Make no mistake, the Tirol is home to some of the most legendary ski resorts in the world. From the medieval charm of Kitzbühel to the wild terrain of St Anton, these big resorts have a well-earned reputation and visiting them is often the highlight of my ski season. But since moving to the Tirol I’ve taken to trying out new places, small resorts that no one – well, hardly anyone – outside of the region has even heard of.
And thanks to non-existent lift queues, delicious local cuisine or excellent snow records, I’ve even had some of my best days at these hidden Tirolean gems. Here are five of my favourites:
I almost didn’t visit Glungezer at all – it looked so small on the piste map with just two double chairlifts and three t-bars – but the terrain more than makes up for it. The lower half of the mountain is perfect for cruising with gentle blue runs between the trees, whereas the top half has really excellent, often untouched off-piste. There’s no snow-making here but the piste team have grooming down to a fine art. And the views over the Inn Valley and Innsbruck itself are spectacular. Don’t forget to stop for lunch at the Tulfein Alm – the Kasspressknödel (cheese dumplings) are easily the best I have ever tasted.
The Paznaun Valley has so much excellent skiing that it’s easy to overlook See, even though you have to drive past it to visit Ischgl. It’s small (41km) and there’s no pretending it has the same big mountain appeal of its more famous neighbour. However, what it does have is the perfect mix of runs for every kind of skier, all served by fast, efficient lifts. The 8-seater Versing Gondola, built last year, has opened up new ski routes, which really come into their own in fresh snow. The run down to the valley is the perfect way to end the day— carved out through the trees, it’s cruisey, scenic and See at its best.
Schlick’s only gondola whizzes you up to Kreuzjoch at 2136m revealing a hidden, snowy bowl filled with every kind of skiing, from tricky tree runs through to family-friendly blues. The views could compete with anywhere in the Tirol, with the dramatic, Dolomite-esque Kalkkögel acting as natural cathedral (and a great backdrop for mid-run selfies). A real highlight is skiing from the highest point at Sennjoch (2240m) along wide-open carvings pistes and winding tree runs all the way down to the bottom of Stubai Valley at 1000m.
It’s just a 20 minute drive from Innsbruck to this gem of a ski area, but its location, sat snugly next to the Brenner Pass and the Italian border, means it can get great snow even when Old Man Winter overlooks most of Tirol. Bergeralm ski resort is a mountain of two halfs; the top is wild and rugged, especially off the Hochsunn lift, which is so deserted it feels more like remote backcountry than a ski resort. From the Steinboden chair down it has a cosy, friendly feel, though watch out for the Manni Pranger World Championship ski run — at a thigh-burning 46° it’s the steepest pisted run in the whole of Austria.
Even by this list’s standard, Rofan ski resort is tiny. But when you’re sat on the terrace of Erfurter Hütte (1834m) supping a Radler and enjoying far-reaching views over Lake Achensee and the majestic Karwendel mountains you won’t mind a bit. The runs are long, winding and perfectly pitched and for ski tourers there’s a huge amount of potential beneath the mighty Rofanspitze. But my favourite bit? There’s rarely another soul around…