These eastern Austrian twinned towns might not be well known to UK skiers, but they are part of the 22 ski areas that make SalzburgerLand’s 2,000 kms of pistes and lie in the heart of the Ski amadé.
Located by the German border, they’re an easy transfer from Salzburg, and a great place to get away on a short break!
There’s easy skiing on the hill linking Altenmarkt (842m) with Radstadt, with gondolas, chairs, button and carpet lifts making it simple to get around. There is also a kids’ park and toboggan run in the resort.
It’s ideal for beginners, families and those who want to take things a little steady.
We headed up to the end of the valley, opting to stay at the World Cup resort of Zauchensee (1,350m).
For those who follow this sport it may ring a bell. Former World Cup Alpine Ski Racer Michael Walchhofer comes from here, and now runs a family hotel in town.
There’s racing here in December and January, and Michael – a local hero – is still heavily involved.
The ski racing legend started his career in slalom, then moved over to speed events. He won the World Cup season title in downhill three times, an Olympic silver medal, and one gold, two silvers, and a bronze medal at World Championships.
We went to see this challenging course as part of the tour with his ski instructor brother, Peter.
It’s easy to see why the brothers haven’t stayed far from home. Zauchensee’s 42kms of slopes and its inviting off-piste are varied, challenging, very easy on the eye – and snow-sure until April.
Enviro-friendly snow canons cover 95% of the ski slopes and use just water and air – no artificial additives, and the water is then recycled.
You can easily set yourself a challenge in Zauchensee, but it’s also easy to navigate yourself around, as the blues, reds and blacks that come off the resort’s Gamskogel, Rosskopf and Tauernkar mountains all lead back to the resort’s centre.
Zauchensee has a population of 50 or so that live here year-round, but these numbers swell in the summer and winter with 1,400 tourist beds.
Most are in 4-star hotels but there is a 3-star hotel, plus a youth hostel. There are also a small number of self-catering apartments and chalets.
We stayed at the friendly Hotel Sportalm, which is directly on the slopes.
German guests have appreciated these resorts for years, along with the Dutch and Belgians.
The Brits don’t come here in large numbers, but the resort is keen to welcome more of us, and I heard a number of English voices during my time on the slopes.
Earlier I said the resorts were authentic and charming. They are certainly a world away from the purpose-built ski resorts, and – in my view – better for it!
Altenmarkt-Zauchensee is made up of artists, artisans and musicians. Krampus masks deck the walls of some wood-cladded restaurants and talented folk musicians entertain wearing lederhosen.
Regular returners have much to return to – drawn back by the area’s warm welcome and unique appeal.
There’s also a wide range of year-round activities, on and off the slopes. From wine tasting at the World Cup Arena’s foyer with Austria’s top vintner, to shopping in temporary pop up stores, housed in the ski huts.
Also in the diary is Ladies Week, an Over 60s Week, Dixieland Week, to name but a few.
You can take a sunrise show shoe walk, try winter hiking, take to tobogganing, or see how you find curling and ice skating (there are free guest trial sessions every Wednesday).
Free 30-minutes cross-country training sessions are also offered on Tuesdays and Thursday with the new ‘Flying Coach’ – Michael’s niece Barbara Walchhofer, a cross-country ski pro’.
After that, what better than to sink into a spa … or get taken home by farmer Robert’s horse drawn sleigh. We opted for the later – a lovely way to see the ice-gripped countryside close up.
Those late to the party will benefit from reduced ski passes at Easter, when the towns enjoy a seasonal market with music, wine, art and late-night shopping.
And you can’t write about a ski area without a comment on the food. Keen to showcase the region’s best, town promoters have created a dine around where you sample a different course in a range of restaurants. It’s a fun way to feast on traditional local favourites.
One of the foody highlights of our stay was lunch in the Adlerhorst (Eagles’ Nest) restaurant, which was formerly owned by the founder of Atomic skis, Alois Rohrmoser. His daughter now owns the property.
Top end Atomics are still made nearby in Alpenmarkt, and lots of locals buy direct from the factory.
Top skis, top times and tales to tell when you get home. All this makes Altenmarkt-Zauchensee ‘energising’.
The resort is less than an hour’s drive or train ride from Salzburg city. Salzburg Airport has regular direct flights from the UK with British Airways, easyJet and Ryanair.
To read Briony Key’s other #skiblogs click here.