When we are planning our holidays, 95% of the time I’m like, “Let’s go somewhere warm!”, but in February in Europe there just aren’t many places where you’re guaranteed a sunny, blue sky holiday, so instead we chose to embrace the cold and plan our very first family ski trip.
The last time I’d skied was almost two decades ago, Lexie had never been, and Cory was so young when he went that it doesn’t even really count, so we were all VERY much beginner skiers. This made the task of finding a family ski holiday in the Alps a little daunting. It seemed like every all-inclusive resort I looked at was either too big, too expensive, or the slopes in the surrounding area were too advanced. That’s when I switched gears and began searching for a ski village, somewhere where we could rent a room and plan each part of our stay ourselves. It was then that I discovered Alpbach, Austria, a picturesque little village tucked into a valley in the Alps.
Alpbach has been awarded the title of ‘most beautiful village in Austria’ in recent years, and it’s not hard to see why. The village sits on a plateau in the Alpbach valley, offering panoramic views of the majestic Alps. The streets and hillsides are lined with charming, traditional timber chalets with carved balconies. Shops and restaurants inhabit the ground floors of the chalets lining Alpbach’s main street; guest rooms are available on the upper floors, most with striking views of the nearby slopes. It was in one of these chalets in the center of Alpbach that we chose to stay during our holiday.
Alpbach is relatively new to tourism, only just becoming a popular ski destination during the middle of the 20th century. Today, tourism accounts for much of Alpbach’s income, the rest coming from the nearby farms. (We hiked through some of these on our last day!) The village can only accommodate around 2,500 visitors, so we never felt the least bit crowded during our stay. The limited availability of rooms also means you need to book your stay early. We booked over four months early and secured the last room in the guest house we stayed at. (Half-term break is a popular travel week, though, so that certainly had an effect on the availability of open rooms.)
We reached Alpbach from London on Austrian Airlines by way of Vienna and Innsbruck. Our original plan was to arrive in Innsbruck around 1pm and have a private car drive us an hour away to Alpbach, but our flight from London to Vienna was late, causing us to miss our connecting flight to Innsbruck. We had to wait until evening to catch the last flight out and lost a half-day in Alpbach. (This is why I prefer to travel by train. It’s always so much more reliable!) Even though it was pretty expensive, I’m glad we chose to have a private car pick us up. The only other way that I’m aware of to reach Alpbach is to take a train to Brixlegg, and then catch a local bus from there. Cheaper, sure, but not nearly as quick.
Since we arrived late at night, I didn’t get to see the beauty we were surrounded by until the next morning. I opened the curtains on our master bedroom window and was greeted with the stunning view pictured in that last photo. To top it all off, by the time we were ready to leave the room, it had begun snowing! It was like being in a fairytale village! I would have been perfectly content to simply walk the streets in the snow, but seeing as this trip was about the skiing, I had to cut my morning walk a little short. It was quite foggy anyway, so I didn’t really get to see how fantastic the mountains were until the next day.
Our second day in Alpbach was the only day we had with clear skies. It was so clear that we could even make out the ski lift carrying skiers to the top of Gmahkopf from our bedroom window. For our other two days in Alpbach, it was either snowing or we were stuck in a cloud for most of the day. While I love a sunny day, I actually enjoyed the way it felt being in the mountains with the snow gently falling around us. The weather fit the occasion quite well, I think.
One thing I really loved about Alpbach was its size. We were in the center of town, just up hill from the church and where the bus would stop to pick up and drop off skiers heading to and from the ski lifts. We were within a 5-minute walk to all the shops and restaurants, but because Alpbach is so small, even if you’re staying on the outskirts everything is still accessible on foot. It’s a very well-planned village, and so clean. Alpbach has been the cleanest place we’ve visited thus far in Europe.
Alpbach’s thirty miles of pistes are mainly for beginner and intermediate skiers, but there are also black runs and off-piste routes for expert skiers. We skied on Gmahkopf, the closest to Alpbach and the mountain with the most blue runs. While there is a festive nightlife in Alpbach, it’s more cozy than exciting, making Alpbach the perfect spot for families looking to avoid the rowdy, party atmosphere of other ski resorts.
While talking with other guests staying in Alpbach, I discovered that most people return here year after year, often staying in the exact same room they stayed in the years before. As someone who almost never returns to the same city, much less to the same hotel, I wouldn’t have understood why someone would choose to spend their holiday in the same place every year if I hadn’t visited Alpbach myself. It’s the sort of place that does draw you back again and again. Once you’ve found the best, why go somewhere else?
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