General Travel Information
Austria lies at the heart of Europe and one of the advantages for the country's ski resorts is the easy accessibility from all directions.
Austrian airports in Innsbruck and Salzburg offer a quick connection to the resorts for those arriving on the extensive range of charter flights and somewhat more limited choice of scheduled services.
However those looking to arrive from outside Europe can be assured by the range of long-distance services offered at countries just over the border at airports such as Munich or Zurich. Air options are covered on the following Air tab.
As a mountainous country, Austria has an excellent road system well-equipped to deal with potential traffic problems in the winter months. There are plenty of tunnels which have been built to connect one province with another as well as a decent motorway system and an efficient snow removal service. More information about driving in the country can be found on the Roads tab.
Like their Swiss neighbours, the Austrians have an enviable public transport system. Some resorts have their own railway station, while others are linked to train stations by the efficient public bus service (all included on the same transport tickets). More information about public transport can be found on the Rail tab.
The main Austrian airports used for ski charter flights are Innsbruck and Salzburg. Munich and Zurich (and, to a more distant extent, Vienna) offer a wide range of chartered and scheduled flights so that most destinations around the world can be covered. Other smaller airports may also come into play if flying from and to a suitable destination, for example, Bodensee and Allgäu airports in Germany and Linz, Graz and Klagenfurt in Austria.
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:
Those planning on using public transport should check the individual resorts for more information. Most resorts will also have taxi companies which offer an airport transfer service. There are also usually taxi services available at all Austrian airports while there are also more long-distance transfer services offered at Munich Airport to ski resorts.
Innsbruck Airport is the closest destination for most of the ski resorts in the western and central part of the Tyrol, where many of the country's most famous resorts are located. The airport is situated to the west of the city centre (which can be reached by taxi or frequent bus service) and the main city train station is a major junction which offers services in all directions.
The airport is a relatively quiet regional affair in the summer, but on winter weekends charter flights and their passengers fill the facilities to bursting. Many of them will be ski charters operated by the British and Irish ski travel companies, others are special winter services offered from Scandinavia, Germany and eastern Europe.
There are plenty of taxis offering
The airport currently offers services (chartered and scheduled) to and from the following English-speaking airports:
- Leeds Bradford
- London Gatwick
- London Stansted
Scheduled services are available to and from German-speaking:
The following European cities are also served:
Salzburg Airport is situated a few kilometres outside the city centre close to the German border. The city train station is served by a bus service and the rail services link into main national and international routes.
Salzburg is somewhat bigger than Innsbruck Airport and more convenient for the Salzburg side ski resorts as well as being a decent option for Tyrolean resorts to the east of Innsbruck. It has a comprehensive charter flight programme as well as scheduled links to many European cities.
The airport currently offers services to and from the following English-speaking airports:
- Leeds Bradford
- London Gatwick
- London Stansted
Scheduled services are available to and from German-speaking:
- Berlin Schönefeld
- Berlin Tegel
The following European cities are also served:
- Las Palmas
- St Petersburg
Munich Airport is a massive operation now some way to the north of the city centre on the way out towards Landshut. The country's main carrier Lufthansa operates from one of the two terminals, all other flights go from one of the areas in the original Terminal One.
The airport has two regional train (S-Bahn) services linking it into Munich's main railway station as well as links to the satellite stations of Pasing and Ostbahnhof, which may be options when travelling to Austria.
One of the advantages of Munich being so far outside the city is the quick access to the German motorway system. However, this route can be busy on winter weekends and there are (2013/14) planned roadworks at a critical point when coming into Austria near Rosenheim. Alternate possibilities south for those travelling to the resorts in the western Tyrol could be via Garmisch and the Seefeld plateau to Innsbruck or via Garmisch and Reutte through to Imst.
There are so many airlines and destinations serving Munich Airport - it is the 12th busiest airport in the world - that it would be pointless to list them all. Most of the ski resorts listed on the site can be accessed via Munich Airport without too many problems.
There is also a counter located near the S-Bahn entrance in the Z area of the airport (the central area between the two terminals) which offers transfer services to various resorts in Austria.
Zurich Airport is another busy international airport with mostly scheduled services offering transport to destinations around the globe.
It is located to the north of the city in the satellite town of Kloten at the centre of a motorway hub and with a train station located underneath the buildings. The regional train service (S-Bahn) links the airport to the main city railway station, from where arrivals can get trains heading into Austria in the direction of Innsbruck and beyond.
The airport at Zurich is probably of most use to those heading for Lech and St Anton. Trains from Zurich main railway station actually stop in St Anton, so it is possible to have a fairly simple journey from airport to ski resort in this particular case.
This was originally known as Friedrichshafen Airport and is situated in Germany on the northern shores of Lake Constance. It is a fairly small airport and the reason it is even on skiers' radar was its use for a while by one of the main low-cost carriers out of the UK.
Nowadays it has a fairly steady range of destinations in smaller aircraft with weekend services to London and Manchester as well as more frequent flights to airports in Germany and Turkey.
The problem with both this airport and the next one as smaller airports outside a main German city is the lack of easy connections to Austria. Both the road and rail connections are, understandably, aimed at moving people around Germany rather than towards their southern and eastern neighbours.
Certainly it is possible to use public transport to get to Innsbruck (for example) but it involves a bit of a performance with changes to get into the town, then to Lindau, then to an Austrian town before hitting the main west-east Austrian railway line.
Likewise the road route involves taking a busy main road along the northern shore of the lake out to Lindau before hitting the motorway which heads down from Memmingen and crosses the Austrian border at Bregenz.
Given the options available within Austria or from Munich and Zurich, Bodensee airport should really only be considered for the most westerly of the Austrian resorts and when other options have been explored.
This is another small German airport outside the main population centres which has re-branded itself - previously it was known as Memmingen Airport. It is marketed by Ryanair as 'Memmingen/Munich West' although it is actually over well over 100km away from Munich. Winter services are offered to London Stansted and Dublin.
Transport to and from the airport is again a little problematic when attempting to get to Austria. There is a bus from the airport to the town railway station, which then takes a number of changes to link into the Austrian rail system.
Road connections are a little bit more convenient as the airport is next to the German motorway system and it is a fairly straight run south to Füssen and the Austrian border. From there drivers can head through to the Fern Pass and then into the main Inn valley.
However, as with Bodensee airport, other options are probably going to be quicker and more convenient if they are available.
Linz is a small provincial airport in Austria which could be an option for Schladming or for the Salzburg resorts. It is located 14km to the southwest of the city quite near the motorway which links Salzburg and Vienna and has regular services to London as well as Vienna and some German airports.
An airport shuttle bus takes arrivals and departures the few minutes to the nearest railway station at Hörsching.
Linz is probably only worth considering when, from the resorts covered on this site, Schladming is the choice and even then Salzburg offers a greater choice and similar access options.
Graz Airport is to the south of the city and is connected by a regional train service to the city centre. It offers flights to Stuttgart and Munich in Germany and to Vienna. It has an excellent location next to the junction of the Süd Autobahn and the Pyhrn Autobahn (the two motorways).
Again, even though Schladming is in the same province, it would make more sense to use Salzburg Airport as an arrival point.
The small airport at Klagenfurt is located in the suburbs to the north of the city. It offers Germanwings services to Berlin, Bonn, Cologne and Hamburg and an Austrian Airlines service to Vienna.
The airport can be reached by the regional S-Bahn from the city centre, although there is a ten-minute walk from the station to the airport.
Again, from the resorts covered here, Klagenfurt is only really to be considered in the case of Schladming and only when no other alternatives are available.
Skiing is such a big part of the economy of the west of Austria that access to the ski resorts becomes an important factor and a massive amount of money is spent each year on maintaining and improving the infrastructure around the Tyrol and Salzburg.
It helps, of course, that Austria is on one of the main traffic routes through Europe, with the Inn valley and Brenner motorways being the artery that connects Italy and Germany. That means that in many cases skiers are able to use a motorway to get within less than an hour's drive of their resorts and the connecting roads are normally kept in excellent condition.
Of course, all this comes with a price and it is paid in the form of what is termed the 'Vignette' - a windscreen sticker which is obligatory for any vehicle which wishes to use Austrian motorways. Visitors can buy a 10-day or a two-month sticker - locals have an annual one. Costs are under 10 Euros for the fortnight version and under 30 Euros for the two month option.
The Vignette also does not cover the costs of private motorways (such as the Brenner motorway from Innsbruck to the Italian border) or some of the big tunnels (such as the Arlberg Tunnel between the Vorarlberg and the Tyrol)
Speed limits are generally 130km per hour on motorways (slower at night), 100km on main roads and 50km in built-up areas. Local restrictions and air quality measurement equipment can mean that those limits are reduced.
Drivers in Austria are required to have an international drivers' licence, a reflective safety vest and, during the winter season and, in winter conditions, to have four winter tyres or snow chains on at least two wheels.
Approaching the western part of the country the easiest route is via the motorway which runs from Bregenz up to the Arlberg Tunnel. This is a toll tunnel and in good weather and light traffic some people like to take the scenic route over the Arlberg Pass, which takes a fair bit longer but gives a good view of parts of the Arlberg ski area and rejoins the road again on the other side of the tunnel. The road between the Arlberg Tunnel and Pians is the Arlberg Express Road, which has a number of non-toll tunnels until reaching the motorway again at Pians to the west of Landeck. From here the motorway runs past Innsbruckl Airport through to Wörgl and then heads north up to the German border just past Kufstein.
Driving from the south, motorists will probably want to use the toll motorway over the Brenner Pass and down to Innsbruck before joining the Inn valley motorway described above. There is a non-toll route via the main road but this is far slower and can be extremely busy.
Those arriving from the north have a number of choices. From the northwest, there is the opportunity to join onto the motorway in Bregenz and from there to head through Vorarlberg to the Tyrol as described above. Otherwise there are routes through via Füssen and Reutte or via Garmisch and Seefeld. Those arriving from Munich Airport or points further to the northeast will probably end up crossing into Austria on the motorway at Kufstein.
Drivers from the east are probably going to end up on the motorway which runs between Vienna and Salzburg and then taking an appropriate exit to the south. A decent motorway option for Schladming, Saalbach and Zell am See is to head south from Salzburg on the A10 in the direction of Bischofshofen, with Schladming drivers staying on the motorway until Radstadt, while those for the other two resorts take the exit for St Johann im Pongau and Zell am See.
Like many other European countries, rail and bus services are closely linked as a public transport service. This means that most ski resorts can be accessed via a train ticket which may, in certain cases, involve travel by bus as well as train.
However, Austria's rail network is an efficient and comprehensive one, especially considering the geography of the county and in particular the mountain ranges towards the west. The main Inn valley route from Bregenz through to Salzburg is the principal artery for many of the resorts covered on this site, with both rail lines and bus services splitting off from the main valley to head into the mountains.
A little further towards the east to the south of Salzburg, the resorts are served by links to the main line heading to Carinthia from Salzburg through Bischofshofen.
Austrian Ski Resorts With A Direct Rail Service
Of the resorts that we have covered on this site, the following villages and towns have their own railway station:
- St Anton am Arlberg - railway station on the other side of the road from the ski lifts and town centre. On main line to Innsbruck.
- Seefeld in Tirol - railway station right in centre of village. On a direct service between Munich and Innsbruck.
- Mayrhofen - railway station on edge of village. Served by the Ziller Valley train, which is a local service joining the main Inn valley line at Jenbach.
- Kitzbühel - railway station in town. The town has direct services to Salzburg and Innsbruck railway stations.
- Zell am See - railway station in town centre. Zell am See has direct services to Salzburg and Wörgl (which links to Innsbruck).
- Schladming - railway station on edge of town. The resort has direct services to Graz, Innsbruck and Salzburg.
More information about travel to all resorts on the site can be found under the Travel tab on the resort page.
Special Rail Offers
The ÖBB, the Austrian train service, offers a number of special train tickets. Those who know when they will be travelling may do well to take a look at the limited availability Sparschiene Austria tickets, which offer reductions for longer-distance travel (over 150km) when booked in advance.
There are also special tickets available which include rail travel and ski pass, but these are only detailed on the German version of their website and the reductions are not tremendously interesting.
Austrian trains: www.oebb.at