What’’s new in the Austrian Tirol for the 2016-17 ski season

For anyone planning a ski trip this winter, the Austrian Tirol should feature top of the destination list: there are brand new flight routes into Innsbruck making it even quicker and easier to reach the mountains; brand new lifts and improved infrastructure expanding ski areas and, new initiatives and tour operator offerings.

NEW ACCESSIBILTY:

New British Airways winter flight route from London Heathrow to Innsbruck
From 4 December 2016, British Airways is introducing a new direct flight route  to Innsbruck from Heathrow Terminal 5. Skiers will now be able to fly to the former Winter Olympic city from two UK airports with British Airways (the airline already operates direct flights from London Gatwick to the Tirolean capital). Innsbruck is a gateway to some of the best skiing in the heart of the Austrian Alps with iconic ski resorts such as Alpbach, Obergurgl, Mayrhofen and St. Anton a short transfer away. Picturesque Innsbruck is also a popular city-break destination for skiers and non-skiers alike, and the service will launch just in time for the city’s sparkling Christmas markets. Flights will operate four times a week during winter and twice per week during the summer season, with return fares starting from £88 pp in Euro Traveller.

New Monarch flight route from Birmingham to Innsbruck
Monarch Airlines is also launching a new direct route from Birmingham to Innsbruck as part of its winter 2016/17 schedule. The first outbound flight will be on 29 December 2016. The airline will now fly from Birmingham, Gatwick and Manchester to Innsbruck with flights starting from £39 per person (one way) based on March 2017 departures.

NEW LIFTS AND INFRASTRUCTURE:

St. Anton am Arlberg’s new Flexebahn lift will create Austria’s largest inter-linked ski area

Those heading to the slopes of St. Anton am Arlberg this winter will find themselves in the largest inter-linked ski area in Austria, with access to 305 kilometres of marked ski runs. Thanks to the new Flexenbahn lift between Stuben/Rauz and Zürs, winter sports enthusiasts will be able to explore the entire Arlberg area. The full dimensions of this inter-linked ski region can be best experienced along the “Run of Fame”. Starting in St. Anton first thing in the morning, skiers can then head to the sunny slopes of Lech and Zürs, then over to Warth and Schröcken, before rounding the day off with the legendary “White Thrill” run back to St. Anton in the afternoon. With 65 kilometres of runs and 18,000 verticle metres, this new ski circuit winds its way through the entire Arlberg ski area. Even the most proficient skier will need a whole day to ski from the southernmost point in St. Anton/Rendl to Warth in the north and back again, although the circuit can be accessed from almost anywhere. The name “Run of Fame” is inspired by Arlberg’s greatest ski legends including Hannes Schneider, Karl Schranz and Mario Matt. Information points and signposts will be installed along this spectacular route for skiers and snowboarders keen to find out more. www.stantonamarlberg.com

Stubai introduces the longest tri-cable gondola in the Alps, increasing access to Austria’s largest glacier and creating a new run?
The new 3S Eisgrat cable car lift by Leitner ropeways is planned to open on 29 October 2016, and will substantially increase the capacity and access to the Stubai glacier. The reworked cable car route will also open up a new ski run Fernau, a 3.8 km long descent to the valley.  The sophisticated tri-cable gondola is the longest of its type to be built in the Alps, and the project at the Stubai Glacier has entered the history books as the largest single lift investment made by any ski resort. The slick design ensures elegance and efficiency with 48 modern cabins capable of transporting 3,000 people per hour (doubling the previous 1,500) and reducing any wait time. The journey from the valley to the mountain will now take just 11 minutes. Comfort and style were key in the design with emphasis placed on space, light and service. Panoramic windows will offer beautiful views of the valley and all cabins will have free wifi. The Stubai Glacier cable car lift is miles ahead in terms of sustainability with the total amount of energy required to operate the facilities generated from renewable energy sources. A new car park at the base of the lift also negates the need for a bus transfer from the previous valley station. To top it off, the Eisgrat mountain station (2,900m) will have a structural facelift. New generous slopes, top gastronomy, sports shops and more all help make the mountain station a 360° peak experience. www.stubai.at/en/

Sölden’s new Giggijoch Mountain Gondola?
Sölden shone on the big screen last autumn as one of the filming locations in the new James Bond film, SPECTRE and the resort’s popularity continues to grow.This winter season Sölden will see even better lift infrastructure to support the increase in visitor numbers with the introduction of the new mono-rope Giggijoch Mountain Gondola. The powerful new gondola will transport up to 4,500 people per hour; the highest capacity of any lift in the world. The gondola will whisk snowsport fans up from a new base station (1,362 m) to Sölden’s top terminal and hot spot Giggijoch at 2,283 m. The shorter transport time (nine minutes from bottom to top), smooth barrier-free access and modern amenities will dramatically reduce any queuing time for the lift or when buying lift passes. The building’s main body is an eye-catching construction designed by Obermoser, the same architectural office that planned and built both the Gaislachkogl Mountain Gondola and the ice Q Gourmet Restaurant at Gaislachkogl peak that featured in the James Bond blockbuster Spectre. The slim, tower-shaped building with a mirrored surround reflects the Ötztal Alps panorama and will become a new landmark in the resort. Not only is the lift focused on comfort and speed, but the new terminal at the top of the lift houses a sports shop and a convenient ski storage area, which means skiers can hop on the gondola in comfortable shoes and pick up their skis and heated boots from the lockers at the top. www.oetztal.com/en

A 10-person gondola replaces the old 2-seater chairlift in Hochsöll

SkiWelt Wilder Kaiser – Brixental will invest more than 27 million euros this year to further modernise the ski area. The construction of the new Salvenmoos 10-person gondola in Hochsöll is the largest single investment for the coming winter season. The new lift will replace the 2-seater chairlift, built in 1988 and dramatically improve the infrastructure. Almost 100 new snow guns will also be introduced across the SkiWelt taking the total to more than 1,700 snow guns and further improving the snowmaking facilities. The SkiWelt uses 100% renewable energy from Tirolean hydropower in the operation of all its systems. www.skiwelt.at/en/

OTHER NEWS:

Experience a sensational new multimedia dance show on snow performed by Enrique Gasa Valga.
A new multimedia dance performance ‘Gaia Stubai – Mother Earth’ will premier at the Neuland open-air arena in Neustift/Milders on Friday 17 February. Presented by world-famous dancer and choreographer Enrique Gasa Valga, this stunning outdoor spectacle will combine dance with music, freestyle skiing, light, multimedia installations and 3D mapping. Gasa Valga is renowned for his emotionally intense choreographic style which will be enhanced with this game-changing performance on snow. The musical spectrum of the performance will include everything: from touching orchestral pieces to rhythmically-intense dance numbers and rock-history classics, making the show attractive to a wide audience. Gasa Valga has been the Tirolean state theatre Director of ballet since 2009 and is excited about escaping the limits of the stage with this new production. When asked what inspired him to produce Gaia Stubai he answered enthusiastically: “It’s the scenery. Here in Neustift, I feel I have infinite space.” Prepare to be dazzled.

‘Gaia Stubai’ will premier on Friday 17 February 2017 in Neustift. The second show will take place a week later on 24 February. Tickets cost 45€ for adults and 9€ for children under 15. Children under 10 go free. For more information visit: www.gaia-stubai.com

Altitude Festival Moves dates to kick off the winter: 11 – 17 December 2016
The 11th Altitude Festival will move from its traditional spring-season slot to 11-17 December 2017 ensuring a hilarious start to the winter in Mayrhofen. The famous comedy festival billed as “the funniest show on snow” presents a raucous mix of top UK stand-up acts, music and skiing over five fun-filled days. Previous headliners include Eddie Izzard and John Bishop and this season’s stellar line up will showcase Zoe Lyons, Andy Askins, Daniel Sloss, Glenn Wool, Kai Humphries and, of course, The International Impro Allstars, along with many more acts to be announced. With its new dates, The Altitude Festival’s organisers say they intend to top the week off with a spectacular Festival of Light in Mayrhofen creating a dazzling spectacle which can be enjoyed accompanied by free Glühwein and Austrian snacks. Because it’s the run up to Christmas, Mayrhofen will also be laying on an Austrian Christmas Market in the nearby enchanted forest.?www.altitudefestival.com

Throughout the season the resorts across the Tirol region offer a range of events from sporting competitions to music and comedy festivals. For a full list of 2016 – 17 events please contact vicky@heavenpublicity.co.uk

TOUR OPERATOR NEWS:

Crystal Ski Holidays (020 8939 0726 / www.crystalski.co.uk) has introduced the resort of Hochsölden to its 2016/17 winter programme. Nestled above Sölden at 2,090m, Hochsölden is small and intimate, the ideal choice for serious skiers and boarders. Crystal will offer a range of exclusive hotel options, all of which are ski-in ski-out. Prices start at £565 per person (based on two sharing) for a week’s bed and breakfast at the Pension Ferdinand in Hochsölden, Austria, departing on 7 or 14 January 2017 from Gatwick including airport transfers. Crystal is also partnering with the Altitude festival this season and offers a week’s half board at the four-star Fun & Spa Hotel Strass from £562 per person (two sharing) with flights from Gatwick to Innsbruck and transfers, departing on 10 December 2016, or £692 per person including wristband (entrance to all shows). Altitude wristbands will also get you one-day access to the nearby Hintertux Glacier.  altitudefestival.com/  crystalski.co.uk/altitude/

Inghams (01483 371100, www.inghams.co.uk) has expanded its winter programme in Kitzbühel and Seefeld with the introduction of two hotels. Holidays at the 4.5* Hotel Kaiserhof in Kitzbuhel start from £1,149 per person for a week’s half board accommodation including return flights and transfers. Holidays at the 4.5* Hotel Das Hotel Eden in popular Seefeld start from £869 per person for a week’s half board accommodation including return flights and transfers. Both prices are based on March 2017 departures.

Ski Solutions (020 7471 7700 / www.skisolutions.com ) has extended its popular weekend breaks programme to St Anton for Winter 2016-17. Using new scheduled British Airways flights from London Heathrow, the exclusive four-night packages depart Wednesday evening and return Sunday evening. Packages start from £795 per person and include four night’s accommodation on bed and breakfast, flights and transfers.

Flexiski (020 8939 0864 /www.flexiski.com) has introduced Obergurgl to its programme and will offer short-stay holiday options. Prices start from £957 per person (two sharing) for four nights’ half board at the luxurious five-star Hotel Hochfirst including flights from London Gatwick and private transfer.

Ski Club Freshtracks (020 8410 2022 / www.skiclub.co.uk/freshtracks) has introduced new ‘off piste’ ski weeks focused on developing off-piste skiing technique. Ideal for single skiers with no single supplement, prices start from £1,299 per person and include a week’s half board accommodation at a 4* hotel (single room) return flights, transfers, six days with instructors and the services of a Ski Club Leader.

For more information on the Tirol region www.visittirol.co.uk