Looking to visit a lovely town that has access to Austria’s largest ski area?Then read this review of Flexiski snowboarding holiday in Zell am See, Austria.
A friend and I visited in January as part of a two week snowboarding trip that included Mayrhofen, Saalbach and finally Zell am See. Schmittenhöhe Zell am See – the immediate ski area – has just 77 km of slopes so it’s a decent size but not huge.
However, Zell am See is part of the 408 km Alpin Card which also includes the Skicircus resorts of Saalbach Hinterglemm, Leogang and Fieberbrunn plus the Kitzsteinhorn Kaprun ski area. It all comes under one ski pass and as of the 2020/21 season will all be fully lift linked.
Flexiski is part of the same group as Inghams. Whilst Inghams are one of the best known package ski holiday companies Flexiski focus on tailormade breaks that don’t fit the one week package holiday mold.
Our trip was a three night midweek visit. Basically you tell Flexiski your needs and they will create a package for you. This includes arranging the accommodation, flights and transfers. You can also add extras such as guiding, lessons and lift passes.
Flexiski is all about creating a ski or snowboarding holiday that fits your needs. They organise trips to the top resorts in Austria, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, Norway and Switzerland.
Zell am See is an attractive town on the shores of Lake Zell which often freezes over during winter. The centre of the town dates back the Medieval times and is full of shops, cafes, restaurants and bars. It makes a nice change from purpose built resorts.
The ski area you access from town is Schmittenhöhe Zell am See. The main gondola sweeps you up the mountain passing over lots of tree lines slopes.
In fact only the top slopes are above the treeline making for pretty skiing through the trees. When you add the views of the lake in the distance it is very picturesque.
With the pistes running from 770m to 1955m there is a good amount of vertical to play in. The slopes into town are fairly steep and mainly blacks. But there is plenty for all levels on the rest of the mountain.
On the Sonnkogel side of the mountain there are some lovely red slopes that are in the sunshine most of the day. There is also a snowpark and some fun slopes in the area.
My favorite area was the Ariet side of the pistes. From here there is a 1200m descent from the highest point to the bottom. It’s a long wide blue followed by a long wide red that are a lot of fun. It takes three gondolas to get back to the top but it is well worth it. We lapped it in the sunshine many times.
On the back side of the mountain there is a new a link to the Skicircus resorts (Saalbach, Hinterglemm, Leogang, Fieberbrunn). There is a red run most of the way down to Viehhofen although the Zell am See Express takes you the last little bit.
In good conditions there is a ski route all the way to the bottom. From Viehhofen it is a short bus ride to the first Skicircus lifts, but buses run all the time and are free. From the Skicircus side you can directly ski down to Viehhofen and take the Zell Am See Express.
This link adds hundreds of kilometres of slopes to Zell Am See. Read this review of Skicircus snowboarding holiday in Saalbach to find out more. It has hugely varied terrain offering something very different to the Schmittenhöhe ski area.
It had not snowed for three days so we were not expecting any fresh snow. However, we got kitted out with all the avalanche equipment at the Frost Ski School shop in Kaprun. Taking the impressive new K-connection, which now directly links Kaprun and Kitzsteinhorn, we were soon at the top.
We then did a couple of off-piste runs between the managed slopes near the top of the Kitzsteinhorn. I was surprised that is wasn’t completely tracked out and there were still little patches of lift accessible powder to play in.
The Kitzsteinhorn Kaprun ski area reaches up to 3029m offers over 60km of reliable glacier skiing. It is open year round for sightseeing. and the ski slopes are open October to May. They also open for a month of summer skiing in July.
After a few runs we stopped to do some avalanche training. Jonas from Frost Ski School went through some basic information on avalanche avoidance and how to ride safely in backcountry terrain.
He then showed us how to perform a rescue. I have done avalanche training on a Mint Snowboarding Backcountry Camp plus quite a few other times. But it is always good to practice.
One of my friends had not done avalanche training before. So it was great for him to learn how to perform a rescue using the transceiver, probe and shovel.
After lunch we headed to the top of the Kristalbahn chair and hiked up a short distance to the ridge above. From there we traversed towards Trisinger peak and then crossed the ridge to drop into the Muhlbach Valley.
Getting across the ridge was difficult on a snowboard as it was rocky and icy, plus a little exposed. There was a little uphill section that was easy for skiers but fairly difficult for us snowboarders.
But once off the ridge the snow was excellent. Only about ten people had been there before us and we had knee deep snow to play in. The base below the powder was not very deep so you needed to be careful of rocks and other hazards.
But it was one of the most fun backcountry experiences I’ve had. The adventure of getting into the valley was tough but rewarding – I like to be a little scared. This was followed by a very long descent in really nice powder. There was lots of whooping by all!
At the bottom we followed a road to make our way out of the valley. The snow was thin and sketchy in places which made it an interesting challenge.
Finally we snowboarded across a cow field to the train station in Niedernsill. From there it was about twenty minutes back to Zell am See!
During this Flexiski break we stayed at the Hotel Steinerwirt 1493. It is a boutique hotel and popular Zell am See restaurant with a long history.
The hotel is nicely decorated with a friendly atmosphere. It is in a great spot right on the edge of the town centre and just 200m for the ski lifts. If you are using public transport it’s also not far from the train station and close to the bus stops.
Our room was modern and more compact than the image below. It had large Austrian twin beds pushed together. With separate duvets it was fine for two friends sharing although slightly cosier than we expected.
The bathroom was also small but very efficiently laid out. The shower cubicle was large and the shower really nice and powerful.
The beds were comfortable and the double glazing did a great job of stopping noise from the street outside. There was enough room for us both to store our stuff and hide away our luggage. Plus the WiFi signal was strong and reliable.
During this review of Flexiski snowboarding holiday in Zell am See my favourite thing about the Steinerwirt was the open air hot tub. Found on the roof it has great views over the town and towards the slopes. One evening we watched a big air competition in the distance! There is also a very nice sauna.
We were staying half board during this review of Flexiski snowboarding holiday in Zell am See. My friend is vegan which always seems to be slightly problematic on ski holidays.
The evening meal was four courses and you make your choice in the morning. Although there were some vegetarian options nothing was suitable for a vegan. However, once we explained it to the restaurant staff, via the English speaking receptionist, they adapted meals for him.
We were both very happy with the meals provided. I really enjoyed some of the fish dishes – the Zander was amazing. The soups were all delicious and deserts very tasty. My friend enjoyed the vegan dishes and we were both well fed.
Breakfast was a good mix of continental options, cereals, fruit and a few hot dishes. There was plenty to have a bit of variety each day and the Flexiski Hotel Steinerwirt breakfast certainly provided enough energy for the day ahead.
I loved the town of Zell am See, we found an Irish bar with a quiz night, a pub showing football, a cocktail bar with Karaoke and a pop up bar playing Austrian Apres tunes. We didn’t eat out but there are a lot of restaurants to choose from.
The local ski area is good, although more suited to piste skiers than those who like to freeride. But 408 km of skiing is easily accessible with the Alpin Pass offering a huge amount of variety in the SkiCircus and Kitzsteinhorn Kaprun.
Our stay in the Hotel Steinerwirt 1493 was good and I would certainly recommend booking it through Flexiski. The room was comfy and well designed. Plus the food is very good and the chef is accommodating of any dietary needs.
To conclude this review of Flexiski snowboarding holiday in Zell am See I would be very happy to return. It would be a great destination to go with my wife as the town offers so much than skiing. But it would also cater well to families and those who like a bit of apres.
I hope you found this review of Flexiski interesting and useful. Costs for a three night stay in zell am See with Flexiski start from around £500 including flights and transfers. Find out more here: www.flexiski.com For more information about Zell am See go to: www.zellamsee-kaprun.com