For decades, British visitors who know their snow have made a private pilgrimage to the small, but select, resorts of the Alpbach valley and its neighbour, Wildschönau. Yet despite being neighbours, they were two separate valleys. But no longer as, this season, thanks to a superb new eight-person gondola link, they form a combined ski area, under the name Ski Jewel. The area offers145km of pistes, served by 47 lifts, and the union has immediately catapulted Ski Jewel into the top ten of Tyrolean resorts. Alpbach was recently voted the prettiest village in Austria, with chocolate-box chalets and a glorious baroque church dedicated to Northumbrian monk St Oswald. There are scenic mountain views everywhere. A long-time favourite with the British and the Dutch, it even has a Visitors Club for the English.
Its neighbouring family-friendly village of Reith im Alpbachtal, is particularly noted for great night-skiing. Wildschönau’s villages -Niederau, Oberau and Auffach – form a captivating chain of bijou ski-bases along a stunning 24-km valley. The fun in Ski Jewel takes place between 2,025m and 650m through a wide variety of enchanting terrain from wide-open, sunlit slopes to splendid trails through the ancient forests. All are excellent choices for learners, but the more experienced and adventurous will find plenty to challenge them with long and tricky reds and black runs and ample opportunity to beat your own path off and in between the pistes. Niederau is the largest with several good ski areas. Pistes on the doorstep are a magnet for families, and it’s particularly popular with the British.
Oberau and Auffach are ideal for families. And in the Ski Jewel you are only about an hour from the iconic Austrian cities of Innsbruck and Salzburg for ski easy airport transfers or a cultural day away from the slopes. In this era of belt-tightening, Ski Jewel scores highly with lift prices still lower than other ski areas – a high-season day pass is 39 euro for adults and 19.50 euro for children. A high season six-day ski pass will cost 197 euro, and in low season, 177,50 euro. There’s a vast range of hotels and guest houses with prices as low as 35 euro per person per night, plus offers for families at selected times of the year. This is perhaps not the place to find the wildest of late-night entertainment, but the terrain and the invigorating apres-ski should set the vast majority up at the end of a rewarding day, as the high rate of repeat visits testifies.