Zell am See ski area transformed by new lift

11th December 2019, by Dave Watts

Editor Watts riding the new gondola link to Saalbach the day after it opened

Editor Watts riding the new gondola link to Saalbach the day after it opened

In October we reported on the Austrian resort of Zell am See building two new gondolas for the 2019/20 season.

This week I went to check them out on my first ski trip of the season. And wow, was it worthwhile.  The opening of the Zell am See Xpress gondola to and from the neighbouring Glemm valley has linked the resort (via a short bus ride) to the Saalbach-Hinterglemm-Leogang-Fieberbrunn ski area. That means that Zell am See’s modest 77km of local slopes has grown to an amazing 408km of pistes covered by the new Alpin Card ski pass.

One of Zell am Zee’s lovely pedestianised town centre streets

I’ve always liked the town of Zell am See, with its attractive, car-free medieval centre. But its limited ski area has been a drawback. Now that drawback is no more.

On Sunday I spent the morning cruising the delightfully deserted easy blue and red runs of the local Schmittenhöhe mountain. They were all served by state-of-the-art snowmaking and would have been unskiable if we were still reliant on natural snow.

After a very early lunch (11.30am), we headed over to Saalbach and spent the afternoon whizzing around the ideal intermediate slopes near the new link.

We didn’t have time to do more than a fraction of the available pistes. But if I was in Zell for a week, I’d certainly want to explore the Saalbach etc area for at least a couple of days. The link has transformed the attraction of Zell am See as a ski resort.

Editor Watts at the new K-onnection gondola from Kaprun to Kitzsteinhorn

On Monday, we headed for Kaprun’s Kitzsteinhorn glacier area. Another new lift for this season, the huge 32-seater K-onnection gondola from the top of Kaprun’s local Maiskogel area to the Kitzsteinhorn glacier area opened on 30 November. I took that on 9 December and was hugely impressed.  The views both up to the glacier and back towards Zell am See and its lake are mind-blowing.

But it takes a long time: a bus ride, six lifts spanning 12km, and over 2250m vertical to reach the top (at 3029m, known as the ‘top of Salzburg’) and with lots of attractions at the top, including viewpoints and a cinema.

The snow was lovely, powdery and manly natural because of the altitude. But the slopes were much more crowded than Zell’s because of teams race training and lots of ski instructor training groups. I preferred Zell’s deserted pistes and excellent machine-made snow.

The Kitzsteinhorn area was cloudy and crowded with ski training groups

I stayed at the 4-star Hotel Alpenblick , with bus stops right outside to and from the town centre in one direction and to and from the 3-stage Areit gondola to near the top of Schmittenhöhe in the other.

It is also a lovely 20-minute lakeside walk to or from the town centre.

Hotel Alpenblick

The room was comfortable and spacious, the staff helpful and friendly, the 1300 sqm wellness area includes an indoor/outdoor pool, saunas and steam rooms and the owners go skiing with guests twice a week. The bar and lounge area are being rebuilt for 2020/21 and there are plans for a new rooftop swimming and spa area.

My bedroom was spacious and comfortable

Back to features

Recent features

Popular features

Share |