Resort Report: Zell am See, Austria

For snow, the only way is up

Dominic Earle
Sunday 11 January 2004 01:00 GMT

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Where is it?

Where is it?

Zell am See, on the edge of the Hohe Tauern national park in Austria, offers motorway skiing in more ways than one. With Autobahn access from Salzburg, you can make it from city to mountain in just over an hour.

Chocolate box or concrete box?

With towering peaks above it, a lakeside setting and a medieval heart, Zell is a winter wonderland - as long as the weather obliges, which at a lowly 758m is no sure thing.

What's the snow like?

Not always great. The sunny home slopes only go up to 2,000m, but there are 40km of snowmaking and Zell also has the advantage of being a free bus ride from Kaprun, home to one of Europe's best glacier skiing areas and lifts up to a snowsure 3,029m.

Going up

Zell and Kaprun share 56 lifts. Zell's start at the edge of town, or in the dormitory village of Scüttdorf, and head to the highest point - the top of Schmittenhöhe at 2,000m. Kaprun's glacier skiing is accessed by a smart, two-stage gondola.

Coming down

There are 130km of piste in the area. Schmittenhöhe's wooded flanks provide plenty of long reds and blues to find your ski legs on, with some steepish blacks in the centre of the bowl. But don't stray off into the protected forests unless you want to lose your lift pass. Up on the Kaprun glacier, the exposed runs are mostly blue and red.

Where can I leave the kids?

If you're looking for like minds, then book into the Kinderhotel Hagleitner (0043 6542 571870), a giant kid-centric hotel in Schüttdorf, where families can enjoy delights such as Pongo's Adventure World, a children's ski area and prams at no extra charge. The ski schools will bend your kids' knees from the age of four.

Can I get some air?

There's a half-pipe on Schmittenhöhe, but advanced boarders should head up to the glacier above Kaprun, where there's a fun-park and year-round half-pipe, plus some powder.

How much for a lift pass?

A six-day Zell am See-Kaprun lift pass costs €164 (£115) for adults and €82 for 6- to 16-year-olds.

My thighs hurt. Can I slope off?

Head to the Zeller Hallenbad (0043 6542 7850), which has an indoor swimming pool, steam bath and sauna. There's also ice-skating and a floodlit cross-country loop for somnambulists.

Enough exercise. Where can I eat up my euros?

Zell am See has plenty of places to spoil your diet, from haute cuisine at

the five-star Salzburgerhof (0043 6542 7650) to traditional local Pinzgauer dishes at Saustall ("The Pigsty") (0043 6542 57407): think potatoes, sauerkraut and lederhosen. For something a little lighter, try Asia (0043 6542 57228).

Après-ski rating

There is a vast choice of drinking holes. Start at 2,000m in the ice bar outside the Berghotel and finish 1,200m lower and several schnapps later at Crazy Daisy or Viva in town.

How do I get there?

From Salzburg it's only 80km to Zell am See, so beware of weekend crowds.

In the area

Hire a pair of cross-country skis and take yourself off to enjoy 200km of groomed tracks along the valley floor, including a 10km loop on the frozen lake.

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