Vast ski area, multiple resorts, great freestyle and epic freeride, all in a ski area many Brits have never heard of. Check out this review of Flachau snowboarding holiday in Ski amadé, Austria to find out how we got on.
In December 2022 I was in the Jungfrau region of Switzerland. To save flying back and forth to the UK we travelled by train to Salzburg in Austria. From there we hopped in a taxi to Flachau which took about an hour and 15 minutes.
The door to door journey from Grindelwald to Flachau took 10 hours. But this included three train changes via Interlaken, Zurich and Munich and many stunning views. It was also very comfortable with the OBB (Austrian Trains) being clean, on time and not overly busy.
One of the obvious benefits of travelling by train is it’s much better for the environment. But it is also more relaxing and rewarding to travel cross country. Passing lakes and mountains through forests and cities feels good for the soul. The final advantage is I got plenty of work done using the free WiFi.
Flachau is in the SalzburgerLand region of Austria. This is, as the name gives away, near to Salzburg. So you can fly into the city airport and be in the resort just over an hour later.
Flachau is part of the Ski amadé ski region and also part of Salzburger Sportwelt.
Ski amadé covers 27 towns and villages in five ski areas; Salzburger Sportwelt, Schladming-Dachstein, Gastein, Hochkönig and Grossarltal. The amadé ski pass covers 760 km of slopes serviced by 270 lifts making it the largest ski area in Austria.
The name amadé is a nod towards one of Salzburg’s most famous residents – the composer Wolfgang amadéus Mozart. He preferred to be called amadéus, so the skiing in this area is known as Ski amadé (a-ma-day).
The area offers a huge amount of variety and claims to be “Austria’s greatest skiing pleasure.” Something I hoped to test during this review of Flachau snowboarding holiday in Ski amadé.
Salzburger Sportwelt is one of the ski areas within Ski amadé. It includes seven resorts; Flachau, Wagrain-Kleinarl, St.Johann, Radstadt, Altenmarkt-Zauchensee, Eben and Filzmoos. It is known to offer good variety while being easy on the budget.
As we were based in Flachau we could explore Salzburger Sportwelt, which is the largest area within Ski amadé. Locally there are 97 lifts and around 350km of mostly lift linked slopes.
We arrived in the resort just in time for dinner at the Hotel Alpenwelt. The plan was three days of snowboarding, two in Flachau and one in Gastein, before flying back to the UK from Salzburg to Stansted on an early morning flight.
After breakfast we met Sophie, our guide, at the bottom of the Achterjet Gondola in the centre of Flachau. Conditions were OK, although the snow was quite icy and could do with a fresh coating. Visibility was good early on, but clouds came in after lunch making for flat light.
We explored most of the Flachau area, including the Panoramalink to the Shuttleberg and made it over into Zauchensee which is a separate mountain. Considering it was early season without lots of snow the pistes were in very good condition.
Before lunch we spent some time in Absolute Park. Over the last 20 years it has developed into the largest in Austria and is well regarded across Europe. The entire park area extends over 1.5km and is divided into seven sections with more than enough features for most freestylers.
Many pros train here, which unfortunately meant they had prioritised getting the large more difficult features ready first. So while we had a ride through the huge kickers and rails they were too advanced for me. Of course we hit the few smaller features that were open.
Lunch was at the Lumberjack – the first certified organic ski and mountain hut in the Alps. It offers a contemporary diet for flexitarians, vegetarians and vegans. All food and drink are 100% organic and sourced locally or regionally where possible.
Even the building is well thought out and eco-friendly using reclaimed and local materials. It is an impressively large, airy, attractive and well thought out venue with lots of comfy seating, natural light and a large panoramic terrace.
They grow a lot of their own food in onsite greenhouses and a local farm. Inside it is like an attractive foodhall. There are a huge range of tempting and energising dishes, made from wholly organic ingredients. I had a lovely veggie lasagne and an organic cola.
The visibility dropped and it started to snow a little after lunch on the first day of this review of Flachau snowboarding holiday in Ski amadé. So we called it a day and headed to Hofstadl, which is an après bar at the bottom of the Achterjet Gondola.
The atmosphere was very good with typical Austrian Oompah music that combines traditional songs with cheesy dance music and Dutch, German and Austrian crowd favourites. There was a mixed age crowd with everyone piling in off the slopes creating a very friendly atmosphere.
We sat at the bar and got merrily sloshed. Starting with a few gluhweins, and then beers with pear schnapps chasers – if you are going to do Austrian après you have to do it properly! Before long we were bopping along to Jonny Dapp Dapp Dapp… with the rest of the crowd!
On the walk home snow was falling very heavily. Which was a good sign for tomorrow.
The second day of this review of Flachau snowboarding holiday in Ski amadé dawned with fresh snow. At least 25cm in town and more on the mountain.
We met our guide at Dampfkessel, which is a short drive back out of town. From here there are lifts up, ski hire, ski school, great beginner slopes and of course another après spot.
With powder conditions we were fitted with avalanche gear and headed off up the mountain to freeride. Although there was fresh snow it was important to remember it was over a thin base so we took it fairly easily.
To begin the day we dropped off the back of the Starjet 3. It was a test run to check our ability. But our guide hadn’t expected the 25cm of snow to be much deeper in places. so we got slightly stuck and had an exhausting walk out. That said it was a lot of fun riding between shrubs many of which would usually be buried under snow.
We pretty much explored the same areas as the day before, but this time riding between the pistes and on the edge of the ski area. We also did one small hike of about five minutes to drop into a different area. It was an awesome day laying fresh tracks. Surprisingly the powder did not quickly get tracked out.
In the afternoon we stopped to do some ever important avalanche search and rescue practice. It is always good to do that at least once a season to remind yourself how to use the equipment.
After a late lunch stop at Dampfkessel, for an excellent burger, we had a quick snowbiking lesson. I have to admit before doing it I was not that keen. However my legs were spent from five hours of snowboarding in powder and the downhill MTB bikes with skis looked very impressive.
So I gave it a go. And I have to say it was far more enjoyable than I expected.
It is a very instinctive sport, and our instructor more guided us to get the feel for it rather than telling us exactly what to do. But we both got the hang of it quickly.
It is quite a thrilling feeling to slide the bike into a skidding stop. In many ways it feels like mountain biking in slippery mud – something I do a lot of in the UK. While it will never replace snowboarding for me, I will certainly be enthusiastic to try it again on steeper slopes.
We finished day two of this review of Flachau snowboarding holiday in Ski amadé, Austria with more boozing… The vibe at Dampfkessel is a little different with a younger crowd and more modern music. But it was still very much in the Austrian Après style.
After longer than intended we got a taxi back to the hotel. As we left the party was in full swing and apparently would be busy until late that night. It is a much bigger venue than Hofstadl and you can get good food there.
On the 3rd day of this snowboarding holiday in Ski amadé we headed over to Gastein which is one of the other areas in amadé. The drive took about an hour and we were met with a sunny day and what appeared to be steeper and higher mountains.
We met our guide, an Australian, and headed off to explore the ski area. For the first run we did some easy off-piste near to the main slope down into town. It was sunny and there was still plenty of fresh snow to play in an entire day after it fell.
After checking we were up to it he took us to a more serious slope over the back of Stubnerkogel, just behind the number 19 chairlift. From here is is a very long open slope that runs down into the trees. It was a huge amount of fun with great snow on steeper slopes up high, varied terrain in the middle and tight trees at the bottom.
It was so good that we did it three times taking different routes each time. I was surprised how few tracks there were considering it had last snowed two nights ago.
We stopped for lunch at the picturesque Berg Stadl. The menu is not huge, but has some traditional Austrian favourites. I had a very tasty Wiener schnitzel and chips. My guide enjoyed a zucchini turnover which is a vegan dish with quinoa and a lentil and tomato ragout.
We did one more off-piste run on the town side. But the powder was getting a little tracked out and heavy in the warm sunshine.
So we had a quick blast around the pistes. Following a guide is always great as they know where the side-hits are. In comparison to Flachau there are more slopes above the treeline. They also seem a bit steeper.
There were some lovely long wide reds. Plus the long run into Gastein through the trees is a lot of fun. Albeit a leg burner after a full day!
The afternoon was finished with a trip to Felsentherme. It is a large spa in the centre of Gastein which is powered by natural hot springs. It is an amazing spa with large heated indoor and outdoor pools, slides and a huge sauna area which is the main attraction.
In saunas in Austria you are expected to be completely naked. Or at the very least naked with a towel around you. But no shorts or bikini etc. are allowed – so be prepared to see lots of flesh…
There are eight different saunas and steam rooms. Plus hot tubs and cold plunge pools spread indoors and outside across a 600m2 area. One of the highlights is the hourly infusions that came recommended. This sees a sauna full of naked people fanned by a staff member who adds essential oils followed by a scrub. Weird but wonderful!
We were staying at the three star superior Alpenwelt which is a quaint hotel with a nice vibe. The staff were all super friendly and helpful, they genuinely seemed to be enjoying what they do.
The bedrooms are comfy, light and modern – with a nod towards the traditional. I had a really nice double bed – I prefer these to an Austrian twin. The bathroom had a powerful walk in shower with seemingly endless hot water.
We were half board so breakfast and dinner were included. The breakfast is a great selection of hot and cold options. As often is the case in Austria the muesli options were excellent with home-made Bircher muesli and nine different muesli options with nuts, berries and yoghurt etc to customise it.
Dinner is a four course buffet plus salad with plenty of options including for vegetarians. While some was buffet style, the three main-course options and sides are served by a chef. Austrian hotels certainly know how to do a lovely salad buffet. There were creative cold starters, tasty soups, hearty mains and great desserts (if you still have room!)
I think if you asked 100 British skiers about Flachau, Salzburger Sportwelt or Ski amadé the vast majority wouldn’t have been. I don’t expect many will know where it is, even with the clues in the name. And all of this is a huge shame!
The ski area from Flachau into Salzburg Sportwelt is vast and varied. There are great freestyle and freeride options and pistes for all levels. Most intermediate plus snowboarders will be able to explore a lot of it in a week, but there is more than enough mountain to keep you interested.
On top of that the Ski amadé area is huge. You could visit a different area each day or perhaps take one or two day trips from a base in Flachau. Gastein was great and felt a little more advanced, but Flachau is far from a beginners area with plenty of challenges for all levels.
Due to it’s proximity with Salzburg I would highly recommend Flachau and Ski amadé for a short break. Alternatively you can combine snowboarding with a city break and take in a spot of culture. Flachau is a resort that should see more traffic from the UK as it ticks all the boxes while not breaking the bank.
I hope you found this review of Flachau snowboarding holiday in Ski amadé, Austria useful. To find out more or book a visit go to: www.flachau.com/winter