Top Lift: 1829m
Ski area: 279km of piste
Adult lift pass: 186-219€ for six days
In a Nutshell
Westendorf is a powerful antidote to the industrial-strength ski resorts of France: cuter, cheaper, and much more charming. It’s also home to some cracking pistes. There is one significant drawback though – the altitude.
Essential Advice for the Perfect Trip
Westendorf is part of the Skiwelt – Austria’s biggest interconnected ski area, which offers 279km of pistes, and draws in skiers from eight holiday villages (there are two outlying annexes as well). Lots of people love it. Here’s why.
It’s pretty and prices are lower than in the A-list French resorts
Not everyone cares about Alpine aesthetics. But if you’re one of those skiers who finds the high-altitude resorts bleak, the onion-domed church and villagey streets of Westendorf will be a welcome tonic. The patchwork quilt of forest and and pasture on the mountain, doted with old haybarns, is charming too.
Package holidays are cheaper and so is the cost of a decent mountain lunch. You can eat a proper meal by the light of crackling fire for little more than a plate of chips in a self-service restaurant in France.
Several of the pistes here are world-class – and it’s easy to get to
Check our guide to the mountain for more on this. But for now, be assured that one of Westendorf’s three top to bottom descents would happily sit in most people’s top 20 of pistes around the world.
Usually, you fly to Innsbruck airport first – and provided your plane can actually land there (it closes quickly during a snowstorm or when there’s fog), the journey to Westendorf is a piece of cake. The airport’s small, you get through it quickly and the transfer by bus will take an hour. Bliss.
If you can’t land in Innsbruck, then you’ll probably be diverted to Munich or Verona, which is less blissful. It’ll stretch the journey by five or six hours.
But there is one significant drawback
Westendorf is not very high. The village is set at 802m and the top of the ski area at 1829m. Compare that with 1850m for the town and 3300m for the highest lift in of Val d’Isere.
It is true that the climate is a bit colder in Austria than in France: but all the same, the snow in early and late-season weeks can be iffy here. It’s best to ski it between Christmas and mid-March if you’re going to book your holiday several weeks or months in advance – and be prepared for the odd day when it’s raining in the village and snowing higher up. We’re not saying that kind of weather is inevitable. But the fact remains that resorts like Westendorf are more susceptible than high-altitude ski stations to mid-winter thaws.
One compensation for the altitude is the fact there are trees right to the top of the slopes. Pistes below the treeline are much, much easier to ski than those above it when the light is flat or snow is falling, because the forest adds lowlights – and therefore definition – to the snow. So if the weather’s bad you can ski all day in Westendorf: whereas in the high-altitude resorts of Tignes, Val Thorens, Cervinia or Obergurgl, you’d probably give up after a couple of hours and retreat to your chalet or hotel.