ZELL AM SEE Best Skiing Snowboarding Destination

Here is an Alpine combination as compatible as beer and pretzels.

Zell am See photo, Kaprun photo, Europa Sports Region, Austria

Yes, these two neighboring resorts fit together hand in glove, like a finely tuned dance team where both partners have learned to subtly complement each other for the best possible performance. Above the low-key village of Kaprun, the Kitzsteinhorn glacier guarantees wide-open bowl skiing the year round, while the majority of Zell am See’s Schmittenhöhe slopes sweep down through the trees, more reminiscent of Colorado’s Breckenridge or classic New Hampshire trails.

Here is an interactive Zell am See town map.

Here is an interactive Kaprun town map.

Together they comprise the Europa Sports Region, a land rich with winter and summer outdoor activities. In the spring, high-energy types can ski in the morning and windsurf the lake in the afternoon. Austrian and European skiers have long known the Europa Sports Region as an ideal location for skiing. The area was one of the first resorts in Austria with descents recorded as far back as 1893.

Lake Zell serves as the region’s focal point. This long narrow body of water sprawls 13 km. along a picturesque valley shadowed by the Hohentauern, Austria’s highest mountain range. When the lake freezes in winter, towns-people fish through the ice, go ice-boating, or skate across Zell’s surface to the village of Thumers-bach on the other side.

Zell am See sits on a flat semicircular piece of land that juts into the lake, squeezed from the mountains ringing the shore. Cream-colored buildings huddle around the well-preserved 13th-century church of St. Hippolyt, and the Vogtturm (city tower) which dominate Zell’s skyline, giving it the air of a medieval mountain town rather than a bustling ski village. One could wander for hours through the town’s winding streets and have no trouble envisioning merchants and traders from bygone days going about their business.
Zell am See photo, Kaprun photo, Europa Sports Region, Austria

Today the streets are still lined with unpretentious shops—sport stores, well-stocked markets, intriguing crafts shops. You’ll also find cozy cafes, gasthauses and restaurants filled with locals and tourists alike. Zell am See, with a year-round population of almost 10,000, has honed the fine art of balancing the fantasy sought by tourists with the real needs of its citizens.

On the surface, Kaprun puts on a quieter face than does Zell am See, partly because it is much smaller in scale. But its laid-back atmosphere sets a more relaxing pace, and the village common gives it the air of a small New England college town. The Kitsteinhorn was Austria’s first glacial ski area.

On the mountain, Kaprun has completed a new Alpine Center at the top of the old Gletscherbahn.

Interactive maps copyright Schubert & Franzke

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