot depots at obvious points.
Attractive valley views
Kitzbühel is set at a junction of broad, pretty valleys, among partly wooded mountains. There are good views from Pengelstein across both valleys (the minor peak of Gr Rettenstein is prominent) and to the SkiWelt. And it is worth riding the 3S gondola for the views alone – especially if you hit it lucky and ride in the cabin that has a glass floor. From the Resterhöhe slopes, in particular, there are great panoramic views of the high Alps to the south, including Grossvenediger directly south and Grossglockner slightly east of south.
Kitzbühel’s extensive main area of slopes – shared with Kirchberg and other villages – offers some open runs higher up but they soon run into patchy forest lower down. Most slopes face north-east or north-west.
The piste map is pretty clear but readers’ views on signposting vary. And many readers find that run classifications exaggerate difficulty.
Extent of the slopes
Big but bitty
The resort claims 209km of pistes and ski routes and is one of the few to have its claim verified independently – see our feature chapter on piste extent.
The slopes can be divided into several identifiable areas. The Hahnenkamm gondola takes you to the bowl of Ehrenbachgraben, a major lift bottleneck in the past but, thanks to new lifts in the last few years, now a place you might want to do laps on the steep slopes of Steinbergkogel.
Beyond is the slightly lower peak of Pengelstein, with an eight-pack up to it from the Steinbergkogel area. Long north-west-facing runs go down to Skirast, where there is a gondola back up, or to Aschau. Ski-buses from these points will take you to the Ki-West gondola towards Westendorf and the SkiWelt, and to Kirchberg. On the upper slopes of Pengelstein, new terrain was opened up last season by the new 8-seat Brunn chair lift.
Pengelstein is also the start of the impressive 30-person cross-valley 3S gondola to Wurzhöhe above Jochberg. This peak-to-peak link has fabulous views (especially if you hit the cabin with the partial glass floor).
Further lifts then take you to the Resterhöhe sector – well worth the excursion, for better snow and fewer crowds. There is a long, scenic, sunny red run to Breitmoos, mid-station of the gondola up from Hollersbach. Runs are otherwise short, but mostly served by fast chairs.
The second stage of the gondola on Kitzbüheler Horn leads to the sunny Trattalm bowl; or a cable car takes you up to the summit of the Horn, from where a fine, solitary piste leads down into the Raintal on the east side. There’s a blue piste and two ski routes back towards town.
The separate Bichlalm area which, in the absence of a ski lift, has recently offered guided snowcat skiing, finally got a new double chair for 2015/16 to access the ski routes and off-piste.
Regular lift upgrades have resulted in Kitzbühel just squeezing into our top ***** category for fast lifts. Around 60% of lifts are gondolas or fast chairs but it still has some slow chairs and T-bars and the trip back to the resort from Resterhöhe involves one of each.
Recent reporters have had few queue problems. But there can still be peak-time queues for the Hahnenkamm gondola out of the town and occasional queues up the hill, especially at the weekends. The cross-valley gondola to Wurzhöhe has relieved pressure on the slopes closer to town, by encouraging people to use the Resterhöhe slopes. But the Trattenbach chair and particularly the Gauxjoch drag you need to get back from Resterhöhe can build queues on busy afternoons.
Fun for all standards
The Snowpark Hanglalm at Resterhöhe has lots for advanced riders – several kicker lines, from big to huge, as well as 35 features. Pro riders love the park’s centrepiece – a huge gap jump. But it also has an area aimed at beginners and intermediates. The park on the Kitzbüheler Horn is a beginner park. Visit www.snowpark-kitzbuehel.at for more information (in German). The park in nearby Westendorf is excellent – worth the trip.
More snowmaking now
Kitzbühel has a problem in this department: it is that the lower slopes are, well, pretty low; and the Horn is also sunny. Thanks to extensive snowmaking, you can be confident of finding plenty of skiing, and plenty of runs open to the valley – runs down to Kitzbühel, Kirchberg, Klausen and Jochberg are covered. But it’s a matter of quality, not quantity: it’s very common to encounter slushy or icy conditions low-down, depending on the time of day.
Plan to go off-piste
Steep slopes – pistes and off-piste terrain – are mostly concentrated in the Steinbergkogel-Ehrenbachgraben area, equipped with three fast chairs. Direttissima is seriously steep and fabulous when groomed. The other blacks dotted around are easier. There are plenty of long, challenging reds. When conditions allow, there is plenty of gentler off-piste to be found – some of it close to pistes, some requiring a guide. The long ski routes from Pengelstein towards Jochberg and Hechenmoos are delightful in good snow. The ski routes and off-piste at Bichlalm are now served by a new double chair lift.
Lots of alternatives
The Hahnenkamm area is prime intermediate terrain but can get crowded. Good intermediates will want to do the World Cup downhill run, of course (see the feature panel opposite). And the long blues of around 1000m vertical to Klausen, Kirchberg and Skirast are satisfying. The black to Aschau is not difficult, and is a lovely way to end the day (check the bus times first).
The Wurzhöhe runs are good for mixed abilities, and the short, high runs at Resterhöhe are ideal if you are more timid. There are easy reds down to Pass Thurn and Jochberg. This area tends to be much quieter than Hahnenkamm and Pengelstein. Much of the Horn is good cruising, and the east-facing Raintal is excellent (but it has a slow double chair back).
The Hahnenkamm nursery slopes are no more than adequate, and prone to poor snow conditions – but at least they have some free lifts. There are nursery areas with free lifts at Jochberg, Pass Thurn and Aschau, too. The Horn has a high, sunny, nursery-like section, and quick learners will soon be cruising home from there on the long Hagstein piste. There are some easy runs to progress to if the snow is OK. Day lift passes just for the Horn slopes are available. But there are better resorts to learn in.
Kitzbühel was never known as a snowboarders’ hub, but it is growing in popularity, year on year. There is now a good park, plus some good off-piste runs and fun natural obstacles on the Hahnenkamm and around Pengelstein. All the major lifts are gondolas or chairlifts – so the area suits beginners well. But a couple of reporters have drawn attention to the many flat linking runs, on which boarders struggle – one versatile chap ditched his board after a day, and rented skis instead.
Plentiful but low
There are around 60km of trails scattered around. Most are at valley level and prone to lack of snow, but a reporter who got lots of snow highly recommends them.
Not an ideal choice
It’s rather a spread-out, towny resort for family holiday purposes. Rote Teufel takes kids from age three.
Blogs, features and news
- Spring afternoon and wintery morning in Kitzbühel
- Kitzbühel to stay open until 1 May
- Kitzbühel celebrates 007 in style
- Race uphill on Kitzbühel’s Streif
- Ryding finishes second in Kitzbühel