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Kitzsteinhorn vs Zell Am See

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

Anyone been to these two resorts?  As I recall, both were aimed more at beginner and intermediate skiers.  Does that ring true?  Is one better for more advanced skiers?

 

Thanks!

 

Mod note: moved to International Zone (anywhere besides North America)

post #2 of 7

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.

post #3 of 7
Quote:
Originally Posted by TQA View Post
 

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.

 
 
post #4 of 7

Kitzsteinhorn has some fun freeride terrain. I seem to remember reading that that's what it's known for, and that's why I chose it over the other area resorts. The one day I rode there, it was pretty easy to find some nice powder, even with just a few inches on the day. I seem to recall some fun little chutes just off the main runs that collected blown snow nicely - and no one else was riding them, except for the German guy that was kind of following me. I'd go back. 

post #5 of 7
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by TQA View Post

 

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.

 

Kinda tied to Kitzbuhel area east to Salzburg really.  I did Koessen, Kitzbuhel, St. Johann a bunch. I'm thinking of Saalbach-Hinterglemm and Kitzsteinhorn as backup in case of poor conditions.  Or just because it's so darn high!  :)

post #6 of 7

Hi

 

Its almost the same area. Kitzsteinhorn is a small glacier near Kaprun, while Zell am See has the lower altitude resort of Schmittenhohe, both villages are very close and you can move easily between them. Neither area are huge, but they are extremely well managed (they have several ISO certifications) and I find extremely nice area all around.

 

Its the same ski pass for both areas (or you can get other passes like "Salzburg Super Ski Card" or "Kitzbuhel Alpen Allstar" including even more areas. In addition, there is the Saalbach Ski Circus area close to Zell am See. Kitzbuhel not far away, but not that close either). You try to go to the glacier, but fallback to Schmitten in case of bad visibility, I would say.

 

Its not the hottest ski area in Austria. The hottest ones are in the Tyrol (while Zell am See / Kaprun are in Salzburg), but they are also more expensive.

 

In Kaprun there is a magificnet hotel/club called Tauern Spa, with views of the Kitzsteinhorn.

post #7 of 7

I've been to Kitzsteinhorn last April. This season they have opened the whole new gondola lift and the runs are somewhat reorganized.

It mainly has many intermediate (red) groomers and quite a bit of a freeski areas. When full of snow there are several advanced runs including a famous Black Mamba run.

Kitzteinhorn has relatively high altitute >3000 m. at the top and >2200 m. at the bottom, but most runs stop at the intermediate AlpinCenter, which is at approx 2500m.

The town of Kaprun and Zell am See are roughly 800m below.

We were at the end of April and the weather was hit and miss - couple of days of rain and wet snow, couple of days of powder and couple of days of skiing in the complete mist.

Also, pls note that Kitzteinhorn is not a ski in - ski out place. From any hotel in Kaprun there will be almost one hour until you touch the snow (bus to the gondola, then big gondola to the first base, then another gondola to the AlpinCenter) and again another hour getting back. At the beginning and end of the ski hours there was 10-15 min wait until you got into gondola. This was the main con for us as these two hours are a waste.

Overall, we enjoyed it, but I would choose most places in the Italian Alps over Kitzsteinhorn anytime.

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