Overview of Mayrhofen, Austria
Written by Greg and Heather Burke
The Tyrol of Austria is home to the highest concentration of ski areas anywhere in The Alps, and that is most true in Zillertal – the Ziller River valley that includes Mayrhofen - Penken/Ahorn, Rastkogel, Eggalm, Finkenberg, Kaltenbach – Hochzillertal/Hochfügen, Zillertal Arena, Spieljoch and Hintertux Glacier. From the village of Mayrhofen, you have a choice two mountains on either side of town - Penken and Ahorn – for a big total of 136 kilometers of prepared ski slopes, and 57 modern lifts and cable cars to whisk you around and up in every direction imaginable. At the base is Mayrhofen village, a ski town of about 4,000 Austrians with its own charm – not quite Kitzbühel or St Anton, but lively and friendly for skiers.
From downtown Mayrhofen, high-speed high capacity lifts head up to the ski slopes, this is Doppelmayr country, 8 and 6 passenger chairs with heated seats and bubbles are everywhere, along with gondolas, and combinations of the two. Penken is reached by a gorgeous new 3S Cable Car from Mayrhofen village up to mid –mountain, holding 24 passengers with panoramic floor to ceiling windows, and Wi-Fi (a $50 million lift added in 2015) if all this scenery has you wanting to Facebook post and make your friends jealous. Up at Penken is plenty of well-prepared ski trails, blue, red and black, family friendly terrain, ski schools, and plus countless off-piste bowls, gullies, and fields. There are endless possibilities for low angle gorgeous off piste skiing just next to the groomed trails, you can easily scope your line and return to a lift at the end.
Six and eight passenger chairs with bubbles and heated seats flank most every side of the mountain here. The Rastkogel is the highest point at 2762 meters, 9,061’, reached by the 150 tram (indicating the capacity), with more great terrain, so much off piste terrain too from crazy steep at the top of the bowl to more mellow as you ski along the ridge of this vast bowl, it is all highly scenic as well.
Horberg peak is very popular, with lots of well-prepared fun runs, a cool mountaintop pyramid lodge serving lunch with a panorama. Horberg also serves up off-piste skiing galore, with so much ungroomed, natural, snowy side terrain delivering you back to the mid-mountain section and the Schneecar.
If you are a high-level skier at Mayrhofen, you must ski The Harikiri, Austria’s steepest groomed ski slope, a 78% grade, but they measure their angles differently in Austria. It certainly deserves a black diamond rating for the steep but short pitch. Mayrhofen has lots of snowmaking, assuring good ski conditions as their elevation is not so very high. However because much of the terrain is grassy farm land in summer, they don’t require tons of snow, as say The Rockies which are aptly rocky as they sound.
Lunch at Gschosswandhaus is perfectly situated and charming, and slightly off the beaten path – this beautiful blond wood chalet hut serves all the essential Tirolean greats like Austrian cheese noodles and goulash soup, and spinatknodel dumplings... in a very authentic setting with views of the 3S gondola and beyond – the big peak of Ahorn. Next time I want to lodge here at Gschosswandhaus in their guest chalets, which look so cozy, how cool to be up on the mountain at night looking down at the lights of the valley of Mayrhofen below, knowing you get first tracks before the first gondola.
Eggalm is yet another ski region at Mayrhofen toward Hintertux Glacier, with mores lifts, great terrain and you can ski to more charming chalets, summer farms that serve to skiers in winter. The Lattenalm serve goulash soup and their homemade schnapps in a delightfully peaceful chalet.
It must get busy here at Mayrhofen, but the lift lines are well handled. You can escape the skiers by going off-piste, easily accessible and easy to see from the lifts and slopes, just know before you go and hire a guide too, as avalanches are a real Alps issue.
Across the valley in Mayrhofen is Mount Ahorn which looks daunting, with its A shape and craggy top, but here there is an upper mountain plateau of family oriented terrain. Ahorn offers wide and sunny skiing up at 2,000 meters with great views of the town and the surrounding peaks, making it very family friendly. Another gorgeous tram car, Austria’s largest holding 160 skiers, brings you up to this great skiing served by an efficient eight and six pack lift. It’s a winter wonderland up here with an Iglu Village, where you can walk through the beautiful ice caves of this glowing glacial ice igloo. You can stay the night here, or just drink a schnapps at the ice bar, eat fondue, or just chill in the chaise lounges at the outside White Lounge with a great view. After skiing the upper mountain terrain of Ahorn, we were ready for the long black diamond Ahorn Valley to Run all the way back to Mayrhofen. This run takes you down a full 4,500‘ vertical, 5 kilometers with pitches, run outs, twists and turns and phenomenal views of the village below. Beginners can download to town on the Ahornbahn.
Mayrhofen is the heart of the Ziller valley, and from here you can also ski Hintertux Glacier, Ziller Arena, Kaltenbach – Hochzillertal/Hochfügen (also call SKi Optimal) and Spieljoch. For lodging in Mayrhofen and the Ziller valley, Huber’s Boutique Hotel is a four-star hotel with ski room, sauna, excellent dining, located a few steps to the Penken gondola and to après ski in town.