Zell am See
About Zell am See
The town of Zell am See is probably the most popular of all the mountain resorts in the province of Salzburg.
Although its ski area cannot rank amongst the top options in Austria, its convenient location and stunning position beside a lake have turned it into a favourite of generations of skiers.
That's not to say that Zell am See should be dismissed as a ski area...
There are certainly enough slopes to keep any intermediate level skier happy for a week. And the option of the glacier ski area of the Kitzsteinhorn above the neighbouring village of Kaprun means that the relatively low altitude of the town is not the worry that it might have otherwise become.
Keen skiers with access to a car can also take a trip to the nearby Glemmtal and try the slopes above Saalbach and Hinterglemm.
With Zell am See being a town rather than a village, there is plenty on hand away from the ski slopes and the resort has a deserved reputation for its active nightlife. Non-skiers will also enjoy the walks around (and over!) the lake and the options that the rail services provide.
The resort has also become something of a favourite for weddings in the mountains with some hotels specialising in this travel niche.
Zell am See offers a good range of accommodation stretching from grand lakeside hotels through to small and friendly family-run guesthouses. It is a popular choice for ski companies or as part of an individual holiday that visitors can put together themselves (see the Hotels and Travel tabs above for details about booking your own accommodation and making your own way to the resort).
Location: Zell am See is situated next to Lake Zell, to the southwest of Salzburg.
Access: There are decent alternative routes for driving to the town and the train station is served by a good choice of services.
Zell am See Ski Positives
- convenient location with plenty of facilities and nightlife
- good intermediate ski area with options for runs back into most parts of the town
- ski pass covers Kaprun and the Kitzsteinhorn glacier
Zell am See Ski Negatives
- ski area can seem limited for advanced skiers
- low altitude can mean that snow quality is not the best in bad conditions
- lack of ski village atmosphere
Zell am See Ski Information
The skiing above Zell am See consists of a medium-sized ski area around the bowl of the Schmitten.
It can be accessed directly from the centre of the town via the City-Xpress gondola. This however requires another two lifts before reaching the highest point - the Schmittenhöhe.
An alternative is to take the ski bus up to the base of the cable car and gondola at the end of the Schmitten valley. Both provide direct access to the top point and to all the alternatives of the ski area.
A third way onto the slopes is via the Areitbahn gondola - a two-stage affair rising from the southern edge of the town in Schüttdorf.
Once up on the ski slopes the runs are mostly a friendly selection of cruising intermediate runs served by 26 different lifts. A skier can ski all the way from the Schmittenhöhe to the bottom under the Areitbahn or into the centre of Zell on a mixture of blue and red runs.
Off the back of the Schmittenhöhe there is a little nest of relatively short chairlifts and drags, again with mostly intermediate runs.
The tougher black runs in Zell am See almost all end up heading down to the bottom of the Schmitten lifts. The Trass run heads under the gondola of the same name, the Standard run cuts across from one of the blue runs down into Zell, while the South run heads down from the Sonnkogel side of the area.
All the Zell am See ski passes cover the skiing in Kaprun and on the Kitzsteinhorn. The lifts just above Kaprun (a cable car and two chairlifts) are probably only of interest to those who want to tick every slope off the list but the Kitzsteinhorn glacier area should definitely be sampled during a stay. There is nothing wildly demanding and the snow conditions, given the top altitude of 3000m, are usually excellent.
Ski Pass Prices 2018/2019
A day pass will cost 53 Euros in the main season.
A six-day pass will cost 260 Euros in the main season.
Cheaper price dates are available for the pre-Christmas period and from the last week in March.
Ski Slope Verdict
- Beginner skiers and families will find some beginners' slopes over at the base station in Schüttdorf and those looking for easier runs will find that most of the mountain is accessible via blue runs (the exception being the Sonnkogel side). There is plenty to do apart from skiing as well.
- Zell am See is a perfect choice for intermediate skiers who will find a good range of options on the slopes above the town as well as over on the glacier area.
- Advanced skiers will look at the steeper runs heading down to the Schmitten area, some of which can be intimidating in icy conditions. Otherwise they will be hoping for good snow so that they can enjoy fresh snow on the wide open cruising red runs.
How To Get To Zell am See
Distance to Salzburg Airport: 98km
Distance to Innsbruck Airport: 152km
Distance to Munich Airport: 211km
Nearest railway station to Zell am See: Zell am See - in town centre
Salzburg airport is clearly the best option for skiers who are arriving by air. Although it is not a major scheduled centre it still has some decent connections from some major carriers, as well as a wide range of ski charters on the weekend from various countries.
Munich (for scheduled flights and cheap carriers) and Innsbruck (for charter options) also come into play if Salzburg is inconvenient.
One of the major attractions of Zell am See is they easy access via public transport. For arrivals through Salzburg Airport, this means that there is a good bus and train service to the resort. Munich and Innsbruck are a little further away but the rail connection through Wörgl also makes life easier with Zell am See than it is with the smaller higher ski areas.
Airport transfers are also available from all the above airports from local taxi and bus providers.
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 most straightforward road route to Zell am See from Salzburg doesn't cross any passes and much of it is on the motorway. Drivers can take the A10 south until Bischofshofen and then cut off onto the B road through to Bruck and Zell am See. An alternate route would be through the 'German corner' to Lofer and then south to Saalfelden and Maishofen. The start of this alternative is the main non-motorway route between Salzburg Airport and the Tyrol, so can be crowded on high-season weekends, as well as tricky in snow.
Those driving from Munich or the Tyrol can make most of the journey on motorway by heading for Salzburg and then south as described above. If the weather is good, there are two other options which are shorter and quicker. The first heads for Wörgl and then past Kitzbühel and over Pass Thurn into the Pinzgau valley before heading east to Zell am See. The other route is from Wörgl to St Johann and then past Fieberbrunn and Leogang to Saalfelden before turning south to Zell am See.
Zell am See Information
Village Altitude: 760m
The ski season opens for winter 2018/2019 on 30 November and runs through to 28 April. The Kitzsteinhorn glacier ski area above Kaprun will be open from October onwards.
Zell am See-Kaprun Tourist Office : www.zellamsee-kaprun.com
Zell am See Weather Forecast: www.weatheraustria.net
Zell am See Lifts: www.schmitten.at
Kitzsteinhorn Glacier: www.kitzsteinhorn.at
Zell am See Ski School: www.ski-zellamsee.at
Austrian Railways (includes public bus services): www.oebb.at