story and photos by Lourdes Fernandez
Follow along as this family of four beginner skiers takes on Austria!
Wilder-Kaiser in Austria
The Wilder-Kaiser is the largest ski area in Austria, and it provides endless opportunity for winter sports enthusiasts of all skill levels.
Having explored a few other ski areas in Europe while stationed in Italy, we found Brixen the easiest to maneuver and the most beginner-friendly area.
Brixen im Thale is the smallest town in the area. The gondola is the busiest point and one you’ll quickly become familiar with during your ski adventure!
Nearby Kirchberg and Kitzbühel have shopping areas with Kitzbühel as the largest city center.
We approached the week as a sampler; we could have cut the cross-country portion and added more downhill, but we wanted to be able to choose what to do next time.
Here is how our week went:
Before you go:
Decide on a budget ($3000 for us). Many all-inclusive resorts begin at around $3,500 per week during the season, without lessons and equipment. We chose an apartment at HomeAway.com and made breakfast and most dinners.
Research non-sport activities in case you want a break.
Pack passports, ski pants and jackets, snow boots, thick socks, impermeable gloves, and hats. Long bike pants under ski pants provide warmth and comfort. Pack swimsuits, towels and sandals in case you head for an indoor pool. Also, bring plenty of snacks for the breaks in the slopes.
Buy the vignette before entering Austria. A 10-day sticker costs around 8 Euro.
Arrive after check in (make sure you have instructions to get into an apartment), unpack, explore. Eat deer gulasch and Brixenthaler spätzle at one of the many restaurants.
Visit tourist office and confirm hours of operations and locations for activities. Choose a ski school, book ski, snowboarding and cross-country skiing lessons, rent equipment, and buy two-day lift tickets. The cross country ski lesson was extraordinarily expensive, but we decided it was worth the money to learn proper technique. Brixen is a small town, with all facilities within walking distance to each other and near the gondola. Head to Gaisberg in Kirchberg and sled a 3.5 km run. Parking near the lift is easy and free. The all-day lift tickets cost about 75 Euro for four, but a one-time ticket costs less than 30 Euro. Some people sled partway down the slope came back up by foot, getting more use out of the trail. From Kirchberg drive about 6 km to the Mercedes-Benz Sportsplatz in Kitzbühel, and ice skate the rest of the afternoon (open 1330 to 1600). Rental and entrance for a family of four is around 30 Euro.
Pick up equipment (reserved the day before). Parking near the gondola and rental store is easy and free; the gondola gets busy around 0930. Attend lessons. If you are ready to ski on your own, the Skischule will take children from 100-1500, and lunch is chaperoned for an additional small fee. If snowboarding, lessons are only in the morning. Use the afternoon to practice in the training slopes or in the blue slopes.
Same as day three. Next to the school training area is the Alpeniglu village, a mini-hotel, with 18 igloos and an ice carving exhibit that you can see for a fee. Spending the night in an igloo runs about 600 Euro for four, and a special tour and meal at night runs about 300 Euro. We chose the 9 Euro option and had a glüwein with rum at the bar, while sitting in comfortable beach chairs overlooking the Alps (the kids were at the schule). Return equipment, reserve cross-country skis.
Morning spent at home and in the snowy-field in front of our apartment. Picked up equipment, had lunch, and met Simon, our cross-country instructor. The two-hour lesson was in German, but that didn’t prove a challenge. At least one person should know a little German, but the rest can be accomplished gesturing.
Cross-country in the morning in the backyard. Lunch at home, followed by an afternoon of ice skating and a delicious evening meal at another nearby restaurant.
Pack and get ready for the potentially slow ride back home.
In the end, the vacation cost around $3,000 (about $1,200 for lodging, $1,100 for lift tickets, lessons, and equipment, $700 for miscellaneous entertainment, groceries, and meals). For our next venture, two of us do not need lessons, and the price should come down further. However, do not skimp on lessons; safety and knowing how to fall are key to avoiding injury and enjoying the experience.
Some websites to help you plan your trip: