I recently joined a friend on a one-week ski tip to Mayrhofen in Tirol, Austria… and I now have a taste for spring skiing which will be hard to quash! (Our husbands stayed in London, so it was girls-only.)
Where is Mayrhofen?
Mayrhofen is a town in the Zillertal (Ziller river valley) in the Austrian state of Tirol. It took approximately an hour to reach by bus from Innsbruck, following a short 1h 45min flight from London. The village is located between the Penken and the Ahorn mountains, and is also close to the Hintertux Glacier, the absolute highlight of my week in the Alps.
The Hintertux Glacier
At 3,250 metres above sea level, the Hintertux Glacier ski resort is open for business all year round, even in summer (when I may be back).
I spent most of my time skiing (i.e. taking ski lessons) on the Penken mountain. The Penken is known to offer a large range of ski runs at all different levels. I started the week on blue slopes, and was a confident intermediate after five days (well, according to my ski school’s rather lenient ranking system in any case). I had been skiing before about a dozen times, but never felt comfortable on red slopes. The 5-day course finally changed that.
There is a huge array of competing ski schools in the area, but my friend recommended Ski School Mayrhofen 3000. Booked online, the ski and boots hire and ski course itself came at a very competitive total of €195. The 5 day ski pass added another €215. The first morning at 9:30am involved a “grading” test when we all had to display how well we could (or could not) turn corners. We were then promptly placed into groups according to our level. My group had a maximum limit of seven learners (mix of adults and teens), which quickly dwindled to about four by the end of the day as some took morning lessons only. The morning lesson ran from 10am until 12pm, and the afternoon session ran from 1pm to 3pm. I took full-day classes… and cherished the one hour lunch break to savour some revitalising Austrian delicacies.
Apart from the usual ski, snow-boarding, and now, as the weather warms up, paragliding, the Penken also offers Austria’s steepest piste, called the Harakiri. It boasts an incline of up to 78% over a vertical drop of 375 metres along its length of about 1500 metres. Named after the Japanese term for the samurais’ traditional “suicide by sword”, it was quite a sight to see the crazy (and the brave) speeding down this scary slope.
The White Lounge
There is a great place for an après-ski refresher on the Ahorn. The White Lounge is an igloo bar, as well as a hotel. The bar closes at 4pm, though, so better be in quick to enjoy the unique icy interior.
I was very surprised to find how incredibly easy it was to get around Mayrhofen and to reach the ski resorts. The Penken is reached by a gondola system, which has its valley station in the centre of Mayrhofen village. The cable car to the Ahorn is only a short distance walk from there and both were within 10 or 12 minutes’ walk from our hotel. If you’re a bit lazy, like I am, then you can take the ski bus (which is included in the ski pass and also serves various locations much further away).
We stayed at the 4-star Hotel Berghof, as part of an all-inclusive package tour with Crystal Ski Holidays. The breakfast buffet at the hotel was worth waking up early for and I would recommend the hotel.
Going off-season turned out to be just the right thing to do. We had been worried that the snow might be “mushy”, but as soon as you got away from the valley and further uphill, the snow was just fine. It was wonderful to be able to ski in the snowy mountains in such warm and sunny weather. The temperature reached up to 24 degrees Celsius (on the hottest day of our stay, above 20 degrees on most days) in the Mayrhofen village, so as soon as we peeled off our ski clothes at the end of the day, we were in flip-flops, shorts and T-shirts. Everything is much more relaxed without the usual massive crowds trying to ellbow their way into the ski lift queues. Skiing in spring also offers so many more activities – maybe paragliding next time!