It’s early December, summer has well and truly gone, most of the local bars and restaurants are closed while their staff enjoy a few warm days in Italy before the winter snow and guests arrive, and my thoughts have turned to the new ski season.
The Kitzsteinhorn glacier at Kaprun is the only resort covered by my Kitzbühler Alpen AllStarCard to have more than a couple of runs open this early, so I’ve made several trips there to get my ski legs going before the season proper starts. Most of the runs above the AlpinCenter are now open, as is the blue run to the Kristallbahn chair lift, but the lower slopes are still closed.
I find skiing at Kaprun at this time of year slightly confusing. The car park seems quite full (at least for a pre-season weekday), the gondola up the mountain is full, the drag lifts on the glacier are all busy, yet the slopes are quiet! There are several international ski teams using roped off slalom tracks, and many of the other skiers are training for their Anwärter qualification (the first rung on the ladder of an Austrian ski instructor), hoping to spend a glamorous season living in the mountains. Most of their training seems to involve lectures by the side of the piste, with large groups keeping out of the way of those that actually came to Kaprun to ski.
Eating in Kaprun
The main restaurant at the Kitzsteinhorn is the AlpinCenter, a massive restaurant in the style of a motorway service station. If you are in a large group that wants to eat at peak times, that is the best place to go. However, if you prefer something a little more rustic, you should try the Krefelder Hütte, by the side of piste 11. The self-service restaurant serves typical Austrian fare, good mountain food, at reasonable prices. You may share one of the big tables with other groups of skiers – often a good opportunity to make new friends. If the sun is shining (or if you want to smoke) there are also tables on the sun terrace. If you like really getting away from it all you can stay here as well. On leaving the hut you have two choices. A short walk up the hill back to the piste, or – if there is enough snow – a relatively straightforward off piste excursion that joins the piste lower down.
The skiing on the glacier itself is not very interesting, but the lower runs have more character. My favourite is blue run 8b, which swings right off piste 1 and heads towards the 6 seat Sonnenkarbahn chair lift down an undulating slope that has lots of interest compared to the more regular slopes on the glacier.