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Skiing in Zillertal: Mayrhofen, Austria

7 January 2015

image from Skiing in Zillertal: Mayrhofen, Austria

Our last ski trip was to Les Deux Alpes in February. Unfortunately we were a bit let down by the ski conditions there so we decided to try somewhere different for our News Years trip.

The week between Christmas and New Year is the most expensive time to book a ski holiday so we were slightly more constrained by our budget. After searching accommodation options across multiple resorts we settled on Alpendomizil Neuhaus in Mayrhofen, Austria. Looking to save some extra cash we managed all aspects of the booking ourselves rather than purchasing a packaged deal.

Mayrhofen is easily accessible via Innsbruck, Salzburg and Munich. We found the flights to and from Munich to be considerably cheaper so we chose that route even though the transfer time was longer.

The Town

Mayrhofen is very picturesque with an abundance of restaurants, hotels, shops, ski hire and bars. We booked half-board with our hotel but ended up regretting this decision as there were so many dining options to choose from just a short walk from our hotel. If you’re into the whole après ski scene then there are plenty of bars both on the mountain and in the village.

The Hotel

We stayed in a junior suite and our room was incredibly spacious with a walk in wardrobe, large bathroom with separate bath and shower, living area and balcony with a mountain view. It also had the largest safe I have ever seen in a hotel room (ideal for two tech-minded people who travel with a lot of gear!). Overall we were very impressed with the room although they could do with getting some more comfortable pillows. We found it to be excellent value compared to other hotels in the area.

Alpendomizil Neuhaus is quite a large hotel, accommodating over 400 people and it was booked to capacity during our stay. This meant that communal areas can get quite busy during peak times and we experienced dreadful WiFi connectivity which the staff attributed to the number of guests staying at the hotel.

The hotel is about a 10 minute walk from the closest gondola, however ski buses pick up from the train station across the road from the hotel. These generally run every 15-30 minutes depending on the time of day.

We had wanted to book a massage at the hotel but it seemed that they only had one masseuse on staff. My boyfriend and I wanted to book in to get massages done at the same time but this was never an option, they could only ever do one person after the other. We did try out the indoor pool, jacuzzi and sauna though. I found the indoor pool to be a bit cold for my taste, given that it was snowing outside it would have been nice if the water was a few degrees warmer. The jacuzzi was better although this was always occupied by people in the evenings.

As previously mentioned we booked a half board package, meaning that breakfast and dinner (excluding drinks) are included. The dinner menu was very limited though, most nights you didn’t even get a choice of appetiser or dessert as only one dish was prepared. The service was also quite slow at times. Maybe they were under-staffed but given that it is known to be a busy period I feel they could have prepared better for this. The breakfast featured your typical European continental options with cold meats and vegetables, fruits, yoghurts, cereal, toast, pastries, teas, coffees, and an omelette station where eggs are cooked by the chef to your liking. If booking this again I would just get breakfast at the hotel and dine out in the evenings.

The Skiing

The pistes on Penken mountain, the main ski area, are well suited to intermediate skiiers. There are some blue runs available but these are quite challenging and would probably be classified as red runs at some other resorts. For the adventurous you’ll also find Austria’s steepest marked run, Harakiri, with an average incline of 78% and a length of about 1500 metres.

There is only one way to reach the mountain and that’s by using the Penken gondola (or Penkenbahn) in centre of the village. This is only a small gondola so you need to get there early (around 8am) otherwise you will be waiting a long time to get to the top. There is no run that takes you back into town either so the gondola also gets very busy at the end of the day. The first day we went skiing we tried to head back down at 4pm and waited for an hour in the queue with many other frustrated and impatient people pushing from all directions. It was probably one of the most miserable experiences I’ve had skiing. You need to start leaving by 3pm to beat the rush.

When I picked up my hire skis, the man who owned the shop warned us of this and suggested we try one of the other neighboring ski resorts which were still covered by our lift pass. There is a free ski bus that picks up at the train station outside our hotel that goes directly to Hintertux. We spent most of the week there instead as we enjoyed the skiing there a lot more than Penken. I’ll have a more detailed review of Hintertux coming soon.

Overall I would be happy to return to the Zillertal region but would avoid the Penken mountain.

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