The Zillertal region of Austria is a winter wonderland for families. Here's why

Loomed over by 10,000ft peaks, Zillertal, in Austria’s Tyrol region, is the place to get back into winter travel and it’s great for bringing your brood along, too.

By Zillertal
Published 31 Oct 2021, 11:00 GMT
Zillertal runs for more than 30 miles, and is the centre of four ski areas, stretching ...

Zillertal runs for more than 30 miles, and is the centre of four ski areas, stretching into the mountains for 336 miles.

Photograph by Tom Klocker for Zillertal

Heading to the mountains will feel better than ever this winter. The air will feel crisper, the whites whiter and the sight of the peaks spearing towards cobalt blue skies will make you feel truly alive. Zillertal, in Austria’s Tyrol region, is the ideal destination for a winter break for the whole family. This scenic, snow-dusted valley runs for more than 30 miles, and is the centre of four ski areas, stretching into the mountains for 336 miles. The best news? All you need is one ticket — the Zillertal Superskipass — and you’ll get access to all four resorts. All this, plus sledging, spas and an enviable sustainable food scene awaits in this outdoor adventure playground.


Left: Top:

Snow parks are ideal for youngsters having a go at snowboarding.

Right: Bottom:

Funlines (seperate pistes) for youngsters — and  those young at heart — await in Zillertal.

photographs by Christoph Johann for Zillertal

Hitting the slopes

Zillertal has a reputation as a family favourite, much of which stems from its excellent ski schools, where youngsters learn the basics amid fairytale scenery. If you have little ones in tow, look to the mellow slopes at Hochzillertal-Spieljoch, where children can hone their ski legs and make use of the conveyor-belt lift. Up in the higher echelons of Hochfügen, powder-hunting freeriders can instead escape into a white wilderness, with cable cars taking them up to the perfect starting points.

For parents, meanwhile, there are a host of magical spots to seek out. Chief among them, pitched on the fringes of the valley, is the Hintertux Glacier, a vast network of pistes that includes the Gefrorene Wand (Frozen Wall) — pause at the top for spectacular panoramic views. Given its position, among a complex web of pisted runs, experienced skiers can choose to take on the ultimate challenge: almost 40 miles of skiing in one day on the magnificent Glacier Circuit.

The resort of Mayrhofen is also great for expert skiers. Here, at the tip of Penken Mountain, adrenaline-seekers gather to gaze at panoramic views before speeding down the infamous Harakiri piste — the steepest ski run in Austria with a gradient of 78% — or around the freestyling hub of Penken Park. Sitting close by is the Ahorn area, a fabulous spot for family runs with its wide, gentle slopes. The Albert Adler tour has been designed for all levels, where mascot Albert Adler cheers on skiers both big and small as they navigate around obstacles.

Finally, there’s the Zillertal Arena, a vast area spanning two Austrian provinces and several mountains. Here, easy runs entice children and snow parks are ideal for youngsters having a go at snowboarding. If you have time for a solo session, try the head-spinning HöhenFresser Tour (Vertical Metre Eater), starting at the highest point of the resort, the Übergangsjoch, and skiing some 3,2810ft down to the valley floor.

Mountain huts dish up warming desserts like  Kaiserschmarrn (Emperor’s Mess), a shredded pancake.

Photograph by Kevin Ilse for Zillertal

More fun for the family

Zillertal may be made for skiers, yet there’s so much more to do in the region. Even in winter, rosy-cheeked walkers strike out into the mountains for meditative hikes on more than 285 miles of winter hiking trails, stopping to gaze at deer or snow hares emerging from their hideouts before continuing on to summits, where warming lunches in mountain huts await. Hardy kids can try cross-country skiing, too, along the 77-mile network of trails. For speedier thrills, there are also toboggan runs, 20 miles of which are illuminated after nightfall — including the run at the Höllensteinhütte mountain hut, which is also known for its culinary offerings. And then there’s ice skating on nine ice rinks, ice climbing with expert guides and paragliding above Zillertal’s great expanse of silent wilderness. 

More activities for the adults

Child-free time can be spent skiing, but Zillertal also has a wonderful spa scene, all with serene interiors and extensive treatment menus. Popular options range from the Mayrhofen Erlebnisbad adventure pool to the Erlebnistherme Fügen thermal bath, plus, of course, several hotels. There are saunas, pummelling massages in hot tubs and the chance to relax on day beds sipping hot teas. And then there’s a food scene to rival that of any other ski resort, from tucked-away Tyrolean restaurants to the collection of sustainably-led mountain huts, like the recently reconstructed Wiesenalm, run on renewable energy.

How to do it

The closest airports to the valley are Innsbruck (30 miles), Munich (100 miles) and Salzburg (90 miles), where you can pick up a rental car or travel to Zillertal via public transport. Accommodation options range from grand dame spa hotels to chalets. And don’t forget you’ll need the Zillertal Superskipass — an all-access passport to each of Zillertal’s four main ski areas for anywhere from two to 21 days. 

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