Originally Posted by TQA
Kitzsteinhorn Zell Am See and Kaprun are all on the same ski pass as I remember it and connected by a free shuttle bus if you have a ski pass.
Kitzsteinhorn has the higher terrain [ glacier ] and has the more difficult runs.
If I was visiting Austria for a week and was tied to that area I would be happy. If I had a free choice in Austria Ischgl, St Anton, and Kitzbuhel would all be chosen in front of Kitzsteinhorn or Zell Am See if I was good skier/boarder.
TQA is correct. I've only been to Zell. Very pretty area with lake and glacier views and terrain is intermediate oriented, but not totally boring. Below are my memories from a week in Feb 2003 when I took a bus trip from Salzburg to ski there one day. Some of the stuff I discuss is dated at this point.
Zell am See (Sell-ahm-Say)
“Another day at the office” I quipped to the courteous gentleman from Finland who with his family shared the back few seats of the Snow Shuttle with my friend and I for much of the week. On Wednesday morning we took the 75 minute drive to Zell am See passing briefly through Germany in transit. This was one of the few areas on our itinerary that I had heard of before last year. Zell is set on a beautiful lake (see) at an elevation of about 2500ft/800m and is also a very popular summer resort.
Here we met Christian P. of the Zell am See-Kaprun tourist office. Before we knew it Christian had us climbing over 3300ft/1000m on a string of lifts including the Zeller gondola and an express chairlift to Panorama Pfiff, elevation 6230ft/1900m. After the quick lift rides we began our first real run down the mountain on a mellow looking intermediate trail called The Schutt. It got a little tougher as it went on and by the time we made it to the bottom of the trail at Zell’s neighboring village of Schuttdorf I think I needed to shave again. We had traveled nearly five miles down a vertical drop of 4000ft/1200m, undoubtedly the most thorough “warm-up” run of my life.
From lake level we rode the three part Areitbahn gondola system right back up to Panorama Pfiff again. This time we took the scenic and very manageable groomed black piste #14 down the center of the mountain to Zell’s signature Schmittenhohebahn 50 passenger cable car.
I can’t resist telling you that I was favorably “schmitten” with Zell am See. It was certainly living up to its reputation for gorgeous, sun drenched, south facing ski terrain. The temperatures actually rose as we rode the cable car to the highest point on the mountain, Schmittenhohe Peak (6560ft/2000m). Apparently, this temperature phenomenon was common here and had something to do with a lake-induced inversion according to Christian.
After a couple of runs near the top of the mountain it was time for lunch. Amidst the barrage of info provided on the Salzburg Snow Shuttle that morning, Bryan C. gave us a tip to try the Pinzgauer Hutte for a good lunch and a novel transfer back to the slopes. We had to ski and pole for about a half mile down a gradual trail away from all ski slopes to get there, but it was worth it.
The crystal clear view from the Pinzgauer Hutte was worth the trip to Europe alone. Across the valley, filling up the sky was the huge Kitzsteinhorn glacier with lift served terrain up to 9935ft/3029m. Near the town of Kaprun, this incredible year-round, high altitude skiing and snowboarding option (vertical drop 3500ft/1050m) is where locals like Christian go on their off days because, “the snow is always good there.” The combined Zell/Kaprun area markets itself as the Europa Sportregion.
Dining at a table out in the warm sunshine, my friend and I couldn’t help but linger longer over lunch, perhaps finally disengaging a bit from our “must ski it all” American mindsets. Even in a skier’s paradise, however, the troubles of the world were an unavoidable topic of conversation. I told Christian that America could never be the same after September 11, 2001. He agreed it was a terrible thing and mentioned another horrible day in November 2000 when the funicular train bringing skiers to the Kitzsteinhorn glacier inexplicably broke down in a tunnel during the ascent and caught fire. The death toll was 155, the worst accident in alpine ski history. It has since been completely replaced by a state-of-the-art gondola system. After exchanging near miss stories, he on the funicular train, me at the Pentagon, it was clear that many parallels could be found in the trauma inflicted by the separate disasters a world apart. People of either region will never forget the day, the time, and the place.
After our meal with the million dollar view it was time for the transfer back to the ski slopes. The proprietor used a snowmobile to tow 10 of us at a time, water-ski style at speeds approaching 30 mph, back up the half mile distance to the main ski area. From there we had time for a little play near the summit and then took another beautiful, groomed black piste (#13) to a run-out leading back to Zell am See and our awaiting motor coach to Salzburg.