It’s slightly scary to admit, but it’s over twenty years since I first slithered onto the snow on skis; joining a beginner’s class on the terrifying-looking nursery slope in Alpbach, in the Austrian Tyrol. Over the next two decades I’ve skied in many other Tyrolean resorts, but I’ve always wanted to go back to the place where I first got the bug.
So when I read that a new gondola was set to open in the village this season, it seemed like the perfect reason to go back. Over the years, Alpbach has won a clutch of awards for the prettiest village in the Tyrol, and as we drove in up the sleepy main street, I was relieved to see little had changed. All the houses and hotels are built in traditional style; pretty wooden chalets with carved balconies and sloping roofs that look picture-book pretty beneath several inches of snow. The only high-rise is the pale green of the church steeple, that and the spectacular mountains that almost entirely circle the village.
The new gondola, which runs from the nearby hamlet of Inneralpbach, has opened up a whole new set of runs, and created a new ski area – the Ski Jewel. Until this season, the main area for skiers in Alpbach had been the Wiedesberghorn mountain, which has a good mix of easy blues and more challenging reds. The new €14m gondola links InnerAlpbach to the Schatzberg mountain, which has a fantastic array of wide, sweeping reds that run down to the pretty village of Auffach.
What this means is that Alpbach now offers the unbeatable combination of a beautiful, unspoilt place to stay with a world-class selection of runs – around 145kms. I spent my mornings whizzing up the gondola and shooting down the lovely, powdery reds, with afternoons lazing in a deckchair in the sunshine. Best of all, was the late afternoon swims; my hotel, the Boglerhof, had an outdoor heated pool which meant I could glide about in the fresh air even when it was snowing.
Alpbach is a magical place to stay, and the new gondola means it’s now a magical place to ski too.
Annabelle Thorpe is Editor of www.101holidays.co.uk /short-breaks/