Top Lift: 2686m
Ski area: 201km of piste
Adult lift pass: 211-227€ for six days
In a Nutshell
The ancient watering-hole of Bad Gastein sits on a giant reservoir of bath-temperature thermal water. The skiing is mainly intermediate and it’s popular with snowboarders.
Essential Advice for the Perfect Trip
“At first glance skiing in the Gasteinertal valley looks to be a bit too much of a hassle, what with the three separate ski areas and no one focal point,” said a reporter. “However, it is a working valley first and a ski resort second, so if you want genuine Austrian charm, reasonable prices and also some brilliant skiing to boot then it is well worth a shot in my book.”
Bad Gastein is the original and most important village
The ancient watering-hole of Bad Gastein is the original and still the most important of the four resorts dotted along this scenic valley, which sits on a giant reservoir of bath-temperature thermal water, a 90-minute drive from Salzburg. The Romans, the Habsburgs and later the Nazis viewed it as the ideal holiday hideaway. An impressive 23 million litres of this curative water bubbles up each day from 17 springs. This is piped to the leading hotels and to public indoor and outdoor baths. You can enjoy the surreal experience of soaking at the foot of the pistes while snow falls around you.
Johann Strauss and Franz Schubert were both inspired to compose here. Hotel Mozart is named not after the supreme maestro, but after his mother, who was a regular guest. Visitors should be aware that the hotels, an interesting mix of revamped imperial and gleaming modern, are set on extraordinarily steep gradients. If you don’t like walking in ski boots, choose your base with care (“the steep hills make walking difficult unless you are very fit”). However, it is possible to leave equipment ovenight close to the lifts. “The town lacks a central focal point and the intimate feel of the smaller Austrian ski resorts” complained a reporter. The streets are flanked by smart boutiques and expensive jewellery shops.
Bad Hofgastein is more modern and suited to families
Bad Hofgastein is further along the valley, is a modern and spacious resort built at a less challenging angle. It shares the main alpine ski area but is more suited to families and those who enjoy cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and walking. It also has good ice rinks, a sophisticated sports centre and its own assortment of thermal pools and accompanying health treatments.
Dorfgastein is contrastingly different – a sleepy farming settlement by the entrance to the valley. It has considerable rural charm as well as some of the best skiing in the area, which stretches across the shoulder of the 2027m Kreuzkogel to link with the village of Grossarl.
Sportgastein is a high-altitude ski area rather than a resort
Located at the head of the valley, this is basically a lift station built on the site of a medieval gold mine that was briefly reopened by Hermann Goering in the Second World War in the hope of finding fresh natural resources to fund the war machine of the Third Reich. Health-conscious visitors should pay a visit to the nearby Healing Galleries, a naturally heated underground chamber reached by a 2km train journey into the mountain. The Gasteinertal resorts are included in the regional Amadé lift pass.