Characterising the two halves of the Hochzillertal-Hochfugen ski area is simple. Hochzillertal offers a couple of days of good, confidence-boosting skiing for piste-loving intermediates. Hochfugen one of the most underrated off-piste skiing destinations in the Alps.
Let’s deal with Hochzillertal first. Here, the pistes are almost all above the treeline, and unfurl across the western side of the Zillertal. Most are wide reds and blues and are a blast on a sunny day – provided of course you don’t mind skiing just one face of a mountain, with the occasional boring cat-track in between the pistes to facilitate access.
The problem – as with all skiing above the trees – is that when it’s cloudy or snowing hard you won’t see a thing. One of our editors skied here recently in a white-out and was completely disoriented in half an hour. Thank heavens he had a guide to follow around the mountain.
This is a popular ski area for weekending Austrians and Bavarians, so we wouldn’t counsel skiing here on a Saturday or Sunday. The best time is midweek, when it can be blissfully quiet: it makes for a great day-trip if you’re holidaying in Mayrhofen, 17km away.
There’s also a good terrain park here – which includes a 5m-high, 100m long superpipe. Taken together with the Vans-Penken park in Mayrhofen, it makes the Zillertal an eye-catching freestyle destination – not perhaps one to match the world-class facilities and action in Laax, Breckenridge or Whistler. But certainly top of the B-list.
Hochfugen is what makes the area special
There are some nice pistes in Hochzillertal. But what impresses Welove2ski most about the area is the off-piste sking over in Hochfugen. After all – wide blues and reds above the trees are common enough in the Alps: you’ll find plenty more up the road on the Hintertux glacier or down the road in the Zillertal Arena. But an area that combines varied terrain with a super-snowy microclimate, and an American-style freeriding culture, is an altogether more interesting proposition.
In fact, so freeride-friendly is the atmosphere in Hochfugen, that the authorities have even set up info-boards on the slopes – which tell off-pisters what kind of terrain is coming up next. It’s just a shame they don’t secure all the slopes against avalanches as they do in North American ski areas. Avalanche safety gear including, ideally, an avalanche airbag rucksack, is still essential.
How good is the skiing here? The ever-changing terrain reminded Welove2ski during a recent visit of Snowbird in America – and while it can’t compete for big-mountain thrills with the likes of St Anton, Chamonix or La Plagne, it does have many virtues, not least the fact that it’s almost unknown outside Austria. As a result, the powder gets skied out here a lot less quickly. If you’re looking for a weekend off-piste destination, and you’ve heard there’s a lot of snow in the Tirol, then put it high on your hit-list.
(There are, by the way, several good pistes here as well as powder fields, so intermediates should make a bee-line for it once they’ve exhausted the Hochzillertal slopes.)
Remember: the top lift is at 2500m
Amongst Alpine ski areas this is a place of only average altitude – and we wouldn’t recommend it for late-season trips, after mid-March. You’d be much better off targeting the likes of Tignes, Val Thorens or Obergurgl instead.