Kitzbühel is the grande dame of Austrian ski resorts. The town has been involved with skiing since the 19th century (at least according to the local authorities!) and still plays a major part in the competitive racing scene with its famous downhill event.
All of this sporting history added to the commercial past of this former mining town has created a magnet for a certain type of luxury winter holiday.
While Brits, Americans and Scandinavians might plump for St Anton as Austria's most prestigious ski resort, German-speaking and Eastern European skiers flock to the high end hotels and trendy bars of the pedestrian town centre. So much so that there was said to be an unofficial limit (later denied) for the proportion of Russian visitors allowed in the top end hotels.
Luckily, with a permanent population of 8000+ and 10000 beds for guests, there is more than enough space in the resort for other types of skier. And Kitzbühel should certainly be on the shortlist for any serious skier considering Austria.
The slopes offer great opportunities for all types of skier and the extent of the linked area between Pass Thurn and Kirchberg is sometimes surprising to visitors who have assumed that the skiing is 'just Kitzbühel'. In fact, for those who are looking to put a good distance on their skis and boards, there are options to travel further afield into the SkiWelt or over into some of the nearby Salzburg areas.
With that size of population, the town is a sizeable and sprawling one. The attractive historic centre has been pedestrianised but the busy road through to Pass Thurn does detract from some of the winter atmosphere possessed by its rivals.
Those who are looking for something a bit more traditional may prefer Kirchberg - nearby and sharing the same ski area - while the ski bus up and down the valley also helps to make some of the villages a little higher more attractive. (See the Hotels and Travel tabs above for details about booking your own accommodation and making your own way to the resort).
Location: Kitzbühel is situated at a road junction between the Brixen valley which heads in the direction of Innsbruck, the road to St Johann and Salzburg and Pass Thurn, which links over into the Pinzgau and off in the direction of Zell am See.
Access: The town has excellent public transport links with its train station and can be accessed by road from three different directions.
Kitzbühel Ski Positives
- extensive ski area
- attractive town with historic centre and lively nightlife
- good infrastructure with plenty of choice
- excellent access
Kitzbühel Ski Negatives
- a town rather than a typical resort village
- slopes and lifts can get crowded
- prices can be high (although there is plenty of choice for places to go) and certain bars and restaurants definitely seem more interested in catering to the wealthy or nouveau riche
Kitzbühel Ski Information
One of the charms of Kitzbühel is the historic Streif race run looming just above the town. Thousands of fans gather here at the finish gate every year to cheer on the local favourites and most of the race route is an option for every skier on their way back to resort at the end of the day.
The Hahnenkamm gondola is the main way into the circuit from the town. To the left under the Steinbergkogel is a nice nest of black runs, while up and to the right is the Ehrenbachhöhe which provides access to the lifts and runs above Kirchberg. There is a good mix of lengthy runs of all grades either down to the base stations of lifts or, further up the valley towards Aschau, down to a ski bus stop. This is also where the link to Westendorf via the KiWest lift is located.
Up on the Pengelstein above Aschau is the massive 3S cable car, which links the area above Kitzbühel to its two neighbouring areas above Jochberg (with a new gondola into the lift system) and Pass Thurn. Note that the only alternative to taking this lift on the return journey is to use the ski bus back to Kitzbühel from those resorts.
This side of the area is mainly made up of shortish intermediate runs, linking all the way over to another new lift coming up from the Mittersill area on the other side of Pass Thurn. Those aiming to get as far as they can away from Kitzbühel will head for the mid-station of this gondola at Breitmoos.
Skiers on the way back to Kitzbühel may notice some interesting ski routes which drop down from various points onto the Pass Thurn road. Again at the bottom of most of them the ski bus is needed to link back into the lift system.
The last area of Kitzbühel skiing is not linked at all and is located on the other side of the valley on the Kitzbüheler Horn. It is a small mainly intermediate area which tends to get forgotten about, so can be interesting in fresh snow conditions.
The whole ski area has 51 lifts and covers around 170km of terrain (with another 30km of ski routes).
Ski Pass Prices 2018/2019
A day pass for the Kitzbühel ski area will cost 57 Euros and a six-day pass will cost 277 Euros. There are reductions for the pre-Christmas period and from mid-March.
For those with transport, the Kitzbüheler Alpen Super Ski Card ski pass offers excellent value, covering 23 resorts (including Zell am See, Saalbach and the SkiWelt area) and costs 59 Euros for one day and 283 Euros for six days
Ski Slope Verdict
- Kitzbühel is a good resort for beginner skiers. The various ski schools have excellent reputations and there are beginner slopes near the town as well as plenty of blue runs to practice turns on once the school goes up the mountain.
- Kitzbühel, like most Austrian resorts, is excellent for intermediate skiers. Although it doesn't have the reputation of being a big linked-up area, the runs over to Kirchberg and the links up to Pass Thurn cover a lot of skiing (not to mention the runs on the Kitzbüheler Horn).
- The scope of the area makes it a good choice for advanced skiers. There is plenty of space to find powder stashes after good snow and there are some fun black runs dotted around the area. And, of course, there is the chance to try the black sections of the Streif ski race run on the Hahnenkamm...
How To Get To Kitzbühel
Distance to Salzburg Airport (AT): 75km
Distance to Innsbruck Airport (AT): 95km
Distance to Munich Airport (DE): 170km
Nearest railway station to Kitzbühel: train station in town centre
Kitzbühel is well-placed for access from the three main ski airports for the region.
Innsbruck might be a bit further away, but it is usually simpler and quicker to get from on public transport. There is a frequent train service via Wörgl (sometimes direct) which takes well under two hours.
Trains from Salzburg, although closer as the crow flies, usually have more stops and take two and a half hours via Schwarzach - St Veit. Munich takes just over three hours on public transport and involves a change in Wörgl as well as Munich (for the S-Bahn out to the airport).
Car hire is available from all airports - links to rental car availability in the different countries are listed below and open in a new window:
The timings for driving are pretty much the same for Innsbruck and Salzburg. The route from Innsbruck airport is motorway all the way to Wörgl and then a main road through the Brixen valley. From Salzburg airport the route is almost entirely a main road through the mountains.
Drivers coming from Germany should head for the border at Kufstein and then travel through to Wörgl before branching off as above. Again, the driving time is nowhere near double the time to Salzburg, coming in usually at under two hours.
An alternate way to get to Kitzbühel is over Pass Thurn, which is perhaps of most interest for drivers arriving from the south east (such as anyone coming from Zell am See). As the name suggests Pass Thurn involves a climb on both side and requires winter driving skills and equipment in bad weather.
Town Altitude: 760m
The ski season for the main ski area opens for winter 2018/2019 in mid-November and runs at least theoretically through to 01 May. Note that the earlier and later dates usually refer to the Pass Thurn section of the ski area.
Kitzbühel Tourist Office: www.kitzbuehel.com
Kitzbühel Weather Forecast: www.weatheraustria.net
Kitzbühel Ski Lifts: www.kitzski.at
Kitzbüheler Alpen Ski Pass: www.allstarcard.at
Kitzbühel Ski School: www.rote-teufel.at
Austrian Railways (includes public bus services): www.oebb.at