Hidden Gems of the Zillertal

Posted on January 28, 2015 in Austria Ski Holidays by Tim.Fowler Tags: , , , , ,

With 489 km of perfect pistes, 177 lifts, the best park in Europe and many different accessible areas all included on the superski pass, Mayrhofen and the Zillertal are a skier or snowboarder’s paradise. But what if you want a bit of alone time, a bit of space from the hustle and bustle of this lively and charming resort?

Accessible directly from the Penken ski area, is a little place called Eggalm on the furthest south of the ski area in the Tuxertal. To get here head up the Tux150er lift from Penken-Horberg up to Rastkogel (Rastkogel in itself is a beautiful area, beautiful pistes and a real sun trap – don’t get stuck up there in the wind though!) and follow blue 63 over towards the top of the Rastkogelbahn gondola. From here, follow the route round the gondola station and pick up red 64 to the bottom of the Lammerbichl chair lift where you drop onto ski route 75 and weave down through the trees to Eggalm. On route there are several huts nestled into the mountain – my favourite is the Vogelnest at the gateway to Eggalm, for its tasty schnitzel and sunny seating area. The Eggalm-Nord chairlift then whisks you, (on heated seats!) up to the top of the ski area where you’re free to explore! When you’ve finally had enough of carving the perfectly groomed pistes or seeking out yet more fresh tracks, pick up blue 77 back into the village of Vorderlanersbach, to the base of the Rastkogelbahn. Here you can either get the lift back up and ski back to Penken, or jump on the greenline bus back to Mayrhofen. But, before you go anywhere, the KaserMandl bar, hidden just below the base of the gondola is definitely worth a visit! Cross the tiny footbridge to the right, from the road that leads between the gondola and the main street – keep your eyes peeled for the sign! This little après bar is bursting with character and is a real find! Expect waitresses in lederhosen and your classic Austrian après songs!

Alternatively, you can head to perhaps the quietest and most perfectly prepared ski area I’ve had the pleasure of finding here in the Zillertal. From Mayrhofen jump on the train to Ramsau – it only takes ten minutes – then cross the main road and walk the hundred yards to the tiniest lift you’ve ever seen! The Ramsberg chair, is a one man chair lift – the type that’s not been seen in the big ski resorts for tens of years and is the oldest in the valley! But fear not, it’s still in perfect working order and will – slowly – take you up to the Sonnalm, the tip of this very well kept secret! In cold weather, you have a blanket to keep your legs warm on this lift, so check the forecast before you commit to 20 minutes of shivering! In sunny weather, the chairlift offers some of the very best views of Mayrhofen and the Zillertal, so make sure your camera or phone is in an accessible pocket – there’s time for plenty of photos, and plenty you will be sure to take! Stunning is an understatement! When you reach the top, it will quickly become apparent that the journey and lift were well worth it! Hello is there anybody else here??? Because the Ramsau ski area consists of a mere 4 or 5 runs (one of which is a black!) it’s often overlooked by the keener skiers and isn’t even included on the majority of the piste maps! But these 4 or 5 runs can be enjoyed all to yourself! No moguls, no crowds, no noise! And if you’re very lucky, the lift operators hand out sweets! It’s perfect, and its shady location means the powder stays fluffy and the snow remains in perfect condition, days after the main areas have been fully exploited! Wrap up warm though; the shade and old lifts in this area make for a fairly chilly day, though you can catch your fair share of sun rays on the terraces of the Sonnalm and Schlittenalm restaurants while you enjoy a cold Zillertal beer! Sssssssh, this place is a secret!

Now for those of you who want to explore on foot, there’s much more to the area than just skiing! Here’s a few of my favourite places to go when I’m not clipped into my skis.

I could tell you to walk along the river Ziller… but everyone will tell you that – and with good reason really, the Ziller river is beautiful and depending how far you go from Mayrhofen you’ll come across some pretty villages and undoubtedly some very good cake (The Conditorei on the banks of the river in Zell am Ziller has been tried and tested!) but my advice is to get out and explore! Mayrhofen is at the end of the Zillertal valley which runs south from the Inn Valley, about 40 km east of Innsbruck.  South of Mayrhofen, the Zillertal branches off into its many tributary valleys, most of which lie in the Zillertal Natur Park – an area of protection where nature is number one. Take the bus from Mayrhofen to Ginzling (only about 15 minutes away) in the Zemmgrund. Here you can visit the Naturpark Centre, which is an interesting exhibition all about the local area. It’s only about €4 entrance, and you can learn all about the geographical history of the area, what it’s like today, and get an insight into the ways of life of the people here. From the Naturpark Centre, you can also take a walk up the Floitengrund (route: 521) – a side valley of the Zemmgrund, flanked on the northern tip by the spectacular Tristner (2765m). This romantic valley has been given its perfect U-shape from its glacial history, and after about 45 minutes you’ll reach the Tristenbachalm – a traditional mountain hut where you can stop for refreshments. This is where I recommend you steer away from the beer you might have earned from walking there, or the gluhwein you’d like to warm your hands and take a step back to your childhood. Have a glass of proper Zillertal milk…. yep, milk! Huts like these, hidden away in the hills keep cattle in the mountain alms. Most of the milk they produce is collected and taken to the Zillertal Sennerei dairy, just North of Mayrhofen, but you can grab some while it tastes its best! Rich, creamy and probably not very healthy… yes please!

Alternatively, you can try a route much higher in the mountains, up above the villages of Schwendau and Ramsau. Take the bus up to Melchboden, which is the start of the Zillertaler Hoehenstrasse – the high alpine road. From here you can follow route 18 along to the Rastkogelhuette which will take you about 1.5 hours. Depending on snow conditions, snow shoes may be recommended but don’t worry, there are places you can hire them, and even a guide to go with you. Along this route though, you can expect stunning scenery and excellent service at the Rastkogelhuette!

For more things to enjoy in the area and tips on how to make the most of Mayrhofen, see our February blogpost! Bye for now.

Hannah and the Mayrhofen Team!