“ Mayrhofen in the Zillertal Valley region of the Austrian Tyrol. „
My first and last skiing holidays were both in Mayrhofen, twenty years apart, but I haven't skied since. It's an expensive indulgent winter break and unless your earning good money you can't justify one, a very middle-class break and experience. It's the posh families and young people that tend to slope off (get it!) in January/February whilst the lower-classes are still beavering away in school, the factories and unemployment, the more mischievous white-collar families going away during out of term-time and accepting the truancy fine if it comes, which is generally less than the difference of the huge package holiday mark up for school week breaks. I went with a mate from school when I was 17 to learn to ski and then again in my thirties to do some snowboarding, Zell-am Zee the only other resort I have skied at. Most people go once or twice as you're never going to be able to afford enough trips to be a great skier although it's an amazing buzz to bomb along at 40mph in the crisp mounting air, one of those sports you must try before you're too old to. You can do it on a budget and stay in hostels etc but the extras on top will bring it over the grand for two weeks.
We chose Mayrhofen the first time because it has a great reputation for beginners and intermediates and also has a lively nightlife, lots of sloney chalet assistants and European student types driving the party all season long for free skiing. Their idea of fun isn't the traditional February Saturday night one in England where you try to drink as much as possible by wearing as little as possible, but a more sophisticated clutch of small intimate but noisy bars and good eateries, conversation and flirting after a days winter sports preferred to projectile vomiting and pub fights. There are the rich Hooray Henry types there but they are chilled out by the weather and vibe and never any trouble. Getting off with girls and boys isn't really what these holidays are about as you have slush in your pants and tired eyes all night from being on the mountain all day.
Mayrhofen, snug in the Austrian Alps, is a small attractive town in the Zillertal Valley, the actual skiing on offer a cable car trip up high up into the valley slopes, a great way to start any day, the town below looking like Christmas cake covered in icing. It used to have a black run (the hardest of them all) on the main mounting that featured on the World Downhill championship back in the 1980s but now deemed too dangerous, although experienced skiers can still return to the resort that way if they don't fancy the crowded cable car, Europe's biggest, able to carry 160 people. When the weather was bad on the top of the mountain and the cable closed they would use the gondola as a floating café, I recall. Going up everyday meant you may get Alpine throat, an annoying tickle as you get used to the height and dry air, and for that you can buy some lovely herbal sweets in local stores that seem to clear it up.
The town offers a variety of winter sports including skiing, hiking, mountain biking and paragliding, most of those in summer too. Mayrhofen is situated near the Hintertux glacier, which, at 5500 ft above sea level, is well above the snowline so the days are short and cold and the sun very bright. You will need shades and sunblock. I actually got a tan, I recall, as we were so near the sun in that thin air. The actual skiing is at around 2500m up (4100 ft approax) and so everyone expected to be of the mountin by 4pm in the winter. In recent years that ability for the resort to keep snow for 8 months of the year at altitude has seen the resort become more snowboard centred and so going younger and so the clubbing crowd arriving.....the Ibiza in the snow, why I don't go there any more.
When I first went it was very family orientated and snowboards few and far between, the most amazing sight seeing the local kids with mum and dad sking at 3 and 4 years old with NO sticks! I just remembering eating snow all week and falling over for the first three days, never mind not using sticks!
Getting there for us was a package deal, a flight from Gatwick to Innsbruck airport, Alpine airports and train and bus services obviously set up to deal with bad weather, the only travel issues always this end. You can go by luxury bus from England but double the time and only slightly cheaper. The best deals now are making up your own holidays by booking the cheap low cost flight in advance to match with your hotel booking, or vice versa, and then a get the regular bus from the airport. Package tour marks up's are huge, especially for posh people's holidays. You will need to buy a ski and travel pass to access the slopes and they are more expensive at the resort, currently 70 Euros per week at Mayrhofen and the surrounding valleys, equipment hire and instruction also not coming cheap, why we did the package back then to save the hassle. Even then it cost at least £800 for the week's holiday.
Most hotels there are called pensions, big bed and breakfast places that are intimate and friendly and look like the ones on the biscuit tins, so blend in nicely with the stunning settings, more pine flooring to clunk around on in your ski wear than the whole of Islington and Chelsea put together. You don't want flash hotel accommodation when you go skiing as you are out all day and drinking and sleeping all night. The city types tend to stay in the chalets with home help for four or more people and they can cost anything between 300 and 700 Euros per week per person. I think self catering or B&B is all you need and beer and snacks will get you through the week.
The first week you ever go skiing is spent learning and you quickly fall in love with your ski instructor, ours a local girl who was paying for her uni fees. The first couple of days you send falling on your ass and wishing you could go home and by the last two days you are Frans Klammer and wishing you had another week there. I tend to pick stuff up pretty quickly through a cocktail of general stupidity and cockiness and was soon graduating from the remedial snowplough to the feet together turns. After day four I even had enough control and more of that stupidity to ski into the queue for the ski lift without killing anyone, although they didn't appreciate being sprayed with snow from 15ft out as I jammed the breaks on. The more you embrace something the more you enjoy it and so the easy you pick it up. You have to stick with it and once you can stand up without looking a fool the fun starts and you begin to enjoy the week.
The lessons are in groups of ten or so - male and female - and a good mix of ages etc. In my experience, however cocky you are, beginners need lessons. You learn the skiing or snowboard skills you need in the morning and left to your own devices in the afternoon and at the end of the week you can enter the Friday slalom, a proper course set up with gates and everything, even one of those gates that beeps when you kick and plunge through it to get to time your score. As you would expect I did really well and got a gold medal, a certificate and a medal to prove it, the top 10% of the 400 hundred that took part getting the top prize, even though my style of skiing was hardly top notch. If it wasn't so rutted by the time I went through the gates I reckon top 5%! The second time I went to Mayrhofen it was the same again but with snowboards and jumps, not so impressive on the slalom though. I hear they now have a snow-cross course at the resort, the event from the Olympics where the competitors seem to go down what looks like an icy Scalextric course, all those bumps and banked curves looking the best fun.
If you have never been skiing and works going well then its worth considering. It's stunning up in the central European mountains and your first skiing holiday a great experience. It is more dangerous now as the snowboarding experience is for the younger ones and people have been killed on the slopes in the last few years. It is advised to wear a helmet now and get good insurance. Its also not advisable to try and ski of piste in thick snow as your knees go one way and your ligaments go the other, a common beginners ski injury that leaves you in serious pain for the rest of the week, yours truly evidence of.
I have been to Mayrhofen three times now and intend to go again next season. Each time has been during the winter season, once in december, once in april and once in february.
Mayrhofen is a small town with one main street. There are several supermarkets all selling the usual stuff, but also all have fresh meat and cheese stalls. The main spar opposite the penken ski lft is quite expensive and sometimes runs out of things during the busier periods. However, there is another supermarket round the back streets which is cheaper and has a biggr range of produce.
There is a large number of cafes and restaurants all selling pretty much the same at roughly the same prices.
There is also a very large number of shops catering to snowboard and ski wear both for on the slopes and off. These in my experience are extremely expensive and you would probably be better purchasing back in the UK from similar retailers. For those interested they are very similar to shops like freespirit, extreme, and mambo and there is an oakley store on the main highstreet.
There are restaurants all over mayrhofen and they are all lovely. I must reccomend the Kramerwirt Hotel, however i would book during the day for that evening as it tends to get very busy. The staff are very polite and during one of our visits knocked over a glass of wine which resulted in free deserts for all of our group!
There are several clubs in mayrhofen, all of which are popular during the "snowbombing" festival. The ice bar at the bottom of the penken lift is a bit cheesy and is very popular. However, the only night that we experienced noise was on the last night of the season when there was a huge street party involving all the reps, intructors and locals.
The main lift that is used is the penken lift. This can get quite busy during the morning rush for ski lessons, so it is worthwhile either getting there before 9 or after 10 to miss the rush. However, this said we never experienced the reported hour long ques that we were warned about. If this does occur though, a short bus ride will take you to another gondola which is apparantly much quieter & takes you further up the mountain.
This was excellent. I went the first time only having had 1 week previoulsy on snow. I quickly progressed from the blue runs (which are definately more suited to skiiers as they are very flat) to the red runs. It is very well suited to intermediates and advanced people, that said however, my mum who hadnt skiied for 20 years decided to try her hand at it again and enojyed every minute on the blues and reds. There are no greens at the resort.
There is also a board and ski park which is open for the majority of the season which is very popular and extremely well built. There are 3 different lines for different abilities which means that no one is under pressure and no one is holding anybody else up. These range from beginners runs, to proffesional runs which often see world champs strutting their stuff!
There are also the usual ski patrols and rescue teams which respond very quickly to injuries and accidents on the mountains. During a bad fall i dislocated my right shoulder and was in immense pain. However, even though i spoke no german, locals stopped to help me and a first aider came and reduced my shoulder back again. I was offered a lift back down on the snowmobile thing and a trip to hospital, but prefered to make my own way down.
Just a word of caution: watch out for the piste bashers (appropriately named "pisten bully's") because they wont look out or move for you!
The atmosphere and locals:
Mayrhofen has a very relaxed feel about it and everyone we met whilst there was very nice and friendly. The only time that it gets a bit roudy is when snowboming is on, but even then people are well behaved and pleasant.
I will deffinately be returning again and hopefull will do so for many years to come. It is a reasonably priced resort with an excellent snow history and a fab setting. I have never had a bad experience whilst in Mayrhofen.
excellent place...so excellent I packed up the job for 6 months and lived in the little village of Burgstall 2k down the valleyy..recommend ZUM GRIENA for THE BEST food in superb 'bang your head on the beams' inn...you'll find it tucked away at the top of the village. Go indpendent and ski for longer excellent flights from £1.99 (!)(Easyjet) to Munich then super efficient train services through stunning scenery all the way up to Jenbach then the little train up the valley...chill out...total!. Want more tips...just ask
First and forth most, I want to start my op by informing you that it?s an *alternative* review of Mayrhofen, in that I'm focusing on the resort as it is in the summer. Basically, I'm trying to get across that not only is Mayrhofen fab in the winter-or so I've heard-it's also perfect for a summer holiday destination, and should certainly not be dismissed because it's primarily known as a ski resort. For anyone who has ever been skiing or snowboarding in the Tyrol region of Austria, you will know what a wonderful place it is, complete with picturesque villages consisting of gruelling yet invigorating mountain walks, and delightfully quaint gift shops. When I visited Mayrhofen with my boyfriend and his family, it was the first time I had encountered such breathtaking scenery, and I was enchanted by the charming, almost magical, appeal it had. Ok, so it may sound as if I'm exaggerating, but my first impression of my home for the next 7 days was most impressive! ------------------------------------------- What?s has Mayrhofen got to offer? ------------------------------------------- Firstly, I'll start by explaining what?s in Mayrhofen. It's a fairly small town, but is extremely popular, particularly in the winter with the skiers. However, it's also immensely popular with skiers and snowboarders in the summer too, as there's a glacier nearby. Now, I'm not a skier, and I was a little apprehensive about holidaying in a ski resort. But trust me, I'm so glad I did now! As well as the glacier to entertain avid skiers and snowboarders (which, by the way is a bit hit-and-miss in the summer, as its effectiveness depends on the weather), there's a number of activities to partake in, and numerous places to visit. For the more active amongst you, there's an indoor pool and an outdoor pool, which are both excellent. On top of that, there are tennis courts, golf courses and bike
hiring facilities, all of which are charged at a reasonable price. During my stay there, my most strenuous activities were hiring a bike and a mountain walk. The bike ride was great, as we got to see a bit more of the scenery beyond the town, and it was good exercise too! The mountain walk really *was* strenuous! We took a gondola (a cable car basically, for all of you who don't know 'ski jargon'!) to the top of a mountain, and walked all the way down. It took 3 hours, and I was *very* tired when we got to the bottom! Still, it was an experience and I'm glad I did it. I'd just like to point out that-as most of you will be aware-that the gondolas in the winter are a basic necessity for skiers and snowboarders, as they just use them to get to the top of the mountain and then ski/snowboard back down. However, they are somewhat of a tourist attraction in the summer, and there are 2 separate gondola stations in Mayrhofen itself, and many more in the surrounding area. The most notable is the Penkenbahn, which really was quite terrifying! I unwillingly went on it to please my boyfriend, and was extremely frightened as it was so steep! Nevertheless, I would wholly recommend it, as I felt quite proud once I was up there. But then I had to face the journey back down... Other features of the town include numerous bars and restaurants. Here's my list of recommendations: *Bars* Neue Post- This is a hotel/bar/restaurant, and we visited a number of times in the evenings to have a drink. Or two. It has a really nice, peaceful atmosphere, and is quite a classy place to go. Mo's- This is quite a lively, American-style bar. It offers an alternative to the more conservative style of many of the other bars, and is famous for its live music and cocktails! As well as the Neue Post and Mo's, there's a whole host of bars and pubs, including a traditional English pub (!) and quite a few s
tylis h bars, which offer live Austrian music performed by local bands. Be warned though- if you're into clubbing, Mayrhofen really isn?t the place to go, as it's quite tranquil. However, there are a few clubs dotted about, but I'm not really sure if they're up to much. *Restaurants* Landenhof- If you visit Mayrhofen, be sure to make a visit. Enough said, trust me. Mount Everest- As a vegetarian, there wasn't too much choice in this restaurant, as the menu was very typically Austrian, with lots of meat. However, I enjoyed a delightful pizza, and my boyfriend and his family enjoyed the steaks they had to offer. We enjoyed it so much, we returned for a second helping! Mamma Mia?s- This was a wonderful Italian pizzeria, based in Mayrhofen?s premier hotel, The Elisabeth. The pizza was divine, yet we were left slightly disappointed at the bad service on a couple of occasions. So, I've given you a brief tour of the places to eat and drink. I suppose you now want to learn a bit about the hotels in Mayrhofen. Let me tell you, you're spoilt for choice. We stayed in the 3* 'Hotel Central', based in the centre of the town (coincidentally!). As this isn't an op about the hotel, I won't go into too much detail, but it's a very comfortable hotel. It's a family-run business, has a very home-like feel to it, and is decorated in a very traditionally Austrian style. I liked this, as it completed the whole experience. However, if you're looking for a more contemporary place to stay, there are quite a few fashionable, 4* hotels complete with gyms and swimming pools, etc. These are usually very expensive, so you should look around for a good deal. Unless you have lots of money to spare, of course! I will now go on to tell you about the shopping facilities in Mayrhofen. If you're staying in a self-catering apartment (as I did), a supermarket is a necessity. Mayrhofen has
2 of them : Spar and Billa (a German-based company methinks), as well as a couple of other convenience stores. As we ate out every night, all we needed to buy was snack food such as crisps, and basics such as drinks. Food in the supermarkets is priced as you'd expect it to be. A positive aspect of visiting an Austrian supermarket is the extensive collection on Kinder products they have, which you can't get hold of here. Concerning gift shops, they're everywhere. Most of them sell pretty much the same thing, and there are a few Blackpool-style tacky ones you can't really avoid, wherever in the world you are. I bought many a nice souvenir from many a nice shop, and was impressed by the collection of specialist shops, such as the Swavorski crystal one, and several jewellery ones. Additionally, there is a shop entirely devoted to meat. It was very strange, as you would buy a big ham, and it would be wrapped up in a colourful ribbon, like a gift! They clearly love their meat. Furthermore, there are a few clothes stores, selling Miss Sixty, DKNY and Playboy clothes and accessories, amongst others. The prices aren't really any cheaper than at home though, so it's not really worth splashing out if you wouldn't normally. ----------------------- General information ----------------------- Now I've given you an insight into what?s how and what's not in Mayrhofen, it's time for some basic information: *We flew with Go from London Stanstead to Munich Airport, Germany, and drove to Mayrhofen. This took just under two hours. There are also flights to Innsbruck, Austria which is nearer, and may be more convenient for some people. *The language spoken in Mayrhofen is German. As I have done German A-Level, I'm familiar with it, but most people aren't. So get your translation book ready! *As I've already mentioned, prices are fairly reasonable: A pin
t will set you back around £2, and a main course in a restaurant ranges from £3-£10. *There are no particular rules to abide by when in Mayrhofen- just have fun! (Within reason of course- don't be tempted to run down the street naked!) -------------- Conclusion -------------- So there you have it- my guide to Mayrhofen. Believe me, you will be very pleased with your decision to visit if you decide to take my advice! It's amazing how you adapt to being surrounded by picturesque Austrian style buildings-think wooden, with arched roofs-so quickly, and how you become attached to the pretty lit-up trees lining the pavements. I enjoyed it so much, I'm returning next year- this time with my family, so I can share the magic...