Baker Boyd and Ian Morrison, two North American homegrown ski-town guys from Aspen and Whistler, take on the “Cradle of Alpine Skiing” in the Austrian Alps. Road tripping from Kitzbühel to Sölden to Ötztal to Arlberg, they explore the regions famously known as the birthplace of modern-day alpine skiing, and also where après is just as notorious as the terrain. Navigating their appetite for skiing and Schnitzel, Baker and Ian find themselves mesmerized by the raw beauty and inherent ski culture of the Austrian Alps.
Photos from the Autobahn Adventure
Where To Go and Ski
Dubbed the "Cradle of Alpine Skiing" because this is where modern ski technique was pioneered, the Arlberg region is Austria's largest ski area (and the world's fifth largest). Eighty-eight lifts connect Arlberg's five historic ski towns of St. Anton, St. Christoph, Stuben, Lech, and Zürs, forming a massive web of nearly 200 miles of groomed slopes.
Thanks to a high base elevation, the Obergurgl Hochgurgl ski area, dubbed the Diamond of the Alps, is one of the most snow-sure resorts in Austria. Nestled at the far end of the picturesque Ötzal valley, the ski area comprised of two resorts is connected by a gondola and offers up miles if groomed slopes and free ride terrain.
Europeans jonesing for ski season to start head to Sölden, also located in the Ötzal valley and home of the Rettenbach and Tiefenbachferner glaciers, which open in September each season. These glaciers offer more than 21 miles of runs; when the adjacent slopes of the Sölden ski area open, that increases to 89 miles of piste perfection.
Kitzbühel became synonymous with skiing when ski pioneer Franz Reisch imported the first wooden skis and skied down the steep slopes above the quintessential Austrian town in 1893. Today, thousands of ski racing enthusiasts flock to the historic mountain town in January to cheer and party at ski racing's most spectacular event: the Hahnenkamm.
The most convenient access point from the U.S. to the Austrian Alps is Munich, Germany. Fly into Munich International Airport, a two hour drive from St. Anton. If renting a car and driving, be sure to pick up a "Vignette," a road tax sticker needed to drive on highways in Austria.
Sights and Slopes
- Kitzbühel: If you can, plan your visit to coincide with the Hahnenkamm World Cup Downhill race on Jan. 24-27 to experience Kitzbühel's ski racing culture and après.
- Sölden: Check out 007 elements at a James Bond installation situated at the top of the mountain where scenes of Spectre were filmed.
- Hochgurgl: Take in stunning views from the Top Mountain Star.
- Arlberg: Experience world class free riding by booking a guide and skiing the famed Valluga North Face.