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Location: snowHeadLand
Resort: Kitzbuhel

Country: Austria

Domain: Kitzbuheler Alpen

Author: martin-6

Date: 7-14 March 2009

Our holiday: Independently booked week for four adventurous 20-something skiiers (2 advanced, 1 intermediate (me), 1 beginner). In this case I was skiing with my advanced pal who is looking to take on jumps and off-piste shortcuts wherever possible, or bomb down a black piste in only 3 turns. Having not skiied for 10 years I was looking for some nice clean reds to allow me to improve my technique while not losing too much ground on him. We are the types to hit the first gondola at 8:30am and ski much harder before lunch than after it, clocking off at 3:30-4pm when the schnitzel/knodel/kaiserschmarrn in our stomachs can't resist the downward pull of gravity.

Website : http://www.kitzbuehel.com/en/
Good recent article: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/snowandski/3173246/Kitzbuhel-ski-guide-introduction-and-basics.html

Basics : Resort is 1.5 hours from Salzburg Airport via rip-off taxi (140 Euros for 4 people) or cheaper train ride on the way back (74 Euros for 4). Early morning flight to Salzburg from London Gatwick with EasyJet. We spent 1 night in Salzburg on the way back, nice city but pretty small so not worth more days.

Lift system : Decent gondolas going up into the mountains from each village. When you're up there, it's 90% chairlifts, mostly quite modern or in reasonable condition apart from the odd 1 or 2 remote ones (G8 Zweitausender is a white-knuckle ride!). A couple of T-bars spotted, not essential for good skiing. Look out for the big high-tech '3S' gondola connecting the busier Pengelstein area with the less-skied Barenbadkogel area on the other mountain.

The terrain : Kitzbuhel centre is only 800m in altitude, so first thing every morning the Hahnenkammbahn gondola should be taken up the mountain to 1600m, followed by the C1 or C2 chairs to Pengelstein. There's some quality early morning skiing to be had on the black 38 ('Direttissima') and 23 ('Griesalm') off the Steinbergkogel chairlift. They are really more like big, wide reds. When these got busier we liked to head up to Pengelstein (1938m) and explore the runs there - 55, 32 or 29. If you take the 3S gondola across to Barenbadkogel/Zweitausender area the 61, 64, 65, 68, 69, 74, 75 are all worth trying. It's worth doing that first thing in the morning if you really plan to explore the other side of that mountain towards Resterhohe. Below Pengelstein, there are a lot of blue runs which are confusing, not very satisfying, and with a fair few push-along paths. In fact the flat parts seem to be a feature which is hard to avoid on this mountain - snowboarders beware! The blue 25 ('Fleck') run all the way down into Kirchberg is meant to be nice, although we didn't try it. The famous run is the blue 36 ('Hahnenkamm') but it's more family piste than racetrack and to be honest it made little impression on me. To get back down to Kitzbuhel there's the picturesque red 20 piste ('Asten') which winds through the forest and offers incredible variety - it became our cult favourite since it led right back to our apartment door and we skied it at least twice a day - the leg burner. Alternatively you have the more traditional downhill route of the red 21 ('Streif') which includes part of the Hahnenkamm racecourse (unprepared and bumpy as hell).

The areas we didn't explore at all were Bichlalm (off-piste touring area), Kitzbuheler Horn and Gaisberg (snowparks).

The snow : 10cm+ of fresh snow every day, almost too much for my liking as the off-pistes got very thick very fast. Plenty of cannons on the main pistes but they were not needed. But, descending a freshly bashed piste of fresh snow every morning was heavenly! Visibility was mostly terrible but that's the fog's fault, not the snow's. With so much snow, the busier pistes got mogully quite early in the day. Down towards the village at lower altitude there was more slush and ice to be found. Get high and stay high to avoid that.

Off-piste : I'm not a big junkie, but we did get into it once trying to descend the 32 ('Hieslegg') to Aschau. It was a very picturesque route with trees and fields, but a little scary and difficult to ski because the snow was so deep. Not exactly a mainstream off-piste trail - we ended up in the back of a farm near a sawmill. Elsewhere on the mountain, we saw other off-pisters having some good fun below lifts on the Pengelstein and Steinbergkogel areas.

The resort : Kitzbuhel town is meant to be beautiful but it just seemed very small and laden with posh boutiques (not really a practical skier's town). If you're on foot there is a lack of supermarkets (just Billa) and 3-4 decent apres-ski bars (thumbs up to Streifalm for cosy Austrianness, The Londoner for cosy Britishness, and Pavilion to satisfy the loud music lovers). The free ski bus service between villages was good.

Food : Streifalm restaurant in the town, really nice, quality Austrian fare if a little pricey. On the mountain, I think it was Berghaus Tyrol on the 36 run ('Hahnenkamm') which was a cut above. The tiny bar at the peak of the Steinbergkogel lift is also very cosy.

Accommodation : Stayed in Appartment Marina booked from Alphome. Their office is in neighbouring Kirchberg so it's awkward arriving and departing with keys and deposits and whatnot. Warm and spacious place, but poorly maintained and its location was right at the top of a hill you find yourself walking up at least once a day. Would not recommend the apartment, would not recommend the company, would not stay there again.

Costs: In 7 days here I spent:
- Apartment 385 Euros including 6-day ski-pass worth 187 Euros.
- Ski/boot rental 158 Euros (intermediate quality).
- Food/drink 150 Euros (self-catering + lunches out). Plenty of meals to be found for under 10 Euros, drinks around 3 Euros each.
- Travel from UK something like 140 all told.
Total 900 Euros, so quite over my budget.

Conclusion: A pleasant and hospitable resort, good food and atmosphere but the skiing area is somewhat limited, especially if you prefer to stay close to Kitzbuhel. Not many challenging runs for the advanced skier. Ok for an intermediate still improving. To get some variety you really need to be prepared to plan your days and take the 3S gondola across and explore all the runs on the other mountains, leading down into the valleys of Pass Thurn, Jochberg, Kirchberg and Aschau. Be prepared to push your limits and take a bus home.

Would I come back? To Tyrol, definitely, for the food. To Kitzbuhel maybe not until I have been to many more resorts to see how they compare.

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